Posts by catandbaby

#18 – Our Italian Vacation: if you could invite anyone to a wine bar, who would you invite?

cat Baby More on the title later.

Still day 2. Lesson #5: always good to stop at the local tourist office- in Alba they were very helpful and had free wi-fi. (See post #16 for more travel advice for the novice). Below are photos of Alba:


Then on to the village of Barolo, namesake of the famous wine. In June 2014, part of this region was designated a UNESCO heritage site due to the historical and cultural significance of the area- the wine making tradition foremost. According to UNESCO: “vine pollen has been found in the area dating from the 5th century BC, when Piedmont [the region] was a place of contact and trade between the Etruscans and the Celts”.

Now back to our touristing. The main thing to do in Barolo is walk around the village streets and visit an enoteca or a winery. See pics below of the village.

Barola3 Barola4   DPPa_1081    passageway2 Barola1

Walking around of course will increase your appetite, whereupon you will need to immediately seek out food to keep going. Luckily, even the most basic eatery in Italy will have an appealing array of food, even for a small bite. No need to order any fancy wines, as the house wines in Italy far exceed in quality what you would pay for a good wine back in the US. See pic below. However- not sure about the one cured meat that seemed to be a piece of lard (????)


Next we visited the Barolo wine museum, housed in the Castello Falletti, named for the family that owned the castle from the 1500s to the mid 1850s.

Now I have to tell you, this exhibit was not what I expected. I would have loved to see some old tools and implements used in wine making. But since it was billed as a cultural history of wine making, the tools (apparently previously housed in a castle exhibit) were gone.

Ok. But still.

What was left- actually newly created in 2010- was a bizarre series of mostly dark rooms with exhibits and passageways going from one floor of the castle to the next. To better explain- the highlight to me- well….see picture below.


Yes, that appears to be Adam and Eve (lifesized), with grape leaves strategically placed. No fig leafs here.

And now back to the title of this entry. Remember when someone asked you, at least one time in your life, if you could invite anyone throughout history to a dinner party, who would you invite? So this part of the exhibit seems to be a take on this idea, with figures from various religions hanging out at the wine bar- i.e. Jesus next to Ganesh–all having fun, drinking wine (with Aphrodite at the far left).


In case you wanted a close up:


So. You can walk out of here annoyed that you spent 9 (approx.) euros to see this. Or you can look at it like we did: the whole Italian economy is struggling to survive, and tourism is what keeps it afloat. So a donation towards that cause- and the lovely town of Barolo- seems to us worth it.

Also, there is a terrace you can access from the castle. Here is the view.


A link to information about Barolo wine:


#17 – Our Italian Vacation- Day 2- B & B in Alba

cat Baby Wow! What a time we had getting here last night (see previous blog entry #16). So this morning breakfast was waiting for us, whenever we were ready, in the chapel. The chapel? So it seems that landowners with substantial properties a distance from town built chapels for their own use and probably for that of their employees. The original statues were still in place, and it was a beautiful and peaceful environment to sit and relax before beginning our day. Lots of food, including meats, cheeses, croissants, chocolate cake, fruits, and of course great coffee.

Here is the outside of the chapel.


And the interior…


the food…(note: those are hazelnuts, a local product- not chickpeas).


The statues…


Artwork on the walls ranged from old family photos to pages of a graphic novel.



Sweeping views of vineyards from the outside.




Even though this B & B was a former 18th century mansion, it was oddly constructed with farm buildings connected to the main house. A second group of rooms were next to the chapel, and connected to a private house. So there is no grand entrance to the main house, and most of the rooms seemed to be off the courtyard area.


Nevertheless it was a wonderful place to stay for the time we were there! And the farm outbuildings were lovely with texture.



I can’t seem to get beyond breakfast today- but after all, we are on vacation.

Link to the B & B above:





#16 – Our Italian Vacation

cat Cat here- so Baby and I just got back from our vacation in Italy, and we can’t wait to tell you about it and show you some of our photos (which we are still organizing)! Though we had a wonderful time, we did not get off to a good start!!!! Our plane was 15 minutes late in landing, and we had to take a bus and a train and walk what seemed like a mile to the terminal for our connecting flight from Frankfurt to Milan- which we missed it. Oh well. So four hours later than planned, we landed in Milan, picked up a rental car, and were back on track to begin our vacation.

On the road now, exhausted but happy to be driving to our first destination- a bed and breakfast in Alba, in the Piedmont wine region of northern Italy- we got our first lesson for what to do better next time (well, aside from not missing our connecting flight).

Lesson #1: When you book that wonderful authentic bed and breakfast way up on a hill in a rural area with vineyards everywhere- know that the address of that little dirt road leading to the B & B may not be found by your GPS. May not? I mean you will not be able to find it by their address. So you need to get the geographic (latitude and longitude) coordinates (sometimes called GPS coordinates).

Yes, our first quaint little B & B turned out to be one of those places that our GPS couldn’t find. Now if it was daytime and we weren’t tired, it would have been ok. But it now dark, and after a few attempts to ask directions, we found a restaurant whose owners tried to help us map out how to get there (to no avail)- and who even called our B & B- (no answer).

Lesson #2: Small family run B & Bs with only a few rooms do not have a front desk, and do not have someone available 24 hours. Often it is a side business or a second business to their day job.

Lesson #3: Don’t try to get by without a phone. Just pay the extra for overseas calls, and only make them when you have to. Then at least you can call when it it convenient for you, and you do not have to rely on someone else to call, or on spotty wi-fi service.  (Note: I know you seasoned travelers know all this. But we did not).

On we went, thinking we were probably going to have to sleep in the car. But we decided to give it one more try. Now nearing 11:30 pm, we found another restaurant a few blocks off the highway. Fortunately for us the manager spoke english because we were too frazzled and tired to speak with our limited knowledge of Italian (though we had been studying it!)

“You will never find it” he said, and graciously offered for one of his employees to drive and have us follow to our location (it was near closing time).

How lucky that there are people like this in the world! Because I will tell you- we never would have found the B & B, three miles as it was up a winding hill, through open fields and vineyards, with no lights. So we finally get there and think- what do we do now? No one answered the phone 2 hours ago, and all is dark except a small light in the courtyard parking lot. Then our guide walks up to the lighted door that has a note stuck on it, next to a key in the keyhole. “Are your names Cat and Baby?” he says to us as he hands us the note which read “Benvenuto Cat and Baby”.

Lesson #4: There are generous, good-hearted people everywhere.

So began our Italian vacation.

P.S. We are giving you the name of this restaurant because they were so willing to help us. We did not get a chance to eat there, but it looked like a very fine gourmet experience, and how could you go wrong with good food and good people?

La Mucca Pazza Brasserie. Address: Canale, 28 in Alba, Italy Tel./Fax 0173.441977 Cell.334.7087200.  (Note- they also have a restaurant in Cuneo).

Here is a link to their website:

mucca cow










#15 – George W, Ben or Me?

AlligatorAvatar2 HEY EVERYBODY!!!!! Alligator here again! I am sure you have all been waiting for the results from post #11, the hat competition between Ben and me- well guess what?  I WON!!!!!!!!! Thanks to all of you who voted!

Now we have here another hat competition and guess who has agreed to participate– George W!!!! I am so excited about this! See below George W, Ben and me in a classic newspaper hat! So can we do another round of voting to decide WHO HAT BETTER? Please vote below! Oh- and I’ve included  one of my favorite George W moments for you to enjoy! Thanks in advance for participating!



newspaper hat by Kate Ter Haar, under Creative Commons license, background removed.


#11 – Ben (Franklin) or Me

AlligatorAvatar2 HEY EVERYBODY!!!!! Alligator here (but you can call me Ali).
So I read Bird’s post on the bowler hat – (BOOR-ING) – but it got me thinking about hats and such… I can make it so much more fun! So MY post is going to be a competition format, and the title is, “WHO HAT BETTER?”


PQ Bird: What do you mean, who HAT better? Do you mean, “who looks better in the hat”?  Or, “who does the hat fit best”? Or maybe, “who WEARS the hat better”?
Ali: Ah, you proved my point. See how clumsy you sound? That’s why it’s WHO HAT BETTER. Gets right to the point. So let’s get on with it!!!
HEY EVERYBODY! Welcome to my new column, WHO HAT BETTER, a contest between myself and Ben! You, the audience, just need to vote on WHO HAT BETTER, me or him? Send in your votes now! And thanks for participating!

Red Hat @ Virginiambe under creative commons licensing, background removed.




#10 – Bowler Hats by PQ Bird

BirdAvatar Hi all- PQ Bird here. Welcome to my first post. As a bird, of course, I have the opportunity to travel quite a bit and observe all kinds of animals and people and their habitats. So in my last journey, I saw some indigenous South American women wearing hats that didn’t seem to fit exactly. Didn’t fit on their heads and didn’t seem, well, indigenous.

So I wondered, how did they end up wearing this hat? I did some quick research and found out that the women are Quechua and Aymara natives of Peru and Bolivia and the hat, originally from England, is called a bowler hat (bombin in South America).


The hat itself has an interesting story. It was apparently created for gamekeepers on an estate in England who were having trouble keeping their top hats on as they rode through the forest (picture that!). The bowler was designed to be sturdy and lower on their heads so as to stay on and protect the head. The hat keepers who made the hat in 1849 were named “Bowler”- hence the name. But how did the hat get to South America, and how did it become popular with the indigenous women there?

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