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Showing posts from August, 2009

Medieval castles but not a knight in sight

Counting castles...what we need now is a lively jousting event and fair maidens. Valle d'Aosta is the land of castelli (castles), and spotting them is almost like engaging in a game of punch bug. I felt that it wouldn't be right to leave out such historical detail, but the sharp contrasts...you'll see what I mean in the photos.

Now I don't know if it's due to Walt setting the standard on what a castle should look like, but through the dozen or so times that I've been here, not once did I make any real effort to appreciate these medieval landmarks that have withstood the test of time - save one. That would be the Castle of Sarre (3rd image), where we had our wedding photos taken. I believe that most castles are open to the public, and further info can be found here at Valle d'Aosta Castles. The Disneyish-looking one is Castle Saint Pierre (at right). It's a small world after all.
Parking sign [P] and picnic tables (not shown) in front of Castle Sar…

La Thuile (home of the best little cheese shop in Valle d'Aosta)

Goat cheese coated in a tempting assortment of spicy and nut flavorings
I must've looked like a crazed, dangerous woman entering into La Maison du Fromage. With nostrils instinctively twitching, flaring, and breathing - no, inhaling - the bold pungency that exuded from within, it took everyounceofwillpower to stick to "the plan". The plan? That's right, a plan to buy only what we could reasonably finish and not burn a hole in MotH's wallet. I had been waiting for months to finally make it to this place...such is our lust for cheese. Run by a mother, daughter and granddaughter team, they entice the cheese gourmet with the best the region has to offer - local prosciutto, sausages, breads... A plethora of pasta and local products beckon seductively from racks and shelves, ensuring that you simply can not leave without making a few purchases to bring home. The dumbstruck gaze on my face with Canon in hand said enough. "Signora, plain or with nuts?"

Little Saint Bernard Pass & Lago Verney

Lago Verney — It didn't seem right to visit the Great St. Bernard Pass without following up with the Little St. Bernard Pass (and there must be a joke in there somewhere) which was the destination we set off for on day #2. Just before the border between France and Italy, a natural body of water (pictured above) lent an ideal opportunity to set the dogs loose along a well-worn path that circles the entire shore of the lake. I was also particularly interested in taking some photos of alpine flora, namely, Eriophorum or Cottongrass, even if suspicious looks were shot in my direction by a small group of fishermen there. Either those boys were iLLitErAte or just plain sneaky, but clearly written signs state that fishing was not allowed. So not sorry that I invaded your illegal spot with the Canon.

Bed & Breakfast recommendationLa Vieille Cloche (the old bell) — my husband wrote a brief post with images [link] of which I'll also add that credit cards aren't accepted. The…

The Great Saint Bernard Pass

Colle del Gran San Bernardo — While the lovable, slobbering Beethoven may have earned Hollywood star status for his kind, Barry the Saint Bernard carried much more credit to his humble name. The Great St. Bernard Pass that leads into Switzerland wasn't far off from our lodgings, so a visit (by car) to where monks used to train the large breed as a rescue unit was a sort of salute to the canine world. Did we see a bunch of Saints? Well, yes and no. It depends if you're intent on seeing tables lined with stuffed pooches instead of living, breathing, panting hounds. Those rescuing days are long gone, having evolved into the hi-tech methods of modern times. I only remember having seen the dogs once on italian news where they were part of a search team. We didn't cross into Switzerland as Maddie and MrB had no passport, but we did take a short stroll around. The views are so unbelievably gorgeous in the Alps - no matter from where you are in the midst of it all.

Pulehu #4: grillin' and chillin' on Ferragosto

Ferragosto is the big holiday of summer, as the 15th declares that everyone in Italy is, or at least should be, off from work and having a ball. The meaning of the term comes from an era when gods and goddesses, all-knowing deities in the eyes of man, were still around before christianity gave them the boot. Be gone you pagans! Such is life - and the end of the toga.August 15th is also supposed to be a very hot day, and in all of the previous years it seems to me that this has always been the case. Well, climate's a-changing and right now, at high noon, it's 76°F and cloudy. We've got stuff ready to throw on the grill and I'll be updating this entry with more food photos. For now I've got Mister B in his bachelor pad. We recently had it "outfitted" with airconditioning...a steal, really, at only 3€ for the little sign.6 hours later...Well I should've just shut my mouth on the weather. An eventual 85°F under a hot sun was plenty enough for the…

1-2-3 pickled peperoncini or cipollini

Pickling the small, white cipolline onions is one of my favorite summertime rituals, but this is a first for pickling the long, sweet peppers - peperoncini dolci - that flood the produce shelves as well. For me, pickled pepperoncini (note the american spelling!) has always been associated with pizza or italian subs - a small side portion of limp, pale peppers along with packets of grated parmesan cheese. These symbolic gestures of american fast food culture don't exist here of course, but I really do miss the briny taste and bite of pepperoncini.The 1-2-3 reflects the three easy steps to pickled success. I prefer crisp/crunchy instead of a soft texture, and while I've only done small white onions and podding radish, I think any firm vegetable that handles blanching should work here. When blanching green beans, it is the immediate plunging into ice cold water that retains a crisp texture, and by that token act it is the immediate pouring of cold pickling liquid over hot veg…