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The Powerful Spiritual Presence of Majestic Chartres

October 24, 2014 by  

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While I had been to Chartres France before and of course visited its majestic cathedral, I didn’t remember how much of a spiritual presence it had, inside and out. Spending time in the Chartres Cathedral was one of my favorite experiences on a recent fall “Spiritual France” tour, which included homes of famous saints, cathedrals, churches and cemeteries throughout Normandy and Brittany. With her 4,000 sculpted statues, 5,000 figures and artisan craftmanship steeped in 12th and 13th century design, the Cathedral pretty much has everyone at “hello.” It’s no surprise that its listed and registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The cathedral touts a number of impressive facts, but the one that is bound to impress any American is that the first cathedral was built as far back as the 4th century, with the oldest relics dating back to the 9th century with the crypt of Saint-Lubin. Several buildings were then rebuilt on the same site. After a fire in the 11th century, Bishop Fulbert had a new cathedral built. Today, all what remains of this cathedral is the crypt, the third largest in Europe after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Canterbury. In 1134, most of the…

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Tasting Gin After Gin On the Open Sea

October 24, 2014 by  

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“Have you ever realized you could put a slice of ginger in a gin and tonic? Well, you can.” I’m currently in the Herrenzimmer aboard Hapag-Lloyd’s MS EUROPA 2 luxury cruise ship partaking in a gin tasting experience. Led by Erik Schutze, the ship’s Public Room Manager, the class allows up to 25 guests to have a unique tasting experience you won’t find on many other cruises. Moreover, as the EUROPA 2 features the world’s largest gin collection at sea — 35+ popular and rare gins in total, compared to five or six on most ships — it’s the perfect place to do this. As soon as I walk into the cozy yet sleek venue, with its chocolate-brown leather chairs, fiber optic fireplace and pale green walls adorned with modern art, I’m handed an aperitif, a “Monkey Sloe Fizz” made with Monkey 47 Sloe Gin, lemon, sugar, soda water and a dash of Angostura Bitters. It’s refreshing and invigorating, awakening the palate. Right before the bar a wooden counter showcases high-quality gins and bowls of spices and garnishes like juniper, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, bay leaf, curry, star anise, pepper and clove, to name a few. The bar itself is beautifully…

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In Heaven At The Fine Food Australia Show

October 24, 2014 by  

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My quest was to head down under and discover the national dish of Australia, an interesting feat.  The first stop was Melbourne for the Fine Food Australia Show – a massive trade show five times bigger than the SA Good Food & Wine Show.  I needed two days to see as much as possible – lectures on upcoming food trends, taste new products, see equipment on offer and meet some great chefs. As I travel on my food safaris, there is nothing better than catching up with people over a glass and bite– Melbourne guests Craig, De Villiers and Brett did not disappoint! The first culinary destination was that of Prix Fixe –the creative hub of Philippa Sibley, one of Australia’s leading dessert chefs. Based on a different theme every month, the restaurant concept is inspired by people, the arts and music whilst bringing together fresh seasonal produce, transforming both the interior and menu itself into a whimsical dining experience from 1997 – 2014. Diners book and pay upfront as you would for a theatre performance. The food is both a surprise and delight. In Sibley’s words – “Chefs become associated with dishes like an artist to a painting…

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Reflecting on What Japan Might Be….

October 24, 2014 by  

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Despite my love of the road and exploring all things new and different, Japan has remained off my priority “hit” list for years even though I’ll admit that I have always been intrigued by its allure and mystery. You see, as far back as I can remember, I had pen pals….in the traditional sense, you know….in the pre-Internet days. I wrote hand written letters to what started out as a few people from far away places to dozens from around the world. My very first pen pal was from Sweden and the second was from Japan. We met them in a hotel restaurant in upstate New York and my grandfather being the man he was, had to proactively interject ourselves into their conversation while they were having a quiet dinner. It was in his nature to do something like this and I have to admit, we were secretly glad he did since our entire table was in awe over the beautifully elegant traditional clothing that adorned their bodies. It was rare to see a woman and her daughter from another country alone in the 1970s in the very provincial area where we grew up. And so,…

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The Ever So Spiritual Nezu Jinja Shrine in Tokyo

October 23, 2014 by  

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One of my favorite afternoons in Tokyo was spent at the Nezu-jinja Shrine in the north, which is located off the beaten path on the Chiyoda line in a tiny little suburb called Nezu. It is said to have been established over 1,900 years ago by the legendary priest Yamato Takeru no Mikoto in Sendagi with Susanoo no Mikoto as the chief deity. The shrine itself was completely empty when I arrived and by the time I left a few hours later, there was only one man walking his dog and a teenage student in her school uniform wandering about. The place was so serene, so tranquil that it would be easy to sit amidst its spiritual presence for hours if not days. It has an incredibly rich and old past and boasts a number of fascinating factoids, largely related to the shrine’s age. In the Edo Period (1600-1867), the 5th shogun Tsunayoshi relocated it from Sendagi to Nezu to commemorate the adoption of Ienobu as his successor and the 6th shogun Ienobu chose it as the guardian deity. The Gongen-style architectures (typical of modern shrines) of Honden (main sanctuary), Haiden (worship hall),…

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Food Porn From the Latin Quarter of Paris

October 23, 2014 by  

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Below are some fun dishes that I had at three different Latin Quarter restaurants in Paris in the last few months. Enjoy! Also be sure to see our extensive write-up on other Paris restaurants we love. (top Paris restaurants).


Ireland Overland, From Cork to Kerry

October 23, 2014 by  

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I kicked off my solo road trip through Ireland in County Cork.  It hasn’t taken me long to figure out that the island of Ireland is divided by counties – each person fiercely proud of their own and wary of other counties. I decided to drive the Wild Atlantic Way and cover as many counties as I could and I kicked off the trip in Cork where I saw an old friend who showed me around the city.  From there I picked up my little (and I mean little) red car and hit the road.  Sure – that sounds simple – but driving a manual transmission car on the left side of the road took some getting used to.  Honestly – I was a wreck of worry, anxiety, and terror. Until you have taken on this task yourself can you really know how much there is to think about at once when you switch sides of the road and drive in foreign countries.  Add to that the notorious winding, one lane roads throughout Ireland – and you have a recipe for disaster – at least that’s how my trip started out. And that’s precisely why I wanted to do this…

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Saint Lucia For Foodies, From Festivals To Exquisite Dining

October 23, 2014 by  

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chocolate Saint Lucia has a rich culinary history and culture. A blend of West Indian, African and French cuisine, as well as a landscape that features fertile soil and a tropical climate, visitors can enjoy spicy stews, fresh fruits and flavorful curries. That being said, visiting the island is more than just eating food, it’s experiencing the cuisine. To help guide you, here are five must-have St. Lucia food experiences.

Indulge In Their Chocolate Culture

Cocoa was once Saint Lucia’s most important export, and still plays an important role in their culture today. There are many ways to experience this sweet heritage, including plantation tours, making your own chocolate, cocoa-inspired spa treatments and adding chocolate to your meal. Plantations like Marquis Estate, Anse Mamin Plantation, Emerald Estate, Morne Coubaril Estate and La Dauphine Estate offer tours, as does Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot Estate which offers a “Tree-to-Bar Experience” allowing visitors to make their own chocolate. Additionally, spas like Ti Kaye Village Resort & Spa and Kai En Ciel Boutique Spa at Jade Mountain Resort combine chocolate’s indulgence with its health benefits through cocoa-inspired massages, body wraps and scrubs. And if you’d simply like to…

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