Also known as the Birdland sanctuary; El Portal (from the Spanish “The Gate”; named this way because of the two main wooden gates that were placed at the entrance of the village) is one of the very first archeological sites registered in Miami Dade County.
Because El Portal isn’t a touristic attraction opened to the public; please be cautious if decide to visit, respect the nature, the silence and the neighbors. El Portal is a residential village were peacocks walk free; an almost enchanted forest with hundreds of year old trees guiding the path to a Tequesta Indian Burial site.
The Tequesta Indians; one of the first people of today’s South Florida lived in the areas known as the Biscayne Bay and the South bank of the Miami River including what is today the Village of El Portal. In 1560 Admiral Pedro Mendendez de Aviles took contact with the Tequesta Indians who were later transferred to Cuba, converted to the new faith and later vanished.
Once at El Portal; I had my first encounter with that exuberant vegetation and the endless variety of botanical species; because of my Native American origins I felt the need to visit the site and respectfully give back to the earth what is from the mother earth: I had kept for the longest time a few ritual instruments I received from the Mbya Guarani Indians back in Paraguay which I deposited on to the sacred mound. I prayed in silence and felt in whole harmony with the nature.
In addition El Portal is a certified Wildlife Habitat, as a source of the Four Basic elements needed for wildlife to thrive: food, water, cover and places to raise the young spices. I discovered signs marking the pathways while numerous butterflies revealed their beautiful colors. This site provides also the necessary milkweed, nectar sources and shelter to sustain monarch butterflies as they migrate though North America.
“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make the place beautiful”
St Barth; an almost unreachable destination in the French West Indies is the perfect hideaway for the jet setter. Surrounded by pristine white sand beaches, unspoiled nature; mountains and the turquoise clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean this associated Island of France had a long history before becoming the top destination for celebrities in search for privacy.
The Beginnings: In 1493 Columbus landed in St Barth and named the Island after his brother Bartolomeo; the first inhabitants of the Island were the Arawak Indians; hostile conditions and the lack of gold were crucial for the Spanish Crown and St Barth remained forgotten for centuries; later ruled by the French; then sold to the Dutch to be returned to the French; St Barth started to be noticed by luxury resort developers just in the 1950’s when Rockefeller built his private home in the top of the mountains in Colombier; West side of the Island.
Today; the most expensive yachts in the world are no strangers to St Barth and every day is almost a competition on size and style.
Shopping: For luxury shopping the Quai de la Republique; Le Carre D’Or; a Caribbean version of Beverly Hills with the most desirable designers and limited edition collections made exclusively for St Barth. I spent many hours at the Dolce & Gabanna flagship store opened just a few months ago with its own Martini Bar for D & G collaboration. The colorful collection reflects the spirit of the Island; floral scarfs; bejeweled mules, oversized sunglasses, embellished straw baskets and wedges and the 1950’s inspired cocktail dresses just makes us want to wear them all and go for a stroll in a Moke (the ultimate transportation in the Island) around Gustavia.
St Barth is the culinary capital of the Caribbean; suddenly we see people walking with baguettes on the streets and freshly made pastries can be found at any of the Boulangeries and Patisseries; at supermarkets all of them carry French brands and is like going to Paris in the middle of a tropical setting.
Flamandes: The lifestyle of the Island is resort chic with impeccable service and attention to details, the French touch is notorious; For lunch I truly enjoyed The Cheval Blanc in Flamandes; it was also the best beach for swim and great cuisine by Chef Yann Vinsont. The Cheval Blanc is part of the LVMH Luxury Resort collection.
Grand Cul de Sac: Lunch at Le Sereno in Grand Cul de Sac is another must on my list; from its sister 5 star hotel “Il Sereno” in Laco di Cuomo; Le Sereno exudes style; designed by renowned Parisian designer Christian Liaigre.
The lagoon at Sereno Beach is also perfect for paddle boarding or canoeing in the afternoon. Great place to spot the turtles swimming on the water or picking up giant conch between the rocks.
Next to Le Sereno; Le Guanahani is another impressive luxury resort with a Spa by Clarins and its distinctive tiki bars by the beach; Le Guanahani offers true island feeling.
St Jean: Dining in St Barth: a must is the Eden Rock at the “In” Beach of St Jean just next to the airport; with two signature restaurants: “On the Rocks” at the top of the cliff or “The Sand Bar” both headed by Michelin starred Chef Jean-Georges.
St Barth preserve its Colonial charm from the Dutch era; the Creole and the French; signs on the streets are both in Dutch and French.
Shell Beach: Walking distance from the lively port of Gustavia and just steps from divine dining spots like Bagatelle and Bonito; we are in Shell Beach; a small portion of the Island covered with shells of all types and colors; you never know when you’ll find a unique one in the middle of all these shells.
St Barth has it all; from hiking thru the mountains and spotting baby turtles on the way to incredible views of the secluded Island in Colombier to infinite white sandy beaches in Saline or the freshest catch of the day to your table.
“Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” – Anonymous.
The wide arc of land around the Pozzuoli Bay has been known for centuries as the Campi Flegrei (The Phlegraean fields) or Burning Fields, because of the constant volcanic activity. Mud still bubbles from the clay bed of the solfatara and in places the ground is still hot, you can easily boil an egg if you place it under the soil.
Over time some of the Phlegraean craters became lakes. Lake Averno thought to be the entrance of hell and owes its name (a-ornon in Greek: without birds) to the once suffocating vapours.
At the end of the 1st century BC, its almost sacred character declined after the construction of Porto Giulio, a systems of channels that connected the sea and the lakes, ships first reached the outer port in Lake Lucrino and then the inner basin of Lake Averno, connected to Cumae by the tunnel through Monte Grillo. The port was abandoned when silted up and trade was transferred to Miseno.
Founded in the 8th century BC by Greeks stationed on Ischia, Cumae is one of the oldest colonies of Magna Grecia. The founders of this colony came from Eubea, a Greek Island of the Aegean sea.
Villa Eubea and Vinaria, a cult to food and wine in the ancestral site
Buried Greek towns and Roman ruins, reveal the region’s ancient history, the burning fields and their volcanic soil bringing up the flavors on this land that gives in return high mineral wine and delicious fruit and vegetables.
Next, we will explore the rest of this amazing territory going from Pozzuoli to Baia and Bacoli stopping by more wineries, restaurants by the bay and archeological sites. See you tomorrow, thank you for reading.
(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco, all pictures by me taken with IPhone 4S and Sony Cybershot.
The remains of Pompeii were discovered by accident in the 1590’s when architect Domenico Fontana was excavating the canal to bring the waters from river Sarno to Torre Anunziata but it was not until the 1750’s that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure and one of the most important and well preserved examples of Roman civilization. Follow me on this amazing trip around the streets, houses and wineries of Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Vesuvius National Park.
In 90-89 BC the people of Campania became Roman citizens. Naples (Neapolis) or the new city came in to contact with the growing power of Rome. In AD 79 the erupting Vesuvius buried a number of ancient Roman cities including Pompeii.
Thanks to the many discoveries we can have an idea of the life in the Roman houses of Pompeii, constructed generally around two open courts; the atrium; an Italic feature and the colonnaded garden of Greek origin. But not only the architecture and the art in their walls, Pompeii reveals much more in the bodies of people unearthed along with their everyday objects.
Lacryma Christi and the ancient wine making in the Vesuvius
A Paleo Christian legend says that Christ cried over the Vesuvius and His Holy tears blessed the vineyards giving name to this excellent wine. Other legend distorted from the pagan mythology says that Jesus visited a hermit converting his bad beverage in to amazing wine. Today we can see many frescoes with wine rituals from the houses in Pompeii that have survived the ashes after the eruption of the Volcano.
The town’s quiet existence was brought to an abrupt halt in AD 79 during the eruption of the Vesuvius that buried Pompeii with deep lava and mud. The site of ancient Herculaneum is well below the level of the modern town. The area is still being excavated.
(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot. You are more than welcome to share them mentioning the font.
I finally arrived to the Sorrento Coast and my first stop is at the cliffs of Vico Equense, of Etruscan origins this little town has a lot to offer from the dramatic panoramas to pizza by the meter or Michelin Guide Starred Restaurants. The Sorrento Peninsula is definitely an unforgettable culinary experience.
But who where the Saracens and why they came to this part of Italy? Around the 455 AD the coast was invaded by Arab tribes, many watchtowers can still be seen on the cliffs to prepare the inhabitants for further attacks. Saracen was a term for Muslims widely used in Europe during the Medieval Era.
Now a brief tour of the tasting menu at The Saracen Tower, enjoy!
Juicy and red tomatoes, creamy white mozzarella di Bufala, ricotta and fior di latte, fragrant green basil, topped with a swirl of olive oil. The mix of intense flavors and vivid colors, is characteristic of a cuisine that reflect the region’s Mediterranean climate. Dishes rely on their success because of the freshness of the local ingredients. Getting the fish fresh from the harbor is still part of the local life; sword fish, anchovies, mackerel and sardines; clams, mussels, octopus, squid and cuttlefish are served in dozens of ways including pasta.
But when in Sorrento, don’t forget to try the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina”, the “Delizia al limone” and a sip of “limoncello”; you are on your way to a longer and healthy life. Salute!
The myth about Capri goes back to Homer’s epic tale “The Odyssey” when Ulysses and his troop were going back to Troy, they couldn’t resist the temptation to hear the seductive songs of the Sirens around today’s Capri, they filled out their ears with wax so they won’t listen to the Sirens and kept navigating but they crashed in to the stones and vanished.
Of course you won’t vanish like Ulysses’ troops in Capri but you will be so tempted by the natural beauty. One of the trips you can do is on a boat to the Grotta Azzurra (The Blue Grotto) where Romans used to worship the waters.
Capri is the world’s first resort, dating back Emperor Augustus (29 B.C.) at that time Capri was under Naples rule, Augustus gave to Naples the Island of Ischia and turned Capri in to his very own private Resort. Today you can enjoy the magnificence of the oldest resort in the world just like Jacky O, Audrey Hepburn, Rita Hayworth and many more celebrities and film stars did in the 1950’s when international tourism arrived to Capri.
When coming to Capri, don’t expect to rush anything (piano, piano) slowly slowly, this is the land of the “Dolce far niente” (sweet idleness). Act like a local, walking the streets Jacky walked, a good excuse to get your hand made sandals to your measure by the local handcrafters, wear oversized sunglasses, a silk foulard in your head and capri pants.
There are many theories about the name Capri, a popular one says that it comes from the Greek “kapros” (wild boar) but the most widely theory is that it derives from the Latin “capreae” (goats) which makes sense been a referred as the Goat Island.
The iconic Caprese boutique “La Parisienne” is perhaps known for the famous Capri trousers, here is where Jacky Kennedy Onassis used to have hers tailor made. Michael Kors was for years a guest at The Grand Hotel Quisisana and he described the view from the terrace facing Via Camerelle as the front row of a fashion show. Fashion designer Oscar de La Renta went to Capri to receive the award “Tiberio d’oro” at Mare Moda, the island notorious fashion show. Valentino, Givenchy, Gianfranco Ferre, Missoni, they all came personally to show at Mare Moda.
Capri is more than a rock in the middle of the sea, Capri is a lifestyle, the concept of chic and casual was immortalized here and will be here to stay. If we are not the privileged ones that can make Capri our home we can
still live… the Capri way, salute!!!
(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures taken by me. Additional Photo credits: Benny Galasso-Bely Franco.
For more info on Montserrat Franco sandals made in Capri, visit the store at:
Going to the Amalfi Coast is certainly memorable and a unique experience, the story of Amalfi is linked to the nymph Melphe, the apple of Hercule’s eye and the legend says that he built a city so high on the cliffs to buried her when she died but there is another theory; when Romans lived here in the IV century named it Melfi.
Suspended between the sea, sky ad earth the state road 163 twists and turns in an almost never ending path around the Coast, it has stunning views from every corner. In the 19th century access to the Amalfi coast was very difficult and possible only by the mountains in mules. By the 1900’s the isolation of this part of Italy attracted many travelers. In Edwardian times the coast became a destination of choice by British aristocrats, later actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Greta Garbo and Sophia Loren brought fame to the area.
You can find some of the best well kept secret restaurants of Italy (Michellin stars and local eateries) with amazing menus that are well worth the narrowed roadside trip and the headache.
Continuing with our trips around Naples at the top of the hill is one of the most important monuments in the city, the Certosa di San Martino (San Martino’s charterhouse). You can reach this part of town from Chiaia via de funiculars or by Vespa which is the best way of transportation in Naples due to traffic, the narrowed streets and of course…the parking, besides getting around on a Vespa can only make your trip in Italian cities even more authentic.
Pause for Coffee
In Naples coffee is a ceremony, the Neapolitans love their espressos very strong and you can have them everywhere, plenty of historic coffee shops and pasticcerias (cake shops) offering a wide range of coffee brands, many of them born in Naples such as Pasalacqua and Kenon. In fact the moka pot (Napoletana) is a Neapolitan invention dated back from the late 19th centuries.
Italians know if someone is not Italian when they order cappuccinos during the day, afternoon or after a meal. Cappuccinos are meant to be drunk only with breakfast, with those delicious “cornettis” (pastries). After lunch or diner they drink their espressos. Coffee is a way of expression and is a form of art. Enjoy an espresso before or after your Museum visit. See you tomorrow!!!
(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures by me taken with IPhone 4S and Sony Cybershot.
Italy keeps inspiring most of us over and over, it is everything from the Arts to the Music, from the Architecture to the Fashion, from the History to the wine and food.
Naples is one of the cities that fascinates me with incredible characteristics and the magnificent views of the Vesuvius, wherever your position is, you will be able to have that postcard illusion. Here you need to take your time, to eat and drink like a local, don’t bring your watch, time here seems like it never goes by, it is the perfect way to feel that “La Dolce Vita” style.
Borgo Marinaro, Marecchiaro and Santa Lucia
One of the romantic walks around Naples is by the Lungomare in the Santa Lucia neighborhood, with plenty of restaurants to choose from surrounded by colorful sun kissed boats lining around the “Borgo Marinaro” (the fishermen’s quarter). Naples inspired also the most romantic Italian songs (canzonettas) and it’s here in this quarter where they were born. In Naples everything is about love, food and the simple life, just experience it for yourself.
The Lungomare was frequented by Sophia Loren and Salvador Dali and you can still have the same taste and get your inner diva and glamour do the rest, just put on some huge sunglasses with a little black dress and enjoy a glass of Falanghina wine which is the perfect pair with any of the local seafood dishes.
The legend around the Castel dell”Ovo and the particular name first appears in the XIV century and it talks about a magic egg that was hidden in the castle. Today the castle with his particular tufa walls is home of art exhibitions and retrospectives that can be visited by the public.
After lunch at the Borgo Marinaro or Santa Lucia a short walk to the chic Chiaia neighborhood it’s a must for the designers stores and the majestic architecture.
Naples can be a city with many contradictions, narrowed claustrophobic streets full of Vespas and chaotic traffic or wide avenues with the most glamorous shops and ladies covered in fur and designer handbags. While in Chiaia experience both sides, take a look at the Fascist era architecture and monuments and don’t forget it’s time for an aperitif, our version of Happy Hour, Italian Style, somewhere around 5 to 7 pm. Chiaia gives many options when it comes to aperitif, the difference is that with one drink most bars offer a full buffet of appetizers and nibbles, all self service but with moderation, remember soon will be time for dinner.
Well, I think has been a long day and you need some rest because tomorrow you will be visiting more wonderful monuments, eating amazing food and tasting excellent wines, what a wonderful life!!!
(c) 2013 Montserrat Franco. All pictures by me taken with an IPhone 4, 4S and Sony Cybershot