Friday, July 2, 2010

WOW- I have been playing catch up on the posting of the blog today, but luckily I have had easy access here at the Munich hotel.

Although I have been able to add a few photos now to the blog, I had hoped to add more as each day went by. Lots of factors made this impossible not to mention "my blogging capabilities" so when I return home and get myself oriented again I hope to have a few more photos to share.

Also I have a few more post to add since I left out the posts of the 3 days that I was in Oberammergau, Germany for the Passion Play and I do want to write about that.

Happy Travels,

Another lazy day to the start of my day but that is what vacations are for: to take life slowly and enjoy. After a lazy morning I went to the train station to find out about getting to the airport on Saturday for my return to the States. I decided to take the airport bus instead of changing subway trains with the amount of luggage I have.

I rode the subway to the Palace and the Royal Gardens to enjoy more of Munich. After emerging from the "underground" I started walking toward the Palace. Along the way I passed an outdoor cafe that had a large flat screen TV of course tuned in to the soccer match in South Africa. Shouts and cheers came from the crowd as they drank their German beer, watching TV and cheering on their team.

Inside the Palace Gardens I arrived just in time to snap a few photos at the perfect time of sunset. I walked the gardens and enjoyed seeing families and tourist alike. Next to the gardens and with the perfect view under shade trees was a Beer Garden which in other words is an outdoor restaurant in the garden. I decided to have dinner here and enjoyed fresh bread and cheese and a penne pasta dish. I know-pasta in Germany? But it sounded good and I had already had schnitzel on my first day in Germany. On the walk back to the hotel I stopped in at a local pastry shoppe to have dessert 'take away' to enjoy in my hotel room. Almond cookie dipped in chocolate-my favorite.

One more stop at the souvenir store and then on to a museum to see the photos display of top photo journalists work.

Back in the hotel now and getting ready to repack for the trip home on Saturday.
I wanted to write about the ladies of the cooking school. You may have seen the Tuscan Mommas on Good Morning America or read about them in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune or the London Post. Mimma, her sister, Franca and their cousin Lele along with Elisa -who is a caterer in the states (who lives part of the year in Italy) are the Tuscan Mommas. The cooking school goes something like this: You are usually free during the day and at 4:00 you start chopping tomatoes and basil, etc on the wooden table outside over looking the vineyards of course while drinking wine. Then you move inside the farm house kitchen and you all cook together, while drinking wine, then you all eat together on the terrace, yes, while drinking wine, and then dessert-yum always followed by dessert wine and coffee. The same routine follows the next day. During the free time you can go to a near by village and shop for old linens or pottery.

Mimma is married to Franco and they have had a wonderful life. Franco was a lawyer in Genoa and they also lived in Dubai. They have grown children and 7 grandchildren. Franco is the Italian gentleman and Mimma is the Italian Grandma we all think of. She loves to cook for many and gardens during the day. Her roses and herbs are beautiful and the hydrangeas were starting to bloom. Franco had a horticulturist to come by one day when we were on the terrace and they drove through the olive groves to assess the growth of the trees and where trimming needed to be done. The Olive Grove and Vineyard care is taken very seriously by these farmers. Mimma's house is the main house and they have other buildings of the villa that are rented to cooking school participants and others on holiday. When they bought the property it was in ruin with caved in roofs and crumbling walls but they have lovingly restored the buildings and the grounds and groves. The rock walls terrace the groves and the stone work of the houses lends to the feeling of stepping back in time. However, having fresh coffee from her French Press brings you back to reality along with home made gelato made with fresh cream and farm eggs.

Franca, Mimma's sister lives in another village and we drove to her house 2 nights for dinner and cooking class in her kitchen. Franca has a son who lives in New York and a daughter that works for the International Red Cross. She and her husband (also named Franco) have probably the prettiest view in all of Tuscany. Their vineyard is part of a coalition of the "Small Vineyards" Wine company and their son is a partner in firm in the states. Franca took us on a tour of the vineyard where we saw the barrels in waiting and the process that the wine goes through from the vine to the bottle. We toured the storage vaults where the wine is aged and then shipped to Italy and other parts of Europe and also to the States. We ended in the wine tasting house where we had a beautiful sunset view of the vineyards and the hills over looking Siena. The wine tasting was a sample of the different wines that Franca's vineyard produces along with fresh made bread and olive oil, cheeses and rosemary crackers. Next we had a caprese salad and a main dish of pork with a reduction sauce and finishing with biscotti with dessert wine made from Franca's last white grape vines in her 10 year old stock.

Elisa is a caterer where she lives with her husband in Milwaukee. She also has a house in Italy and cooks twice a year with the Tuscan Mommas in Italy and when they go abroad to Australia once or twice a year.
Elisa led us on the market trip. We drove about 40 minutes to the local town where they buy their spices and produce. Stall after stall were ladened with fresh mushrooms dug in the local woods, seafood brought in from the coast of Italy, salt made from Salt mines in Sicily, and cheeses from local farmers. Elisa knew the venders who were glad to share sample tasting with us. We also sampled fried polenta and roasted peppered pork. After seeing the food section we were on our own to shop the other stalls of which I did until the market shut down at 1:00. After this the stall merchants started packing up their goods to be home in time for the customary afternoon nap.

Le Lee cooked with us one night in Mimma's kitchen. She is a lovely woman and very funny. She led us in the class to make grilled yellow and red peppers and a standing rib roast. Le Lee also has an Olive grove and bottles and produces Olive Oil for sale too. Her villa is near the town of Radda. During dinner she told us of other cooking classes and also about the villages that are near by. After dinner a couple joined us for dessert and coffee. They were leasing one of the villa houses for 2 weeks and were from England. We enjoyed hearing of their adventures during the week and their walks and hikes about the farm.
This dinner was the last night of the cooking class and we all shared good bye hugs and exchanged addresses among the participants from the States.

A nice big corner room with a view at my hotel in Munich.

Today was a sleep in day. In the afternoon I walked to the city center.
Soooo many tourists. Every block you see cameras posed for photos. I saw lots of Muslim women- maybe 2 or 3 per block in the black long burqa and face veil. Some were with other women as well as their children in tow and some were with their family as on holiday. I saw many tour groups and a lot of them were student groups. Again, when I hear English (without the British accent) I have to ask where are you from. I met people from Pennsylvania, Chicago and Louisiana. There were several city fountains that the children played in. I did see lots of trash, something I hadn't seen a lot before on this trip. I saw lots of trash divers. One lady passed by a group of teens who were sitting on a bench under a tree. One of the young girls had in her hand a plastic bottle of juice that she had just about drained. The women (probably 60 yrs old) stopped and asked the girl for the empty bottle. The woman carried a plastic sack that she used to collect the plastic bottles and cans that she got from digging through the trash cans.

I found the statue of the Wild Boar. You are suppose to rub his snout to bring good luck.
It is located in the same block as the Church of our Lady a masterpiece of German Gothic art. As I found a place to sit and eat I heard the bells of the church. The ring on the hour for about ten minutes. What a joy to hear!
My lunch was bread and cheese. The breads and pretzels here are wonderful. The bread stores are located about every 2 or 3 blocks. They are small about the size of a small ice cream store but with no place to sit down. The sell pretzels and all kinds of bread: sour dough, Italian, bread with grains, bread rolled in sunflower seeds, round loaves, small individual size loaves and also sweet breads. These are like cinnamon rolls but are covered in maple icing, almond cookies half dipped in chocolate. I haven't seen anything with colored icing like the decorated cookies and cakes we see at bakeries and no doughnuts.

The buildings are old near city center and more modern further out. There is lots of gang graffiti on the buildings along the train track. But the buildings are not shacks but nice high rise office buildings and the graffiti is written in colored paints on the lower floors of the outside brick walls. The police and ambulance sirens are more of a sing song sound than the sirens we are used to hearing. They have a street car that runs down the middle of the streets along the power lines that are draped above the streets. Every restaurant has outdoor seating on the sidewalks-even Kentucky Fried Chicken has seating at patio tables on the sidewalk.
Every shop has the soccer souvenirs. The cars are decorated too. Some have the flags out the windows like we see at a Bama game but many others have mirror covers that look like little socks on the side door mirrors. The covers are the colors of the German Flag. I shopped at the Galareia yesterday. I bought hand towels and oven mitts with kitchen words written in German like salt and pepper or Zout and Peper.

At the end of the day I came back to my hotel. I turned on the TV and watched (spoken in German) Who Wants to be a Millionaire...until I found CNN in English.

Happy travels,