Category Archives: World’s Best Eats

Practical advice for visiting Iceland

Reykjavik from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja Church with the statue of Leif Eiriksson below
Reykjavik from the bell tower of Hallgrimskirkja Church with the statue of Leif Eiriksson below

My daughter, Ashley and I visited Iceland at the end of February this year. We absolutely loved the beauty of this diverse country and the friendliness of the people. It was a wonderful couple of weeks spending quality time together, experiencing new adventures and meeting some amazing new friends.

I’ve been wanting to share some of our experiences here as well as some practical advice. There are two places that we have been recently that everyone seem to us ask about. Cuba and Iceland.

I’ve been so busy with work and other travels that I’ve kept putting it off writing these posts. Being asked three times in a 24 hour period. Then hearing that Rick Steves was planning on publishing a guide book on Iceland this fall and his star researcher, Cameron Hewitt need travelers advice, pushed me to finally get these posts done! After all, the Rick Steves guide books have been extremely helpful all these years in planning trips to Europe. It is my chance to finally give back.

First things first
The flights to Iceland are cheap, but the costs while you are there are not. Don’t let that discourage you from going though. Iceland is an amazing country.

I wanted to experience the Northern Lights, so I chose to go during the winter months. I booked our trip for the end of February and beginning of March thinking that it wouldn’t be as cold as say December or January. The joke was on me though. We arrived in a frigid snow storm that ended up being the largest snowfall in the last 60 years in Reykjavik! Lesson learned. You can’t predict the weather! Oh… And take plenty of layers of warm clothing and snow boots. Layering is the key no matter what time of year you decide to go.

We took the bus into Reykjavik to our hotel. I booked online. The bus is the cheapest option for traveling to/from the airport, the Blue Lagoon and the airport. The only difficult part is the bus always goes to the terminal in Reykjavik before you grab a van to/from your hotel. I booked a private transfer back to the airport through our hotel because I was afraid that we may end up being late and I didn’t want to risk missing the hourly bus to the airport. The extra cost was worth peace of mind to me.

Our visit to The Blue Lagoon and our GoEcco 3 Day Ice Caving & Northern Lights tour both deserve posts of their own. Both well worth doing.

The Hotel that I highly recommend:



We actually stayed in two hotels in Reykjavik. On our first three nights we stayed at the Raddison Blu Saga. It was a large hotel outside the city center.

Our home away from home at Kvosin Downtown Hotel
Our home away from home at Kvosin Downtown Hotel

On our return from our three day GoEcco ice caving tour, we stayed at the nicest ‪boutique hotel in a great central downtown location near restaurants, tourist sites and shopping. They have lovely, modern decorated rooms with a small kitchen and a nice espresso machine. Reasonably priced. Free wifi. I highly recommend them. ‬

Kvosin Downtown Hotel

Kirkjutorg 4

Reykjavik

IS-101. IS

‪+3545714460‬

Kvosin Hotel

‪Ways to save money on eating in Iceland:

‪Icelandic water from the tap is some of the best in the world. Bring along a stainless steel bottle and fill it up from the tap at your hotel. Icelanders think it’s silly when tourists buy bottled water. Ask for tap water in restaurants too. ‬

‪Be aware that an inexpensive meal in Iceland means spending $22-35 US. Iceland is definitely expensive, but there are a few ways that you can save a little money and not go hungry.‬
‪Take snack foods with you. We packed peanut butter and crackers, protein and breakfast bars, nuts and other filling goodies to eat rather than paying for a full three meals a day. This enabled us to spend more time taking in the sights and more cash for souvenir shopping.‬

‪Look for a hotel or apartment with a kitchen or a microwave and coffee maker. We picked up packaged frozen dinners and ‘cup of soup’ from a grocery store for a couple of meals. Bonus is a good option. Their grocery stores are still more expensive than what we are accustomed to in the USA, but still way cheaper than restaurants. I brought along instant coffee, tea bags and creamer too. ‬

‪The Icelandic hot dogs are tasty and a good value. They are available at about every gas station around Iceland. You will find them in beef or lamb. Try the lamb. Very good.‬

‪Restaurant recommendations:‬

‪We tried several restaurants that were recommended by locals which were moderately priced. These were our favorites.‬
Reykjavik:

Dinner at Saeta Svinid Gastropub
Dinner at Saeta Svinid Gastropub


 

Saeta Svinid Gastropub

Hafnarstræti 1-3 / 101 Reykjavík

Sími: 555 2900

http://saetasvinid.is/en

‪Open 11:30-23:30‬
‪Their menu is filled with Icelandic specialities like puffin, minke whale, and horse. Though we did not venture to try any of the fore mentioned dishes, we did try the lamb, the salmon and their really good burger. ‬

Inside Uno Restaurant
Inside Uno Restaurant


Uno

‪Hafnarstraeti 3‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland‬

Uno
‪We enjoyed this cozy restaurant on one of our first evenings in Reykjavik. Nicely appointed interior with many choices of reasonably priced food. They also have an outside seating area to enjoy your meal on a sunny day. ‬

Nice treats to warm up with at ‪Salka Valka - Fish & More
Nice treats to warm up with at ‪Salka Valka – Fish & More

‪Salka Valka – Fish & More

‪Skolavordustigur 23,‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬
‪Cozy little fish shop on busy Skolavordustigur street just down from ‬

‪Hallgrimskirkja. Nice place to take a rest and warm up with a little lunch or dessert and coffee. Very friendly staff.‬

Fresh ground coffee at ‪Reykjavik Roasters
Fresh ground coffee at ‪Reykjavik Roasters


Reykjavik Roasters

‪Karastigur 1 (corner of Frakkastigur)‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬

‪Cute little coffee shop with coffee to enjoy there or to take away. They also sell pastries. Grab a fresh roasted cup of coffee and grab a window seat or take a cup with you and walk across the way to Braud & Company for pastry and head to Harpa Concert Hall like we did to enjoy a unique setting for breakfast. (Many thanks to Jonathan and Tomas for that great idea!)‬

Fresh made bread and pastries at colorful ‪Braud & Company
Fresh made bread and pastries at colorful ‪Braud & Company


‪Braud & Company‬

‪16 Frakkastigur‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬

‪Wide selection of made from scratch pastries and breads that you are only able to take away. A great bakery that you can smell from blocks away early every morning. You are able to watch the bakers while standing in line waiting your turn. Highly recommend the croissants and cinnamon rolls. ‬

‪ ‬

Lots of shopping and coffee shops on the street just in front of‪ Hallgrimskirkja Church
Lots of shopping and coffee shops on the street just in front of‪ Hallgrimskirkja Church


Souvenir shopping in Reykjavik:‬
‪Head to Laugavegur and Skolavordustigur streets for a wide selection of shops to pop into. You can find all types of souvenirs to take home. Be sure to compare prices as we found that there can be a very wide difference from one shop to the next on vertically the same items. ‬
‪I fell in love with all the handmade woolen accessories. I purchased socks for everyone on my gift list. They are so warm and cozy!! ‬

A special souvenir to remember Iceland in your home everyday
A special souvenir to remember Iceland in your home everyday

‪My daughter loved all the hides. She ended up purchasing two as souvenirs to decorate her home. She purchased a sheep hide at a darling shop at 22 Skolavordustigur street (one building down from Fish & More Restaurant) just down from Hallgrimskirkja Church on the right side. They had a nice selection at a good price. This shop had a wide assortment of reasonably priced souvenirs of all kinds. Worth a visit.

She also purchased a reindeer hide at The Blue Lagoon gift shop. They had a really nice selection of hides at a good price as well.‬

‪Handknitting Association of Iceland

‪Skolavordustigur 19‬

‪Reykjavik 101, Iceland ‬
‪A cooperative of women who knit many types of clothing and accessories from Icelandic wool. Huge selection of items! Sweaters,hats, socks, mittens, scarves, You can even purchase wool to take home to make your own items. I highly recommend purchasing the socks if you are visiting Iceland in the winter. They will keep your feet warmer than any sock you can purchase in the USA. Believe me, you will need that warmth! The cooperative’s handmade items were my choice for souvenirs for myself and my family.‬

‪Places to visit in Reykjavik:

‪Hallgrimskirkja Church
‪Hallgrimskirkja Church


 

‪Hallgrimskirkja Church

‪Hallgrimstorg 1‬

‪101 Reykjavik, Iceland ‬

Hallgrimskirkja
‪Be sure to head into the gift shop in the hall to the left as you enter the church to purchase the elevator tickets to go up to the top of the church. You will be rewarded with outstanding 360 degree views of Reykjavik, the harbor and the mountains across the way. ‬
‪Enjoy the modern church interior as well.‬

‪Statue of Leif Eiriksson‬

‪Sits at the front entrance to Hallgrimskirkja Church‬

Looking out through the windows of Harpa Concert Hall
Looking out through the windows of Harpa Concert Hall

‪Harpa Concert Hall‬

Austurbakka 2, 101 Reykjavík

Sími: 528 5000

Harpa
‪Beautiful glass and steel building on the waterfront in Reykjavik. You can go inside and explore for free. Nice place for a picking in the seating areas on the upper floors. Great view of the mountains and harbor. ‬

‪Check their website for events. I wish we would have had time to take in a show called “How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes.” Our friends that went said it was really funny and, better yet, our GoEcco guide said it was funny and very true. We will do this for sure on our next trip. ‬

How to Become Icelandic in 60 Minutes

Fun shoe skating on frozen ‪Lake Thornin
Fun shoe skating on frozen ‪Lake Thornin


‪Lake Thornin

‪Picturesque little lake in the Reykjavik city center that is nice to stroll around and watch the swans, ducks and other water fouls. It iced over during our visit which made it more fun as we skated around in our snow boots. ‬

The Blue Lagoon
The Blue Lagoon


The Blue Lagoon

‪Outside of Reykjavik but it’s only a 45 minute bus ride away.
Having been to Iceland, next trip I would do it a little differently. I would take the bus to the Blue Lagoon from the airport instead of heading directly to Reykjavik. I’d stay at the Blue Lagoon’s hotel/resort my first night and enjoy more time there. If you decide to go to the Blue Lagoon, be sure to book everything online long in advance! I’ll write a separate post on just the Blue Lagoon and some of its amenities.

Love at first sight! The Aurora In Iceland!
Love at first sight! The Aurora In Iceland!


Experiencing the Northern Lights:

‪Pick a time of year when the nights are very dark. Usually that means from October through March for the best chance to see the lights. Try not to go during a full moon. This took me a lot of time researching for the best time for my daughter and I to go to Iceland. Seeing the Aurora was my top reason to go, so it was extremely important to me. ‬

‪The longer that you stay in Iceland, the better chance you have seeing the lights. Keep in mind that the weather is extremely unpredictable. We arrived at the end of the winter season to the largest snowfall in Reykjavik from the last 80 years. Totally unexpected. Even though the aurora was active the first three nights we visited, we couldn’t see them because of cloud cover. ‬

‪I had booked a super Jeep excursion with ‬Arctic Adventures for our second evening. Literally, every other company cancelled their northern lights tours due to cloud cover, but Arctic Adventures did not. It was an extremely frigid, disappointing evening. They did take us outside of town, but there was too much cloud cover and no lights. Unfortunately, it was a waist of a lot of money too. Almost $400 for the two of us. I understand other companies are willing to reschedule or refund if things don’t go as planned. I thought I had done my research as to the best company to use. This is a warning to others.

‪The aurora forecast website to watch:

Aurora Forcast

‪Follow this account on Twitter:

‪Aurora Forecast @AuroraIceland for both the Aurora forecast and cloud cover. ‬

‪Photographing the Northern Lights:

‪There are a few things you will need if you are planning on trying to photograph the lights. First, you’ll need a good DSLR camera. I had read a couple of articles about apps for your iPhone that were capable of photographing the Aurora. I downloaded two of the apps that looked promising. The first evening that we saw the lights, I pulled out my iPhone and gave them both a try. Some people may be happy with the results, but it just wasn’t good in my opinion.‬
‪There are plenty of photography websites and books out there that explain how to set your specific DSLR camera. I’ll leave that to the people who do that type of photography all the time. They are the experts and it is quite a detailed process. I would suggest that if you have a couple of free hours in Reykjavik, to head to the small museum by the harbor, Aurora Reykjavik and ask the sweet people there if they wouldn’t mind setting your camera for you. Be sure to take the time to look at all their beautiful displays while you are there. Some wonderful examples of photography of the Aurora and you may begin to understand the Aurora better. Well worth the entrance price. You are also able to book Northern Lights tours on their website. They have several to choose from. ‬

‪Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center
‪Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center


Aurora Reykjavik: The Northern Lights Center

‪Grandagarður 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland‬

Aurora Reykjavik

‪Open 7 days a week 9 AM – 9 PM‬
‪Be sure to bring along extra batteries for your camera and other devices. A battery pack is also good to have. Batteries drain their power quickly in the cold. ‬

Things I’d love to do on our next visit to Iceland:‬




I really want to do this photography tour:‬

‪I’ve been following Icelandic photographer ‬Iurie Belegurschi for several years now on social media. His photographs are what inspired me to go to Iceland. Being a photographer, I wanted to experience the crystal ice cave and Northern Lights myself.

Iceland Winter Photo Tour
‪I still really want to do this tour. Though the tour we took was really wonderful and I highly recommend it to everyone, this tour is geared for photography. I would have had to go alone as my daughter isn’t interested in photography. Maybe one day. Still on my travel wish list. ‬

Staying in a clear bubble dome in the middle of nowhere:‬

‪I think staying in a bubble would be a dreamy experience! That is if I could ever go to sleep with all those stars and the Northern Lights! ‬
Bubble
‪I did look at staying in a bubble before our trip. I just couldn’t figure out how to get there without renting a vehicle. We Texans have no idea how to drive on snow or ice, so that was totally out of the question. ‬

Visiting Singapore 

Friends we met on the road


One of my very favorite things that I love about traveling is making new friends. We have been blessed to meet some wonderful people whom we stay in touch with.

We met Samuel and Rita on a group tour ‘following the steps of Paul’ through Turkey and Greece a few years ago. We totally clicked on our trip, sharing the gospel and just worshiping Jesus along the way. We stayed in touch after our journey ended.

Rita and Samuel came to Waco for a visit while they were in the United States a couple of years ago. We took them to The Texas Ranger Museum, walked along the Brazos River banks, over the Suspension Bridge and to a Wade Bowen country music concert. We had a lot of fun showing them our city and our restaurant in nearby McGregor.

Well, this year we made a point to go to Singapore to visit them for a few days after our trip to Thailand. We were just too close to them to not drop by and catch up on their lives and I just wanted to hug my friend, Rita’s neck!

They showed us a little of Singapore 

We began with a proper Singapore tea. 

Coconut jam and butter on toast! Something very new to us and very tasty! Try it at Toast Box. According to their website, they have several locations.

We walked around the downtown area that is filled with street art! Even the buildings were amazing!

After dinner, we headed to their colorful Chinatown 


The next morning, we visited the Singapore Zoo. The highlight for me was seeing both the panda and red panda.

Visit Singapore Zoo for more info on their four very different parks and even a breakfast that I would have loved to have time to do.

The Peranakan Museum

The museum focuses on the rich heritage of the Singapore people.

For more information about their many lovely exhibits, visit their website: Peranakan Museum Singapore

Singapore Botanic Gardens

We spent a beautiful afternoon walking in the botanic gardens full of tropical plants. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is a very special garden devoted to all types of orchids. A real must see!  For more information: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Samuel and Rita treated us to so much wonderful food! 

We visited restraunts in a mall, outdoor market and in a revolving tower! We tried foods that we have never tried before and everything was so delicious!

 Thank you, our friends, for showing us your beautiful Singapore! We loved it and seeing you again was very special!

Have you ever met people on a trip and promised to stay in touch? Have you? Be sure to share your stories with us! 

Waco’s Big Red Ice Cream 


A tale of two sodas. 

The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas
the sign in front of the old Big Red offices still stands on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas

A lot of people know that Dr Pepper was invented right here in Waco, but did you know that Big Red soda was born here too? Big Red was invented in 1937 and has been made in Waco ever since. One Texas city with two bottling companies born here. Pretty cool, I think!! Big Red isn’t sold as widely as Dr Pepper, but it’s fans are just as passionate. I’ve actually had to bring along six-packs to friends who didn’t live in a states that it was sold in. I’ve heard of some Texans stationed overseas in the military who have loved ones ship them a supply on a regular basis. Now that’s love!

The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas at www.PieLadyLife.com
The old Big Red Distribiter building on LaSalle Ave in Waco, Texas

Living here in Waco, we grew up with Big Red. We use it in baking and we enjoyed lots of it poured over vanilla ice cream to make floats. During the hot summer months, my Aunt Willie would bring her hand crank ice cream machine over to my grandmother’s house and she would make us all Big Red Ice Cream. Uncle Roy seemed to always be the one sitting on the back steps cranking that machine while he allowed us kids to add the ice and salt as it melted. Uncle Roy would tell us stories of Tom Sawyer and his life as a young boy growing up in what was a foreign state to us. He would let us crank from time to time, but none of us hung in that long. Dang, that was hard work!! Bless his heart! Looking back now, I really appreciate him!

Big Red soda bottled in Waco, Texas
Big Red soda bottled in Waco, Texas

When all that cranking was done, and the lid was finally opened, what came out was MAGICAL!! Creamy, fruity, magic! Better than a float any day! Big Red ice cream!

Yummy, refreshing Big Red ice cream! Recipe on www.PieLadyLife.com
Yummy, refreshing Big Red ice cream

 Waco’s Big Red Ice Cream

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 pint of whipping cream

1 – 10 ounce package of frozen strawberries

1 – 2 liter bottle of Big Red (64 ounces)

You will also need a bag of ice and rock salt for your ice cream freezer.

Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, whipping cream and partially defrosted strawberries in a medium bowl. Once combined, pour into standard size ice cream freezer cylinder. Place cylinder in outer bucket of machine. Fill cylinder with Big Red. Insert paddle, cover cylinder and attach motor. Fill outer bucket with ice, layering along the way with the rock salt, repeating till ice is at the top of inner cylinder. Freeze according to manufacturers directions.

Makes about 3 quarts. This ice cream is yummy right out of the ice cream maker or you can freeze and serve later. Store leftovers in freezer safe container.

Use any soda and fruit combination to make delicious ice cream! at www.PieLadyLife.com
Use any soda and fruit combination to make delicious ice cream!

You can use the basic part of this recipe and change up the soda and frozen fruit to customize it to any flavor combinations you wish. Just use your imagination! There are so many speciality sodas available now that you can just go crazy! My Aunt Willie would sometimes use Orange Crush and frozen pineapple. It was really good too! Here’s a few other variations you might like to try:

Ginger ale with pineapple

Cream soda with cherries

Cherry soda with dark cherries

Ginger ale with peaches

Pomegranate Italian soda and blueberries

Be sure to share what ice cream you’re planning on making!

Have you had Big Red ice cream before? Tell us your story. 

Join us in Northern Italy & the Riviera for food, wine and fun! 

Food, wine, beautiful sights and even a pasta making class!!

The Cinque Terre in Northern Italy is an optional excursion while we are in the Riveria
The Cinque Terre in Northern Italy is an optional excursion while we are in the Riviera!
We ♥️ Italy so much that we decided to take a small group back with us on a private tour to visit some places we’ve never been, along with visiting some of our old friends! Turin, Italian Riviera, Bologna, Verona, Venice and much, much more with a few side trips on our own!!! May 15-27, 2016.

Join us on the trip extension in Venice!! it's a magical romantic place like none other!
Join us on the trip extension in Venice!
Remember, on our tour, you will be traveling with a couple that works in the food industry and a professional photographer to boot! I’ll gladly help you take better travel photos and even take some for you!

A $300 deposit per person is all it takes to reserve your space to go with us on this amazing trip! Pay as you wish with balance due by 3-6-2016. It’s like travel Lay-a-way! Booking for our tour closes on soon! 

Full itinerary details & to sign up are on our tour website:

Coffee Shop Travel Club Italy 2016

There will be few surprises for you along the way too!

Q&A’s about our group trip to Italy

 

Q: How will we be getting around Italy?

A: The tour company will provide us a luxury bus with a guide and bus driver that will be with us throughout the tour. There will be boat rides along the Italian Rivera and in Venice. We will be walking around the city centers and other places. Definitely bring those walking shoes!

Q: I’m thinking about going, but don’t have a travel buddy. Can I go alone?

A: You betcha! We have several ladies coming with us without a spouse. It’s probably safest to travel this way to explore to world solo. You can pay a little extra and have your own room (as space permits) or be paired with another lady to share a hotel room. Ask me about sharing! We have someone looking to share now! Solo gentlemen also welcome!

Q: What about booking our flights?

A: The easiest way is to book your flights along with the guided tour. The tour company can get better rates because of the sheer volume of business they do with the airlines. Online, you just type in the airport near you such as DFW for those here in Waco. The price will come up and will be added to your total. It’s around $1400 per person. If you want to use miles or book your own flights, that’s perfectly fine! You can still arrange for a transfer from the airport in Milan to our hotel in Turin with the tour company. Just call them at their 800 number. Transfers inside Italy are included when you book your airfare with the tour company.

Q: I’d like to take advantage of our airfare and go to Europe early or stay later. Can that be done?

A: Sure thing!! Donald and I are both staying longer. All you have to do is call the tour company and let them know when you’d like to arrive or leave. Those of you that are staying with us, just need to let me know and I can tell the tour company.

Q: How do I join your group tour?

A: There are several ways to book. Which ever one you are most comfortable with is the best.

1. Online at http://coffeeshoptravel.grouptoursite.com

2. Call Go Ahead Tours at 1-800-206-9871 and give them our group tour number 68796229

3. Ask me for a tour Réservation form to book and send a check in the mail.

Q: How do I pay?

A: It’s easy! It only takes a $300 per person deposit to hold your space. You can pay whenever and how much you wish as long as it’s paid in full by March 6, 2016. You can pay with a credit card online or over the phone or mail a check.

Q: What do I need to do to travel to Italy?

A: You just need a passport to travel to Italy. Make sure you have at least 6 months left on yours at the time we leave. If you don’t have a passport, you can visit your post office and pick up a form or download a passport form from the State Department website. You’ll need a certified copy of your birth certificate and 2 passport photos that can be taken at the post office or Walgreens for a fee (around $10). Don’t try taking the photos yourself or using a snap shot. There are specific requirements which are best left to a professional. Fill out the forms, bring along your photos and birth certificate and pay the fee.

If you are in Waco, the post office on Hwy 6 is the place you need to go to submit your application. They will answer all your questions and take care of you. Be sure to call for the passport hours and schedule an appointment. You should really get this done as soon as you decide to go. it may take 6-8 weeks to get them. For more information, visit the U.S. State Dept Passports web page. Information about renewing a passport is also on the site.

Q: Which excursions are you going on? Can I book them later?

A: Donald and I will be going along on both the optional excursions and on the extension to Venice. You can book the excursions later but I’d just go ahead and book now and save the $10 per excursion for booking early. They are things you’ll want to see and do. I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of going to Venice! The price they charge for the hotel, travel, stops from Verona to Venice and the guided tour while there is less that I usually pay for one nights stay in a hotel there! Seriously, it’s an amazing place that you need to go to!

Q: I don’t live in Waco or even Texas. Can I still go with your group?

A: Anyone can join our little group! You certainly do not have to live in Waco or Texas or even live in the US. We make friends quickly and those interested in joining us are welcome! We have met and made friends with people from all over the world while traveling! It’s an amazing experience traveling with people that enjoy traveling, meeting new people and seeing and experiencing places that become forever memories. You can fly out of any airport and we will all meet up in Turin, Italy to begin our tour! When booking, just input your nearest international airport and the price will come up. If you call, just tell the operator your nearest airport. Super easy!

Q: Is trip insurance available?

A: Yes, insurance is available! Just call Go Ahead and have it added to your trip. There’s a bonus if added within 14 days of booking too. Here is the info and choices of coverage:

Educational First/Go Ahead Tours Travel Insurance

If you love to travel a lot, like we do, I’ve found an insurance company that actually covers your travel annually rather than by each individual trip. I found it while booking a flight with Delta Airlines for another trip. I’m excited about it as the cost is just under one thousand dollars for both of us for every trip taken during the year. More about that after I look into it more or check out Delta’s website.

Q: Are you going to~~~ insert your favorite destination?

A: We will be taking groups to several places in the years to come! You are welcome to come along on any and all that we go on!

June 2017 we will be going back to Italy to a part we have never experienced but always wanted to go. Puglia has been on my short list for years and this tour also includes a great part of Southern Italy. It’s amazing how different every region of Italy is! We will visit Naples, Sorrento and the Trulli Valley! One excursion I’m really looking forward to is visiting the beautiful Island of Capri! This is just a taste of what we will see on this trip! Here is a link to our 2017 Southern Italy trip:

http://valeriecitrano.grouptoursite.com/

We would like to go back to Israel and walk in the steps of Jesus. If you haven’t experienced this yet, it is a must! Truly life changing! This is a 10 day tour that visits Tel Aviv, Haifa, Lake Tiberias, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Gallilee, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Mount Zion, Masada, the Dead Sea and through Jericho. Who would like to go with us? Thinking September or October of 2016. We will extend our stay and visit Jordan for four additional nights this trip too.

What about France? France is always a good idea! Paris, Normandy and the Loire Valley are definitely something we will do! Maybe right after the Puglia and Southern Italy trip? We can combine two trips and save on airfare! Who’s in?

Have a question not answered here? Just ask! 
Coffee Shop Travel Club Italy 2016

Food, wine and friends enjoying Italy! Join us May 15-27, 2016! Reserve your spot now!
Food, wine and friends enjoying Italy! Join us May 15-27, 2016! Reserve your spot now!

Join us in Italy May 15-27, 2016! Only a few spaces left on this amazing small group food and wine tour! Visit www.PieLadyLife.com for details! We would love to have you come along!
Join us in Italy May 15-27, 2016! Only a few spaces left on this amazing small group food and wine tour!
 

World’s Best Eats: Florence, Italy

Is there a food that sometimes you lay awake at night and dream about? A dish that you’ve had that you compare all others that you try in different restaurants to?

Well, thats what the Spaghetti Carbonara at Ciro & Sons in Florence, Italy is to me. My dream plate of food. One of the best things I’ve ever eaten!

Spaghetti Carbonara at Ciro & Son's in Florence, Italy is absolutely the best I've ever eaten!
Spaghetti Carbonara at Ciro & Son’s in Florence, Italy is absolutely the best I’ve ever eaten!

Have you ever tried Spaghetti Carbonara? My first time to try this luscious dish was at Ciro & Sons on our very first visit to Italy. I had never even heard of it before! I still can’t believe I had missed out for most of my life! Sigh!

After a really long day of traveling by train from Paris we checked into our hotel and I’ll tell ya, we were starving! Enough of the cheese crackers and fruit gummies! We were ready for some good Italian food! We set out walking and stumbled across this quaint, very Italian eatery at the end of the block. My husband and I were seated at a long family style table and immediately brought bread and garlic marinated olives which were exceptional! Garlic. Olives. Olive oil. What a simple idea! Yes, I’ve copied it over and over at home for the last fifteen years!

Then we were brought our pasta. My husband ordered his favorite, Pesto Spaghetti, which he thoroughly enjoyed. Then he tried my dish of carbonara and he was in love too! Love at first bite.

Bacon and eggs. Thats basically, in American terms, what carbonara is. Of course, in the heart of Tuscany, Bacon and eggs holds a whole new meaning. Here it is local pancetta, garlic, locally grown and pressed olive oil and farm raised eggs which are expertly blended into a creamy sauce covering freshly made, perfectly cooked pasta. Al dente Perfection! Who needs tomato sauce?

But they have tomato sauce too. Their pizza is out of this world. That oven is hot!

At Ciro & Sons in Florence, Italy where they make great pasta and pizza!
At Ciro & Sons in Florence, Italy where they make great pasta and pizza!

I’ve been back countless times over the years. One August, we had taken my youngest daughter with us to Italy and made Florence our home base. I rented a little apartment on the same street as the restaurant and planned to enjoy as many meals as we could while there. How disappointing it was that they were closed for their vacation all of August! Lots of businesses in Europe close during August for their vacations! My bad! I know now. Now you do too! Don’t go to Europe in August. Ciro and Sons will not be open. Too bad we can’t close our own restaurant for a whole month and travel! Our customers wouldn’t like that one bit and neither would our employees! Oh well.

At Ciro & Sons in Florence, Italy where they make great pasta and pizza!
At Ciro & Sons in Florence, Italy where they make great pasta and pizza! Sweet people too!

On my last trip to Italy, I planned a stop in Florence just to take my sister to Ciro and Sons. They were open. I made sure to check on their Facebook page. It was wonderful. I was so happy. My sister loved it too. Just like me, she began comparing their pasta to others we tried along our travels. One nice version we both tried while in Nice, France (catch the pun?) was good but just did not make the cut. It was good though.

We will be going again next May, 2016. I’m taking a group this time. I’m planning on making a special diversion on our trip to Ciro and Sons. Must share the love. Now… where will we park that tour bus?

Ciro & Sons

Via del Giglio, 28, 50123 Firenze, Italy

+39 055 289694

We can’t travel to Florence every time I dream of Carbonara. Obviously. One day I turned on Oprah’s TV show and she had Tom Cruise on as a guest. To my absolute amazement, he did a cooking segment and made his favorite recipe. Thats right! Pasta carbonara. We both have good taste. Now. I make my best friend Tom’s favorite pasta dish. We are friends, right? We must be since we love it so much. Definitely worth jumping up and down on a couch for!

Tom Cruise’s Spaghetti Carbonara

1/2 inch olive oil (for frying pan)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 chopped onion
8 to 12 thick slices Italian bacon
4 eggs
2 packages spaghetti
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese

In a frying pan, combine 1/2 inch of olive oil, 2 cloves of minced garlic, one chopped onion and the Italian bacon cut into small squares. Let simmer for about a half-hour, being careful not to let the oil get to a boiling point.

In a bowl, beat 4 eggs with lots of salt and fresh ground pepper.

Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Cook both packages of spaghetti until al dente, drain and immediately add egg mixture to pasta. The eggs are actually cooked by the pasta. (Make sure the eggs are thoroughly cooked before proceeding.) Stir the egg mixture until it is well mixed. Pour in the mixture from the frying pan and stir. Finish with the Parmesan cheese and serve!

Makes 4 servings

So, what are some of the best things you’ve ever eaten?