Quebec – Day 2 – Part 1…The Siberia Station Spa

OK.  Raise your hand if you remember that Warrant song, “Heaven Isn’t Too Far Away”?  Well, today I think I found it.  This morning, we visited the Siberia Station Spa for their morning “family hours” (special hours from 9am-noon during holiday break to include families) and I am pretty sure I found winter heaven on earth!

I am not going to waste a lot of words here because in this case, a picture speaks a thousand words and I have a lot of pictures!  Let me just briefly explain the Siberia Spa concept and then include a few of my observations, then let the pictures tell the story!

The Siberia Station Spa is modeled after Scandinavian spas – the magic takes place in three acts; hot, cold, relax.  It’s THAT simple – go somewhere hot, partake in something cold, then find a place to relax….then REPEAT!

The hot option……there were plentiful options for everyone – hot tubs, infrared saunas, traditional saunas and a eucalyptus infused steam room (OH MY GOODNESS!!!)

Cold….well, since today was about 11 degrees, the COLD portion of this adventure could simply be walking from a hot spot to a relaxation spot, but I am proud to say all my people took full advantage of the ice cold plunge pools more than once and benefited greatly from them.  They were AWESOME!!!  There were a number of ice cold pools in the vicinity of each hot offering and from time to time, you can even dip in the gorgeous babbling brook that abuts the spa (this was closed today).

Relaxation – the options were fabulous.  There were a number of yurts – all with swinging chairs and warmth – one had windows facing towards the river and my favorite was toasty warm with a huge wood burning fireplace in the middle!  Other relaxation offerings were a beautiful windowed-in pergola and a dream zone – a huge barrel dug into the hillside (Hobbit-like) with cushioned bench seats and relaxing music.

Some important details…..the Spa is about 15 minutes from the old town of Quebec City.  We paid $27 Canadian dollars each for this special family time.  Typically, children are not allowed and with good reason – the whole point of this place is to relax!  I have kids – and they are not relaxing!  Bathing suits are MANDATORY as are footwear – think flip flops.  You may bring your own robes and in this weather, I highly recommend it!  You may also rent them for $7 Canadian.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I cannot rave enough about how amazing this place was!!!  I cannot wait to come back here with just my hubby, a book and more time!   We are scheming ways we can make one of these places at our house!!  hahahahaha

Here is the website if you want to check it out on your own – http://siberiastationspa.com/home/

The Great Italian Food Tour, Part 1

Italian Food.  I feel like I could just drop the mic right there and walk away from this post…but I would leave so much out!  So here is a run down of the amazing food and beverages I experienced in Italy this past June!

When we think of Italian food, many of us go right to pasta and pizza, and while those are VERY good in Italy (regionally amazing), food in Italy is so much more!  The first things that come to mind for me, having traveled there three times, is fresh, authentic, regional, simplistic, divine!  When I traveled to Italy with my sisters and step mom this past summer, we sought out authentic Italian dining experiences and were rewarded beyond measure.

Let me start with a bit of our family history with food – as it can’t be ignored that one’s previous experiences with any of the five senses shapes their perceptions about new things.  One thing can go without saying – we ALL love food!  Our family gathers around wonderful meals when we come together and delight in trying new recipes, cooking with fresh and healthy ingredients and sometimes over indulging….well, maybe not only sometimes😊  My dad’s most famous line when you join our family for a meals is, “If you go away hungry, it’s your own fault!”  And believe me, everyone is welcome at our table and there is always enough food – thankfully!

My step mom is a great cook – we always enjoyed hearty home cooking growing up.  Her stuffed shells are to die for and I remember traveling back to college after Christmas break with a huge pan of them in my back seat!  I have never been very fond of raw onions, a culinary topic still entertaining to this day, but overall, if you put it in front of me, I will eat it!  My sister, Kelly, is amazing in the kitchen!  She is always trying new recipes and I don’t ever think she has made something that wasn’t outstanding!  She inspires me to try new things all the time!  My other sister, Becky, was most definitely the pickiest of us all.  Growing up, Becky ate Eggo waffles, peanut butter and fluff (for those of you not in New England, this is the most amazing culinary invention EVER and you should try it!) and pizza with the sauce scraped off.  I seriously think that’s all she ate for about 12 years!!!  But I have to give Becky props – she has grown to be super adventurous and daring in her culinary experiences and makes a mean taco dip!!!

With that bit of back story out of the way, let me proceed….

Our first night in San Gimignano (Tuscan region) was a bit of a blur; having just flown overnight from Boston, we arrived at our fantastic Agriturismo (check out my blog about them) and were greeted with warm Italian hospitality and some amazing house wine in preparation for a cooking class we arranged ahead of time!  That evening, we prepared pasta (using only three ingredients!), an authentic spicy tomato sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, focaccia and the following morning’s breakfast (this is actually top secret but something I will share later)!  We also prepared dough for the focaccia, a summer version of tiramisu featuring strawberries, using limoncello instead of coffee, and enjoyed the fantastic company of our chef and interpreter (our host at the Agriturismo acted as our interpreter when she didn’t have other duties to attend to….and when she did, we figured it out!)

Needless to say – the food was amazing, plentiful and made with love, laughter and joy!  A funny story – while we were making the tiramisu, our chef was explaining the biscuits used…we called them “lady fingers” and the chef and his assistant thought that was the weirdest thing they had ever heard!  Here are some photos from before our cooking experience and our arrival day in San Gimignano (you will notice a LOT of wine toasts!  Italians know how to celebrate la Bella Vita!)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Other meals we enjoyed on this leg of our trip were gelato (I ate gelato with vigor and abandon everywhere we went in Italy), espresso and panini, and the most expensive meal on our journey – a lunch canal-side in Venice!  Here’s a picture diary of these experiences.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Our next culinary adventure worth mentioning specifically was the late lunch we had while traveling from Tuscany to Rome.  It was a long drive – about 3.5 hours, and we were getting a bit hungry around 1pm.  We didn’t have any specific plans – and that’s when the MAGIC happens!!!  We decided to get off the autostrada (Italian highway system) at a random town and found a jewel of a taverna!

Our lovely host, Giuseppe – of course – was a fabulous man who endeared us and stole our hearts!  Meals in Italy don’t get more authentic than this and Giuseppe made this out of the way stop so memorable.  Here is a photo diary of that amazing meal!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Part 2 of this wonderful culinary adventure to follow, but here are some random food pictures of our trip thus far.  Hang tight for the rest!  ‘Tis the season for enjoying food, family and friends!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Eleuthera or Bust!

Eleuthera..the Isle of Freedom.  I call it paradise.  Eleuthera is one of the Family Islands of the Bahamas.  It is a 20 minute plane ride from Nassau and just this side of heaven. Right now I am on a plane coming home from Eleuthera, and the departure is bittersweet.  My family and I just enjoyed eight nights on Eleuthera and we were joined by another family as well (their first visit).  We rented a home on the beach in Tarpum Bay – a home we used to own.  We hadn’t been to the island as a family in almost four years (I was on a girls’ trip – that post to come later) and my kids were eager to remember the place they had spent long winter weeks of their early childhood. It was great to renew our love for this island and her people.  In time, I will share a whole lot more about Eleuthera, but I wanted to introduce you to Eleuthera and how we ended up in this amazing place!

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Fast forward to this past week (February 2018) and as family and friends, we reacquainted ourselves with this little slice of heaven.  

The Family Islands, or Out Islands of the Bahamas, offer the adventurous traveler an opportunity to witness unspoiled beauty; the opportunity to live like locals and kindly insert themselves into a society that is friendly, welcoming, open and kind.  A place where you can still walk to the local dock at noon and buy fresh fish from the fisherman there.  A place where you can visit a new beach everyday of the year and probably not visit them all – oh and not just ANY beach – I am talking the beach of your dreams beach – with silky white or pink sand, crystal clear blue/green waters and not another soul in sight!  No seriously – if peace and solidarity are what you are looking for, I encourage you to visit the Family Islands of the Bahamas – particularly Eleuthera!  

The home we used to own, Parlay at Sunset, is located in the pristine fishing village of Tarpum Bay, Eleuthera.  “Our” beach has more shells that I thought were in the sea, and every day is an adventure in shell hunting!  The water is calm most days and the sandy sea bottom allows waders to enjoy shallow snorkeling or floating for 100 yards or more from shore.  It is perfect for kids (and girls’ trips), honeymooners and families looking for something different to explore.  The beach at Parlay presents travelers with no shortage of wonders, including sea stars, tropical fish, rays, sea urchins, sea biscuits, sand dollars, sea cucumbers and the occasional black tipped reef shark!  We have loved every encounter!  And while you could easily entertain yourself at your home away from home with swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding or just lying around in a hammock, Eleuthera has so much more to offer!!!

I could actually write about Eleuthera for what would amount to a doctoral dissertation, but I want to milk this beautiful topic for all it’s worth – so I will leave you hanging with some pictures from my most recent trip and remember, all the pictures on my blog are MY own photos (unless specifically referenced) taken with either my phone or our underwater camera!  Knowing this should really highlight the majesty of this amazing heaven on earth!

Stay tuned for what may end up being an Eleuthera series in posts to come – I will tell you all about what Eleuthera has hidden up her sleeves!  If you have any questions about traveling to Eleuthera or the Family Islands of the Bahamas, please let me know!  I will do my best to help!  And if you have wonderful stories of your own adventures, please share them as well!