Italy Women 2014, continued . . .

September 20, 2014

Our week in Chianti, with home base in a beautiful villa in Vagliagli, was spectacular!  With a van that held all of us, we didn’t have to worry about caravaning in three cars or getting lost (well, at least not THREE cars getting lost) on our way to our daily adventures.  Peggy was my navigator-extraordinaire, and though on the first day, just outside of Siena, an unruly metal guardrail jumped out and snatched a big blocky side-panel attached to the left rear of the van, we still managed to get to our first destination, the beautiful restaurant at Badia a Coltibuono for lunch, just outside Radda in Chianti.

P1020418Badia a Coltibuono is also the property on which Lorenza di Medici’s cooking school is situated, and if you want to spend several thousand dollars for a few days with the school, your bank account is much larger than any of ours!  But lunch on the grounds is exquisite, with wisteria drooping over the canopy overlooking the Tuscan hills.

During our week at Solaria di Santa Maddelena, up the hill from the little town of Vagliagli, we spread out among the seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, the four patios and decks, a huge living space with large dining room and larger living room, and we played.  For several days we all piled into the 9-passenger van I rented, and explored the area.

A sneak peek at the Tarot Garden

A sneak peek at the Tarot Garden

Day One, Sunday, we traveled took advantage of a cloudless sky and a good weather forecast, and drove all the way to Porto Santo Stefano and the Giardino Tarocchi near Capalbio.  The Tarot Garden is the brain-child and many-decade project of artist Niki de Saint Phalle, http://www.nikidesaintphalle.com , a nearly unbelievable mosaic labor of love.  Click on the link for many photos and the story itself.

The next morning we headed to Montepulciano, a favorite hilltown, where we were promptly applauded by several elderly Italian men watching me pack into a tight parking space with this huge van!  Three or four of my travelers were outside the van, calling directions for situating the big Opel beast perfectly within the lines of the parking area.  Where was my camera THEN??

We finished that day by making a stop in Pienza, the location for two scenes in the film, The English Patient, as well as the home of pecorino cheese, a fine sheep’s cheese.  Stopped at the main piazza for a cappuccino with some of the group, joined by Jennifer, the gelato queen of our trip, and her friend Mindy, both nodding in approval at their selected flavors of the creamy stuff.

My pitcher, with one of Jennifer's vessels behind it.

My pitcher, with one of Jennifer’s vessels behind it . . .

Shopping in Greve in Chianti, everyone found something special, a manageable painting, a ceramic pitcher or other-shaped vessel, and two bottles of wine for Neil, a tradition begun in 1999 when he and I visited this wine shop in Greve together.

For some reason, (perhaps because of the wine shop and the very unique ceramic artisan shop) this is my favorite Chianti town, though others might argue the virtues of Radda, Castellina, Gaiole and Panzano as “best”.  I used to try to rush around and see at least three in one day.  Now it is more enjoyable to just land in one village and take my time.  My traveling companions were more than happy to do that as well.

As we wound down the afternoon and returned to our villa, those who stayed home were preparing a delicious dinner for us, and we were satiated with sightseeing, shopping, swimming and sumptuous food, ready to go to bed and greet tomorrow’s adventures well-rested.

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France Women’s Adventure 2015: Provence and Paris, April 28-May 16, 2015

SPRINGTIME IN FRANCE: PROVENCE AND PARISImagine yourself strolling through streets in villages in the Luberon Valley of Provence.   Goult, Gordes, Lourmarin. Imagine sipping a lovely wine from the region, crumbs of a fresh croissant on the tip of your tongue.

Imagine the smell of lavender, herbs de Provence, the baked goods waiting in the shop on the corner. Antiques at the market in Isle de sur La Sorgue. Visits to castles, abbeys, picturesque towns in the Provencal hills. Cafes and shops abound.

We will begin with three nights at Les Florets, a favorite and beautiful little inn just outside the town of Gigondas, north one hour from our villa. Thierry will serve us wine his family makes on the property, cheeses to die for, and dinners that will leave your palate watering for a SPRINGTIME IN FRANCE: PROVENCE AND PARISweek. As we depart from Gigondas, headed for our villa, we will stop in Sault, the lavender capital of Provence, and though it will be early for the lavender, it is in the air, everywhere.

Then a week at a beautiful Provencal villa awaits you, with swimming pool, and garden benches in the courtyard. Day trips to Aix-en-Provence, St. Remy, area wineries, the red hills of Roussillon. Springtime in Provence brings wildflowers, and the cherries are in season. Longer daylight allows for an evening’s relaxation outdoors with a glass of wine.

Delicious meals are prepared with ingredients fresh from the village markets, enjoyed at area restaurants or by a personal chef at our own villa.

At the end of our time in Provence, we will board the TGV, the “fast train” to Paris, and spend the next week immersed in the beauty, excitement, tranquility (and food!) of one of the most stunning cities in Europe. With museum passes and metro passes, you are free to wander wherever you want, whenever you want, visiting some of the most famous paintings in the world, or finding the tiniest galleries in back sTO PARIS AND PROVENCE!treets. Paper stores, button stores, bookstores, artwork sold on the Pont Neuf. Just sitting outside the Louvre transports you to a different world. We will choose some sites to see together, including two walking tours of specific areas of Paris, the Montmartre and the Marais Districts. A trip to Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny is spectacular with all the flowers in bloom.

We will stay in a small hotel in the Rue Cler district, the 7th Arrondissement. From there, your feet or the metro or a cab will take you anywhere you want to go. Our hotel is just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes lit in red, sometimes blue, the tower is an especially spectacular vision at night, walking through the park from our hotel!

Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, all lodging (double occupancy), train from Paris to Avignon and back, rental cars, gas and tolls, transfers to and from our Paris hotel, 5-day museum pass and metro pass, nine dinners, eight breakfasts, Paris Street-wise map, two Paris Walks walking tour, a day-trip to Giverny, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire-extinguisher!

Cost for aboLago d'Orta - Our Final Three Daysve, (including airfare from Denver) is $6200.00** A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space. A referral discount of $250 is yours for paying your deposit by December 31 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .

For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339. E-mail me at jetlost@lamar.colostate.edu and check out my travel blog, www.woodswomanabroad.com for samples of previous trip adventures!

Bon jour!                                                                                                                                                                 **Double occupancy. Single occupancy available for additional cost. If you are located somewhere other than Denver, I arrange a deep discount for you getting your own airfare to coordinate with the rest of the group.  Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer good policies for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc. Details about that upon registration.