A Boatel?!


Boatel??? What is that? Is it a boat or is it a hotel? Well, it is both!

Are you ready to try for a different experience? I happened to come across an interesting option for those who “have been there and done that”. Out in Ventura, California, there is a chance to bed and breakfast aboard two kinds of boats depending on the experience you are looking for.

There are two boats with two different themes to pick from. One is a boat called the Villita that once was owned by a film star back in the 30’s and the other is an authentic Hong Kong Chinese Pirate Junk. Both are anchored dockside at the Ventura Harbor Village. You can stroll the boardwalk if you wish to visit some of the 6 pubs for a glass of rum. And don’t be surprised if you  see  some PIRATES!!!!

The claim is that both offer all the amenities of an upscale hotel (maid service to turn down your bed with the options of breakfast for an extra fee and a complementary evening beverage); coupled with the cozy ambiance of a nautical adventure.

They cater to special occasions such as anniversaries, honeymoons and birthdays, family or romantic – for anyone who wants to try something different.

Contact for information or reservations at (805) 235-2208 or for a fun slideshow of the boatels, check them out at www.boatelonthewater.com.


 From Hyde Park, Vermont to the Canadian border is about 50 miles and on to Montreal it is just over 100 or a quick 2+ hour jaunt. While I was up at Thistlemoon Meadows, we took a day trip up to Montreal. What a treat that was. Who could figure that I could be in a different country in such a short time and it really felt like a different country too. What a difference from the bucolic farms of northern Vermont to the big city of Montreal.

Montreal, the second largest city in Canada next to Quebec, is almost like two cities in one. There is the modern city vibrant with commerce, technology, industry, culture, sports like ice hockey and two airports- one for passengers and one for cargo.

Then there is Old Montreal where we spent our day. Historic architecture, cathedrals like Notre-Dame de Montreal Basilica (which was closed for a wedding but imposing from the outside nonetheless), cobbled streets and a picturesque riverside known as the Old Port. One of the places that was on my must see list was the wonderful  Auberge Hotel, where Jenn and Roberto had previously spent a romantic holiday – complete with a horse drawn carriage ride. But that is another story.

Anyway, I had to take a few pictures of this spot to share with you. From the looks of it that would be an excellent place for a charming getaway.

We had the best time strolling, sightseeing, shopping and eating our way across the city. We walked and we walked and we walked just enjoying the ambiance of the streets. Good thing; we ate hearty too.

We started with lunch at Jardin Nelson with awesome crepes. It was such a sunny day that we opted for eating outdoors in a garden setting that had an enormous inverted umbrella-like canopy overhead. There was even a string trio playing music while we dined. Tres chic!! We had tasty fruit filled concoctions that just hit the spot. Light but satisfying. I think Roberto would have been happy with a big meaty burger for his man-sized appetite, but he was a good sport.

We left there and continued our explorations down to the waterfront where Cirque du Soleil had set up and we could hear the music from their huge tents as we passed by to watch the “guards” march by and to see the touring boats in the water. Quite a lively place.

As the afternoon progressed I finally got the food that I had been so anxious to try – Poutine. Now I had heard about it from Jenn and Roberto but I needed to see it and experience it for myself. Mine was this HUGE plate of fries, covered in sauteed mushrooms and onions and then covered with the best melted cheese. That and a cold brew was just the best ever and I was a happy camper.

By then is was time for our drive back to Vermont. Tired, but certainly filled – both tummy and sensory- we made our way back to the car. Oh right, we did pass by and have an obligatory ice cream for the trip. Maple. Such creamy goodness. From the looks of Jenn’s cone, she made short work of hers! 

I am so happy we took the time to visit Montreal.

High Tea at the Governor’s House

When I was a little girl, my friends and I would often play out make believe scenarios, some of them trying out what in our minds fancy ladies did – like having tea. What we’d always heard was that these ladies would dress up and sit at little tables laden with tea pots and fancy little sandwiches. It seemed quite glamorous. And, if I am to admit it, when I get the chance even now and want to feel really pampered and special, I still enjoy going to or having a tea.

My trip to Hyde Park took an interesting turn when we found just minutes from Jenn and Roberto’s home a former Governor’s Mansion turned Bed and Breakfast where we enjoyed a full English afternoon tea. It was just perfect. The table was set in the library and we were the only guests in the mansion at the time. What a stroke of luck that was for us. We got the royal treatment, too.

The hostess, who owns and runs the whole household herself, served us her own special blend of teas in fine china cups on a white linen topped table. It was quite refined and we found ourselves acting just a little more polite, complete with Roberto’s little pinkie held out when he lifted his tiny cup to sip. It was a riot!

Along with the tea, we were given assorted fancy sandwiches, scones with cream and strawberry jam, pound cake and sweets that she baked that day special for us after we called in our reservation. There was more than we could eat. Imagine taking a doggie bag home from a tea. Okay, that part wasn’t too fancy, but we couldn’t resist and we had a great breakfast next day.

I asked for permission to look into the other downstairs rooms, and we were graciously rewarded with a tour of the entire mansion. It was such a wonderful afternoon. I would enthusiastically recommend this venue for high tea or a romantic getaway weekend in the event you find yourself in this part of Vermont.

Check the website for special events and room packages.

The Governor’s House in Hyde Park

100 Main Street

Hyde Park, Vermont


Fire and Ice




Some say the world will end in fire,

Same say in ice.

From what I’ve tasted of desire

I hold with those who favor fire.

But if it had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate

To say that for destruction ice

is also great

And would suffice.


 by Robert Frost


It is the first day of March. From what I hear on the weather reports, half of the USA is still covered in snow, many without heat or electric. I have heard from so many of my friends, especially those stuck in their houses, that cabin fever is rampant.

Being in Florida, I took a lovely walk in my favorite local park, Shalom Park, this afternoon. The musky smells of wet soil mingled with the sweet smells of first blooms on the bushes, a cool, gentle breeze. What could have been more perfect to get my juices flowing with some ideas of how to beat those winter blues.

So why Robert Frost? Well, I get a lot of emails about some wonderful places to visit. And, I thought I would share two of them with you in case you are one who is lucky enough to plan a spur of the moment little get-a-way. One is fire, the other, ice.

How would you like to head to a tropical island, sand and sun, sunsets, romance? Try Sandals Royal Carribean.

by NAIMA Broome


Sherry by a fire, a soak in a hot tub surrounded by snow, a sleigh ride and a home cooked gourmet breakfast in a quaint B&B? Then go to the Inn at Buck Hollow Farm in Vermont.

by bv305

These both struck me as incredibly inviting. Fire and Ice.

The good news is that both of these places are offering great deals and hefty discounts right now. You can get all of this and at special prices if you can hurry while the getting is good. Not a bad way to get through these last weeks of winter. What a great prelude to Spring!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


You miss the little streams, rivers and waterfalls.


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.


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! :)


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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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

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

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


A few months ago we had a fabulous dinner at Caps on the Water. It was to celebrate our first month as a married couple, so Roberto found out about this awesome sunset cruise that a chartered fishing boat does, once a month on the full moon. The boat picks you up at Caps on the Water. When Roberto called ahead the woman said we should get there by 5:30, because tickets for the cruise sell out fast, even though the boat doesn’t leave until 7. So we decided to go have dinner there as well. What else could we do?! ;)

Let me just preface by saying that Caps on the Water is a beautiful beautiful restaurant. The outdoor eating area is a huge wooden deck, covered by a canopy of oak trees covered in Spanish moss. There are twinkling lights everywhere and you are literally right on the water. It is extremely romantic and peaceful. When there is a nice breeze blowing, you really feel like you could relax there all evening and just be completely content.
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When talking to someone who has been to Thailand, the subject of visiting the islands always comes up. There is a reason for that: Thailand has several islands that are worth the visit. This time, I visited two of them: Ko Samui and Ko Tao, situated on the south-eastern coast. They are close in proximity, but widely different in all other aspects.
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