New Talents in the Kitchen – Backpack Italy and Greece

We last left you in Rome, and since have had the chance to experience more of the Italian countryside and the town of Perugia in the Umbria region of central Italy. On our very first day here, we visited a chocolate factory where Emma stuffed herself with all the different types of candies made there.  We learned all about how chocolate is made and Jake W decided that he might pursue a career as a chocolatier after seeing the school housed in the factory.  We even have hopes he’ll receive a partial scholarship due to his enthusiasm for the craft. The following day we took a cooking class where we learned how to make a delicious traditional Italian lunch, followed by a tiramisu which tasted as good as it did because of the love Hailey and Pam put into it when making it.  The boys definitely developed a new appreciation for their Mother’s after taking part in the 4-hour long cooking process. Thanks Moms! We spent our evening in beautiful Spoleto where we enjoyed a great dinner and the many street performances that filled the cobblestone roads. Our final day in the Umbria region was spent on a bike ride through the Italian countryside where Emily and Julia were not shy about trying out the Italian they had learned on the locals we came across.  We especially needed their Italian skills when asking for directions through the towns.  It turns out that most, if not all, roads would lead us back to Rome (which was the opposite direction of our destination!) All in all, we biked over 20km around a beautiful lake before hopping back on the train and riding the rails back to Perugia.  Hailey loved the nighttime atmosphere in the central Piazza and wished we could have spent a few more nights among the local crowds.  That night we were lucky enough to see our host country play in the championship of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. We watched the game in the streets of Perugia with the townsfolk, but despite Emily wearing her lucky Italia hat, Italy fell to a strong Spanish team 4-0.   This did not stop Ben from walking through the streets waving his Italian flag and cheering for the home team.  In his words “if I can’t return it, I’m going to get my Euros worth and wave it!”

 

We left Perugia and took the train to Anconna where we boarded our ferry to Greece.  Ben led the group directly to the “Lido” deck where Ilana and Carly bathed in the Mediterranean sun and Jake and Cody took advantage of the hopping onboard Discoteca.  After enjoying dinner on the ship, the group played a game of Trivia in one of the lounges. Jenny showed her knowledge of Greek mythology while Cody dominated the round dedicated to Movie trivia.  We then went back up to the “Lido” deck to catch the view of the stars and full moon high above the sea.  We awoke the next morning in Ignomenitsa, Greece and can’t wait to explore this beautiful country!  Bring on the Tzatziki!

 

 The Westcoast Blogger

Greetings from Chateau Versailles and Montmartre! – Backpack Europe

Day 3 – Chateau Versailles and Montmartre:

After a few days in Paris, the trip members were beginning to pick up some of the more useful French words to help them along in communicating with the locals: ‘bonjour’ (hello), ‘s’il vous plait’ (please), ‘pardon’ (I think you can figure that one out),  ‘eau’ (water), amongst a few others. For everything else, they turn to me (I’m fluent in French) or to a couple of trip members with French skills of their own. Maddie, Adam, Matt W and Dylan know a bit here and there and Maddie has even ordered her meal in French a number of times and passed the ‘test.’ The ‘test’ consists of ordering in French and seeing the response of the server. If they reply in English, well quite simply you’ve failed at blending in as a local, and if they come back in French, you’ve done your French teacher proud and passed!

In the morning, we traveled in the metro system (they’re all metro aficionados by now) to Chateau Versailles, the home (if you can call it a home) of Kings Louis 14, 15 and 16. I use the term home loosely, as I would have probably called it a village myself – if villages were adorned with 24K gold everywhere, more statues than one could count and enough marble and tapestries to decorate a home for everyone reading this update.

 Being a group, we got to skip the regular line-up (which we would estimate as being at least a few hours long), and we met our tour guide for an incredible tour of the palace. If you follow along with the photo blog, you’ll start to see at this point one of the games we’ve got going on for our trip. We refer to it as ‘Scene Recreation.’ The goal of this game is to find a painting or a statue that we would then recreate. Points are awarded for the amount of people included, good use of props and creativity. Robby and Sydney F have been the biggest enthusiasts so far, leaving the others far behind – they always return to the meeting spot exclaiming, “You’ve got to see the photos we’ve got!”

After our guided tour, we explored the gardens of Versailles (think more ‘National Park’), and then made our way into the side streets in the surrounding area. Marissa (trip director) had been tipped off to a delicious crêpe (think thin pancakes, and think delicious) house not too far from where we were. She quickly searched out with Sydney E, Sarah, Dylan and Maddie in tow, excited by the thought of authentic French crêpes. 

The rest of the group found a café, which from what we were told, served the best pizza of their lives. From now on, when anyone orders pizza, the first question is “Is it like the seafood pizza?” Tyler and Andy must have mentioned the seafood pizza to me at least six times that day.

For our dinner, we traveled over to an area of Paris called Montmartre. It’s the part of the city that’s on a hill, making it rather unique. We dined at Saint Regis under the patronage of an incredible host, Jacques. He spoke English very well and gave us a very friendly and entertaining welcome. When taking the orders, the appetizer options were either salad or paté. The only brave one among us, wanting to try the French fare that we had traveled so far to get, was Ben. This then prompted one of the greatest culinary reviews I have ever heard. “Ben, how was the paté?” “It tasted, kind of what…I would think…cat food tastes like.” Clearly, paté isn’t for Ben.

After our delicious meals, most people enjoyed their dessert of profiteroles, a newly discovered treat for most of those indulging. We then set off on our short climb up the hill in Montmartre to the top, which is home to La Sacrée Coeur. On the way up the many stairs, Baui managed to piggyback Andy up two flights of stairs, while most others struggled getting just themselves up. We took in the culture of the small cafés that line the streets and the artists that pedal their wares and talents. I think some of the best portrait artists in the world were there, quickly whipping out hand-drawn portraits for sale. We then took a quick walk over the world famous Moulin Rouge to take a picture outside and to mark a point for all the trip members to return to when they make their way back to Paris when they’re older.

A la prochaine!

The Westcoast Blogger