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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Happy Halloween! While the kids are out tick-or-treating, vacation home owners are getting ready for the start of the holiday season with some great Thanksgiving deals. You can cozy up in a relaxing wintery cottage or escape to a sunnier locale for an adventurous family beach getaway.  Wherever you decide to go, just remember to be thankful for the great deals going on now!

There is one tree outside my house in Northern California that turns bright red at the end of the Indian Summer.  It is the first, if not the only, hint of the coming autumn, and as a little girl I found myself staring out the window at the small tree, trying to see if I could watch the leaves turn from green to yellow to red.

College brought me out East, and those four years of Fall became my new Christmas.  As the summer would end, I would get giddy with anticipation, unable to control my excitement for the season of fresh apples, pumpkins, cider, and orange foliage.  I would beg my new friends from Connecticut, Vermont, and New York to take me to all the secret places where we could admire the woods, so unlike the evergreen forests I grew up with by the wild Pacific Ocean.

These places remain my favorite destinations every fall.  Each represents the quintessential New England autumnal shift, but is a bit off the beaten path so you can breathe in the brisk air and admire the colorful explosions in peace.

1) Storm King Art Center- Moutainville, NY

Nestled near Bear Mountain in the Hudson Valley, beautiful and strange pieces of art are scattered across 500 acres of fields, hills, and woodlands.  Gigantic statues and hidden sculptures impress and allure, while your senses are completely inundated with color for the surrounding trees.  I’ve never seen such an array of leaves!  Oranges, pinks, and purples stand out against the bright green branches that stubbornly wait to change until right before winter.  On your way to or from the magical sculpture garden, make sure to stop at one of the family run farms along the side of the road where you can find homemade fudge, apple cider, and of course, donuts.

2) Mianus River Gorge Preserve, Bedford, NY

From April to November, you can visit this oasis of rich woodland and old-growth forest.  The one hour drive from New York City will lead you to 750 acres of quiet, secluded beauty, and 5 miles of hiking trails through the dense trees.  Squirrels run around in the branches and flowing water can be heard from all around.  The preserve was established in 1953 to protect an old-growth hemlock forest, and during the winter a limited staff focuses on research and land maintenance.  The gorge is amazing in every season, but the autumn really shows off all the different kinds of trees growing in one forest.

3) Montpelier, Vermont

Obviously, Vermont is the place to go if you’re looking for fall foliage.  There are a million places to celebrate autumn in this state, but Montpelier is my favorite.  This small town is the capitol, but feels much more like a hidden village amongst the bright mountains.  Downtown you can find cozy music venues, local beer, and freshly baked bread.  If you venture a few minutes out of the city, you’ll find flowing rivers and colorful woods.  Top it all off with a bulky knitted sweater and some pancakes covered in maple syrup, and you’ve got yourself the epitome of fall.

4) Old Orchard Beach, Maine

The drive up to Maine is breathtaking itself.  Lining the highways is an array of fall colors that makes getting stuck between 18-wheelers way less stressful.  Old Orchard Beach is a typical coastal vacation community, but in the autumn the renters all leave and a quiet, serene energy takes over.  Many of the little wooden cabins are empty; as is the beach, save for a few local fishermen.  You can find fresh lobster to bring home, and there’s nothing like making a fire at night after a long walk along the shore.

5) Cambridge, Massachusetts

Nothing spells fall like college students wearing scarves and carrying books and drinking tea.  There’s something about being near the brick buildings of Harvard that evokes that nostalgic sense of the changing of seasons and the beginning of a new semester.  The campus is beautiful in the crisp air, and young people with rosy cheeks walk in every direction.  There are plenty of bookstores, coffee shops, and restaurants to get cozy in and take in the scene.

by Monica Cesarato

Here in Venice, every occasion is good to celebrate, above all if it can be done with cakes, drinks or otherwise. All through Fall we have various events and celebrations, but November is the time in which Venice celebrates San Martino (on the 11th) and La Madonna della Salute (on the 21th), two very Venetian local events, which are not celebrated anywhere else in Italy and which have survived through centuries.

On 11th November of each year all over the province of Venice and in Venice Historic city, bakeries and cakes shops, to celebrate San Martino, sell the traditional San Martino cake: a short-crust cake covered in sweets and icing, made in the shape of a Knight riding his horse. In the old days, housewives used to make this cake at home and give it to their loved ones. Nowadays, parents usually buy the cake for their children from shops. The cakes are usually prepared or purchased a few days before the 11th and unwrapped and eaten on the day of San Martino, for the joy of children and adults alike.

Now let’s take a look at the reasons why Venetians celebrate this Saint…

The Legend of San Martino

Martin was born in 316/317 A.D. in the Roman province now known as Hungary. His father, a soldier, called him Martin in honour of the War God Mars. Martin wanted to become a catechumenate, but because he was the son of a Roman Veteran, he was only allowed to become a soldier and at 15 he was forced to enter in the army. Martin became a circitor, the man in charge of doing the night rounds. It was during one of those nights that Martin met, right in the middle of winter, a half naked poor man. Martin felt sorry for him and using his sword, cut his cape in two and gave half of it to the poor man. When he went to bed, Martin dreamt of Christ smiling at him while he was wearing the cape.

Martin was a soldier for over 20 years but always acted as a real Christian. When he was about 40, he left the army and became a monk, dedicating his remaining life to the study of God. Martin retired in a villa near Poitiers, in France, were he preached the word of Jesus and created the monastery of Ligugè, the oldest in Europe. After many years he was declared bishop of Tours and he lived there for 26 years. He became a missionary and he created Marmoutier, the first centre where priests were trained into the word of God. He died the 8th November 397 and his funerals took place on the 11th November, hence the Venetian celebration.

The Tradition

In the old days in Venice, the children used to celebrate by going around the town banging on pots and pans and ringing bells, singing:

Oh che odori de pignata Se magnè bon prove fazza Se ne de del bon vin cantaremo San martin, San martin n’à mandà qua Perchè ne fe la carità Anca lu co’l ghe n’aveva Carità ghe ne faseva. Fe attenzion che semo tanti E fame gavemo tuti quanti Stè atenti a no darne poco Perchè se no stemo qua un toco!

What a lovely smell of pots, if we eat well we will rehearse well, if you give us good wine we will sing, We were sent by Saint Martin so you can do some charity, since he did a lot of charity. Be careful, we are many and we are all hungry, Do not give us little otherwise we will stay here for long!

If they managed to get sweets and cakes at the end of the songs, they will then sing:

E con questo la ringrasiemo Del bon animo e del bon cuor. Un altro ano ritornaremo. Se ghe piease al bon Signor Viva viva San Martin

And with this we thank you for your good will, we will come back next year if you will, Viva Saint Martin

If they did not get anything they will sing:

Tanati ciodi gh’è in sta porta Tanti diavoli che ve porta Tanti ciodi gh’è in sto muro Tanti bruschi ve vegna sul culo

For all the nails there are on this door, so many devils you will get; for all the nails on this wall, so many pimples you will get on your back!

This amusing tradition is now brought back by many nurseries and primary schools, so do not be surprised if on that day you will see long lines of small children walking with their teacher and knocking at every door!

Santa Maria Della Salute

Another famous Venetian celebration that takes place in November is Santa Maria Della Salute. On 21st November of every year – the day of the presentation to the Virgin Mary – Venice celebrates the end of the plague of 1636. This is the dearest to the Venetians of all the city celebrations, the only one which still preserves the religious character with which it was started originally. The night before the 21st , Venetians build the pilgrimage bridge made of boats, starting from Campo Santa Maria del Giglio up to the church of Madonna Della Salute, crossing the Canal Grande. This is the bridge that allows the pilgrims to perform their ritual walk up to the church. The little campo in front of the church is filled with stalls selling religious candles of all shapes and sizes and with all local traditional sweets and cakes, specially cooked for this occasion. The amount of local Venetians coming up to the church brings the memory back to the times when Venice was a proud and powerful Republic and the sense of religion was strong in the city.

The plague arrived in Europe at the beginning of the 14th Century, it reached Venice in 1348 when the mortality in the city was 50% of the population. A second big plague struck in 1575-1577 (in that occasion the Venetian built the church of the Redentore) and finally the city suffered again in 1630-31. During those dark times 14,300 people lived in Venice and more than 30% of the population died. The plague of 1630 was brought to the city by the ambassador of Mantua and it spread immediately. The city dropped into a state of terror, all activities with the outside world stopped and entire buildings were quarantined. Everything that had been in contact with the disease was destroyed and those who were infected where confined to the lazzareti (the word Lazzareto comes from the island of Lazzareto Vecchio, where all the infected people where confined). Even letters were disinfected to make sure they did not carry the disease.

Remembering the results that the building of Redentore brought to Venice (the end of the plague in 1578), the Senate pledged to celebrate the end of the plague by building a church in the name of the Virgin Mary and they pledged to celebrate the ending of the disease every year by organizing a pilgrimage to the same church.

The Senate chose a project by Baldassare Longhena and they started building in 1631. The enormous dome (in stone and artwork) required 1,156,627 foundation poles and 50 years of hard work. Longhena just managed to see his masterpiece completed when he died in 1682. The church, while novel in many ways, still shows the influence of Palladian classicism and the domes of Venice.

The night before the 21st, the bridge of boats is built to allow pilgrims to cross over to the church to participate in the celebration.

Mass is usually celebrated every hour starting from 6am and continuing through 8pm (last mass).

So if you thought the winter season did not offer much in Venice, think again! This is a 365 days a year city, where all times are good to party and have fun!

Monica Cesarato runs her own B&B on the Riviera del Brenta, just outside Venice, teaches Venetian cooking at http://www.cookinvenice.com and also blogs about life in Venice and Italian lifestyle in her own blog.

2 2042

It’s getting to be that time of year again. The weather is cooling down, the leaves are dropping and before you know it the holiday season will be in full swing. With all of the cleaning, planning, shopping, and cooking that can be involved in holiday preparations, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or behind schedule before you’ve even had a chance to get started.  Instead of waiting for the early winter months to fly by this year, take them by their metaphorical horns and make a vacation out of this holiday season. What better way to relieve yourself of some stress than taking a holiday getaway? You can even bring the whole family along and host a holiday dinner in your vacation home.

Image Via ChristmasinCharleston.com

If you want to get an early start, consider taking a spooky Halloween vacation. Read all about some of the U.S.’ most haunted destinations here. However, for those of you who are planning on taking a vacation later in the holiday season, there are plenty of options for you as well. Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or any other seasonal tradition, these hot spots are sure to provide a great holiday traveling destination.

The Poconos

This holiday season, there will be virtually no better winter scene than the beautiful views of the Poconos. With the perfect landscape for curling up beside a window, skiing, or taking part in one of the area’s many other winter sports, this destination is sure to have enough activities to keep the entire family happy. For those who prefer to enjoy a white Christmas indoors, the area has numerous inside activities such as cooking classes and discovering amazing dinnerware and ceramics transform right before your eyes at the local pottery center. If you’re behind on the holiday shopping, the area has plenty of shopping centers, so you can pick up those last minute gifts

Heidelberg, Germany

This European town is widely known for its ability to become a picturesque winter postcard. With heavy snowfalls and decorated trees, the city lights up into a beautiful scene each holiday season. Heidelberg is also home to Weihnachtsmarkt, a stretch of outdoor markets that span over a mile. The shops are home to intricately decorated ornaments, often handmade, and serve spiced wines and potato pancakes to keep their shoppers warm while experiencing the outdoor holiday market. Heidelberg also offers tours of the historic downtown and castle, which turns into a gorgeous winter backdrop.

Charleston, S.C.

If you’re looking for more of a down-home scene this season, look no further than Charleston, South Carolina. Known for its slightly warmer winter climate, this city will not only provide a milder stay than a northern town, but Charleston also offers up decorated holiday scenes around every corner. Even the harbor’s boats get decorated for the season. The city’s historic feel and Southern charm are also illuminated by its holiday traditions; in fact, they even have their own website at Christmasincharleston.com, where the town displays its many specials and discounts on holiday activities and events.  If you go, be sure to check out their annual Festival of Lights, held each year from Nov. 11 through Jan. 1.

Rivera Maya

Another great holiday travel destination is Rivera Maya, located on the eastern part of the Yucatan Peninsula. A great tropical hot spot for your vacation, Rivera Maya will allow you to spend your holidays like you’ve never spent them before. Not only will you have your own traditions, but you’ll get to experience new ones as well, all in the warmth and beauty of the Rivera Maya’s clear, crisp beaches. Throughout most of December, there is a nightly midnight ritual that celebrates Mexican religion. Many other traditions are present as well, such as wearing “lucky” underwear on New Years, and an April Fool’s Day of sorts, where friends attempt to borrow one another’s belonging without them knowing.

San Diego, CA

This popular California town leaves little to be desired when it comes to holiday tourism. Not only is San Diego known for it’s cheer, the city is home to the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade and Holiday Festival, where classic city traditions meet holiday spirit. Lights can been seen at the San Diego Zoo‘s Holiday Light Display, and The December Nights is a must-see show for families of all ages and sizes. Despite the warm climate, visitors can still ice skate each year at the Hotel del Coronado, which also hosts a great annual holiday party.

Whether you choose to spend your holidays in the winter climates of the Northeastern United States and Germany, opt for a beach stay, or head to sunny California, you’re sure to find a vacation destination that the entire family can enjoy. So remember, this winter season, save yourself the stress, and vacation your holidays away instead. Not only will you get to spend the joyous season with your family, but you’ll have an entire new set of holiday traditions to look forward to next year.

Bethaney Wallace is a writer and editor for The Social Robot, an internet marketing and content production company founded in 2009. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in English, she began writing professionally. To read more of her posts, go to http://thesocialrobot.com. Or follow her on Twitter @bethaneywallace.

by Kari Bradley

While visiting Colorado with my two young kids (ages 4 ½ and 6), I set out to find fun activities for them so we could enjoy the gorgeous scenery together.  We made two day trips to Estes Park (an easy hour drive from my mom’s house in Fort Collins) to try out a couple of the different hikes the National Park Service recommends for families: Sprague Lake and Bear Lake.

Sprague Lake

Our first adventure was stopping at the picnic area near Sprague Lake.  The air was distinctly fresh and smelled of pine – which was a new experience for our “city noses!”  The kids gobbled their lunches in a hurry so they could explore the area and look for the different flowers and wildlife.

After our picnic, we headed to a ranger station to pick up the official Junior Ranger Activities Booklet for ages 5 and under.  The booklet includes eight fun activities for the kids to do while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park.  In order to become a Junior Ranger, they must complete the activities in the booklet, then take it to any visitor center and speak with a Park Ranger about what they saw and did.  The Ranger will sign their booklet and give them an official Junior Ranger badge (and what kid doesn’t love collecting “official” badges?).

Booklets in hand, we drove off to our first hike.  We noticed several cars on the side of the road, so we stopped to see what everyone was looking at.  There were two HUGE male elks, just hanging out, patiently letting people take pictures of their very impressive antlers.  It was a thrill to see them up close and personal!

We arrived at the Sprague Lake trail for our first hike.  This lake hike is short (about ¼ mile) and flat, so it was no trouble even for novice hikers.  The kids had a blast racing ahead of us to look for animals.  We played “Eye Spy” from the Junior Ranger booklet and they saw fish, squirrels, chipmunks, and a family of ducks with their 3 ducklings.  They also enjoyed seeing a man fishing in the lake, and several families either fishing with poles, or using nets to catch fish in a little stream leading up to the lake.  One young boy excitedly told about catching his first fish!  We’ll have to bring fishing poles next time.

The kids also enjoyed completing the Scavenger Hunt in the booklet.  They were prompted to look for something prickly (pine needles), something soft (baby chipmunks), something that smells good (flowers), something moving (water), something an animal eats (pinecones), something tall (trees), and something blue (bluebell flowers).  It was so much fun, and encouraged them to slow down and truly observe the nature surrounding us.

Sprague Lake has beautiful views, with many scenic points to stop and take pictures (like this one with Hallet Peak in the background).  All in all, it was a perfect introduction to hiking with young children.

Bear Lake

Our next excursion was to Bear Lake (which is a bit longer than the Sprague Lake trail, and not quite as flat).  The first thing the kids noticed as we headed down the path was a patch of snow.  Mind you, this was the end of July! Our kids loved it and they were throwing snow balls along with several other kids. It was an unexpected summer treat for everyone.

Near the path were lots of fun rocks for the kids to scurry up.  We weren’t sure how they would do on these hikes, but found there is so much to see and do that they were totally occupied and discovered a newfound love for hiking.

About halfway around the lake, my son exclaimed “I see something moving in the water!”  We followed him over to the side of the lake – and lo and behold, he really had seen some fish.  There were three of them huddling under the tree branches in the little stream that ran towards the lake. The kids were excited to watch them and notice their colorful scales.

Overall, our two day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park were wonderful.  One tip I would share with other parents is to be sure to bring along bug repellent and good shoes for the kids to climb over the rocks and run around comfortably.  Your little explorers will thank you for it!

Here’s a final shot taken from Bear Lake.  A thunderstorm just missed us, but it was fun to listen to all the birds and animals, along with the boom of thunder just down the mountains.  I highly recommend visiting the Rocky Mountain National Park with your little ones.  We are so glad we had this chance to expose our kids to the awesome sights of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

Kari Bradley is an enthusiastic family explorer and part of the team at Estes-Park.com.

It’s only October, but avid skiers and snowboarders are already planning their winter excursions to the Rocky Mountain powder of Colorado.  For this year’s ski trip, take your pick of a variety of rentals, from luxury resort condos to quaint small town cottages. Start planning now, while rental owners are offering some sweet deals for early bookers!

Book in October and Get 10%!

Breckenridge Colorado

Rent Four Nights and Get the Fifth Free!

Steamboat Springs

The “Warriors  Retreat” is located at the end of a cul-de-sac in a quiet residential community near Breckenridge. This is the perfect home to avoid the hustle and bustle of large resorts but still be close enough to exceptional skiing and downtown Breckenridge.Less than a mile from the Steamboat Springs Ski Resort with great mountain and valley views, this quaint cottage is a perfect base for all skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling adventures. After a long day on the slopes sip some hot cocoa while relaxing in the jacuzzi.

25% off your Total Stay!

Estes Park

30% Off and Free Heated Parking !

Winter Park

Built in the 1930’s the Brown Cabin, is a classic cabin on a secluded mountainside cliff with spectacular views. The cabin is only a few miles from Rocky Mountain National Park and downtown Estes Park.  Take advantage of the owners’ cheap lift ticket offers too!Founders Pointe is a luxury condo in Winter Park’s resort village, just two minutes from the nearest ski lift.  The balcony overlooks the beautiful resort and provides a perfect view for the concerts and other events held in the plaza. The condo is kid friendly and a great value!

An Exhibition from the Museum of the American Indian

As Thanksgiving approaches, kids all across the United States are crafting construction paper into tall, black pilgrim hats and yellow and orange feathers to glue into Native American-style headbands; they’re rehearsing their parts for the school play re-enacting the first Thanksgiving harvest dinner. If that sums up the extent of your kids’ education on Native American culture and history, it’s time to plan a visit to the newest of the Smithsonian museums along the Mall in Washington DC: the National Museum of the American Indian.

When we visited last year, I was immediately struck by the organic feel of the museum building. From the undulating exterior walls to the spiraling central hall, every design detail reflects the connection to nature that is so vital to Native American culture. We planned to make it a quick visit, but were so completely drawn in by the artwork, the artifacts, and the stories they told that a full day slipped away.

The Our Universe exhibit draws on timeless themes that help visitors find more commonalities than differences with the ancient Native American societies. Interactive activities for kids and families happen regularly at the ImagiNATION activity center, and the movies offer a chance to keep learning while you get off your feet for a bit.  Any family with a horse-crazy teen really needs to get there this November, as the NMAI opens A Song for Horse Nation, an exhibit that explores the impact of horses on Native American culture.

Just when you think your eyes and ears have taken in all the Native American culture that a person could possibly absorb in a day, head down to the Mitsitam Café to get your fill of the scents and flavors of traditional Native American dishes. Five counter areas allow you to choose specialties from the Native American tribes around the regions of America: the Northern Woodlands, the Great Plains, the Northwest Coast, South America, and Mesoamerican. I’ll admit the café was my favorite part of the museum – the combinations of ingredients from each region may have been traditional, but I found them a fresh and delicious way to connect with Native American culture.

by Dana Giusti

You’ve just returned home after spending a wonderful time at a fabulous FlipKey rental. You want to express your gratitude, but you’re unsure of how to best articulate it. What to do?

It’s always a great idea to send a thank-you note to show appreciation for being included in the trip. Here are a few different thank-you ideas for a variety of situations:

A developing relationship

It’s best to send a warm yet formal note to people you’re building a relationship with, such as new in-laws or co-workers. Begin by mentioning how much you appreciate having been included in their special trip, as well as your enthusiasm in getting to know them better. It’s also a good idea to include specific details about what you enjoyed about the vacation. Be sure to restate your gratitude in the closing lines.

Example:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,

Thank you very much for including me in your trip to Keystone. It was wonderful having the opportunity to get to know each other better. I know Mr. Smith and I will be rooting for the Yankees together come springtime!

I’d also like to mention how you couldn’t have picked a better condo rental – how amazing was the living room fireplace? I loved sitting by the fire with my mug of hot chocolate each night after dinner.

Again, thank you very much. John and I are looking forward to creating many more memories with you both.

Sincerely,

Jane

Family members

You can be a little less formal in a thank-you to your own family members. Focus on your appreciation for the opportunity to strengthen familial bonds.

Example:

Dear Aunt Kate,

Thank you for having Tom, the kids, and myself at your Lakeview condo. It was so nice bringing the family together at such a beautiful location. I know the children will cherish the memories we created. Cindy is already asking when we can return so she can build more sand castles with you!

Thank you again for having us. I look forward to planning more get-togethers in the near future.

Love,

Sara

Friends

Again, you can be less formal in a note to a close friend. It’s always nice to emphasize your gratitude for everyone coming together despite obstacles like busy schedules and different locations.

Example:

Dear Joe,

Thank you for organizing the weekend getaway at your Poconos cabin. What a great idea to get the gang together for skiing, sledding, and wine-tasting! It’s so great that everyone was excited to take time out to get together and hang out, just like the old days.

Thanks again for bringing us all together again. It would be amazing if we could make this an annual event.

All the Best,

Sam

The recipient will appreciate the time you took to write a personal note. Who knows—it may even guarantee another invite!

Dana is a contributing writer for Flipkey.com.

Vacation Rental Site Compiles the Spookiest Spots Across the Country to Experience a True Fright-Fest

Boston, Mass. – October 19, 2011 – FlipKey, a leading vacation rental website, today released the top spooky and entertaining Halloween destinations across the country. From the deep South to Vegas, the list features something for everyone who is ready to experience a freaky good time this year.

FlipKey’s Halloween destinations include:

Savannah, GA: Lauded as the supernatural capital of the South, historic downtown Savannah, GA is a spooky Halloween mecca for history buffs and thrill seekers! Much of the downtown area was allegedly built on top of cemeteries, and the city celebrates the spooky past every year with ghost tours, parties, and specials, including stops at the Bonaventure Cemetery and Mercer Williams House.

West Hollywood, CA: Take your Halloween celebrating to the next level joining the half million people at the West Hollywood Costume Carnival, one of the country’s biggest street festivals and largest Halloween parties! Santa Monica Boulevard is shut down to allow revelers to enjoy live entertainment, food vendors, pumpkin-carving, and children’s activities throughout the week before the holiday.

Las Vegas, NV: Las Vegas is a fabulous destination any time of year, but with fabulously glittery, famous historic visitors and over-the-top costumes and parties, Halloween is one of the most exciting times to visit Sin City! The city celebrates with countless parties and events, but you can really transport back in time with the Haunted Vegas Tours.

Tombstone & Flagstaff, AZ: Home to one of the most notorious streets of the Wild West, Tombstone, Arizona is famous for the epic gun battles that raged for years between the law and the outlaws. Up north in Flagstaff, Arizona, visit spooky landmarks featured on Unsolved Mysteries.

Salem, MA: Home of the famous 1692 Salem Witch Trials, this is the ideal Halloween destination for those seeking thrills and historic celebrations of the spooky past! The city of Salem puts on an annual parade, hosts countless tours and re-enactments, and stretches the revelry out to last all month.

New Orleans, LA: Down in the Big Easy, tourists and visitors can pick from many of the country’s best ghost tours, spanning the French Quarter to the raised cemetery, ‘Cities of the Dead.’

FlipKey features over 100,000 vacation homes around the world ranging from castles, Obama’s Summer Home, an MTV Real World House, Treehouses, Frodo’s Hobbit Hut and endless choices of wonderful beach and mountain homes. To find a vacation rental in one of our spooky cities this Halloween, visit us at www.flipkey.com.

About FlipKey
FlipKey™ is a leading vacation rental service that makes booking a vacation home simple and pain free. Featuring over 100,000 vacation homes and the world’s largest collection of authentic vacation rental guest reviews, FlipKey ensures that consumers find the ideal vacation home with unique advantages of personal space and superior amenities in ideal locations throughout the world. FlipKey has been named a “Top Vacation Rental Site” by Travel + Leisure Magazine and was ranked one of the top 10 travel websites by the New York Post. The site has been featured across a variety of top tier media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, USA Today, MSNBC, SmartMoney, and the LA Times.

FlipKey is majority owned by TripAdvisor, LLC, and exclusively powers vacation rentals on TripAdvisor, which attracts more than 25 million unique monthly visitors. FlipKey is available at https://www.flipkey.com

When you hear the words. “South of France,” the first images that usually come to mind are those of the Mediterranean coast – beautiful, to be sure – but not even close to representing the entirety of the southernmost border of this country. The Languedoc-Roussillon – closer to Barcelona than to Italy – is often neglected. What awaits here, however, is a land of mystery, open to exploration.

The Languedoc-Roussillon is home to the ruins of several old Cathar châteaux, the last remaining evidence of a border between France and Occitania. The Cathars – a peaceful Christian population – were able to hide out in these châteaux, guarded by certain Catholics against the Inquisition and its accusations of heresy.

While the Cathars didn’t survive in this region, the châteaux that kept them in safety did, and many are open to the public. Ranging from Aguilar and Montségur, today merely a suggestion of the mighty châteaux that once stood atop these hills, to Quéribus and Peyrepertuse, offering a more concrete vision of the people that lived within these stone fortresses, the Cathar châteaux should be visited by all enchanted by this beautiful region.

The châteaux were built atop hills, to better their defensive value, which means that today’s explorers must climb to reach them. What better way to recuperate one’s strength upon coming back down than with a regional delicacy? Boles de picolat are Catalan-style meatballs, and while they can be made at home with a combination of pork, beef and spices, they are stewed for a long time, a preparation that can take away from your precious exploration time. Instead, let the professionals take care of the meatballs themselves — Francois Esquines sells a great jarred version — and use the prepared meatballs to develop the rest of this peasant dish in under an hour.

Recipe: Boles de Picolat

Summary: Tradition stew from Southern France

Ingredients

  • 1 800 g. jar of prepared Boles de Picolat (Note: If you’d like to try your hand at preparing these yourself, use ground pork and beef, grated onion and garlic to make meatballs, frying them up in peanut oil and then stewing them in a sauce of tomatoes, white wine, whole black olives, salt and pepper).
  • 1 800 g. can of white beans, drained
  • 10-15 black olives
  • 1 cup water

Instructions

  1. Stew the prepared Boles de Picolat, white beans, olives and water in a covered heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally and cook for an hour, adding more water if necessary to keep the beans and meatballs from sticking to the pan. Serve with local red wine and lots of crusty bread to mop up the sauce.

Preparation time: 2 minute(s)

Cooking time: 1 hour(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Culinary tradition: French

Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia