See this insider’s guide to our favorite Barolo wine picks from Piedmont, Italy. We love this region so much, we just keep coming back!Read More
Chelsea’s recipe for the Piedmont specialty, Bagna Cauda.Read More
See our 4 day itinerary in Barolo, our favorite wine region in Italy!Read More
Time for our yearly wrap-up spotlighting some the highlights of our time in Europe over the last nine monthsRead More
Read our favorite picks for restaurants and wine in the Barolo region.Read More
Our recommended 3 day itinerary in Tuscany for wine lovers. Travel through the beautiful Val d’Orcia, discover Brunello and Vino Nobile wines, pecorino cheese, and pici pasta in Montalcino, Pienza, Monticchiello, and Montepulciano.Read More
The Val' d’Orcia is home to two of Italy’s most important wines - Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Find out what these incredible wines have in common and makes this area so special.Read More
We are offering our popular Small Group Tour of Tuscany again this May, 2019. We hope you can join us for a week of amazing Italian food, wine and culture.Read More
Our second installment on our recent food and wine tour of Sicily. Join us as we discover the best pistachio gelato, pastries, arancini, and cannoli.Read More
The Euro Travel Coach team recently traveled to Sicily to research a future tour. We climbed Etna, walked beaches and sampled amazing food and wine.Read More
The second year of traveling across Europe. From the winery in Dogliani in Piedmont, to Sicily, Calabria, England and Ireland, see whatErot Travel Coach is up to.Read More
Returning to a place you’ve visited before has surprising rewards. In this post we talk about our return to the Barolo region in Piedmont and why you should consider visiting a favorite spot more than once.Read More
Euro Travel Coach specializes in travel coaching, custom itineraries, and small group trips. We just celebrated our two year anniversary. See what we’ve learned so far.Read More
We lived in Stephenville, TX for over twenty years before beginning our extended travels. Every year we looked forward to the time when our local paper, The Empire-Tribune, published the "Best of Erath". This special edition highlighted local businesses that the readers voted on as being the top in the area. Well, the ETC Team has voted and here’s our list for our trip this past year. Many of these we have written about before and where that is the case there are links directly to those posts. Hope you enjoy revisiting the highlights of our year of travel!
One of the most unique aspects of our trip was participating in work exchange programs. In addition to it being an affordable way to stay in an area for longer periods ,it also gave us an opportunity to live more like locals. Here are some of our favorites.
Best WWOOF Experience
Le Roche – Dogliani, Italy
Sue was a wonderful host. We even got to lead a wine tasting with some of her friends on this little island on the Thames. Read more.
We worked with a great group of 20-somethings and learned to make a proper G&T at the Gin Bar. Read more.
Best House Sits
We just couldn’t get over how nice the people in this area were. Read more.
Villa Antea – Florence, Italy
Big spacious rooms, outstanding breakfasts, super nice hosts, a lovely quiet neighborhood and free parking at a great rate. That’s what you get when you stay a kilometer or so from all the tourist areas of Florence. The walk in was about 20 minutes through real neighborhoods. We loved it.
La Marmu – Vernetti, Italy
This is the spot we stayed at tucked into the Maira Valley in the Italian Alps. Beautiful views, wonderful rooms, nice people and a great meal awaited us after a long day of hiking!
Hisa Franko – Kobarid, Slovenia
After seeing this restaurant on an episode of Chef’s Table, we found our way to the remote village of Kobarid, Slovenia at the end of October. The food exceeded our expectations but the wine pairing was transformative. All Slovenian, natural wines that were delicious and perfectly paired with our food. The region is also gorgeous and we had two wonderful days of hiking in addition to the amazing food. Read more.
Noma Pop Up Under the Bridge – Copenhagen, Denmark
A stunning meal created by the team who’s restaurant has been voted Best in the World multiple times. Read more.
La Ciau del Tornavento – Treiso, Italy
You should expect a great meal at a restaurant with a Michelin Star and this gem in the heart of Italy’s Piemonte region did not disappoint. The company made it even more memorable. We were joined by Chelsea and Sam and our friends from the lake, Lisa and Pierre. Each couple ordered both of the tasting menu options and we shared 5 bottles of wine. At the end of the meal we were treated to a tour of their cellar featuring aver 7000 bottles! We have included La Ciau del Tornavento in our plans for our upcoming Small Group Trip to Piedmont during truffle season in the fall of 2019. Be watching for the itinerary and let us know if you’d like to join us!
We are blessed with many good friends. Two of them surprised us by inviting us on a shake-down cruise on the Viking Sun in the Adriatic. With stops in Italy, Kotor, Montenegro, Croatia, and Slovenia, we had a wonderful week sailing in perfect weather. We don't think of ourselves as cruise people, but we were very impressed with everything about Viking Ocean Cruises. We can’t say enough about our experience and highly recommend them if you are looking for a cruise company. Read more.
Before we picked grapes in Italy, we spent some time with Chelsea and Sam in Copenhagen. From there we took a weekend trip to the Danish island of Bornholm. It was absolutely spectacular. We stayed in a little cabin and tried to see as much of the island as we could in two days. Smoked fish, gorgeous seaside views, quaint villages, and beautiful countryside drives made it an unexpected pleasure.
We got to see Chelsea this past year more than any time since she graduated from high school. We felt fortunate to be invited with her and Sam and a few of their friends to a weekend in Riga, Latvia. We never knew we wanted to go to Latvia! We enjoyed a symphony concert, great food, interesting architecture, challenging history and too much beer! Read more.
Favorite Winery Visits
Rivetto – Serralunga, Italy
This is one of our favorite Barolo producers in Piedmont. Enrico Rivetto is a third generation grower who is absolutely passionate about taking his winery in a new, biodynamic path. This will be a stop on our upcoming Piedmont Small Group Tour.
Silvio Nardi – Montalcino, Italy
Bruno Porro – Dogliani, Italy
Our host at the winery where we picked grapes last year, and will be again this year, brought us to meet his friend and fellow producer Fabrizio Porro. We made no appointment. We just showed up and spent the next few hours talking and tasting wine as members of his family bustled about.
Best Wine Shops
La Vite Turchese – Barolo, Italy
One of our happy places! Stefano and Elisabetta take such good care of you. We are very happy to include this shop on our Piedmont Small Group Tour.
D. Byrne & Co. – Clitheroe, England
An amazing shop in a small town in a corner of England that we had never considered visiting. This shop was one of many things that made our house sit most enjoyable.
Hedonism Wines – London, England
As the name suggests, it is over the top. If you are into wine, add this to your What to Do In London list.
Borough Market – London, England
Leave it to Chelsea to find a great foodie spot. You can read more about her London picks here.
Dogliani Market – Dogliani, Italy
During our time on the winery we were sent here to buy food for some of our meals. It is the perfect example of a small town, Italian market. We watched the locals to see how it was done and used our limited Italiano to get what we needed.
Great Market Hall – Budapest, Hungary
This is just one of the reasons to visit this amazing city. Read more.
Szimpla Ruin Pub – Budapest, Hungary
A unique, crazy, mix of bar, performance art, and local entrepreneurship. Another of our Top Ten Things to do in Budapest.
Folkklubs Ala Pagrabs – Riga, Latvia
We spent too much time and drank too many beers here. We danced to live folk music and tried to keep up with the 20-somethings. We loved every second of it.
The Swan with Two Necks – Pendleton, England
The quintessential English Pub frequented by the nicest people on the planet.
Academy of St. Martin in the Field – Bristol, England
What a treat to hear one of our favorite groups which is now led by the incredible Joshua Bell. Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and more.
Budapest Festival Orchestra – Budapest, Hungary
MUPA in an amazing performance space in this vibrant city. Another Top Ten.
Filharmonia Koszalinska – Koszalin, Poland
One of the many regional orchestras in Poland this group put on an ambitious concert, but the highlight for me was the Chopin Nocturne the piano soloist played as an encore. Read more about our time in Poland here.
Favorite Theater Experiences
Hamilton – London, England
Bought tickets the day of the show for less than $75. Much easier than NYC. Amazing! And it was so cool to watch it with a British audience….it gives the show a whole new perspective.
Glengarry Glen Ross – London, England
With Christian Slater. Again, found cheap seats the day of the show and again amazing performance.
Long Day's Journey Into Night – London, England
With Jeremy Irons. See comments above.
The York Realist – London, England
With our friend Lesley Nichol (Mrs. Patmore from Downton Abbey), who we met on the Viking Cruise. Wonderful of course.
This was a wonderful day during our time at the winery. Seeing old friends and making new ones. Read more.
Marmora, Maira Valley
Our last weekend on the winery our host arranged for us to hike in the Italian Alps. Stunning! Read more.
Lake District, England
We were knocked out by the beauty of the Lake District in England. And best of all we could start right from our hosts’ home. Read more.
Tate Modern – London, England
We love that the museums in London are free. The British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert, etc., all free! This year we added the Tate Modern to our list and we were not disappointed.
Berggruen Museum – Berlin, Germany
Berlin is a city full of amazing museums and memorials. We hit the Pergamon, German History, Alte and several others. Thanks to the Museum Pass we could skip the ticket lines and just pop in for a short bit if that’s all time we had. We could also visit some lesser known spots and that’s how we found this gem. Not crowded, relaxing, and filled with Picasso, Matisse, Klee, and more.
Solidarity Museum – Gdansk, Poland
During our time in Berlin, Poland, and Budapest we spent well over a month in locations that had been behind the iron curtain. It was humbling to discover how little we knew about events that happened mostly in our life time. This museum in the beautiful town of Gdansk on the Baltic Sea was extrordinary.
Highlight of the Whole Trip
At the end of our nine months in Europe we had a couple days of relaxation in Verona, Italy. Upon reflecting on our travels we came up with many highlights, mostly mentioned above. But we both agreed that the most fun we had was sharing our love for travel with our small group tours in Tuscany. What a great two weeks we had with two awesome groups of people.
It was nearly 2 years ago when Greg found out that he would be able to retire in 2017. That event pulled the trigger for me to start Euro Travel Coach. Many people told me over the years that I should start a travel company. I love travel so much and thoroughly enjoy helping people travel where they want to go, do what they want to do, and follow a budget they are comfortable with. Greg was my biggest advocate and he agreed to be my partner. A little later, Chelsea joined the team and added an extra level of expertise. I spent several months in the fall of 2016 trying to figure out how on earth to build a website (the Squarespace helpline was HOT with all my questions) and deciding on a business model. Initially I planned to offer custom itineraries and coach people who had questions related to travel in Europe. We’ve been doing that more and more and are thoroughly enjoying creating travel experiences for our clients. Let us know if we can help you or people you know with any travel plans!
Along the way, it became apparent that in addition to this service, we could also offer tours. We have not been on many tours ourselves mostly because we really enjoy the process of planning a trip, but we see a demand for travelers who want to arrive at a destination and have someone else escort them through the itinerary. This was a new way to create travel experiences that we enjoy – and share it with others. We love immersive travel. I’ve put together plenty of study abroad trips for student groups ranging in size from 10-30 so I knew I could do this. I’ve also been a trip leader on cultural and food oriented continuing education programs in Italy and the US. So, it just made sense for us to plan and lead a trip. We decided to take people to Tuscany, one of our very favorite places.
We put together a trip that WE would want to do filled with food, wine, culture, history, art and interesting and passionate local people. We organized 2 one week trips, back to back, and started advertising. We hoped people would like what they saw and sign up – and they did!! We were thrilled to sell out both weeks!
Greg, Chelsea and I took a practice trip in October to meet the villa personnel and make sure we were confident in every restaurant, winery, hike and tour guide. It was a great week and a we learned a lot. We arrived 3 days before our first group trip began in May to prepare further by refining our planned hikes and purchasing locally produced products for breakfast and apertivi.
Our two weeks turned out even better than we expected! Each group of people had their own character. They didn’t all know each other and we didn’t know all of them – but we became fast friends traveling together. The first week the age range was 20 to 79 and everyone was connected to Tarleton State University in some way, even though we didn’t plan it to be like that. The second week, everyone was somehow connected to the lake in Canada where we spend our summers. We had so much fun with each group of people. We were able to tune in to the pace and personality of each group and tweak the itinerary each day based on the weather and the desires of our guests. Even our most well seasoned travelers told us how much they appreciated the work put into the itinerary, but also how worry-free the trip turned out to be. They did not have to plan anything or deal with time and effort (or hassle) of figuring out the logistics of transportation and parking, confirming reservations, locating guides, even deciding what to do day to day.
Staying in a villa for a week and taking day trips turned out to be fantastic. Each day was carefully planned to get the most out of our time in Tuscany while still providing periods to relax and enjoy the sweet life. We took trips to Assisi, Orvieto and Siena and met local guides to learn about the history, culture and art of each of these unique and ancient cities. We hiked through the Val d’Orcia and soaked in the Tuscan setting filled with vineyards and cypress trees. The photos from each trip turned out to be absolutely spectacular – how could they be anything different in that beautiful setting? And we ate SO well! Our leisurely breakfasts and apertivi included locally sourced meats, cheeses, and produce that was in season. Each meal out was better than the previous one. We learned to make pici pasta at the villa and enjoyed the fruits of our labor. And our meals at the villa, prepared by our own personal nonna with ingredients grown and raised right there on the agritourismo were typical Tuscan – and absolutely amazing. And the wine – oh the wine!!! Fantastic!
We were quite tired by the end of the two weeks but it was so rewarding to share our love for travel, Tuscany and la dolce vita with our guests. They were so great. They told us again and again how much they loved the itinerary, the pace, and the experience. We are so so happy that they enjoyed it as much as we did. If you’d like to see some of their comments, you can check them out here on our website! See for yourself what they had to say --
We’ve had such an amazing year of traveling and this was a real highlight of our 9 months in Europe. We have another small group trip planned to Tuscany in March and it is already full so we opened up a new one in May. If you’re interested in joining us you can see the itinerary here. We would love to travel with you!
OK everyone, we have just gotten too far behind on our blog posts! We are going to play some catch up so that we can write more about what we are doing currently vs what we have done. I hope that’s OK with you! We will do these “catch up” blogs in 2 different posts. Thank you so much for following our travels. We are really having a blast and we love taking you along with us.
We are staying REALLY busy! I spend quite a bit of time on my classes most days and we are both working on Euro Travel Coach which is so much fun! We of course take care of any projects our Workaway host may have for us and then we do our very best to explore wherever we happen to be at the moment. It’s busy – and awesome!
One thing I want to mention is not something we have done but something I have noticed. It is a very strange feeling to be in the position of not really needing to buy anything at all. There are necessities of course – things like toothpaste and deodorant – but as far as things for the house or clothes, we don’t even need to look! We have no place to carry anything extra. I need a sweater soon because it’s getting cold (can you say Christmas gift?) but if I get something new I have to discard something I am currently carrying in my suitcase and backpack. It’s just very interesting to strip yourself down to the essentials and not be “in the market” for much of anything.
Alright – now on to glimpses into special opportunities we have enjoyed over the past 3 months we have been traveling. This style of travel has allowed us to relax our typical kind of schedule and be more spontaneous exploring each area. We’ve been able to take advantage of where we are and create itineraries as we go rather than planning very far ahead. These are some of the things we have taken the opportunity to do because we are traveling for an extended time:
We went on a Viking Cruise!
This was nuts. Through a very good friend we were invited to go on a “shakedown” cruise with Viking Cruises through the Adriatic – for free. I know it sounds insane, and it is, but this was truly amazing. This was Greg’s first cruise. I had gone on 2 cruises in the past with my mom. It isn’t our usual style of travel, but if you would like to travel the world in style, luxury and ease, we can now highly recommend Viking Cruises. It was amazing! We started in Venice and stopped at Ravenna & Ancona, Italy (see video on the “float out” of the Viking Orion that we got to attend); Kotor, Montenegro; Sibenik, Croatia; Rijeka, Croatia; Koper, Slovenia and back to Venice. It was absolutely an incredible experience. We had an extra bonus when we returned to our original port. We planned an itinerary for friends we hadn’t seen in over 25 years and actually got to meet them in Venice on our return as they began their Italian travels. It was awesome!!
Went hiking in the Italian Alps
While we were staying at the winery we got to go hiking in the Maira Valley. Piedmont means “foot of the mountain” and the Alps were only about 2 hours away. We could see them from the vineyard. They were absolutely glorious! We stayed at a mountain pensione in Vernetti in the Marmora region called La Marmu. It was 64 Euro per person per night including room, dinner and breakfast. Our first hike took us high above the village where we started. On our way up we heard some sort of bells. Looking down into the valley we saw that the bells were coming from cows being moved from the mountain pastures down to the valley for the winter. It was so cool! We also hiked to Lago Nero. It was a great hike! Absolutely gorgeous. We followed the directions that our host gave me in French – and we did our best looking at the map. We found the trailhead without any problem. There were very few people hiking. It was really hard to see where the trail would go but we kept going up and up and up. We made it to the lake with glorious mountains all around. There were a few people there but not a lot. It’s a small lake, beautiful green color. As we headed out on the trail on the other side of the lake to make a loop (and not return on the same path), there was a man roasting chestnuts over a fire! He gave us a couple and they were absolutely delicious and such an unexpected treat!
Took a Practice Trip for Our Small Group Trip to Tuscany in May
Greg, Chelsea and I spent a week in Tuscany checking out all the restaurants, wineries, hikes, guides and our villa for our small group trip to Tuscany in May. It was VERY difficult work and we take it very seriously! Actually, we do take it seriously but we had so much fun. We are really excited about the trip and are doing our part to make sure it is a terrific experience for our all guests. We are going to take great care of everyone and it will be a blast!! If you’ve been following the blog and the website, you probably know all about the trip already. If you don’t, let me invite you to check out our itinerary here and consider joining us, Tour of Tuscany We only have room for 2 more people each week.
Ate dinner and stayed HIša Franko
Are there any Chef’s Table fans out there?? When we realized that we were going to be only 4 hours away from Hiša Franko by car we decided to simply make plans to go to this remarkable restaurant in Slovenia. You can see the episode that turned us on to this special place here. It turned out to be such an amazing experience – the tasting menu and wine pairing, yes…unbelievable – but we absolutely loved Kobarid, Slovenia overall! We had an incredible hike in the mountains, experienced unanticipated holidays (see the blog post here) and an unbelievable meal matched with all Slovenian wines. It is amazing that we got to have this experience.
Alright! Be sure to stay tuned for Part II of Catching up with the Vagabond! The post should come out later this week.
Several people have asked what we did while we were on the vineyard. We have answered some of those questions in prior posts but we’ll try to wrap it up with this one.
First I have to say we got exactly what we were looking for in our month on the winery. We started harvesting grapes on the first day and were involved in many aspects of the wine making process. We also learned a great deal about living on a winery and in the Piemonte region of Italy. Our hosts Ursula and Marcello were gracious and patient as we tried to understand everything we could about it all. The other WWOOFERs we worked with were all interesting, hard working individuals. The whole experience was outstanding!
What follows is a somewhat annotated list of all the things we did during our stay. Betsy is keeping a very good journal of our whole trip so this is pretty accurate accounting of it all.
Work related to wine
· Picked grapes for three days
See Our First Harvest in Piedmont for more on this
· Helped with the de-stemming machine
Grape bunches went into this rotating machine which spit out the stems. The grapes were pumped into the primary fermentation tanks to ferment on the skins for the next couple of weeks.
· Power washed grape baskets
· Power washed de-stemmer
· Helped pasteurize and cap 48 bottles of Sauser
Sauser is a very low alcohol grape juice pulled from the primary fermentation tank after only a day or two. It is the sweetest, most intense grape juice I’ve ever tasted. Marcello decided he wanted to bottle some this year. He has a small pasteurizing machine and my beer making background came in handy as I capped all the bottles.
· Assembled boxes for wine
· Helped label almost 2000 bottles of wine and filled said boxes
Marcello doesn’t label his bottles until he’s ready to sell them, often ten or more years after harvesting. They do all their own marketing and distribution and sell most of their wine in Switzerland, where they are from.
· Helped press grapes
After the grapes have spent enough time in the primary, they are moved, by gravity, to the press. The grapes are pressed and the juice is pumped into the secondary where they stay until the fermentation is complete. The skins have so little moisture left in them they are almost completely dry. We collected them into giant bags which are sold for the production of grappa.
· Power washed grape press
· Cleaned cellar and drains
This turned into quite the ordeal. The winery has a drain running down the middle of the rooms so when you power wash the equipment the water just drains out. During the busy harvest time this drain had gotten clogged with grapes. When we went to clean it out it seemed there was a clog in the drain underground outside. We dug up connections trying to locate the spot. My arm was purple from reaching up a pipe to try and clear it! It ended up we found the pipe was broken in a couple spots and we ended up digging it all out and replacing it with bigger, stronger pipe.
· Stuffed 0ver 800 envelopes for direct marketing to clients - A really important part of the business.
Work related to the farm
· Helped with meals-a lot!
Betsy especially helped in the kitchen. We had three home cooked meals a day. In the whole time we were there we went out to eat twice. One of my favorites was the focaccia bread which was cooked in a big cast iron skillet on the stove top. The dough filled the whole skillet and when it was brown on one side it was just flipped over to finish it. No baking necessary!
· Harvested various fruits, vegetables, and herbs
Betsy again did most of this. She enjoys the meditative act of picking fruit. See her descriptions in Top 10 Lessons from the Vineyard.
· Pruning, weeding, and planting in the flower gardens
· Helped make a homemade anise liquor
Ursula did a lot of her own preserving in various ways. We often had her homemade jams, pickled vegetables, and dried fruit at the table. This particular venture was a red wine based liquor that included fennel seeds and grain alcohol.
· Picked, pruned, and chopped herbs for a year’s supply of herb salt
This project took several of us three days taking turns on mezzalunas chopping herbs to make several pounds of herbed salt. Ursula uses it all year long to flavor soups, meat, salads…almost everything she cooks.
· Cleared a fence line
· Burned several piles of brush
This was a little unsettling since it hadn’t rained in two months and the brush piles were surrounded by dry grass and close to wooded areas. I became known as Greg the Fireman.
· Extracted seeds from tomatoes, tomatillos, and cactus for planting next year
· Harvested peppers and strung them on thread to be dried
· Sharpened knives and pruning clippers
· Picked and pruned grape vines near the house
· Stacked wood-a lot!
They use wood to heat the house in the winter. They use everything so we stacked everything from cut and chopped hard woods to scrap lumber and old grape vines.
· Harvested hazelnuts
· Screened compost
My least favorite job, screening out rocks, etc. from several years old sheep manure. It was then used in the garden.
· Cleared vines off buildings
· Sanded tables from tasting room
· Sprayed flowers with organic soapy water
· Raked leaves and cleaned up the areas around the house
· Spread leaves and clipping in the vineyard
The Perks-Other things we got to do!
As I mentioned earlier, Ursula and Marcello are fantastic, gracious hosts. On weekends they took us to neighboring cities to enjoy markets and things or loaned us their car so we could go explore on our own. Here are some of the things we got to experience thanks to their generosity.
· Treated to a wonderful dinner to celebrate the harvest
This was at a marvelous agriturismo. See more in Our First Harvest in Piedmont.
· Visited the Alba Market
· Hiked from La Morra, to Barolo, to Monforte, to the winery
On our first weekend after harvest, Marcello took us into Alba to see the market while he attended to some business. Then on the way back to Dogliani he dropped us off in La Morra. We hiked from there to Barolo, Monforte, and finally back to the winery. We hiked about 15 kilometers that day through vineyards and visited friends we’ve made on prior trips.
· Visited Cuneo
· Went on a cruise!
Again, the graciousness of our hosts. We had committed to a whole month at the vineyard but then a few weeks out we were offered the opportunity to take a Viking Cruise in the Adriatic…for free. When we contacted Ursula about this she told us no problem! More on this adventure in a future post!
· Went to the Market in Bra
· Tour and tasting at Rivetto Winery
An amazing visit. Go check them out if you are in the area.
· Lunch at Shciavenza
· Did laundry
This a luxury on the road. Loved the drying racks!
· Treated to dinner at pizzeria in Dogliani
This place was awesome. Literally dozens of pizzas to choose from all quickly cooked in wood fired ovens.
· Visited the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Polenzo
The home and headquarters of the Slow Food movement.
· Got saline, Q-tips, and a haircut
Again, shopping for necessities is a luxury on the road.
· Drove to Maira Valley and hiked the Italian Alps
This was amazing. Ursula made arrangements for us to stay in a B&B in the mountains. They loaned us their car and we spent two glorious days hiking in the Alps. This will probably show up in a future blog as well.
· Shopped the market in Dogliani
One of our goals in taking this trip is to stay in places long enough to experience what it is like to live there, not just visit. On this trip to the market we felt at least a little bit of this. Technically, this was one of our duties for the winery. We went into town and picked up a bunch of produce for Ursula. We love going to the markets that move from town to town throughout the week and it was great to get to shop with the locals. We used our limited Italian and interacted with the vendors. We watched the locals to see how it was done and pushed our way to the front of the line to get the tomatoes we needed. We picked our chrysanthemums to plant in Ursula’s flowerbeds. I feel like we got at least a glimpse of what it is like to live in this region of Italy that we have come to love.
This was a life changing experience. Our fellow WWOOFERs were from Italy, Germany and Switzerland. Thanks to Mossimo, Eduardo, Warner, Thanks to Ursula and Marcello for making it happen for us.
If you have any questions about our time on the winery just leave a comment below!
We finally got to participate in a harvest in Piedmont!! This has been a dream for quite some time so it was pretty awesome to finally get to pick some grapes. I had no idea that I would learn so much in the process. There’s a lot to think about among the vines, so today I want to share with you my Top 10 Lessons from the Vineyard. Some of these even have business applications, but most are simply personal pondering as I took clippers to each cluster of grapes.
1) I may be the weakest link in the chain – but it’s not a chain, it’s a team – and it’s the end product that is important. Anyone who knows me knows that I can be competitive. Maybe it’s my gymnastics training (OK – I know that was a LONG time ago), but I like to do my best and be the best. Well – out there among the vines, I was definitely not the strongest or the fastest or the most productive. But it didn’t matter – I was contributing. Coming together at the end to finish the job and seeing what we were able to accomplish collectively was very satisfying.
2) You cut out the bad parts - get rid of everything you possibly can that isn't the best. But you can't get rid of absolutely all of the sour grapes. Even so, we were able to make a great product in the end. Picking grapes by hand allowed us to be selective. When there were spoiled grapes among the bunch, we would clip most of them out, but some remained. Even with a few pieces of imperfect fruit, the wine can still turn out to be amazing. It’s that way with lots of things in life, don’t you think?
3) It’s good to take a break and rest. We got out to the vineyard early and worked a long day, every day, but we took a break in the morning and in the afternoon and had a wonderful lunch in the middle. These breaks gave us the chance to regroup and recharge our bodies and our minds for the work ahead. We were able to work better, for a longer period of time, because we took breaks along the way. I don’t always remember that when I’m working at my desk.
4) It’s really satisfying to get your hands dirty and then see the dirt wash away in the sink at the end of the day. I don’t really get my hands dirty very often and I felt connected to the earth in a new way as we picked grapes. Getting your hands dirty can mean different things in different professions – digging deep into a project can be analogous to getting your hands dirty. In any case, washing my hands and seeing the dirt in the sink made me see clearly that I had worked hard. That is very satisfying. Recognizing that we work hard and work well and giving ourselves credit for that can be restorative.
5) Picking grapes is very meditative. It’s contemplative work as there’s not a lot of need for communication as you work on your own line of vines. There’s time to think in the vineyard. I don’t often take time to do that. I found myself saying prayers of gratitude. I will continue to do that, even when I'm not among the vines.
6) Sometimes the grapes get tangled up in the wires and the leaves are a jungle – but there are jewels underneath if you look and make the effort to get them. Isn’t this true in other facets of life? If we look for the good parts, we often find them – but we have to remember to seek them out and fully appreciate what we find.
7) It feels good to reach the end of a row and know that you have accomplished something big. Acknowledging this in life is important.
8) Picking the grapes comes at the end of a lot of work that someone else did -- and it is the beginning of another long process. The final product is worth the effort and the wait.
9) Participating in the harvest is one part of a cyclical process. Once one part ends, a new one begins, and it effects what happens next. What we do today has an impact on how things will turn out tomorrow, next week and next year. It makes an impact on the fruits of our labor that we reap today and in the future. So what we do now is important. We need to make sure we do the right thing every single day so the future will be fruitful.
10) Remember to look up from your work and see the beauty that goes even beyond what is in front of you. When I remembered to look up from my dirty hands, the clippers, the leaves, the wires, and the bunches of grapes, I saw the Piemontese countryside with it’s churches and vineyards and hills and mountains and homes and farms and I was filled with appreciation for the opportunity to be there in that moment. I’m so glad I remembered to look up from time to time because it was absolutely beautiful.
Bonus lesson from labeling wine bottles: Tell people what you want! Quality control is important – tell people what you need them to do. Our experience on the labeling line was a little bit like the “I Love Lucy” chocolate episode because the bottler was fast and we had to work quite quickly. One thing effects then next – if the cardboard that separates the bottles wasn’t in the box properly, it effected our ability to put the bottles in the box fast enough and things got backed up. We were supposed to check to see if the label was on correctly first but we weren't really told that -- we figured that out after doing it for a while. If you communicate what you are looking for, people are in a much better position to do what is expected. Good lesson in life, right?
Harvesting grapes in Piedmont has been a dream for years. Read about our experiences on a winery North West Italy.Read More
“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
- Ruth Reichl
Copenhagen is a remarkable city. This is our second visit, with the weather somewhat warmer and the days definitely longer! We love walking Chelsea’s neighborhood, biking the city, and of course, enjoying the food. We have had some marvelous meals during our visits. Last Christmas time we had a very memorable meal at 108, Noma’s somewhat more affordable sister restaurant. Noma is the highly regarded restaurant with two Michelin Stars and was named the top restaurant in the world four years in a row by Restaurant magazine. But with chef René Redzepi and his creative staff on a tour of Scandinavia to find new locally sourced food and inspiration, the award-winning Noma is closed.
Fortunately for us, the talented kitchen and front-of-house staff is hosting an ongoing pop-up experience while their leader is away. Noma’s Pop-up Under the Bridge is literally that, a found space below Knippelsbro bridge across from a wine warehouse. One long table seating at least 50 people is enclosed in a tent for warmth and atmosphere and the fixed menu meal is served family style. We went on a mid September evening and had a most wonderful time!
The aforementioned wine shop specializes in “natural” wines and filled our glasses throughout the meal. We rode our bikes (of course) to the venue and after parking them, enjoyed a Pétillant-naturel, a naturally carbonated sparkling wine, by the canal.
For the seating we were arranged near the middle of the table, across from each other, with a group of four Swiss friends on one side and a couple locals on the other. The meal began with a mussel-based soup and fire grilled focaccia with a refreshing rosé. All the cooking was done on giant wood burning grills and the bread was unbelievable! Next up was fried grey shrimp tacos we built on cabbage leaves for tortillas. The meal progressed with servings of simple but deliciously fresh salad greens, roasted baby potatoes and the meat course, pork done three ways. The savory portion of the meal ended with their signature roasted cauliflower head with squid ink and broccoli flowers. It was visually stunning and quite tasty.
Two more interesting natural wines, a white and a red, were served as the meal progressed. Natural wines are the new trend in the culinary field. They are completely organic, un-filtered, and un-fined and can be a bit hazy. They are meant to be drunk young and are sometimes a bit “funky.” We have had them a couple times since and they are fun. I don’t think they are going to replace traditional French or Italian wines anytime soon but give them a try if you get the chance. Ironically, the winery we are working on now was making natural wines before it was “a thing” but that’s for another blog post.
Dessert consisted of two servings. The first, a light custard served with cooked grapes. And finally Canales that were amazing!
We struck up a lively conversation with the Swiss couples next to us. The seating arrangement encourages such conversations and is part of the magic of the experience. The meal was relaxed and creative, fun and challenging, delicious and unexpected.
This was one of the most memorable meals we have shared…and we’ve shared some amazing meals! The setting, the attentive staff, the unusual cooking and presentation, the natural wines, even the seating made this a most enjoyable culinary experience. The concept has been so popular they keep extending their dates. They are now booking into November with changing menus. If you find yourself in Copenhagen soon do yourself a favor and book your seats here!