March 23, 2015

Thoronet Abbey a Cistercian Treasure in Provence

Thoronet Abbey a Cistercian Treasure in Provence

L’Abbaye du Thoronet was first classified as a historic French monument in 1840. Restoration work started the year after and still continues today. Nutmeg wanted to visit the Thoronet Abbey as they had already seen the “sister” abbeys Silvacane and Sénanque. The straightforward design of these buildings produced volumes of space where the only adornment would have been the harmonic chanting voices of the monks. These religious structures are stark and somber yet at the same time refreshing, no marble, no gold, no organ pipes, just natural light and acoustics. (more…)

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March 16, 2015

The Douro the Intersection of Old and New in Portugal

The Douro the Intersection of Old and New in Portugal

Lonely Planet was wrong! The road to Quinta Santo Antonio’s perch was not rutted, but it was vertical. Ginger and Nutmeg arrived at this B&B, balanced on tiny foothold of flat land between Douro Valley vine terraces, in a state of somewhat rattled marvel. (more…)

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March 9, 2015

Must Visit San Francisco Gardens of Alcatraz

Must Visit San Francisco Gardens of Alcatraz

Travel bugs are compelled to visit San Francisco. Aside from its unmatched setting, this city appeals to a broad range of preferences with a nearly endless array of choices for foodies, sports fans, art & architecture gurus and history buffs. Ginger and Nutmeg have explored the foggy city’s eclectic neighbourhoods, scaled the hilly streets, ogled the farmers market at the Ferry Building and sampled menus at the latest hot spots of creative cuisine. In all their visits to San Francisco, G&N have not visited the rocky island outcrop. Besides, the boat trip and tour of Alcatraz sounded just a bit too “touristy” for this travel-seasoned twosome. Well, Nutmeg is here to tell you they have missed out, the “Rock” is cemented in history… 1775, Spanish Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala’s ship sailed by the island 19th century US military base and a prison by 1861 1934-1963 a federal penitentiary filled with nefarious residents including Al “Scarface” Capone 1969 American Indians occupied the rocky soil 1972 Alcatraz island became part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area Admittedly, a shaky history has some appeal to Nutmeg, but it was the story of the Gardens of Alcatraz that caught her attention. During the military era, Victorian gardens were established on the island, with imported soil and plants. Some of the inmates even participated in the “green-thumb” work (read more here). In 1963, the gardens were abandoned along with the prison. There is more detail on the full timeline here. In 2014, the Gardens of Alcatraz celebrated its official rebirth. Ten years in the making, the Alcatraz Historic Gardens is the result of a three-way partnership between the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy and the National Park Service. Their collective goal was to unearth the historic gardens that came to life in the late 1800s. “Planted by successive generations of inhabitants, from Civil War soldiers and civilian criminals to the families of officers and guards, [the island’s plants] provide clues to the aspirations and yearnings of those who once lived here.” Delphine Hirasuna, Gardens of Alcatraz “Beneath forty years of overgrowth on the 22-acre island, they discovered most of the gardens’ structural features— terraces, paths, railings, walls—still in place. Small-scale features such as stepping stones and inmate graffiti reappeared, and flowers sprouted from historic bulbs now finding sunlight.” (From the Gardens of Alcatraz website) A venture of this nature needed a project manager and horticulturist, so why not turn to a Canadian? You can read Shelagh Fritz’s bio here. A host of volunteers and a sizable team complemented Fritz’s skills. You can view the Alcatraz Gardens ten-year timeline here. The Gardens of Alcatraz are now on the G&N bucket list for their next San Francisco visit! Image Credits: The photos were provided by and published with the permission of the Garden Conservancy

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March 2, 2015

Bratsera Hotel Sets the Bar for Tranquility in Hydra

Bratsera Hotel Sets the Bar for Tranquility in Hydra

Hydra is a short 90-minute ferry ride from Piraeus port in Athens making it a popular getaway for Athenians and for those tourists wanting to sample the Greek islands. Hydra is also fashionable, as it remains one of the few islands with practically no vehicles. You can visit this Saronic Island by foot, by donkey or via boat-taxi. (more…)

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February 23, 2015

26 Food Reasons to Travel to Greece

26 Food Reasons to Travel to Greece

How could Nutmeg have forgotten about baklava? There it was, the nut-filled-honey-drenched-filo-pastry treat tempting her from behind the display case glass. (more…)

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February 16, 2015

Discovering Beautiful Portugal from Under an Umbrella

Discovering Beautiful Portugal from Under an Umbrella

Have you ever wondered…why do they take 200ml of body cream away at airport security only to let you buy 250ml in duty-free before boarding? Well, at least the plane was still scheduled to fly to Lisbon. Nutmeg’s discovery of Portugal’s must see sights started with an email to 12 women with a tempting offer of accommodation in a Portuguese farmhouse. The email suggested a generally loose itinerary for the week and “bring your yoga mats.” (more…)

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February 9, 2015

Sifting through the Salt of Provence in Aigues Mortes

Sifting through the Salt of Provence in Aigues Mortes

Nutmeg walked every aisle in the grocery store looking for salt – it was not with the spices, but rather in its’ own section near the aged balsamic vinegar. Where is the logic? This pile of sea salt is 70 metres high Treasured since antiquity, salt is used in kitchens around the world, to enhance flavour and preserve food. Salt also plays a medicinal role in maintaining the life sustaining salt/water ratio in the human body. Formed by the earthly elements sodium and chloride (NaCl), salt comes from two sources, underground mineral deposits and seawater. (more…)

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February 2, 2015

Hotel herrnschlösschen for Food in Rothenburg

Hotel herrnschlösschen for Food in Rothenburg

Arriving in Rothenburg you feel like you just staggered into the pages of a child’s fairytale set in Bavaria, Germany. (more…)

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January 26, 2015

Exploring Alyscamps in Arles

Exploring Alyscamps in Arles

Nutmeg agreed to accompany Ginger to the medical clinic in Arles so he could get a yellow fever vaccination for his Africa trip, but only of they could visit Alyscamps afterwards. Alyssii campi is Latin for Elysian fields – the road leading to the kingdom of the dead. (more…)

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January 19, 2015

Sainte Baume Grotto and Mary Magdalene in Provence

Sainte Baume Grotto and Mary Magdalene in Provence

Nutmeg got a little lost on her way to this hike. Given the religious significance of the location, maybe she was not the first lost soul during the long history of the Sainte Baume grotto. View of Monastery & Massif Ste Baume (more…)

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