September 13th Saturday Giveaway: Woodstock Vermont Bed and Breakfast

Winter in Woodstock Vermont

Located in the rural countryside surrounding Woodstock Vermont.

Enjoy breakfast in surrounded by nature.

Quaint and impeccably managed 3 bedroom bed and breakfast in the Woodstock Vermont area.

The Fan House

The “Fan House Bed and Breakfast” has a 4 Star rating on Trip Advisor. And has received publicity in numerous magazines and newspapers.

Cozy bedrooms filled with antiques.
Cozy bedrooms filled with antiques.
Looking for a Romantic Getaway?
Looking for a Romantic Getaway?
Enjoy relaxing around a fireplace
A great place to relax in the evenings after exploring Vermont.

Enjoy exploring Vermont’s covered bridges


Beautiful colors of the fall landscape


Delicious fresh maple syrup  being served at the Fan House Bed and Breakfast in Barnard Vermont.

Stay 2 nights in a Queen size room at the Fan House B&B.

Value $360.

Does not include taxes or additional fees.

To enter our Saturday Giveaway, post a comment below about why you want to stay at the Fan House Bed and Breakfast in Vermont.

The “Vermont”  Saturday Giveaway contest will be open for entries and comments from September 13, 2014 through September 19th, 2014.

The winner will be selected randomly from those that post a comment and then announced September 20th, 2014.

The coupon will be valid for 6 months from date of issue.

The coupon is non transferable.

The “accommodation” is not liable for the coupon.

A new contest will be posted each and every Saturday.

Siena: Experiencing the Palio, Exploring the Duomo and Savoring Tuscany

The crowds waiting for race to begin.


Siena: Politics, Alliances, and Rival Neighborhoods:

10410573_793744457343486_3534411101775369471_nTuscany is known for it’s wine and cultured cities.  A region where the wealthy noble families exerted control over their own fiefdoms during the 13th century.  These city state republics were the foundation for today’s major cities: Siena, Florence, Lucca, Montalcino.  And their wealth financed some of the world’s greatest artwork and architecture.  Siena was prosperous as a financial and trading center and it was during this era that the  Piazza del Campo and the Duomo were built.

The Palio, is an event who’s history dates back to the 1600s.  Contradas represent local political neighborhood alliances within Siena.  And every summer, during July and August, the Contradas gather to vie against each other in one of the most famous horse races in history.  But it is more than just a horse race. There are religious processions to bless the event.  Feasting and celebrating in the streets at night.  Contrada flags flying along their borders.   And huge crowds gather, lining the Piazza del Campo to see which Contrada will win the race.


The Gothic Siena Duomo

The Duomo in Siena, is a perfect example gothic architecture with an amazing black and white marble campanile, or bell towers. This repetition of black and white symbolizes the colors of Siena.  It was during the 13th century that construction began on the Duomo, with hopes of building one of the largest churches in the world. Siena was a very wealthy powerful city state and architecture was a method used by the city to display their wealth.  Inside the Duomo are many paintings by Sienese masters which rivaled Florentine artists.

Where to stay when visiting Siena

The city of Siena sits in the midst of the Tuscan countryside. The neighboring towns of Montepulciano, San Gimignano, and Montalcino are also located in the Siena Province.

The surrounding area is dotted with family owned castles and agriturismos. One unique property is the Montalto Castle which is located 31 KM (20 miles) from Siena.

Montalto has been in existence in one form or another since the 11th century.  During 1546, Siena ceded the castle to the Palmieri family in exchange for the family protection and alliance.

Today the castle is still owned by descendants of the Palmieri family and has undergone extensive renovations to make it a welcoming destination for your holiday in Tuscany. The castle has a series of cottages, villas and rooms set on the castle grounds.

The area is immersed in history of an ancient feudal system, renown for delicious locally grown food, undulating hills covered in vineyards, and a slow lifestyle. A historic region where you can see village towers that were built during the Renaissance, ancient farmhouses overlooking their silvery grey olive groves, and grizzled farmers driving along the winding roads.  And the perfect place to enjoy all of this : Try the Siena properties listed on our website .


We sent blogger Valentina of ” Too Much Tuscany”  to Siena and she stayed at the Montalto Castle while she explored Siena. The photos are a product from her first hand experience.

What makes Molokai different from the other Hawaiian Islands?

Wave Crest Condo Building

The Challenge

Benjamin & Charli, AKA the Wanderlusters, are doing what many of us dream of doing. They are traveling around the world, one continent at a time. Their adventure started in the UK, and next they spent two years in New Zealand photographing the natural wonders of that region.

On their return voyage they passed over Hawaii.

I asked if they would stop in at Molokai to give me a first hand report about the Molokai condo listing on

They said yes. And, I think they had fun.

Here is a list of their favorite and totally unique things things to do on Molokai.


  1. Watching the palm trees sway in the wind.
  2. Swimming with the turtles.
  3. Counting the clouds that go sailing by.
  4. Seeing the stars light up the sky at night.
  5. Listening to the waves crash on the beach while you fall asleep.
  6. Enjoying your morning cup of coffee on a porch overlooking the ocean.
  7. Shopping for organic vegetables.
  8. Fishing for your own supper.
  9. Swimming laps in the oceanfront pool.
  10. Feeling the sand crunch beneath your feet as you walk barefoot along the beach.
  11. Researching all the possible colors of blue and turquoise.
  12. Staying at the Wave Crest condo from Vacations-Abroad
Where can you go in Hawaii to find that unique authentic experience? Answer: Molokai.

So when planning your next vacation, think of Molokai .  The island  offers you the opportunity to enjoy authentic Hawaiian culture and scenery but away from the more exploited tourist areas.  You can still experience Hawaii’s  beautiful beaches and amazing views but far from the maddening crowds.

Montalcino Italy is famous for their Brunello Wine and perched on the hills overlooking Tuscany and the famous Val di Orcia

Montalcino Italy is perched on the hills overlooking Siena and their famous vineyards

Montalcino is a village perched on the hills overlooking Siena and is surrounded by vineyards that have made them famous. Their location is at the edge of the agricultural area known as Val di Orcia. The altitude and climate surrounding the village contribute to the uniqueness of the wine.
The town is perched atop a rocky mountain that is surrounded by a historic agricultural area known as the Val di Orcia. The road to the village winds around the town with narrow hairpin turns. At the top of the hill in the village you will find churches, gas station, grocery stores and an amazing view of the Tuscany landscape. The village is located inside 13th century walls which were erected to protect the village from the feudal wars that raged between Siena and Florence.
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If you arrive during the autumn season you will meet an amazing display of colors as the vineyards and trees change their colors for the season. From the town center there are several scenic views where you can gaze out over the vineyards and the Siena countryside. If you get in the right position and on a clear day, the view will extend back to the town of Siena.
Montalcino is a bit off the beaten path for tourists, and the town is very agriculturally oriented. You will see rugged and grizzled farmers driving their trucks through the vineyards. And not everyone speaks English. So if you want an authentic Tuscany adventure this is the place.

Within a short drive you can visit the historic towns and villages of Val di Orcia, Pienza, Montepulciano and Siena.

Visit Our Vacation Rentals and Agriturismos in Tuscany.

The Beach is the perfect place for a family vacation

The Beach is the perfect place for a family vacation

The Florida panhandle is a popular destination for family vacations. There is something for everyone to enjoy and it is a time to spend with your family doing group activities and just relaxing.

Our Florida vacation rentals

Bali Indonesia; Culture, Dance and Villages

Bali Indonesia Architecture

 The History of Bali Culture

The Island of Bali remains a cultural aberration in the predominantly Muslim Indonesia. The 17,000 plus islands that define the country of Indonesia have been influence by the Chinese and Indian cultures over the centuries. But it wasn’t until the control of the Indonesia archipelago by Majaphit Empire in the 13th century that Bali culture took on the characteristics that define it today. The Majaphit Empire eventually collapsed with the expansion of Islam into the region and with the collapse many of the intellectuals, scholars, artists and priests fled to the island of Bali along with the last remaining Majaphit king. Many of their traditions, culture and art carry on the beliefs of the ancient Majaphit society.

The Majaphit culture was based on a combination of Hindu and Buddhism beliefs along with an animalist influence. Society was organized around a caste system with a ruling family holding political control. Today, the current geographical and political organization of the Bali Regencies (States), are based on the historical empires of the ruling families that fled to Bali. The ruling families are still located in Bali but their influence has declined and today their function is mainly symbolic.

Bali Dance

Bali Dance Styles
Bali Dance is very ceremonial and classical in style.

Bali performing arts have existed for centuries and dance is considered a sacred ritual. Different variations of the dance define its religious significance and dictate who is allowed to watch the performance. Many of the dances represents a communion with the spiritual world.

The dance style varies depending on the type of dance and the gender of the dancer. In the female dancer, the legs are together with knees bent, back arched, and hands at shoulder level. In the male dancer, the legs are open with toes pointing out, shoulders arched upwards. The eyebrows are raised during the dance and causing the eyes to appear enlarged.

Bali Villages

Bali Rice Fields
Bali Rice fields surrounding the local villages

Many of the villages in Bali are noted for the arts and crafts. The village of MAS is known of the intricate and detailed wood carvings of figures from everyday Bali life. MAS is located on the road that runs from Denpasar to Ubud.   The village of Celuk has numerous gold and silversmith artisans and their ware can range from the simple to the elaborate.  You will find the village near the larger town of Sukawati. Batubulan is known for it large stone carvings and the Barong Dance that is performed daily. The a village located in the Gianyar Regency.

Bali Vacations: try one of our Bali holiday villas.

Sometimes the travel experience is about the people you meet

Meeting the wine maker and wine tasting.

One of the best experiences while traveling are the people you meet and the friends you make.

Have you ever been to a winery where  the Vintner tells you the story of their vineyards?


About the different wines and the type of soil that is necessary for growing the wine.


About how the family works together to bring the final product to fruition?


You immediately feel as if you have been let in on their little secret about what makes their wine so special.


You feel like you have discovered something that will make your friends jealous; or even better, knowledge that will enhance your status as a connoisseur of wine.


And all of a sudden, the Vintner becomes your best friend.. 


This is what Kari Haugeto, of Away is Home,  said when she described her family experience of visiting the Klur Wine Estate in Riquewihr Alsace. 


The Klur Wine Estate is a small organic winery located in the valley that flows between Riquewihr and Katzenthal Alsace.  In the midst of the Requewihr vineyards, they have several small cottages.  And their wine tasting room is located a few steps away.

And they would love to share their lifestyle with you.  Next time you come to Alsace France.


Planning your dream trip to Alsace and looking for a hotel or cottage?  Here are some of our properties in  Alsace France to help you plan that special vacation. 

What type of education is best for children? Real life or book learning

What a beautiful fireplace at Chateau Bondons.

The dilemma.

I write about travel for a living.

I have a wife and three kids.

How can I mesh these different aspects of my life?

Chris Elliot of National Geographic Travel , Washington Post, and USA today, had his life seemingly going in different directions.

So he and Kari, his wife, made a decision.

Let's home school the children while we travel. Let's expose them to culture, history and geography first hand.

After a visit to Paris, they stopped for a brief respite at one of our luxury hotels just on the outskirts of the city.   They stayed at Chateau des Bondons, an 18th century chateau that today is functioning as a boutique hotel. The chateau that has been passed down through different family owners over the years and today it covers several acres and is draped in history from another era.

The Elliot family is proving that you can travel with children and their lives will be enriched and enhanced with the experience and they will have fun.


Planning your dream trip to Paris and looking for a hotel or apartment?  Here are some of our properties to help you plan that special vacation.

Exploring Montepulciano Tuscany

Church in the hills leading to Montepulciano

I returned from visiting the Siena province of Tuscany recently. The purpose of my visit was to inspect properties and become familiar with the region. It is a beautiful agricultural area that is known for its wine and some of the most famous wine villages in Italy.   I have always enjoyed Tuscany for its landscape and medieval hilltop villages enclosed by ancient walls.  The towns I visited were in the southern part of the Siena province were:  Montalcino,  Montepulciano. During my second week, I moved further north closer to Siena and in the Chianti region and the towns I visited were Radda in Chianti, Gaoile in Chianti and Castelnuovo Beradenga.
Montepulciano Town Square
Montepulciano Town Square
The first week  the first week I stayed in Montepulciano and drove back and forth to Montalcino almost every other day and during the trip I would pass through Pienza and Val di Orcia.  All of these towns are found in the southern section of the Siena Provence, only a  3 hour drive from the Rome airport.  The towns are small: Montepulciano’s  population is 14,000 and Montalcino’s population is 5,000.
The landscape in this area is amazing; planted along the highest point on the horizon are cypress trees or they zig zag beside roads that lead to a farmhouse.  Beautifully plowed fields cover the hills and  change colors depending on the type of soil;  giving them an austere and dramatic look. Shiny green grey leaves of the olive tree create highlights and reflect an iridescent color when the sun shines on them. And the grape vineyards appear as burning bushes with their yellow and red leaves aglow in the fall season. The structure of the organized rows of olive trees and grape vineyards create a patchwork of colors on the soft gentle slopes of the Tuscany countryside.

Montepulciano Tuscany Attractions

Montepulciano is a perfect place to plunk yourself down in Tuscany for a week.  It is only 13 kilometers to Pienza, 30 KM to Montalcio and 20 KM to Val di Orcia.

The Montepulciano village dates back to the Etruscans which lived in this region in the first century BC.  One of the characteristics of an Etruscan village is that it was built  on the top of a hill with a commanding view of the surrounding area.  Montepulciano architecture and art grew in prominence during the 1500′s when Montepulciano became politically aligned with Florence.
Getting around Montepulciano is easy. The town is has restricted car access to the historic area and there is a free parking lot outside the main city wall entrance. Once inside the walls all the roads lead upwards toward the Piazza Grande.  There are also multiple signs  that will keep you pointed in the right direction. The walk is enjoyable with cafes, wine stores, and produce stores selling sausages and cheese from the local farmers that line the small narrow winding streets where you can stop and shop.
In the valley surrounding the hill that leads up to Montepulciano is a beautiful Renaissance church, Madonna di San Biagio.  You can view the church as you drive on the road either going to or coming from Pienza.  Surrounding the base of the church is a forest.   During the afternoon; the sun highlights the church reflecting the golden-yellow travertine building. To visit our properties in Tuscany, click here.

The winding streets of Montepulciano Tuscany
The winding streets of Montepulciano Tuscany

The Tropi-Cool Cuisine of Puerto Rico By Natalia de Cuba Romero

Hot Peppers

Puerto Ricans are the Stealth bombers of the Latin world. Since so many of us have been off the island for so long and we don’t always look or speak like non-Puerto Ricans expect us to, you don’t always realize that we are flying among you. In the same way, Puerto Rican food has always flown under the radar of world cuisines.

When you think Caribbean food, folks are more likely to think Jamaican jerk chicken or coconut shrimp. When you think Latin Caribbean food, Cuban black beans and rice get all the attention. When you think Latin food in general, Mexico is the juggernaut that obscures the rest of us.

But Puerto Rican cuisine, with its trifecta of African, European, and indigenous influences, with its range of ingredients borrowed from South Asia, the mountains of Spain, the altiplanos and river basins of South America, and the sea all around it…well it is a kaleidoscope of flavors and cooking styles that is a delicious world all its own.

This is the cuisine I grew up on. Pink beans seasoned with aromatic culantro and sweet little bonnet peppers and bits of savory salt pork. Oregano-infused spit-roasted suckling pig with molar-cracking skin. Green banana tamales called pasteles, stuffed with pork, raisins and green olives, wrapped and tied in banana leaves. Soupy shrimp and rice, rich with tomato and cilantro. Airy salt cod fritters. Garlicky fried and mashed plantain formed into a cup overflowing with seafood stew. Crab and rice. Chicken and rice. Pigeon peas and rice. Coconut rice desserts.

Clever visitors to the island will sidestep the continental cuisine and head for the small mom-and-pop restaurants that line town centers and beachfronts (make sure to get recommendations first!) and try everything they possibly can.

And when they go home, they will suffer what all boricuas suffer when they are far away. A food nostalgia so terrible, it drives us to make our relatives Fedex pasteles and breadfruit to our doors.

These days, however, it is much easier to reproduce the flavors at home. In my suburban New York town, I find ingredients enough to satisfy my craving, my longing, my yearning for the flavors of The Enchanted Isle without resorting to overnight delivery. Goya Foods is making inroads everywhere; look for them in the International section of your supermarket. If there is an Asian or South Asian market anywhere near you, they will have many of the fruits and vegetables familiar to the Caribbean kitchen. Italian, Spanish and Portuguese hot, dry sausage can be used in a pinch. Acorn squash makes a worthy substitute for our calabaza pumpkin.

I make it work and so can you. I explain some of that in my culinary dictionary Eat Your Way through Puerto Rico: What to Eat and How to Order It or

and I show folks how to make it on my blog, Hot, Cheap & Easy, which chronicles the simple family recipes my family enjoys, including many of the classic Puerto Rican dishes that I grew up on, adapted for the mainland kitchen.

I leave you with two recipes that will get you started on the road to great home-cooked Puerto Rican food. One is your basic rice and beans with ham and pumpkin

. The other is pastelón de amarillos/plátanos , a savory meat and sweet plantain lasagna-style casserole that epitomizes what our food is about. I hope you will join me in this exploration of a cuisine that deserves a lot more attention..and that you deserve to have a lot more of!


Food, wine, and travel writer Natalia de Cuba Romero is author of Eat Your Way Through Puerto Rico: A Culinary Dictionary (ebook, Forsa Editores 2012), is a regular contributor to edible Long Island. She  blogs on simple meals for busy people at Hot, Cheap & Easy ( She is also a fulltime ESOL instructor at Nassau Community College and frequently lectures, presents and, publishes on issues of language learning, college readiness, and teaching methodology. Her son is a rice-and-bean-loving  first-grader  who is already a prize-winning baker.

Author website

©Natalia de Cuba Romero

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