A Travellerspoint blog

Vino Nobile de Montepulciano

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We quickly discovered in our first day of being here that these Tuscans are very proud of... everything. Their history and heritage, not to mention their very own pasta called pici (pronounced "pishi"). Most of all however, they hold the keys to the world renowned Il Vino Nobile. It is a special percentage of several types of grapes blended and then stored for a minimum of two years in these beautiful wine casks. We are not wine connoisseurs in the least, but no need to be forced to enjoyed the free tour and tastings.

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The city itself has a beautiful view of the valleys, winding roads, and rolling hills and you can see for miles around.
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We loved the little cars and bicycles and vespas too. They added to the whole feel of being very far from what we call home.
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Posted by Greerd2Go 12:36 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Montepulciano of Tuscany

In Italy's heartland

Saying goodbye to the quaint, quiet towns of the Cinque Terre, we again descended into the busyness of the modern city of Florence. We decided to rent a car for this portion of our trip as the rolling vineyards of Tuscany can hardly be enjoyed on public transportation. In a last minute decision we also rented a GPS in humble realization that out Italian language skills aren't quite up to par with reading signs at 80 mph on the freeway nor were we ready embrace asking for directions in sleepy Italian villages.

We immediately needed the GPS leaving the rental agency and sighed a breath of relief at getting on the freeway, in the right direction, and only having attempted it once.
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Of course we hopped out to take photos at every opportunity.

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Tuscany is the region, Sienna the province, and Montepulciano the city we called home for 6 days and nights. It's a hilltop town full of history, known for amazing wine cellars and a host of cute shoppes to wander in and out of. This area also is well known for it's Argriturismo. In other words a blend of agriculture and tourism. It's where you get to sample the rural lifestyle of the locals while lodging at a farm that is still actively planting and harvesting; mostly olives and wine grapes.

The place we choose was called Casa Grande and was off a tiny gravel road that required both the GPS and a good sense of direction to reach it!
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Posted by Greerd2Go 09:50 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Non siamo ancora arrivati​​?!

Are we there yet??!

So leaving Islay was an adventure all of it's own.

Foggy weather = canceled flight. Canceled flight = missing following flight to Italy. So ensued 24hrs of travel. Taking a ferry off the Island of Islay and a ride of 3.5 hrs back to Glasgow, and then an hour bus ride to Edinburgh. After all that, we finally said goodbye to the UK and hello to Italy.
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Going from sleepy sheep towns to bustling Milan in 5 o'clock traffic is quite the experience. Motorcycles (Mopeds really) weaving through traffic, cyclists thinking they are mopeds, and pedestrians dashing across four lanes of traffic while on a cell phone, all often coming within a hair's breath of a speeding car, bus or train. To add to that, we had the bus driver who was yelling, honking in Italian and driving like we were in a sports car, not an articulated bus. It was a good old-fashioned white-knuckled introduction into Italy.

After arriving at the train station, we quickly realized that everyone in Italy speaks Italian.... I mean... Who knew??
Tired brains of course have a hard time flipping to another language. So in Milan's train station, which feels like NYC Grand Central, we had to figure out what train goes to Riomaggiore, what binari (track), and what time (military time) it leaves. We also knew that there was only one train left leaving in that direction for the night, so for a few minutes it was a do-or-die dash.

Then came the next welcome to Italy experience. There weren't any direct trains going the direction we needed, so we had to take a regional train which stopped every 5 minutes. Since it was so late at night, nobody was at each station, and nobody was on the train. Nothing is more frustrating than stopping for 5 minutes, every 5 minutes, for 4 hours. :-)

Alas, we made it to Riomaggiore just after midnight and were welcomed by our host at the B&B. She drug our luggage up several steep slopes, a few staircases, around a grape vine or two, and finally we were home.

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The Cinque Terre is known for its stairs, hikes and amazing views. So we spent the next two days enjoying just that. These next pics were taken on our first day through the Via de'll Amore or the walk of Love. Along the walk, several hundred padlocks are attached to cables, containing names of those apparently locked in love. Awwwww...... (no we didn't add a lock).

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To hike along vineyards, past stone houses that hundreds of yrs old and look at the rugged terrain plunging into crystal clear blue-green water made the climb worthwhile. We thought Bocas back in Panama had the lock-down on pristine lagoons. Well we stand corrected!

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After a great day-long hike, what else is there to do but replace some lost calories? Or maybe even store up more for tomorrow? We made sure to taste and eat every moment we thought we might be hungry, could be hungry or indeed were hungry.

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Next, on to Tuscany and Wine country!

Posted by Greerd2Go 08:07 Archived in Italy Tagged terre cinque Comments (0)

1 distillery, 2 distillery, 3 distillery...floor

As in malting floor!

(Today is the end of our European adventure. We spent our last night in Frankfurt, Germany, and we fly out this afternoon. The past three weeks we've been in Italy, all over the place. Interestingly enough, Italy has been the hardest place for us to find Internet access for less than an arm and a leg, hence the delayed updates on the blog! So, we're just going to catch up from where we left off, and hopefully soon we will have all the stories and pictures up here that we wanted to share from our trip. Thank you for being patient!)

Scotland (October 7-9th)

So we came this far and in fact it would be a travesty to say goodbye to this region of the world without a visit to the isle of Islay the home of famous Scotch distilleries. So, in a surprise to Chris, we took a trip out to see what it's all about. It was a beautiful bus ride of 3 hrs and a ferry crossing.
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The island itself is quite small with a hometown feel. We arrived at a cute B&B in Port Ellen and informed by our host that there is only 2 places to eat in town. So after we dropped our things off, we walked the one block consisted of finding the one open restaurant which was Indian cuisine. Kind of random in the middle of nowhere, but "why not?", we thought. Opening the door we were greeted with late 70's motif, orange shag carpet and Mariah Carey singing on a skipping cd. The giggles we wiped off our faces however when the food arrived. Delicious and authentic, can't ask for more than that!
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One to the why we came here...
There are 8 Distilleries in fact, (and one brewery that Chris gleefully discovered) 90_DSC02489.jpg but alas we could only do justice to our top three. We're sure it was all planned just for us to come visit, because those three just happen to be all in a row about a mile apart from each other. Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg.

They all boast the uniqueness of the salt air peat being the secret ingredient in their scotch, the high quality of their copper distillery's and from there numerous nifty little facts that you immediately forget but appreciate nonetheless as soon as the tasting ensues.
Since we only had 2 nights and one full day, we made full use of it with sippings and questions, and even getting to stick our heads into washbacks, shovel peat and see the copper stills up close.
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The countryside between the Distilleries are rolling hills and sheep. We even had the chance to see modern shepherding which we learned now involves two guys on quads, one at the front and one at the back, and a sheep-dog nipping at the heels of the sheep. It was pretty entertaining.
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We discovered just how Scotch and sheep live happily side by side on the Isle of Islay- the "s" is silent. DSC02526.jpgDSC02594.jpgDSC02634.jpgDSC02637.jpgDSC02641.jpg

Posted by Greerd2Go 02:56 Archived in Scotland Tagged port ellen_distilleries Comments (0)

Edinburgh, Scotland - Kilts, bagpipes, and some great people

Did you know it's pronounced (ed-in-burrow)

After a couple days in England with Joanne, she drove us up into Scotland to Edinburgh, where she has a good friend name Sharon. Sharon offered to have us stay with her for a few days, and the first night we were there she had several friends over from her congregation for dinner. It was nice to meet such warm people (as in temperament not temperature - Scotland is COLD!)

So, meet Sharon and friends:

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While in Edinburgh, Sharon took us to her meeting, then after took us to a few sights around Edinburgh. It's a cool city, with a huge castle on one end in what they call the 'old town', with a sprawling business and residential section that they call the 'Drumshoe Gardens'. The old part of the city is of course a thousand years old or so - or older in some parts - and the newer part has buildings that were put up in the 1600's. It's interesting how their interpretation of old and new puts a 400 year old building as new. In the states, you live in an old home if it's been there for 80 years. Here, they call that just barely broken in!

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That last picture is of Hollyrood Palace, where her majesty the Queen stays when she comes and visits Edinburgh. They let you tour it, but unfortunately we didn't have the time.

From the palace to the Castle is a one mile walk called the "Royal Mile". Along that you can find all kinds of interesting scottish folk. One thing that was interesting to me were the kilts. They really really do wear them! I knew that it was a formal thing, but it wasn't unusual to see someone just sporting it as they go about their business. It's also what they wear for weddings, any event requiring a nice suit or tux, and of course if they go anywhere near a bagpipe.

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Near the end of the Royal Walk toward the castle, there is a Scotch Shop there that boasts one of the largest selections in Scotland. It starts you off with a little tour of the country and where each distillery is located, and groups them according to region. My favorite single malts are the ones that come from the Isle of Islay, which is located off the west coast. There are 8 scotch distilleries there, and I've only been able to find 5 of them in various scotch stores around the world. Well this store had the three I was missing and I now have a complete Islay collection. Woo hoo!

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After this we got to go to a park where Naomi helped to hold up a tower, as well as symbolically take out her travel frustrations on me.

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On to the distilleries!

Posted by Greerd2Go 01:03 Comments (0)

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