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Vicarious Vacations #2: Ronda, Spain

Happy Friday! Ready for our next fabulous trip? I am! Today we are headed to Ronda, an ancient city in the Spanish province of Málaga. Map here. Spending time with you in Tuscany last week was simply amazing but we have much to look forward to today.  Strolling through this historic town, we are sure to encounter breathtaking views, sip Spanish wines and munch on traditional delights. A dash of culture and a little history are on the agenda too. We have to be well-rounded travelers right? Okay, enough chit chat...let's go!

Image via flexijourney.com

Let me introduce you to Ronda. No, it's not the girl from accounting but rather an incredible city dating back to Neo-lithic times. Yes, I'm talking cave paintings and they have real ones here seen in the Cueva de la Pileta. From the Celts, to the Romans and the Moors, this city has a long standing in the history books.  Perched 750 meters above sea level, overlooking the El Tajo canyon it offers majestic views of the surrounding valley.

Now that you have been formally introduced, let's check into our hotel...

I searched and searched to find us the perfect haven. Just outside of town I found this jewel - Hotel la Fuente de la Higuera! Expensive? Of course, but if you are going to vicariously travel you have to go BIG!  Isn't it gorgeous?

Listen to the beautiful sounds of the Spanish countryside...(this is an actual recording from this area in Spain)

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/33196__dobroide__20070325-windy-forest-stereo-021.mp3]

We must come back here to watch the sun set over the valley and delight in a large glass of wine...

The grounds are simply divine...let's go inside and check out our room!

Oh my...

Images via hotellafuente.com

I hope this will do! Now, come on let's head back into town and explore. I'm getting hungry, as usual.

To cross into Ronda we will traverse one of its three impressive bridges.

Images: 1. 2. 3.

Let's go exploring...

Listen to the sounds of the city...

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/69960__dobroide__20090325-walking-00.mp3]

Images: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Oooh...look at this beautiful, hand painted pottery! All the gorgeous colors of Spain...might have to get some of these. Shop for them here.

Speaking of dishes...I'm getting a tad peckish... and I just happen to know that Don Miguel is the place to eat!

Images via DonMiguel

Perched along the cliff side this dramatic hotel and restaurant are famous for the fantastic views and traditional cuisine. Let's try some local dishes! Are you game?

Let's start with gazpacho. Mmm...a lovely cold tomato soup that got its start right here in Southern Spain. Recipe here.

We simply must have the Paella! It's quite famous here! A sumptuous mix of seafood, spiced sausage and meats, fresh herbs and rice, get ready to seriously eat your fill!  Recipe.Let's wash it all down with a fine bottle of Spanish wine. In Ronda, wine is a serious business with a 6000 year old history. They even have a Museum of Wine! This is my kind of place.

What's that? Your sweet tooth is complaining...no worries, let's feast on some Churros con Chocolate!

Translation: Fried dough dipped in warm, rich, chocolate...sigh...drool. Recipe.

Images 1. 2. 3.

What's next? Oh right...we have to get our culture/history fix.

Did you know that modern bullfighting originated here? Ronda's bullring is the oldest and most ornate in the country. In the 18th century bullfighters went from horseback to the pedestrian matador that we think of today. Ronda's own famous fighter was Pedro Romero, who apparently slayed many thousands of bulls without injury. You may think that this bullring sees regular use but today, the sport is more of an annual event. I'm sure the bulls appreciate this.

Every girl likes a spa but how about an ancient bath house? Sound intriguing? Let's take a little walk and head below the city to the Arab Baths dating back to the 11th century.

Images 1. 2. 3.

These bath ruins are some of the best preserved in Europe. Amazing aren't they? It's no coincidence that the baths are at the entrance to the city, since Ronda was the gateway to a large Muslim population who believed that one must purify themselves upon entering.  It's fascinating to understand what it took to heat the waters. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to anything anthropological, so if you are curious and want to learn more watch this video.

Okay all that eating, drinking and learning has made me rather tired. Let's head back to the hotel and nap, poolside.

Ahhh...that was a lovely trip wasn't it? I so enjoyed learning about this incredible town. So full of history!

What did you like on our trip? Have you ever actually been to Spain?

Thank you for joining me. Next week we will be headed to beautiful Greece! Don't miss it!

xo,

p.s. If you are wondering why I didn't take us to the big cities of Spain or Italy, it is because I am trying to focus on the more hidden spots...the not so obvious destinations. I feel like it gives us more of a sense of discovery...finding secret places to explore. Make sense?

Audio via freesound.org

http://www.flickr.com/photos/deftgurl/4603347839/#

Vicarious Vacation # 1 : Casole d'Elsa

Happy Friday and welcome to our Vicarious Vacation. Today, I'm going to whisk us off to the quaint, little town of Casole d'Elsa in the hills of Tuscany. Strolling down the ancient cobblestone alleyways, decadent wine tastings, a visit to the Siena marketplace, a brush with history and of course a large helping of the local food are all on the agenda. Sound good? Okay, come on!

Image via casalecapita

Let me tell you a little bit about this beautiful town. Casole D'Elsa is located in the Tuscany region in the province of Siena. Conveniently located between Florence and Siena, it provides a peaceful respite from the bigger, touristy cities. See map here. Pedestrian friendly streets, intimate cafes and a few notable historic attractions should keep us busy but not overwhelmed. Leaving plenty of time to soak in the Italian sun, sip Chianti and gobble up the local delicacies. Now where are we staying, you ask? Well...

I hope you don't mind but I booked us into a rather fancy hotel just outside of town. I think we deserve it, don't you? Welcome to the Relais La Suvera. Steeped in history this medieval fort turned sumptuous Mediterranean villa is our place of relaxation and refuge after all that sightseeing. Sigh...isn't it simply dreamy!?

Ready to see your room? Images via Relais La Suvera

Fit for a princess right? Okay, freshen up and let's go exploring. I know you are tired from the trip but it's nothing a glass of Chianti can't fix! Besides, we have massages scheduled later at the spa. Yes, even medieval fortresses in Italy have spas!

Let's go for a walk...

Press play to listen.

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/italian-walk.mp3]

Images 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Am I Hungry? Of course I am! This place looks charming...let's stop here - Osteria del Caffè Casolani- and have some treats.

Here's what I'm thinking...wine, cheese & cured meats. The local cheese -Pecorino di Pienza and fresh cold cuts such as salumi di cinta senese, will make the perfect blend of tastes and textures. Creamy and nutty in flavor, the Pecorino is a perfect pairing with the saltiness of the meat and sweetness of the wine.  The celebrated local wine is aptly named Erta, meaning steep slope, indicative of the agricultural landscape of the region. A completely organic wine, it is a lovely blend of 95% Sangiovese grapes and 5% Merlot. Subtle herbal notes and deep cherry overtones will delight your palette! Want more...why don't we try the testaroli? It's a crepe like pasta usually combined with pesto. Yummy! This place is famous for it!

Images 1. 2.

Now to walk off all that scrumptuous food...

Ooh...before we go...is that a little bakery I see?

We had better stop in and grab some dessert! This region is known for its pastries and traditional sweets. One of the oldest treats around is the famous Panforte margherita!  This "spiced bread" is a magical combination of dough, almonds, candied fruit, cinnamon, all spice and a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar. Isn't it beautiful?

Images 1. 2.

On to some history...

This is the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which dates back 1161! The original Roman bell tower still remains with the upper half of the building being constructed in the 14th century. Inside are the sacred tombs of Beltramo Aringhieri, by Marco Romano, and of bishop Tommaso Andrei, by Gano di Fazio.

Directly next to the church lies the Museum of Sacred Arts. A beautiful collection of religious art can be enjoyed here, including the works of Alessandro Casolani and sculptor, Marco Romano.

Got your culture fill? Let's go to the Siena Markets!

Press play to listen to the bustling market square...

[audio http://graceandivy.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/31429_fonogeno_mercato_di_montevarchi2.mp3]

How gorgeous is that fruit?

Images 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Don't you love all the amazing colors and textures?

I don't know about you but the hotel spa is calling my name...let's head back and end our trip on a relaxing note.

You go on and get your massage. I'm heading down to the hot pool for a nice soak...so lovely...

Images via Relais La Suvera Spa

I hope you enjoyed your day in the Tuscan countryside. Loved vicariously traveling with you! I learned a lot and loved seeing this little corner of the world. The village of Casole d'Elsa was enchanting, the food delectable and the Siena markets were utterly inspiring.

Join me again next Friday, when we head to Spain!

Have a beautiful weekend!

xo,

audio files via freesound.org

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Jake

Today, my family lost Jake to cancer. He was 9 years old. I was there the day we picked him out of his litter. A dirty, stinky, lovable, big pawed pup. So full of life. We took him home and gave him a bubble bath. That day he captured our hearts.

A little prayer for our dear friend...

Jake, I pray that you will always gaze upon the Montana mountains...

I pray that you will roll in every patch of heavenly snow and jump into every shimmering puddle, stream and river...you always loved the water.

I pray that you will come back and visit your horse buddy, Corky.

Most of all, I pray that you know you were adored, loved and cherished.

Silly, goofy, sweet, playful, trusting, loyal - Jake you will be sorely missed. I love you. Goodbye...

To my parents, who had to be the ones to put him down today, I'm so sorry I couldn't be there with you.

To anyone who has lost a special animal...I send you my love and my sorrow.

xo,

A stroll in the rose garden...

Forgive my absence. With family in town and other random summer craziness, I have been truly neglecting my blog. Okay, so today, I have some images for you from the beautiful Portland Oregon Rose Garden. My mom, dad, Grace and I visited here last week. It was lovely to stroll through the endless flowers, deeply inhaling the sweet perfume of thousands of the city's prize blossoms...

Grace kept insisting that flower fairies must live here. As she delicately smelled the roses, she would call out to them in a soft whisper. It was too cute. Alas, much to her disappointment (and mine)... none were sighted.

Of course, I had to play around with some of my shots and add some fabulous textures. Such fun...

Have a fantastic Monday, or at least do your best.

xo,

p.s. On a side note, I have a bit of fun news...a little organic massage spa in Vienna contacted me with interest in selling our products in her lovely storefront. I'm a tad excited to say the least. I hope to be sending her samples soon, so I will keep you posted. I would love to just hop on a plane and deliver them myself! I wish...

The Magic Beach Cottage

We spent the weekend in the quiet beach town of Manzanita.  Friday afternoon, the winds were relatively calm, so we took advantage of this rare occurrence and hit the sand. Later we explored the town...

Our little cottage was just off the main drag, so it was perfect for strolling. We enjoyed a fantastic bistro lunch at Bread and Ocean. Decadent grilled paninis and white wine. Lovely.

Being a book nerd, I had to check out the Cloud and Leaf bookstore. It was so charming! Intimate and whimsical with fairy lights strung about and books stacked floor to ceiling, I was instantly in love.

Manzanita is a wonderful Oregon beach town but the highlight - the real gem of our weekend, was the amazing cottage we were lucky enough to stay in.

Welcome to the Magic Beach Cottage...(that's what Grace calls it).

Grace was enamored with the daisies, her favorite flower.

The old garage has been converted into a vintage inspired, rustic dining room. The perfect place to celebrate.

The fire pit was another added bonus. This chair was my home most of the evenings. Wine in one hand, smore in the other - I was one happy girl. Even the barbies joined us. haha!

Reluctantly, we packed our bags on Sunday, said goodbye to the magical cottage and made our way back home.

Grace sat on this bench outside the back door, not wanting to leave. She keeps asking when we are going back.

I wish I knew...

xo,

P.S. Thank you to Candace for sharing your special home away from home.

Escape to the beach

Yesterday it hit 100 degrees in Portland! Lucky for us, we decided a day at the shore was exactly the remedy for the record heat.

We headed out, kids loaded up, DVD player on and large coffees in hand.

We explored the quaint beach side town, while we waited for the sun to make its appearance.

As the day warmed, we headed to the beach.

It was very typical Oregon coast weather - the clouds fighting with the sun for the sky. The clouds won but we didn't mind. The sand was warm, the wind was gentle and the kids were instantly having a blast.

Sand castles were built, feet were buried and clothes were soaking wet.  Amidst the tearful episodes from sand in the eyes, it was a successful beach day. Katie and I even got momentary glimpses at some magazines!

After ice cream, we loaded up some very sleepy kiddos and made our way back to the blistering heat of Pdx.

It was a pleasantly exhausting day and a relief to feel the cool ocean air on our faces. Now, I've got to get back to cleaning out all the sand from my purse.

Have a fantastic weekend.

xo,

Ivy

P.S Thank you, Katie for a great day! xo

Love your desk

My desk has been bothering me. It was full of lovely things but it felt messy and unorganized...sound familiar?

Something had to be done.

While Grace painted outside, I cleared off the entire surface and started over.

I knew the vintage chalk board that I found antiquing needed to hold court as my inspiration board, so that went up first. With a little time and lots of moving objects around, it slowly fell into place.

I'm especially fond of my sting of inspirational images...thanks to Artful Blogging and Boho magazine.

Tomorrow I have to clean off the blackboard...it has far too much math on it for my taste. I just noticed this in the pictures.

I think some lovely poetry would do nicely.

How's your desk looking? Does it need some love?

xo,

Ivy

Vintage treasures...

I wanted to share the treasures I discovered while happily roaming through Sellwood's antique stores. Yes, they are all sparkly...are you surprised?

Not sure what I will do with them yet but I sure had fun taking these pictures.

Don't you love those 1920's shoe clips? So pretty.

xo,

Ivy

Waiting for hydrangeas

Now that the rain appears to have stopped, I am anxiously awaiting my hydrangea to bloom. I have been praying for purple flowers and yesterday my prayers were answered - a neighbor confirmed that our hydrangea arrives in a deep purple! I'm so excited! I plan to take many photos of them and have them constantly in fresh arrangements around the house.

In the meantime, I collected some lovely images from Flickr to tide me over.

Enjoy.

xo,

Ivy

Images via Flickr 1. Hydrangea(アジサイ), 2. The Famous Hydrangeas, 3. Purple Hydrangeas, 4. Flower Shop

White lilacs, black table

Our little breakfast nook is coming together. The new table and chairs we ordered look lovely and a crystal pitcher filled with white lilacs makes me smile each time I pass by. Still need a rug...but one thing at a time right? At least we have somewhere to sit now...

Put a fresh bouquet of flowers on your table. It is sure to brighten your day.

xo,

Ivy

Peonies & Peas

Yesterday the rain poured down one minute, only to be replaced by the glorious sun the next. It's the nature of Spring in Oregon and we love it. Unpredictable but beautiful. Silver light and gold. With a bouquet of gorgeous peonies on my table and a handful of fresh spring peas I figured it was the perfect afternoon for a little team work with Grace. She was so excited to pop open each pod to reveal the tiny green peas. While she delighted in this task, I took pictures. I really loved the green of the peas with the pink of the peonies.

At the end of this lovely afternoon, I cooked up a fresh Spring inspired meal from Rachel Ray's cookbook. Check out the recipe here. It was delicious!

Happiness all round.

xo,

Ivy

A forest beckons...

After three days of being sick with a tummy bug, Grace finally seemed to be feeling better, so I decided some fresh air was in order. We spread out blankets on the lawn, painted our toes, watched the birds and enjoyed the warmth of the sun. Our new home backs to a lovely little forest. It enticed us off our quilt and into its lush green wonderland... A small bridge crosses over a trickling creek. Grace wanted to go across but with freshly painted toes I could hardly throw on my boots! I promised her on another day we would explore further...

Grace felt it necessary to run back into the house get a crayon and paper and draw a "map"  of the "fairy forest" so we wouldn't get lost. Precious.

After our brief stroll through the forest I was drawn to some of the flowers in our yard...

A lovely afternoon with my little girl, surrounded by the beauty of nature - loved it.

Get out and take a walk through a forest near you. The child in you will thank you.

xo,

Ivy

Strings of Light

We went on sunset cruise while we were in Maui and I became totally obsessed taking pictures as night fell and the sun slipped beneath the waves. I especially liked the string of lights that twinkled gold against the deep blues of the sky. Thought I'd share... Have a lovely Wednesday.

xo,

Ivy

Oh Maui...how I love thee.

On April 26th, we set off on a long overdue honeymoon to Maui. It would be a six-day, five night trip that would leave us wanting more pineapple, sea air and warm breezes. In short, it was unforgettable, romantic and blissful.

I, as usual, had my handy-dandy camera linked to my wrist at all times and took far too many pictures. I won't try to share them all with you in one post...but rather draw it out into a long series of Hawaiian tales...(bear with me)

Chapter One: Arrive in Paradise

After a quick, smooth and easy  five-hour direct flight from Portland on Hawaiian airlines, I couldn't believe we were already approached Maui.  The gorgeous colors from the plane were dazzling...sapphire blue, emerald green and turquoise. I couldn't wait to land!

I surprised Chris with a lei arrival. Nice touch eh? They smelled amazing.

After retrieving our luggage, we headed over to Alamo, where we picked up our very cute ride - a white soft top Jeep! It was a fun car to have on the island, although I must say, I've had shopping carts with a smoother ride! It was bit bumpy to say the least! Next time we are getting the convertible Mustang for sure.

I promised myself I would have a tropical drink an hour after landing and voila...I did. (It was more like two hours after landing but who's counting?) These Mai Tai's were amazing. We sat there, at our resort, sipping these babies and counting our lucky stars that we were actually in Maui. It took a while to sink in.

Our first meal in Maui was mahi mahi fish tacos...so DELICIOUS! I ate so much mahi mahi it was just plain ridiculous. Between that and the ahi tuna I'm surprised I didn't grow some gills. So fresh! I got all my Omega 3's for sure!

After getting our fill, we retired to our beautiful condo for a little rest before dinner.

As usual, we got our condo through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner). We absolutely loved the place we stayed. The owner, Chris was so helpful and welcoming, plus we got all the luxuries of the Honua Kai resort without all the $$$. The resort is in a great location with easy proximity to Lahaina, with all the night life and shopping plus access to some beautiful beaches. For our first trip it was perfect. We didn't bring Grace on this vacation but after seeing how family friendly Maui is we will be definitely taking her along on the next trip.

We concluded our first night at the Lahaina Grill. It was seriously the best seafood I've had in a very long time. I had seared ahi tuna, of course, and it was sublime. The service, ambiance, food and wine were all first class. It was a spendy meal but so worth it. It's a special place that should not be missed!

A Maui sunset set the sky ablaze. A beautiful sight to end a beautiful day. Couldn't wait to wake up and greet the ocean the next morning.

Stay tuned for Chapter 2...

xo,

Ivy

Maui here we come...

Today we leave for Maui on a long overdue honeymoon...like 7 years overdue.

Grace is staying home with her Nana, so she will be having tons of fun and getting royally spoiled which, in effect, makes me feel less guilty for leaving her.

I hope to bring back lots of lovely photos and fun stories. Maybe some inspiration for a new product too...who knows.

The only things that I'm sure of are:

1. I will have a fruity drink with an umbrella and a straw in my hand an hour after landing.

2. I will come home rockin' a sweet tan.

3. I will sleep like a baby listening to the sounds of the waves.

4. I will try to relish each moment.

Aloha!!!

xo,

Ivy

Images via Flickr: PatrickSmithPhotography

Breakfast Nook Ideas

So, we get the keys to our new home on Thursday and I can hardly contain myself! Can't wait to get in there and start designing. My mind is a whir with ideas... In our sunny kitchen we have a lovely breakfast area. It overlooks the garden that backs to a peaceful forest.

(I'm gonna be taking pictures like a mad woman)

My goal for our breakfast nook : fresh, romantic & relaxing. The perfect place to sit, sip tea and flip through a magazine or have a casual family meal.

Anyway, I went collecting images for inspiration.

I'll be taking before and after pics to share with you all.

Have a fantastic Tuesday!

xo,

Ivy

Images via Flickr: 1. ihearthome 2. TPHCanada 3. decorology 4. coco + kelly 5. Paris Hotel Boutique 6. It's Great to be Home 7. Ashley S. Goodwin