Paris vs. New York City

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

New York City

New York City

While Audrey Hepburn famously says in her title role of Sabrina, “Paris is always a good idea,” Robert DeNiro rebukes her and says, “I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, “There’s no place like New York. It’s the most exciting city in the world now. That’s the way it is. That’s it.”

In fact, I was thinking of Robert DeNiro this weekend.  Up and down Mulberry Street, Little Italy was celebrating the Saint Gennaro festival.  You know the scene in The Godfather,  don’t you?  The young Vito Corleone kills Don Fanucci and returns to his family to celebrate the feast of Saint Gennaro with the tiny Michael in his lap…it’s an iconic moment in cinema history and it happened in NYC.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s description of NYC is, “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.”  Did he mean it?  After all, the essence of Gatsby is illusion and falsity.  Of Paris he wrote, “The best of America drifts to Paris. The American in Paris is the best American. It is more fun for an intelligent person to live in an intelligent country. France has the only two things toward which we drift as we grow older—intelligence and good manners.”  So which is it, Scott?  Can’t we have both?  After all,  Gertrude Stein said, “America is my country, but Paris is my hometown.”

Which do you prefer?

   Paris   vs.   New York City

The Tuileries Garden and Luxembourg Gardens or Central Park

The Eiffel Tower or The  Statue of Liberty

The River Seine or The Hudson River

The Opera House or Broadway

Rive Gauche or The East Village

Croissants or Bagels and Lox

Flan or Cheesecake

The Ritz  or The Plaza and The Waldorf Astoria

Boat rides on the Seine or  Carriage rides in Central Park

 Tour First with 52 Floors or  The Freedom Tower (1776 feet high)

The Louvre or The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tour de France or NYC Marathon

Avenue des Champs Elysees or Fifth Avenue

New Year’s Eve at Champs des Mars or New Year’s Eve in Times Square

Boulevard Montparnasse or 42nd Street

Marais or The Lower East Side

Rue Mouffetard or South Street Seaport

Le Bon Marche and Galleries LaFayette or Macy’s and Saks

Notre Dame or St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Paris St. Germain F.C. or The Yankees

Pont Neuf or The Brooklyn Bridge

Charles de Gaulle Airport or JFK

Crepe Stands or Hot dogs and knishes

Outdoor cafes or rooftop pubs

Jardin des Plantes zoo or The Central Park Zoo

Vent de Voyage: Artisan Handbag Shop of Saint Malo

photo 1
Vent de Voyage

Vent de Voyage 3 Rue St. Thomas Saint Malo












One of the best things about shopping on vacation is discovering local treasures.  While anyone can bring back an Eiffel Tower key chain (and I do that too,) it’s more special to have something that speaks to the region and reminds you of your wonderful vacation long after you’ve returned home.  A shop just like this can be found in Saint Malo.

A notorious pirate town, Saint Malo is nestled in the crook of the English Channel and the Celtic Sea.   This hamlet IS nautical.  Saint James Breton shirts abound, pirates in costume and seafood galore, this lovely seaside resort is also home to a lovely little jewel of a shop, Vent de Voyage.   Located at 3 Rue Saint Thomas this workshop is a one of a kind place making one of a kind bags.

Inspired by their nautical home, Yann and Christine, the proprietors, complete all their work in the shop creating beautiful bags from sailcloths.

The Port of Saint Malo

The Port of Saint Malo

Yes.  Sailcloths.  Water resistant, sturdy, and durable, these beautiful bags are clean, modern, simple and sleek, much like the shoreline.

To walk inside the shop is to know you’ve found something special.  Each bag is hand-crafted, signed and dated.  They offer sizes from tiny clutches to beautiful tote bags.  You can buy off the rack or customize a bag.  If you don’t plan on being in Saint Malo, they even offer a webcam service where you can Skype with them to plan your bag.  The shop, much like the town, is charming and unique.  Of course, I had to purchase a bag, and I decided on the “La Conchee” in canvas.  I swear I can smell the ocean when I carry it…

La Conchee Tote

La Conchee Tote

Ten Things To Know About Eating In France

Kir Royal at Le Lutetia, Ile Saint Louis

Kir Royal at Le Lutetia, Ile Saint Louis, Paris

People have made the “rude French waiter” into a cliché.  I don’t really understand why.  Every single person who waited on us in France was kinder and more personable than the next.  That being said, there are some things that you should know in order to, well, order.

1.  Do not call your server, “Garçon!”  That’s a derogatory title much like, “Hey, boy.”  Call him “monsieur” or if it’s a woman, “mademoiselle” or “madame” depending on her age.

2. Do not ask for extra condiments.  The chef prepared the meal for you and it’s seasoned the way it’s meant to be.  It’s like a lead balloon asking for salt.  It’s an insult.

3.  Your server will not return.  When they bring you your meal, that’s going to be it.  You know how in America you get your food and then three minutes later when you have a mouthful they’ll ask you, “How is everything tasting?”  Doesn’t.  Happen.  In.  France.  Their culture dictates that it’s rude and too intimate to speak to strangers as they eat.

4.  Don’t be in a rush.  Paris, especially, is a people watching kind of place.  The cafe chairs are set up outside in theater style.  You don’t even face your companion.  People like to sit and watch the world go by.  With the purchase of your meal (or your kir royal,) you are entitled to all the dinner theater you can imagine.  They won’t rush you and you certainly won’t get your main course while you’re still eating your salad.  You’ll have to ask them for the bill, (Le Cheque.)  They feel that angling sideways up to the table as they put the bill on it, even if they say, “I’ll take that whenever you’re ready” is the same as, “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?”

5.  Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Olive.  Olive who?  Olive France.  Rather, France loves olives.  Everywhere you go to eat, when they bring you your cocktails, they also bring a bowl of olives.  Both green and black, the only utensil you’ll receive is a toothpick.

6. Don’t tip.  In France, most of the servers, waiters, bartenders, etc. are grown men.  You’ll nary find a teenager with his phone in his back pocket.  It’s a life long career here, not a stepping stone for unemployed actors or college kids.  They take exceptional pride in their work.  The bill has a 20% gratuity built right in, it’s called “Le pourboire.”  It’s a respectable profession and it’s insulting to leave a tip.  That being said, if you leave just a few coins, (under a euro or so) that’s just a little “thank you.”

7.  Secondhand smoke comes free with every meal.  I’m sorry, but it’s true, especially if you eat outside.  I tell myself that smoke inhaled on holidays doesn’t count much in the same way as calories consumed on vacation.  If you make a big stink about it, you’ll be the one led to the door.  Ask to sit inside to help alleviate it.  You’ll be the only one in there.

8.  A Rosé by any other name…Especially in the summer, the French drink rosé wine.  It’s not that super sweet bubbly rosé we drink here.  Rather, it’s a bit more dry and it’s served cold.  Everyone drinks it.  If they aren’t drinking this, they’re having a Kir that consists of white wine with a splash of fruit liquor in it.  (So it’s a homemade rosé.)  You could go crazy and ask for Kir Royal so they switch out the white wine for champagne.  The point here is, folks, they drink simple wine based drinks.

9. Keep your elbows on the table.  Yes, you read that correctly.  At least, keep your forearms firmly planted on the table ledge so your hands are visible.  The French get funny if your hands are in your lap.  They want to see what you’re up to.  I’m serious.

10.  Bread goes on the table.  Well, duh.  I’m not talking about the bread basket, I mean the actual bread.  You won’t get a bread plate.  You’re expected to rip the bread with your hands and then you leave it on the tabletop.  This works closely in alignment with #9…keep your hands where I can see ’em.



A Photo Essay of Saint Malo: The Walled City of St. Malo in Bretagne, France


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Saint Malo is a beautiful port city that keeps watch on the northern tip of France overlooking the English Channel. Steeped  in history, legend and faith, this tiny hamlet that lives “Intra Muros” (inside the walls) encapsulates the beauty of Bretagne. I have ownership of all the photographs, but please inbox me if you’d like to use one.

La Cour La Houssaye: 15th Century House of Anne of Brittany in St. Malo

La Cour La Houssaye: 15th Century House of Anne of Brittany in St. Malo

IMG_2978 IMG_2980


Saint Malo, France

Saint Malo, France

At low tide, you can walk out to this island.

At low tide on St. Malo, Brittany, France. You can walk out to this island in The English Channel

Crepes from St. Barbe of Saint Malo

Crepes from Biniou, Saint Malo, Brittany, France

Menu from Biniou


Grand Rue of Saint Malo


Bakery of Saint Malo on Grand Rue

The Port of Saint Malo

The Port of Saint Malo


Saint Christopher in the Wall of Saint Malo


Charming town of Saint Malo


Bookstore of Saint Malo.

The Oldest Bookstore in Saint Malo

The Blessed Mother over the doorway of the oldest bookstore in Saint Malo



Intra Muros cobblestone streets of St. Malo


Hard Cider, the speciality of St. Malo


Saint Malo’s Crockery


Creperie le Saint Barbe, Saint Malo, France


Creperie le Saint Barbe, Saint Malo


Crepes of Saint Malo


Crepe Complete: Cheese, Eggs and Ham


Dessert crepes at Creperie St. Barbe

Dessert crepes at Creperie St. Barbe







Place Chateaubriand, Saint Malo

Shores of St. Malo

Shores of St. Malo, Brittany, France on the English Channel






Train Station of Saint Malo, France Photo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

Train Station of Saint Malo, France 

The fortress of Saint Malo

Ramparts of the fortress of Saint Malo, France


The beaches of St. Malo

The beaches of St. Malo: The English Channel

The Train of Saint Malo

The Train of Saint Malo

Over the Main Portal of St. Malo

Over the Main Portal of St. Malo

The Cathedral of St. Vincent

The Cathedral of St. Vincent

Walking the Ramparts on the Wall of Saint Malo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

Walking the Ramparts on the Wall of St. Malo

A feisty pirate lass from Saint Malo.

On The Wall, St. Malo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

On The Wall, St. Malo 

The Shores of Saint Malo, France by Cynthia Dite Sirni

The Shore of Saint Malo…look how clear that water is!! Did you know the English Channel could look like this? Me neither!

Sweeping Ballad to The Portes des Liones: How to Get into The Louvre Without Waiting in Line

My view from inside the Louvre....

My view from inside the Louvre….

I just deplaned from many miles,

In search of Mona Lisa’s smile,

I do not want to wait all day,

Just see the gal and be on my way.

-Yep.  I wrote it myself.


It’s true.  The Louvre has some spectacular pieces of art.  It’s a bit overwhelming.  I read somewhere that if you look at each piece for a total of one minute it would take you like thirty seven years to see everything.  Uh, I’m as cultured as the next buffoon, but I really just want to see The Big Three; Venus di Milo, Winged Victory and oh by the way, DaVinci’s gal, The Mona Lisa.  Does that make me less of an urbanite?  No, but I only have said amount of time here and in an effort to say, “check” I have to make the best use of my time.  Besides, you’ll see literally thousands of pieces of art as you look for these. If you follow my directions, you’ll almost feel sorry for the poor slobs standing for miles when you view them from the window inside.  Almost.  I just felt gleefully condescending looking down on the peons who didn’t know any better. (Don’t judge me, you’ll feel the same way.)


Venus di Milo

Venus di Milo

The Louvre is totally, completing and thoroughly intimidating.  (Are you waiting to for me to say, in a good way, ’cause honey, it ain’t happening.)  I want to make this as painless as possible.  It’s hard to ask for help because everyone speaks French and if you decide to dress up and look Parisian it will backfire because guess what, they will answer you in French.  There’s something to be said for dressing like a hapless tourist to get the locals to speak English to you.  You can understand them perfectly through the disdain.


OK.  So the Portes des Liones.  The Louvre is like a giant U shaped castle.  Walking along the side of the Seine, continue past the main doors and the arches and the statues.  Ignore your complaining husband, yes, you know what you’re doing.  Even though NO ONE is standing there, go in the doorway between the giant green lions.  Head to the right and prepare to be scolded by a French woman.  She’s not telling you to get out, she’s telling you that your bag must go through the X-ray machine.  Act perfectly cool as you present your museum pass. Go up the stairs to the first floor.  (You were just on the ground floor.)  The Mona Lisa is on the First Floor, Denon Wing, Room 6.  You can’t miss her because they have signs like this everywhere. IMG_1728   Even if somehow you don’t see the signs, follow the noise. Head straight down the hall and on the left side of the gallery you’ll see the paparazzi. There’s really no better way to describe it.


IMG_1725 Shrouded behind a wall of glass she grants photographs, but no interviews.  Prepare to have your breath taken from you.  You’ve seen her so many times before, on television and in books and movies, but there’s no preparation for when you meet her in person.  Bring a tissue.IMG_1723

The Ugly Shoe Manifesto

That’s right, an Ugly Shoe Manifesto.  Unfortunately, Karl Marx cornered the market on the “M” word and people don’t always want to use it in every day vernacular.  After all, who wants to be on a watch list?  🙂  A Manifesto is defined simply as, “a public declaration of intentions.”  The plural of manifesto is “manifestoes.”  What better term to use when talking about ugly shoes?  Get it, Manifes-TOES…. 🙂

Did you know that in my real life I’m an English teacher?  It’s true.  So I can appreciate the poetry that’s involved in fashion.  Yes, poetry.  Shoes in and of themselves contain plenty of it.  Shoes can personify the wearer, preppy, biker, hippie, etc.  They can also convey opposite meaning.  Irony.  Unexpected.  Like, what in fact makes a shoe ugly?  Usually the very components that make it a man repelling choice of footwear are precisely the reasons why women want to wear them.  They’re comfortable and we feel good all day.  Why is that ugly?  Is it ironic, or smart?

Suddenly “ugly” is beautiful.  There’s a sense of irony in a big bulky strapped on shoe with a delicate summery dress.  Beautifully tailored cigarette pants with a big old pair of clod hoppers is chic.  It’s a hyperbole in that it’s an obvious and intentional exaggeration.  Not just big sandals, Big.  Clunky.  Sandals.  Don’t believe me?  Look here, and here, and here.

There is much debate, ironically over who started the resurgence in the popularity of the Ugly Shoe Movement.  J. Crew offered hideous pieces that flew off the shelves.  The houses of Celine, Michael Kors, Chloe and Prada to name just a few have embraced not only the ugly shoe, but it’s near blood relative, the sock.  So while really no one can truly take credit, we can all benefit.

Ugly shoes suddenly are oxymorons…two seemingly unlike things that are paired together.  (Jumbo Shrimp, Deafening Silence, Tevas and lace.)  They become a metaphor of the women who will wear them.  Reliable, making an impression, resilient.

It’s unexpected and refreshing.  Instead of teetering around in those beautiful strappy sandals that make my toe bed bleed, I can wear big dogs…and my own aren’t barking at the end of the day.

Personally, the clean line of a simple, yet large sandal appeals to me.  It’s visually interesting against any type of clothing you may choose to wear.  Hopefully this becomes a trend that will last into the fall.  Have you seen some of the big chunky heeled brogues and oxfords that the men get to wear?  Love.  Them.

Tips for American Tourists

Planning a vacation can be part of the fun.  While there is a fine balance between having no plan at all and having every minute of the day assigned with an activity, it’s important to be informed before you leave on your trip.

Leaving the United States is a big deal.  Whether you know it or not, there certain unalienable rights that we as American citizens enjoy.  When you leave American soil, you’re at their house.  While it’s important to know their local customs, it’s also important to protect yourself.

Traveling with a passport means your activity can be logged.  When you register and check into a European hotel, they will ask for your passport.  Don’t panic, as this is customary.  They will make copies of it and keep it on file during your trip.  You are a foreigner.  It’s worth your while to find the American embassy in whatever city you are in and let them know you are there.

Follow the directions in your passport.  They put them there for a reason.  What are they, you ask?  Well, make two copies of your passport.  Leave one at home with somebody you trust.  Bring the second copy with you and DO NOT KEEP IT WITH THE ORIGINAL.  If, God forbid, your passport is stolen, you have some proof to bring with you to said embassy.  Also, if you are traveling with others, don’t keep all of the passports on one person.  Split them up.

I’ve said before, and it’s worth restating.  I love the United States.  I am so proud to be an American.  Yet, out there my little grasshoppers, are people that do not like us.  Unfair.  Illogical.  Whatevs.  They do.  These are some tips to keep you from sticking out and making yourself an easy target.

  • Do not fiddle with your map in the middle of the street.  Even in a town heavily visited by tourists, you don’t need to advertise that you’re entirely lost.  Take ten minutes and sit down somewhere, or better yet, map yourself out at the hotel.  If you look like a wounded antelope, well….
  • Respect the local dress code.  I know you like to wear what you like to wear.  Get over it.  Take the time to learn the customs.  Europeans do not take shoes off when they enter someone’s home.  They’ll think you’re rude for pulling those smelly shoes off your barking dogs.  I know we think we’re being polite by not tracking in dirt, but they perceive it as too familiar.  Did you know that pants were illegal in France for women until….like last Thursday?  I’m kidding.  No, I’m not.
  • Do not, under any circumstances wear a mesh fanny pack.  The circling thieves won’t be able to get near you because I’ll be in the way slapping you upside the head.  There are so many options that are classic and practical.  Do yourself a favor and find one.
  • Contact your credit card companies and let them know you’ll be traveling.  They will red flag your card if you suddenly start showing purchases on the other side of the globe.
  • Don’t go into a trance at the ATM machines.  Seriously.  People do this.  Be aware of your surroundings.

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Santoro Family Easter Bread

Nonna's Easter Bread Recipe
Nonna's Easter Bread Recipe

Nonna’s Easter Bread Recipe


As we journey further into our 40 days in the desert of Lent, Holy Week brings with it the final journey of Jesus, from his entrance into Jerusalem to the glory of Easter morning and the empty tomb.  Holidays (Holy Days) and food have always been interwoven into family traditions, and for Italians, Easter is no exception.

I love the symbolism of Easter bread, taking the dough and shrouding it in cloths and squirreling it away into a warm, safe place, much like a tomb. It takes time, but it will rise….

People used to give up eggs, milk, sugar for the entire duration of Lent, (that’s why you’ll see all those Pancake suppers and Mardi Gras parties.)  Creating an Easter bread is a celebratory food that uses all of those ingredients.

This recipe was handed down to me from my maternal grandmother, Amelia Santoro Testani.  I learned how to make it from my own mom, Norma.  I’ve taught it to my daughters, and now I’m sharing it with you.


  • 12 eggs (one for each disciple)
  • 1 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 7/8 cup of sugar
  • 2 oranges grated with the rind and juice squeezed from them
  • 2 packages of dry yeast
  • 1 bottle of anise (or 1/2 cup of Sambuca)
  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 Tbs. of salt
  • About 5 pounds of flour, added little by little

The Night Before:

Dissolve the yeast in one cup of warm milk, (not TOO hot.)  Combine all the ingredients except for the flour in a large mixing bowl.  (You can use a Kitchen-Aid mixer, but you’ll have to transfer it out into a LARGE bowl so it can rise.)  Blend all the ingredients and begin to add the flour little by little.  It will be like the consistency of regular bread dough.  Be sure it’s in a very large bowl as it rises a lot.  Sprinkle the top of it with a bit of flour so the cloths don’t stick to it.  Wrap it with dish towels or a tablecloth, whatever you have.  Keep it in a warm room overnight.

In the morning:

Punch down the dough and let it rise again for another three hours.  Keep it covered.  Using four pie pans or tins, grease and flour them well.  Divide the dough into fourths.  Using more flour on a smooth surface, knead each loaf for about five minutes, adding flour as needed to keep it from sticking together.  Transfer each loaf into a pan.  Cover all of them again with the cloths and let them sit for 2-3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush each loaf with an egg wash mixture of egg and sugar.  Bake at 350 for ten minutes.  Lower the heat to 300 and bake another 30-40 minutes until golden brown and the knife comes clean when you test it.

Some families like to add a sweet frosting and colored sprinkles.  To make the frosting, mix a cup of confectionary sugar with a tablespoon at a time of milk.  It takes VERY LITTLE milk to create a smooth frosting so don’t start with a lot.  Drizzle the frosting over the bread after it’s cooled and sprinkle the colored sprinkles.

Buona Pasqua!  Happy Easter!


Sicily in Somerville, New Jersey….Really.


After a long day of traveling, my husband knows me well enough that I need a bowl of macaroni to set me right again.  In Somerville, New Jersey, in the dead of winter, we stumbled upon Da Filippo’s Restaurant.  Located at 132 East Main Street, it’s “autentica cucina.” Right from the moment we pulled up to the cozy burgundy awning adorned with tiny white lights, it felt like coming home.  We were greeted immediately at the door by Filippo’s beautiful Swiss wife, Berti.  She shook hands and introduced herself as she took our coats, chatting amiably like an old friend.   It was early on a snowy Monday night so it was quiet, but  the fireplace was inviting.  There was a man in the back polishing each glass to match the twinkle in his eye.  He made menu suggestions and smiled broadly, like a favorite uncle.  It was only after Berti suggested something “per cominciare” that we discovered he was Filippo Russo himself.Pennette con Piselli

She suggested “La Rustichella”:  a flat bread panino with mortadella, arugula, provolone cheese, tomatoes and onions grilled to perfection.  This dish alone is worth the trip to Somerville, and we were just getting started.  I ordered the “antipasto caldo” (hot antipasto.)  Again, arugula was featured, making it one of those magical foods that can go with anything.  This Frittelle di Rughetta was arugula dipped in a batter and fried with anchovies and garlic melted into a parmigiano reggiano cream sauce.   So different.  So delicious.

There is something at once complex and simple in good Italian cooking that makes it so wonderful.  Simple ingredients and a creative mind can work wonders in the kitchen.  There really is nothing like a good dish of pasta.  I was not disappointed in the pennette with peas in a meat ragu.   It’s comfort food at its finest.

I look forward to returning to Da Filippo’s to see the Russo family once again.  They were as charming and delightful as their restaurant, from the front lobby with portraits of their four beautiful grandchildren to the photographs of Filippo’s hometown of Carini, Sicily hanging on the wall.  It’s a night well spent, trust me.  I hope to return again soon!

SoBe: So. Be. South Beach

South Beach, Miami
by Cynthia Dite Sirni
by Cynthia Dite Sirni

by Cynthia Dite Sirni

So.  Be.  What a great maxim for living each day.


Being in South Beach for New Year’s Eve, I was able to see all walks of life come together on the shores and it got me to thinking….

  • So. Be content.  Someone will have more than you, someone will have less than you.  If you have enough, then, you have enough.
  • So.  Be prayerful. Sunrise is the first poem of the day.  Offer a prayer and go from there.  See what happens.
  • So. Be excellent.  Whether you’re unloading the dishwasher or performing heart surgery, do your best.
  • So. Be demonstrative.  Kiss your loved ones, cry if you’re happy, (or sad.)  Hold hands.  Link arms.  We’re stronger together.
  • So.  Be joyful.  Joyful is different than happy.  Joyful is a state of being, happy is a feeling.  We can have joy in all circumstances.


How to Plan a Trip to Italy: Part One

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Siena: Neighborhood flag guarding its territory

Siena: Neighborhood flag guarding its territory

Congratulations!  A trip to Italy is a wonderful and memorable time.  It’s something you’ll never forget and it will forever change you even after you return.  That sounds like a tall order, but it’s absolutely true.  You won’t know until you go.

Planning is an essential part of Your Tour of Italy.  While you can sign up with one of the many tours that are offered, the internet makes it so easy to design your own trip and go on your own.  You may find that there are places and things you would like to see that an organized tour just doesn’t offer.

There are lots of things to consider.

  • Are you traveling with children?
  • Are you going for a specific holiday?
  • What landmarks and cities do you most want to see?
  • How long do you plan to stay?
  • How much money do you have to spend?

When you think of Italy, what’s the first thing that pops into your head?  That’s what you should see.  For some people, it may be “The David” in Florence, or Lake Como at the base of the Alps.  Some people are going to find  their long lost relatives and retrace their own family history.  Some people want to eat and drink their way through the landscape.  Others plan to see museums.  Some people just want to travel to one city and “get the feel of it.”  All of these are honorable and excellent choices.

Be warned.  It can be  overwhelming and very confusing planning a trip to a place you’ve never been.  Once you tell people you’re going, they immediately offer their advice.  You’ll feel your brain spinning with so much unsolicited information. Stay focused!

Greve in Chianti

Greve in Chianti

There is a reason that Rome is called The Eternal City.  My dear cousin, Laura, spoke volumes about it when she stated that, “I have lived here all of my life, and still, there are things I have not seen.”

Keep that in mind when you begin to plan.  I’m sorry.  You can’t see everything.  However, you can prioritize and plan.  No matter what you do, from seeing famous works of art to standing in line for a gelato,  YOU ARE IN ITALY.


Here’s a very preliminary step by step to get you started.  Consider this the first of many ways to spend winter evenings as you conspire with your traveling companions.

  1. Put on some classic Italian music and open a bottle of wine.  (Why not start enjoying Italy now?)
  2. Make a list of all the things you want to see.  No cities, no itinerary, just name what’s important to you.
  3. Get out a map of Italy.  Use one that you can write on. (Barnes and Noble has them.)
  4. Mark off where those landmarks are located.
  5. Get a travel journal.  Begin to write down facts, times, and dates.
  6. Look at the map and decide which cities you want to see the most.  (I won’t even tell you what you SHOULD see, only you can answer that.)
  7. Draw lines from the cities that you’ve chosen to see if there are reasonable modes of transportation to get from one to the other.  The Italian train system is vast and efficient, so don’t be afraid.
  8. Use the internet.  Travel websites, blogs, on line magazines and newspapers offer a plethora of information.
  9. Use your basic skeletal map to flesh out where you will actually go.  For example, if you have decided you want to see the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi, begin to  research Assisi.  Trip Advisor offers a lot of honest and solid information.
  10. You may find that your trip will change.  Logistics, distance, time and money are all factors that can’t be ignored.  (Mi dispiace.)

    The Cat Sanctuary, Rome

    The Cat Sanctuary, Rome

If you’ve noticed, there IS a lot of planning and research.  This is really not a chore.  It’s exciting to sit and plan your trip.  The more information you have, the better decisions you can make.  Going to Italy the first time is not a trip that you just hop onto a flight and hope for the best.  You want to be informed and aware.  You’re entering another culture and you’re leaving American soil.  It pays to plan.

So now, go get that map and notebook and start thinking about What Italy Means to You.




Against the Black Backdrop

Stand out.

Stand out.

….at what point do you realize that maybe, just maybe, black isn’t always the right choice?

There.  I said it.

It’s true though.  Some times, the black isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be on every woman.  Some of us have a more delicate complexion, or our hair color competes, or it clashes with our coats.  I think we all reach for black because it’s slimming, it’s easy and it’s every where.  When I see choices in colors, say in sweaters or boots, I always choose the black.

It got me to thinking though, what if I DIDN’T get the black one?  It all started with this red bag.  I was so excited to find a high end designer bag on sale for such a ridiculous price that I cajoled myself into buying it solely on the fact that it would be snatched up the minute I put it down.  (After all, I could always return it if I was in fact, in a state of frenzy that I would recover from later that day.)

However; it never happened!  I brought the bag home, and suddenly, boom, it matched and popped and sparkled against my other clothing.  That little bit of red made such a difference.  I could continue to wear my basic neutrals, but somehow, they seemed less….neutral.