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May 12, 2013

Marseille Side Trip: An Earthy Contrast from Sophisticated Paris

By Dorothy Garabedian   

The ancient port city of Marseille sits on one of the world’s most beautiful bays. Greek colonists from Phocaea founded the city 2,600 years ago.

Since its discovery, Marseille has attracted migrations from many nations, near and far, emerging into a rich, intense, multicultural society. This intriguing Mediterranean city (population 840,000) has been described as gritty, boisterous, dangerous, and a mafia haven, among other unsavory terms. Now, the old descriptions are giving way to new ones, such as rediscovered, redefined, city-on-the-rise, colorful, lively, and authentic.
Why the change? 

In 2008, Marseille was chosen as the 2013 European Capital of Culture. Millions of euros from government funds and major international investors are being poured into a grand plan to transform Marseille into a dazzling center of European culture. It is part of an expansive redevelopment initiative called the Euroméditerranée project, set for completion at the end of this decade. These projects have brought a large influx of people from northern France and other countries down to the south (popularly referred to as the Midi).

International star architects have designed impressive buildings while older structures and museums are undergoing refurbishment. New boutiques, galleries, and restaurants are opening up in rehabilitated areas around the Vieux Port (Old Port).

Local residents, however, are skeptical about this so-called renaissance, believing it will all fade away just as so many other projects have failed in the past. Their disbelief in Marseille’s future prosperity is also based on the city’s other ills, such as insufficient public security, infrastructure issues, and an unruly population.  

Marseille’s citizens may be cynical about the grand plans set out for their city, but the fact is that Marseille is changing. Before it gets too sophisticated, a visit to this unique city should be on any traveler’s itinerary. After visiting pastel, elegant Paris, why not round out a French voyage with a contrasting visit to vibrant, earthy Marseille? 

The Marseillais are quick to say that their city is spécial. In French this could mean exceptional or extraordinary. It could also mean peculiar or strange. It is the latter which the locals emphasize. Try not to expect things to go smoothly, and if they do, consider yourself lucky. More than likely you’ll have a mixed bag of experiences ranging from wonderful to exasperating, delightful to incredulous -- and even infuriating. That is all part of Marseille.

Getting there is easy now with the high speed rail called the TGV. Leave in the morning from Paris and in three hours you will find yourself in the heart of Marseille for lunch at a café along the picturesque Vieux Port (or, in summer, picnicking on a rented boat and swimming in a secluded cove). You are almost certain to be basking in the sun, regardless of the season, as it shines in Marseille 300 days of the year.



Where to start
The Marseille Office of Tourism has an excellent tourism site in several languages (www.marseille-tourism.com). It is clear, complete, and very easy to navigate to find all the information you need to plan your visit. Whatever your interests, there are options to pursue them, and for every budget. But to experience Marseille, it’s best to have a flexible agenda.

On weeknights half of the Vieux Port area is dark and deserted, especially around city hall (Mairie). During weekend evenings it is lively. The three safer areas are concentrated in three locations: Vieux Port Est (East), Cours Julien, Place Castellane, and -- for the warmer half of the year -- along the Corniche (beachfront).

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Twenty-Four Hours in Prince Edward County Wine Country

By Joanne Spero
ITWPA Member

We woke up early Saturday morning excited that we were about to embark on our first adventure to the Prince Edward County wine region in Ontario, Canada. It’s a short hour and a half drive from our home, and a two hour drive east of Toronto.

Having had lunch along the way (a must before any wine tasting) we arrived at The Inn at Huff Estates, our hideaway for the next 24 hours. The Inn is nestled in the sprawling estate vineyard of the same name. Its tranquil setting was ideal for our weekend getaway. We booked a fireplace suite complete with king-sized bed, crisp linens, and a walk-in shower.  

It was a sunny, fresh Saturday afternoon in February... yes, February. We are lovers of “off peak” travel. The sun glistened across the snow on the vineyards where the vines, in the coming months, will stand proud, heavy with grapes.

We were met at The Inn by Gilles, from PEC Wine Tours, our wine guide extraordinaire for the next four hours. As we drove along the country roads from vineyard to vineyard, we heard about how the growers bury the vines every fall to avoid the harsh winter temperatures, then uncover them in the spring. Our eyes were opened to the huge artisanal culture that is thriving in the county. Gilles, being an artist himself, gave us a view of the county we would not have experienced on our own.   

Our first stop was Sugarbush Vineyards, a Garagiste Winery. They specialize in small lot, artisanal wines made entirely from their estate-grown grapes, Cabernet Franc, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer. We purchased their 2009 Cab Franc which we plan on laying down for two years.  

Next... Karlo Estates. They craft rare wines using Old World techniques. Our tastings revealed bold wines with refined complexity. You will find their wines on discriminating wine lists throughout Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. If you visit this vineyard make sure you say hi to their resident kitty.

Rosehall Run Vineyards is just down the road. They are known for their award-winning Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. By chance, the day of our tasting, the cellar was open for tasting and purchasing their 2006 to 2010 Pinot Noir. This was a great opportunity for a vertical flight tasting. The 2007 was outstanding and it is perfect for drinking now.

Norman Hardie, a small boutique winery, was our next stop. Their 2009 unfiltered Pinot Noir is spectacular! It has an exceptional nose and its earth and mineral tones linger on your palate.
Right about then we were thinking that this tour was the best tour EVER!
Then off we went to Sandbanks Estate Winery. Their Baco Noir is a full-bodied red wine with intense plum and wild cherry flavors with notes of toasted oak providing a lingering finish.
Hinterland Wine Company was our last stop of the day -- and what a stop. They specialize in the exclusive production of sparkling wines and they do a fabulous job. If you’re looking for exceptional sparkling wine, you must try Hinterland.  

Sunday morning, after a full breakfast at The Inn, we toured the Huff Estates Winery. This is a state-of-the-art vineyard producing numerous award-winning VQA wines. Being one of the first vineyards in the area, they are the true pioneers of grape growing and wine production in PEC.

It was now noon and time for our adventure to come to an end. We love Prince Edward County and can’t wait for our next 24-hour adventure. 

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Holidaying at Hole in the Wall, Transkei, South Africa

By Dorette Avlonitis

The perfect getaway from the daily grind, the Hole in the Wall Hotel and Holiday Village near Coffee Bay is hard to reach and hard to leave (not only due to bad roads).

When we started out in our rental car from East London airport, we were mystified that the GPS indicated it would take seven and a half hours to drive 177 miles. I thought it inaccurate and hoped the machine wasn’t psychic... It was! There were roadworks going on along most of the way.

We wondered where old Mr. Mandela’s home was as we passed his birth town, Qunu, and saw it on our way back, along with the Mandela Museum.

Some four miles from our destination, at about 8:30 in the dark of night, the little car skidded in powdery sand where larger vehicles had had trouble crossing. I gave up and called the resort manager, who quickly came to our rescue. We managed to turn the car in the direction we came from and followed him on a 31-mile detour to arrive at 10 o’clock. Once safely in our comfortable self-catering cottage, we decided we would not drive again soon!

The next morning as I opened the door, some locals were waving a bag and shouting they had crayfish for sale. We bought after some negotiation and had a wonderful lunch after hiking to the ‘big hole,’ amazed that the dunes were covered in lawn -- and cattle and goats were grazing!

Even more amazing was the donkey that took a ‘dust bath’ in front of us and then got up and sauntered on.
The next day we heard about ‘little hole’ and decided to hike there. We were at it a few hours and got to ‘black rock’ where we saw fishermen and wonderful scenery. Unbeknown to us we were close to ‘little hole.’ We went back there the next morning with a couple we met, Val and Cynthia, in their powerful vehicle along the barest of tracks... up to a point. Then we walked a distance to finally see ‘little hole’ way down the sheer cliffs.
The day after we bravely took to the road in our small car to explore the surroundings up to Coffee Bay. The place is somewhat of a hippie haven, and drumming could be heard from afar. We had lunch at the Kaleidoscope shop and bought a few trinkets.
Considering our long trip to Hole in the Wall, we decided to leave our resort a day early to meander closer to the airport at East London. We found a guest house where we spent a lovely last evening of our holiday, and had a long walk on the beach at Bonza Bay.

Then we slowly drove to the airport and handed back the car in good time for our flight back to Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport and HomeSweetHome!

The weather all this while (the third week in May) had been great. It did get dusky fairly early and sunrise was at about 7 a.m.

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Taqueria Paty: One of the First in a Food Revolution

By Jerry L. Nelson

A food revolution is sweeping the nation... in the form of a new version of meals on wheels. Don’t confuse this with the charitable offering, good as that is. This one is being fostered by the food industry in the broadcasting world. Lots of “done over” Airstreams outfitted with restaurant quality kitchens instead of the sleeping and living areas and then gathered into one locale and serving up, to the often giddy public, a variety of ethnic choices... My, what a wonderfully “new” idea.

Hold on there, partner.

We’ve had this idea around for years here in south central Texas... and I do mean years.  

The “taco wagon” has been a roadside fixture for longer than a hungry person could imagine. Travel the outlying roadways around any city of size and it’s hard NOT to see some enterprising soul trying to make a dollar on the side of the road selling all manner of Tex-Mex delights from some form of kitchen on wheels. New idea? I think not.

Having grown up in the shadow of San Antonio and, as a teenager, having made the requisite pilgrimage to the border to sample street food at three in the morning when all I could think about was solid food in my belly, nothing compares in taste, quality, and plain ol’ goodness to finding your own personal roadside taqueria. Seek one out and make it your favorite.

I have serendipitously stumbled across one I feel is unmatched in the area of Canyon Lake (and there are several to choose from): Taqueria Paty, with one “t.” Her real name is Patricia Soto, but when asked why the one “t” Paty responded she “just liked the look of it.” So... Taqueria Paty was born, just 1.6 miles south of FM 306 on US 281 in the parking lot of the Spring Branch Bowling Club. Breakfast fare is the big rush but at any time during open hours you will see a parking lot filled with a variety of vehicles from pickups filled with construction workers to Mercedeses with housewives and kids. 

Paty and her head cook, sister-in-law Lupe Soto (it’s a family affair as even daughter Diana and co-owner daughter-in-law Miranda pull their shifts), crank out some of the greasiest, drippiest, tastiest tacos you could ever wrap your mouth around. The menu isn’t just limited to the ubiquitous breakfast taco, either. You’ll find a selection that will rival many seated service restaurants, from crispy tacos to mini-tacos to tortas to combination dishes. Paty offers eight different kinds of meat tacos with Picadillo being a favorite along with Carne Guisada, plus Chicharron’s, Migas, Papas Rancheras, Machacado, and more. Saturday sees Barbacoa by the pound and when there’s been an overabundance of cerveza on Friday night, Paty and Lupe offer up some of the best menudo in the area to ease your aching head.

Next time you find yourself tooling down 281 south of FM 306 and you have a hankerin’ for the original “meals on wheels,” pull over into the Spring  Branch Bowling Club parking lot between 6:30 in the morning and 1:30 in the afternoon seven days a week and check out Taqueria Paty. As Paty says, “If you want an order to go, have a compliment or even a complaint,” give her a call at 830-885-2034. Try her offerings and you won’t really care what they’re doing in the big city with their fancy Airstreams. Paty’s been doing it for years, simply and fantastically.

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Permission to Board? The BB River Queen

By Laura Macy
ITWPA Member

On a beautiful spring day (well, actually, we lucked out... after a horrid rain storm cleared and the sky became illuminated by the sun), my daughter Tiffany and I took the trio (8-year-old Todd, 7-year-old Tess, and 4-year-old Tanner) for a Lunch Cruise on the River Queen on the Ohio River. The BB Riverboat Company boasts that it is Cincinnati’s “Premiere” Riverboat Cruise Line.

I am here to tell you that it certainly must be true!

We raced down Interstate 75 from Centerville, through Cincinnati, to the port on the Ohio River. As my car panted and basically collapsed, the five of us broke all speeds set in the last recorded 5K, knocked over, oh, everyone, and boarded the paddle riverboat... the River Queen. (Okay, I thought we were late.)

As we exhaled, a handsome mate certified the trio with testimonials declaring them fit to “captain” the riverboat. Their names were already imprinted on certificates (reservations are recommended) and the captain had already signed their “credentials.” (I’ll frame them tomorrow.) After receiving Captain Hats, the trio then posed at the wheel with Mommy and Meme (may-may).

Another mate ushered us to a window table decorated with red, white, and blue balloons. The children were given their beverages of choice and shrimp to nibble, and we were off! As we cruised, we indulged in a five-course gourmet meal, plenty of spirits, and of course... ice cream!

There was a banjo player on our deck who played a popular variety of music. If one didn’t like his enormous selection, there was something seriously wrong with the listener. The man was exceptionally talented, congenial, and fun! We joined in with some old standards and were transported by the movement of the boat and the background of his banjo to a time when Facebook didn’t make us nuts!

We strolled the three decks. The captain was a gracious, intelligent, well “sailed” man who discussed the Great Lakes, the Edmund Fitzgerald, and various expeditions on the Ohio and other rivers with us. The children could ask no question too small or too large. His charm and intelligence were admirable!

The wait staff was amazingly “on it,” and the bartender provided percussion (glasses, cutlery) from his post for the banjo player. Lunch, cruise, fun!

After a few games of bingo (with prizes), we began to get ready to disembark. The last few selections played by the banjo player were of a patriotic nature, and when he played “God Bless America” people stood, held hands, and sang.

As we resumed packing up, sad to leave, Mr. Banjo broke out into the Tennessee National Anthem, “Rocky Top.” Young and old alike kicked up their heels and the entire deck was dancing!

The family at a table next to us was there to celebrate Mom’s 98th birthday. We were five beginning spring break. People were there for occasions, for fun... to get away from daily life, stress, drama.
If you have an afternoon, if you have a thought about Cincinnati, I would recommend a cruise on the BB Riverboats. My “snaps” to the staff and administration of BB Riverboats and the River Queen!

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! (Todd will be back to captain the next cruise... Tanner and Tess will be happy to help.)


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May 30, 2013

Morton Arboretum Offers Much More than Trees

By Connie Reed
ITWPA Member

I’m driving through the splendor of one of the world’s largest arboretums, surrounded by the beauty of trees, shrubs, and plants collected from around the world, 1,700 acres of them, when I see a giant ant -- make that two -- no, three. They must be 10 feet tall! The monstrous ants posed on the hillside seem ready to stampede toward my vehicle. I whisk by them before they make their move. Later I’m wandering through the children’s garden when I spy another oversized insect, a grasshopper, and this time I’m on foot. But not to worry -- the mammoth insects are part of the David Rogers Big Bugs exhibition at the Morton Arboretum. Exhibits like Big Bugs, a hedge maze, an interactive children’s garden, and special themed activities, together with 16 miles of hiking trails, nine miles of paved roads for biking or driving, and even guided tram tours, make for a day of fun for people of all ages and with a variety of interests.

Serious plant enthusiasts and gardeners appreciate the 190,000 specimens in the Morton Arboretum’s collection, specialty gardens throughout natural landscapes, and guided walks. Active folks can rent bicycles in the summer and cross country skis in the winter. Kids have fun in the 4-acre garden created just for them, splashing in the frog fountain, playing instruments made from colossal flowers, or spinning a pot of pansies while peering at the dimensions they take on through a kaleidoscope. Family members race each other through the hedge maze, while others watch their progress from a platform built around a 60-foot-tall Sycamore tree.

Lots of special events are offered for adults, kids, and families. Adults can tweak their gardening and landscaping skills. Kids can learn about bugs or gather for story time. Family activities are offered, too, like an occasionally-scheduled overnight campout where you can sleep under the stars surrounded by the lush landscaping of the Morton Arboretum. But watch out for those Big Bugs that may be lurking in the gardens.









Morton Arboretum is located about 25 miles west of Chicago in Lisle, Illinois, and is open 365 days a year from 7 a.m. until sunset (shorter hours for the children’s garden). Visit on Wednesdays for discounted admission. Lunch is available in the Ginkgo Room restaurant overlooking Meadow Lake. For additional information, visit the website at http://www.mortonarb.org/.

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Aroma Workshop Chicago: Slinging Oils, Making Smells

By Sean Hillen
ITWPA Member
Photos by Columbia Hillen
If you walk too fast, you might miss it, and that would be a shame.

For Aroma Workshop (www.aromaworkshop.com) operates out of a small, glass-fronted store off trendy Halsted Street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. The delicate smell of perfumes lingers in the air as you open the door and walk down a few steps to the ‘testing’ room.

Here, seated on high stools arranged along a counter with scores of miniature transparent bottles on black wooden trays, is where clients create their own perfumes under the keen eye (and nose) of owner and former New York dancer turned perfumer Tedd Neenan.





As Tedd, of Irish background and a native of Columbia, Missouri, is busy issuing guidance to clients, my companion and I spend several moments gazing around. I count over 60 miniature bottles on each of several wooden racks, each having a different oil inside, some with intriguing names: LSD, pink sugar, gardenia, honeysuckle, fig, cassis, sea mist, desert aloe, and big sun. There is also a jar of coffee beans to help clear nostrils. Behind us on a line of shelves standing against the wall are a wide selection of products made by Tedd and his staff -- bath salts, eye creams, scrub masks, foot lotions, facial toners, and aromatherapy preparations made from essences ranging from elder flower to rose hip, eucalyptus, pomegranate, and aloe vera. Nearby are soaps of all varieties -- glycerin, coconut milk, China musk, juicy peach, and white tea -- as well as scent sticks.

It is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of fragrant products.

Several customers are already there, reflecting wide age differences. To one side of us a middle-aged woman and four children under the age of 10 voice their delight enthusiastically upon mixing oils and smelling the results. On the other side are two men, one with an intricate tattoo on his upper arm. They sit, eyes closed, in quiet contemplation, each holding a test strip close to his nose. They’ve obviously been here a while and seem to be nearing the final, crucial stages of their personal perfume creations.

Iris Lin, Tedd’s assistant, is dealing with several clients who have come to collect refills of fragrances they had made on previous visits. Aroma Workshop has hundreds of what Tedd terms ‘recipes’ from clients who regularly return to stock up on scents they had made -- for deodorants, perfumes, room sprays, etc.

Tedd says his interest in fragrances first began when he worked for several years in his brother’s shop, The Potion Parlor, in Columbia. “I was always keen on fragrances but I had so much fun working there, mixing oils, that my interest was heightened immensely. I had been a dancer through the early ’80s and fell in love with the creative process. Also, my wife, Liz Muckley, a Chicagoan, is an actress and Playback artist.”

In those pioneering days only four main essential oils were used in Tedd’s brother’s store. Tedd now has around 240 oils at his disposal here.

To strengthen his knowledge, Tedd became a certified aromatherapist, attending classes at the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy in San Rafael, California, before opening his business in Chicago in 1993. At that time the area was more run-down. “This place had been a lumberyard, then a shirt store, then a place that sold antiques,” he recalled. “But I was confident I could get a strong clientele base. After all, hundreds of cars and buses go by here every day.”

Tedd says his clientele is wide-ranging. “One day we might have the whole family here. The next, a husband and wife. Or a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter. Sometimes, retirees or young people on spring break. We regularly open in the evenings for special occasions, to cater for bridal showers or special birthdays where a group of close friends come in to create their own perfumes, drink champagne, and chat. There can be a lot of lively fun then. We can host up to 12 people for an event.”

He added, “We get 30 to 40 customers every week, about 60 percent of whom want to make their own perfumes. Many come in from the suburbs. Some clients come in and make their own perfumes, which they then sell in their stores, and we get a commission on the sales.”

If you don’t see Tedd merrily ‘slinging oils’ (as he terms it) in Aroma Workshop, he says he is likely doing one of several things: hanging out with his partner in Bucktown, walking to Wicker Park, cooking, shopping at Stanley’s, sitting in the first rows at a dance concert, attending an aromatherapy seminar (especially if Doctor Kurt Schnaubelt is leading it), pedaling to work, sweating at a step aerobics class, paddling a canoe in the Ozarks, or hiking in the Rockies.

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They Made Us Break Our Rule

By J. Mike Rogers

When my wife and I started traveling to the Caribbean over 10 years ago, we agreed not to visit the same place twice -- to see as many islands and resorts as possible. Palm Island Resort in the Grenadines made us break that rule. We just returned from our second visit, and it won’t be our last.

Palm Island is not for everybody. If you need flat-screen TVs and shopping and constant entertainment, this is probably not for you. But for us, and many like us, this is a little slice of Caribbean paradise. We spent most of our days on the beach, reading, taking a dip, or just walking and enjoying the sun. It’s peace and quiet. It’s relaxing and reconnecting with your spouse.

While the beach is the star attraction, Palm Island has lots of activities such as snorkeling trips to the Tobago Cays or a day trip to St. Vincent for an island tour. We opted to stay on island this trip but we did have a picnic lunch delivered to us (at a secluded beach away from the main resort area) with real china, real silverware, real napkins, and real flutes for our champagne -- great food and great service. As for resort amenities, the small gym met my needs perfectly. My wife had a massage at the spa and raved about it. There’s also a pool and a tennis court, a library and computer for guest use, and Wi-Fi is available in the reception area.

I recommend Palm Island’s beachfront cottages but the Palm View Rooms are also a good option, and for a slightly higher level of luxury, try the Island Lofts. Each room has an air conditioner, but ceiling fans are usually all you need. Two beach loungers come with each room, so if you don’t want to walk down to the main beach you can enjoy the sun right outside your door. There’s also a table and chairs with an umbrella -- great for watching the sun set or for sipping your first cup of coffee in the morning.

Palm Island gets five stars for food. Breakfast includes fresh local fruit, while lunch options include great burgers and salads. Amazing dinners run the gamut from medallions of pork to pan-seared dorado, and Chef Baka uses local sources frequently, especially for herbs and veggies. Two nights a week there’s a buffet: beach barbecue on Wednesday and Caribbean night on Saturday, when a rum tasting is included. (Sparrow’s is the best, and it’s from St. Vincent!) However, we needed gluten-free options and Chef delivered. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are clearly noted on each evening’s dinner menu, but Chef made a special loaf of gluten-free bread so my wife could have toast with her breakfast every day. Nice touch. On Sunday, Chef gave a cooking demonstration using traditional Caribbean methods, and even gave us his recipe.

The staff at Palm Island is fantastic. Everybody is friendly, helpful, genuinely eager to please. We both got slight sunburns the first day (yes, we applied sunscreen, just not effectively enough). My wife looked in the gift shop for some zinc oxide for her nose, but they didn’t have any. So a staff member arranged for slices of aloe vera to be delivered to our room. Even better.

No, Palm Island is not for everybody. Getting there is an adventure in itself, and some might find the resort a bit laid-back. But we go to the Caribbean specifically to be laid-back for a week -- maybe longer next time?

For reservations, visit www.palmislandresortgrenadines.com, or call toll-free 866-237-2157. Plan on flying to Barbados. There you will be met by a Palm Island representative who will guide you to your SVG Air flight to Union Island. Book seven nights or more and Palm Island covers this leg of your journey. Plan to arrive on Barbados by early afternoon, though. Flights to Union Island must arrive there before dark -- there are no runway lights! When you arrive on Union Island, you will again be met by a Palm Island representative who will take you by golf cart to the Palm Island boat for a short ride to the resort. At the Palm Island dock, staff members will greet you with a drink and show you to your room.

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Romantic Dinner in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

By Jennifer B. Graham

I’m about to sample my first forkful of Chef Rosario Rubio’s Chicken Waldorf Salad -- Hispaniola style.

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of meeting the chef to ask what he would serve a couple on a romantic getaway at the Marina Sands Luxury Resort near Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. With the aid of Elven and Regino, through frowns, gesticulations, and lots of smiles, we breached the language barrier. I got the message, and then some. “Come over to the Bistrot tomorrow and I’ll have a meal prepared for you.” Now it was my turn to smile.

Regino has set a place for me in the elegant dining room. He raises one of the large sun screens, unveiling a fantastic view of the sun-drenched Caribbean Sea beyond the pastel Mediterranean-style resort. A gentle breeze caresses my skin.

Presented on crisp romaine lettuce, the apple is cubed into dainty bits. Morsels of delicately thin chicken strips subtly fleck the creamy salad, which is topped with small pieces of pineapple and garnished with sliced red grapes. The overall effect is a delicious, tropical coolness on the tongue.  

A soup course follows, artistically decorated with a creamy swirl. As the bowl is placed before me I get a distinct ocean aroma. Pointing to the soup I tell the chef, “I smell the sea.” Regino translates -- it’s lobster bisque. It has the smoothest texture of any lobster bisque I’ve tasted.

The young chef hails from Santo Domingo, capital of this Spanish-speaking country. He spent two years as chef’s assistant, then followed a five-year apprenticeship. Now he proudly wears his chef’s hat here at the Bistrot.  

The fish course tastes as good as it looks, succulent grilled grouper drizzled with a blend of olive oil, butter, lemon juice, and garlic and stacked on a bed of sautéed potato cubes, zucchini disks, and baby Roma tomatoes.
Now for the main dish: home-grown chicken cubed and sautéed, then completed in a delicate curry sauce. This is presented vol-au-vent style and garnished with tropical fruit and fresh herbs.

As a pleasant complement to the meal the choice of wine is Santa Carolina, a Chilean Chardonnay. Rubio and the duo wait expectantly for my reaction. I might only have been at the Marina Sands for a couple of days, but I know just enough to say muy rico -- absolutely wonderful.

The best is saved for last which happens to be my favorite -- Tiramisu. Adorned with sliced poached pear and mango, it does not disappoint. The feather-light sponge cake is soaked in the perfect amount of espresso. Layered with a creamy mascarpone blend and topped with ganache, every bite is a melt-in-your-mouth moment.

If you like a dark roasted cup of coffee with boldness plus a hint of acidity, then this locally-grown bean is for you. Just when I thought I was done, out comes a shot of Baileys -- the cherry on top.

With typical Dominican joie de vivre Chef Rubio and his staff welcome me with smiles when I visit his kitchen. In broken English, Regino tells me, “Thees where chef make the magic, but most important thing that go in the food is love.” Were I on that romantic getaway, of this experience, all I could say would be “That’s amore.”

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Townsville’s Strand, Family Fun

By Barry Gregory

The Strand lies at the end of Gregory Street in Townsville, Australia’s suburb of North Ward. The area was developed after Tropical Cyclone Sid severely eroded the foreshore in January of 1998.








The attractions start with a marina and follow on to a waterfall, the Tobruk Memorial Baths, playgrounds (including a water feature), barbecues for public use, picnic tables with ample shade, plenty of grassed areas, safe swimming, a white sand beach, a pier great for fishing, and a seawater man-made lagoon, along with a good selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants.





All of this is accessed via a tree-lined walking path that runs the full length of this great family-friendly zone. Every weekend you will find it packed with families celebrating an event or just getting together for some fun and relaxing under the myriad of large shade trees. The water playground is a big hit with kids young and old, especially the giant tipping jug. 






The yachting club holds regular events on the beach, creating a colorful sight as you look out to Magnetic Island in the distance. Tandem skydivers land on the beach, dropping out of the deep blue sky on the odd occasion. The path is popular with people exercising or just taking a leisurely stroll; either way the energy of the area is refreshing and uplifting -- a must to experience on your visit to Townsville.





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About May 2013

This page contains all entries posted to Travel Post Monthly in May 2013. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2013 is the previous archive.

June 2013 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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