I just updated my other blog LeftoverQueen.com with a post about our visit to Venice, Italy !!!

I just got back from an amazing whirlwind trip to Italy. We saw many places and many wonderful things, for when you are in Italy, being such a small country, it is recommended that you visit several regions. We flew into the beautiful and ancient city of Venezia, Venice, and spent one night there.

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Venezia- gondolas-duomo-venetian masks

Highlights of course were Piazza di San Marco, the Gondoliers, and the amazing and thriving shops all over the city dedicated to the celebration of Carnivale – full of elaborate masks and costumes. Venice really is an enchanting and romantic city -made up of tiny canals where most people travel by foot or boat (no cars) full of tiny shops, cobblestone streets and the most amazing architecture.

The next day we headed to Tuscany and specifically to Torraccia di Chiusi right outside of the beautiful and medieval village of San Gimignano. The Torraccia di Chiusi is an amazing place. The accommodations are exceptionally beautiful and the views from the villa are stunning. All you foodies out there should go, just to experience Chef Bruno’s cooking. He is an absolute genius in the kitchen and of course prepares traditional Tuscan cuisine using fresh and seasonal ingredients that they produce right there on their farms. He also enjoys preparing Etruscan and Medieval cuisines if you are so inclined. He was a joy to spend time with each evening at dinner, hearing his food stories and about life in the Tuscan countryside.

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San Gimignano- entrance to san gimignano – us with chef bruno – tuscan hills – view from our room

From the Torraccia di Chiusi we made several day trips. Our first was to Firenze, or Florence.

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Firenze – duomo – motorini – duomo

It was a pretty cold and gray day when we went, which didn’t make it so enjoyable. Although our good friends Erin and Chris from The Olive Notes spent a year living in Firenze and so they had given us an extensive itinerary of things to do while in Florence – mostly involving food of course, and seeing some of the major sites. We weren’t able to do it all, but I will discuss the highlights in an upcoming post.

The next day we headed to the medieval city of Siena which is famous for the Pallio a horse race that is done in the center of town, that is a scene of not only sportsmanship, but also huge political rivalries. The Pallio really defines Sienese life in so many ways.

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Siena – duomo – lions head detail – the campo

When we visited Siena it was a nice a quiet day. The city is very charming and was probably my favorite. It was easy to navigate and the architecture there was so unique. I really enjoyed traveling the ancient streets and stairs.

After five idyllic days in Tuscany we had to head south to Rome, for some family time. Roberto doesn’t make it home very often, and so we had to make sure to go to Rome where his family lives.

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Roma – forum – colosseum – pantheon

What can you say about Bella Roma? It is an incredible place. Going from the more medieval towns of Tuscany to a truly ancient place, like Rome was an amazing chance. In Rome you have the ancient alongside the most modern. From the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Forum to Via del Courso where Prada and Dolce Gabbana live.

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Roma – trevi- bronze angel- piazza di spagna

The enormity of the buildings were breathtaking, and photos will never do justice to these ancient and modern buildings, fountains, and structures – everywhere you turn is a work of art, or some kind of major human accomplishment…and the FOOD. The food throughout the areas of Italy we traveled we all amazing, but in Rome, it is just abundant – markets, green grocers, cheese and meat shops. It is unending. Oh and did I mention the gelato and coffee? Those are whole posts to themselves.

Our final four days were spent in Ostia, Rome’s seaport.

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Ostia – ostia antiqua – port of rome – il mare

Ostia Antiqua is nearby and again, everywhere you look are ruins. Ostia is reminiscent of Saint Augustine, on a much smaller scale. But it was nice to end our visit with a place that reminded us of home, and where we were surrounded by family.

To see my own story about my time as a supporter of the Dineh elders, please click here.

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Following story By Bahe Y. Katenay, Sheep Dog Nation Rocks

Sweet Water Stronghold, Big Mountain. February 9, 2009 – Dineh elder resister of the traditional lands of Sweet Water is bundled up for the chilly winds as she takes some hay out to her sheep and goats. The herds need a little extra feed before going out to graze. The non-Indian, volunteer supporter is dressed warm and ready to follow the sheep as he chops some wood for grandma, Pauline and while the herds nibble on the scattered hay on the ground. Not many non-Indian volunteers do occasionally make themselves available from their busy lives to come out for short stays and help traditional, elder resisters. Very few traditional elder residents are now left throughout such regions affected by the harsh relocation laws of 1974.
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Well my birthday was about a month ago and whenever I get to have a “Jenn Day”, meaning I get to pick what we do that day from top to bottom it always involves my two favorite things – good food, and animals. We started the day by having lunch at Mango Mangos which is a delicious place to get quick, flavorful and often healthy choices. Our next destination was the Alligator farm.

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We pass the Alligator farm here in Saint Augustine at least twice a week, on the way to the beach or the farmers market and I have always wondered what was behind those tall white walls. I have seen signs advertising the farm all over town as well, and when a few months ago I saw that they had now added a Komodo Dragon to their collection of reptiles, I was sold. I love Komodo Dragons, not in the sense that I want to kiss them,

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No, thanks, really.

But I find them to be one of the world’s most fascinating creatures. I wouldn’t want to come across one in the wild, and at the same time I feel bad to see one behind glass, so far away from the Indonesian islands they come from. But I also feel a certain sense of awe to be able to look at one, so close up, close enough to see the texture of its scaly skin.
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I thought that it would be fun to write a different sort of post today about a fun place to go with your best four legged friend in Saint Augustine – a dog park. Roberto and I got a puppy back in September, Pepino and in November we started taking him to Puppy School. Well this past weekend, his trainers at Good Dog decided to host a “Santa Paws Party” for all the Good Dogs at the gazebo at Joe Pomar Park, a large recreational facility in Saint Augustine, FL.

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Near the gazebo there is a large fenced in area just for dogs. The dog runs are double gated, and there are two sections, one for small dogs and one for larger dogs (yeah that is a husky there with Pep, but that is his friend Jax, and Jax only came in after his mom asked everyone if it was okay). It really is a great place to take your dog. Pepino loved meeting some new friends and running like crazy. He has some hound in him (either Italian Greyhound or Whippet) and so he loves fast running. Even when we go to the beach, he has to be on his leash, and we don’t have a fenced in yard, so it is difficult finding opportunities to let him go as fast as he can.

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He also really enjoyed playing with the other dogs and making them chase him (although they never quite caught up!!!). As every dog owner knows, a tired dog is a happy dog!

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Joe Pomar Park is located off Master Drive, just south of the intersection with State Road 16. The park is open daily.

**In the future I may post about other dog friendly places to take your dog in Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine is a very dog friendly town. Dogs are permitted (on leash) at the beaches, and at many eating establishments that have outdoor seating. There is even a treat shop downtown, that is a great pit stop for your furry friend when visiting our beautiful town.**

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One thing about living in Florida after living for many years in New England previously is that after a while you begin to miss the woods. You miss the maples, oaks, poplars and birches.

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You miss the little streams, rivers and waterfalls.

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You miss the earthy and robust smell of the Northern forests. Forests in Florida are full of reptiles, snakes, bugs, arachnids and swamps. Not really somewhere I want to be for pleasure. So Roberto and I decided that we needed to reconnect with one of our favorite parts of New England – the forest.

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At this time of year the leaves are at their peak of fall foliage color – bright reds, burnt oranges and sunny yellows, the air is cool and brisk and it is perfect hiking weather.

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On a personal note, I will be traveling to New England through the end of October, and will not be updating the site while away! But look forward to more articles in November! :)

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Madeira – Tropical, Mountainous and Lovely

Article and Photos BY: KARI HOEL

The trip to Madeira was decided during a conversation between my husband and I sometime in June, when the holiday was coming closer. “Kari, I have been thinking: What if the weather in Norway this summer turns out as terrible as it was last summer? It would be nice to go away somewhere warm and nice for a week or so – what about Madeira?” I smiled, turned on the computer, checked out some facts about Madeira (all very promising), booked tickets and said: “Yes, that is a wonderful idea, we are leaving 6 am. on July 7th. !“

Madeira is an island in the Atlantic ocean (600 kms off the west of Morocco) and an autonomous region of Portugal. The climate is comfortable all year around, and there is plenty of sunshine. The scenery is very diverse: It is rocky, but there are also hills, colorful flowers and sub-tropical forests. Madeira does not really have nice beaches, but Porto Santo – an island northwest of Madeira – apparently has a wonderful 9 km long beach. There are several seawater pools along the coastline of Madeira, so it is not hard to find places to swim and sunbathe. The Rough Guide Directions Madeira and Porto Santo contains lots of information about Madeira, and we used it a lot during our holiday.
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Join The Caravan of Support To Big Mountain Resistance Communities of Black Mesa, AZ. November 22-29, 2008!

Hug a sheep Today!

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Here is an opportunity to travel to Black Mesa/ Big Mountain and do the type of work I did back in 1998 – something that made a lasting impression on my life, as it allowed me to do something for others and to work for a cause I believe in with all my heart. A way to help preserve indigenous sovereignty in this country and to help protect our natural resources!
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Greetings from Black Mesa Indigenous Support,

We are excited to inform you that we are currently putting together efforts to bring a caravan of work crews that will be converging from across the country to support residents of the Big Mountain regions of Black Mesa who, on behalf of their peoples, their sacred ancestral lands, and future generations, continue to carry out their staunch resistance to the efforts of the US Government, which is acting in the interests of the Peabody Coal Company to devastate whole communities & ecosystems, and greatly de-stabilize our planet’s climate for the profit of an elite few.

At this moment the decision makers in Washington D.C. are planning ways to expand their occupation of tribal lands to extract mineral & other resources. The coal companies have a long history of and continue to fund both the Republican and Democratic parties because they have huge interests at stake. Peabody Coal, the world’s largest coal company, is currently pushing through plans to massively expand dirty coal strip-mining operations which has destroyed land and water aquifers, completely dug up burials, sacred areas, and shrines designated specifically for offerings, preventing religious practices.

By assisting with direct, on-land projects with these Sovereign communities, you are helping families resist an illegal occupation and to stay on their lands, who serve as the very blockade to coal mining! “The Big Mountain matriarchal leaders always believed that resisting forced relocation will eventually benefit all ecological systems, including the human race.” Bahe Keediniihii, Dineh organizer and translator states. “Continued residency by families throughout the Big Mountain region has a significant role in the intervention of Peabody’s future plan for Black Mesa coal to be the major source of unsustainable energy, the growing dependency on fossil fuel, and escalating green house gas emissions. We will continue to fight to defend our homelands.”

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Today I am going to share with you some of my favorite places in Saint Augustine to dine, eat and drink and also enjoy treats! Some of these establishments in Saint Augustine, may be a little off the beaten path, but are always great places (in my opinion) to get some good food and well worth the little effort it takes to walk there. For several of these places, I have already written a full review. So please check those out! Hopefully in the future I will be able to do actual reviews of each place, but in the meantime, here is the list. If you are looking for a best of category that you have not seen here, please feel free to ask and I will give you my opinion. :)

Best Breakfast: Athena’s
Need to get your day started with a nice honest breakfast? Then you want to check out Athena’s right off the square downtown. They have very large portions, great omelets, and nice big fluffy pancakes, all for a reasonable price. Great service too.
14 Cathedral Pl, Saint Augustine, FL 32084-4417
(904) 823-9076

Best Unique Breakfast: Casa Maya
If you want a nice, organic breakfast, you have got to checkout Cafe Maya. I had the Poblano Eggs and they were delicious – sunny side up eggs cooked to perfection and covered in Mole Poblano. My husband had a Cuban sandwich (which he loves) and says this was one of the best. They have great organic, free trade coffee and delicious smoothies! Inexpensive and great great quality!
See my dinner review
17 Hypolita St, Saint Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 823-1739

Best Lunch: Gaufres and Good
This place is run by a wonderful Polish couple who used to live in Greece as well. We went here for lunch one day and the food was incredible – freshly made, and out of this world good. We got home made pirogies (they have 3 different fillings) that you can get cooked in several different ways. We also got a huge and perfect Greek salad. I also got a Greek frappe (a type of Greek Iced Coffee drink) that is one of the best I have ever had! So going back for their awesome looking European waffles!
9 Aviles Street, Saint Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 829-5770

Best Diner: Georgies Diner
Looks just like an old time diner, but run by the same people as Athena’s – and so they have delicious Greek food there – gyros, souvlaki, Greek Salads and really good French fries! The people that work here are super nice and the food comes out hot and delicious! They also serve beer and wine.
100 Malaga St St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 819-9006

Best Gelato: Cafe de Hidalgo
They make all their gelato in house and have all the authentic Italian flavors as well as some more cosmopolitan and American flavors, but the quality is always great! Their flavors rotate, but some of our favorites have been coconut, banana, pistachio, fig, hazelnut and marscapone. Make sure to stand in line to pay first (they give you a ticket for the gelato counter)
See my full review
35 Hypolita Street
St. Augustine, FL
904-823-1196/1198

Best Sandwiches: JP Henley’s
Our friends told us about this one! Go to the back room! It is less noisy there! This place is known for its beer (over 80 international and domestic beers ON TAP – as well as many many more bottled). But you know what? Their sandwiches are awesome and cheap. So be sure to bring your appetite too! Plus you can get 3 different sizes of most of their beers, so you can taste a lot or you can get a big one if you already know your favorite.
10 Marine St, St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 829-3337

Best English Pub: Prince of Wales
This is a true English Pub – run by an Englishman and his wife! They have the best fish and chips there! It is cute and quaint and they even have some limited outdoor seating if you don’t want to sit inside. They also have lots of great traditional British and Scottish desserts. Yum!
See my full review
54 Cuna St
St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 810-5725

Best Pizza: Kosmic Bluz
We know a thing or two about pizza in this household and are picky about it – one of us being from Rome and the other generally not liking pizza. But this place is awesome! The crust is thin and the toppings fresh, and you can chose white or whole wheat crust! They also have some interesting microbrews on tap and a cute outdoor dining area.
48 Spanish St, Saint Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 825-4805

Best Place for Upscale Drinks: Tini Martini
This place has the best view of the water! You can sit on their nice porch (all light up with tiki torches at night) or inside the bar. It is attached to The Casablanca Inn, a B&B, so if you go during happy hour, they have cheese and crackers and olives. Be sure to get some, as the drinks are pricey (but really good and unique!) and having the snacks kind of makes up for it! They also have live music on the weekends.
24 Avenida Menendez Saint Augustine, FL 32084
1-800-826-2626

Best Coffee: Crucial Coffee
I love this place! It is an adorable little coffee shack on the corner of Cuna and Charlotte. You can go inside to order, or order from the window. Unique coffee drinks that are addictive and delicious. Nice garden area to sit in as well, or you can take it on the go.
See my full review
26 Charlotte St
St Augustine, FL 32084
(904) 810-2080

Best Unique Date Idea: Claude’s Chocolate
My husband and I were just walking around downtown one day and came across Claude’s. We saw that they did a chocolate tasting – you get a choice of 4 different chocolates and either wine or champagne to drink. I can’t remember the price, but it was very inexpensive to have a nice glass of wine and enjoy handmade chocolates made with Belgian chocolate. Be sure to try the coconut and the Spicy Mayan! Also delicious is the chocolate covered caramel with French sea salt.
15 Hypolita St , Saint Augustine, FL
904-829-5790

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Sometimes when you live in such a beautiful and historic town, such as Saint Augustine, you need to be a tourist in your own town to really understand what the place is all about. Especially when some of the most historic homes in the city are literally steps from your front door. So one Saturday, instead of going to the beach, we decided to be just like the majority of people in this town, which at this time of year are tourists, and see the sights.

Our first stop was the Old St. Augustine Village, after we had tried going to The Oldest House, and the workers there were closing for lunch (closing for lunch, on a Saturday, during one of the biggest tourist seasons???). Anyway, Roberto and I are both history geeks. We like being in the places where so many other people have been throughout the years. Historic places, especially homes, have a certain energy and vibe to them – they are a very real and living part of history and we are privileged to be able to walk the same stairs and floors as people did so long ago.

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Old Saint Augustine Village is a collection of nine historic homes that date from 1790 to 1910. There are also housed archaeological records from a 16th century hospital and cemetery, an 18th century Spanish defense line. Its grounds are also filled with some of the most beautiful courtyards and gardens in the city.
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