Monday, June 27, 2016

Candelaria Design Tour Italy June 2016 - Day 9 - San Gimignano

Well I thought I would continue with some more from our Candelaria Design Tour Italy – Trip 13 now that I am back and have a few moments with my morning coffee out in the garden!

As you likely figured out by reading the blogs from the first eight days of our journey we were definitely celebrating Trip 13 and Day 9 continued the saga! Today we usually go to San Gimignano and then Siena but rain was in the forecast and both towns require a fair amount of driving from our remote farmhouse location in Umbria.

So we got up and set our google pins in everyone’s phone or gps to my favorite parking spot in San Gimignano – which no matter when I have come is always packed and full and this year even with the threat of rain the lot was full when we arrived.

The drive as you approach San Gimignano is always so picturesque as you occasionally get a far off vignette view of the towers of this medieval treasure with farm or sunflower fields as your foreground. It’s quite magical.

Using teamwork we were able to get the four parking spaces we needed. From there is was a short walk of course uphill to the village. San Gimignano is always one of the favorites of my travelers and it is a wonderful place to experience any time of the year as we were also here during the Holidays with my girls who loved it.

We made our way down the main thoroughfare to our lunch spot, the Ristorante - Bel Soggiorno
which I discovered while exploring on last year’s trip. Of course they were not quite opened even though we had called ahead for reservations. I had all but two of my travelers, who chose to catch up with some friends traveling in the Chianti area. As we waited, of course the rain came…..We pitched our umbrellas and waited for the restaurant to open.

The view from the Bel Soggiorno restaurant is spectacular only to be outdone by the food which again was off the charts. From our nice lunch we did a little shopping and the rain just kept coming harder and harder

We reconvened the group to make our way back to the cars where we contemplated our next destination, Siena….but I could feel my travelers had had it with the rain and driving and if we went to Siena we would not get out of there until late therefore likely driving in the rain in the darkness….The decision was made – we would head home and back to the farmhouses for a relaxing evening….or so I thought!

The drive home is about an hour and a half and the rain was coming down pretty good but we all made it safely home and I was looking forward to a quiet evening as it was nice to be home early and enjoy some time in the country houses. Well so I thought…..

The ladies traveling as a group had enough of the country and the rustic nature of being out in the Umbrian hills, the rain, and the driving and they were ready for the ambiance and services that would be provided by the Villa d’Este on Lake Como. Problem is we still had one more day in the country – but the woman were ready to go now!

So with some calls and research on the website we were able to get rooms a day early for the ladies and they would drive off the next morning. So I had two travelers off with friends in the Chianti area, and now five more would be leaving so I was now down to seven of 14 travelers! Well that’s the beauty of the trip – you have your own car and can choose to create your own itinerary and this group definitely embraced that opportunity!

The rest of us made use of our left over, made a fire and enjoyed the quiet of the country. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Happy Father's Day 2016

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there and just like on Mother’s Day I send a special prayer to all of you who no longer have your Father. I have several friends this year also spending this day without their Father on Father’s Day for the first time….I cannot even imagine life without the one person on earth who is probably my best friend and mentor. I love you Dad and all you have done for me and our family. I know it wasn’t easy but you have two sons who have done pretty well!

My Dad is 81 years old and for those of you who have met or known “Donald” as we call him – he is the real “Donald” by the way – he is one of the nicest guys out there always with a smile on his face and ready for a good time! I love just hanging out with him and watching a Bronco game or the US Open…. You know, guy stuff!

Donald was born in Durango, Colorado in 1935 to the parents of Bernie and Rose Candelaria. He is the second oldest of six children – two boys and four girls – all still alive. Grampa Bernie worked for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and was the machinist for the steam locomotives that still run from Durango to Silverton today. My father went to Durango High School, same school I graduated from, and then onto the US Army where he proudly served our country following World War II.

While serving in Germany he met my Mom, Karin, who was born in East Germany and fled the oncoming Russians and ended up as a refugee in Mannheim, Germany. There must have been some spark there as my father stayed in touch after her returned to the States through hand written letters that my mom would have to translate to German. My Mom took an Au Pair position in Calgary, Canada all the while the two kept exchanging their letters.

Well Dad must have been persistent and convincing and coaxed my Mom to take a Greyhound bus from Calgary, Canada down to Durango, Colorado. Ok this was in 1959 so you can imagine how the roads and stops were along the way back then and imagine my 19 year old Mom from Germany on a bus traveling through Idaho, Utah and finally to SW Colorado – in the middle of nowhere in the summer of 59!

My Grandmother and father’s sisters met her at the bus station when she arrived and my mom shared space with my Dad’s sisters while she visited. As it turned out , one of my father’s sisters was getting married during the stay and again with my Dad’s persuasion he popped the question and convinced my Mom to make it a double wedding. The rest is history – you wouldn’t be reading this blog right now had he not convinced her! 

The two moved to Denver and I showed up a year later in October of 1960! My father got a job with the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in Denver and of course became a big Denver Bronco fan and an original season ticket holder. We lived in Denver for 14 years whereupon my grandfather in Durango was retiring so my father decided to move the troops back to his hometown and take over my grandfather’s position as the head machinist on the steam trains and so we all loaded the trucks and moved to Durango!

We all loved living there and we all return often. I graduated from Durango High School in 1978 and went on the the University of Colorado for a year and then transferred to Arizona State University in 1979 and have been here ever since. I have so many friends still from there that I am very close with – many that live here in Phoenix and Scottsdale. The Denver and Rio Grande sold the Durango train to a private company and so to maintain his retirement, my father and Mom moved back to Denver in 1980 where they lived and retired until 2014 whereupon they moved here to Arizona to be closer to me and two of Dad’s sisters who live in Tucson and my Mom from Germany has a sister that lives in Mesa. I love the twist and turns life brings our way!

Anyway, it is so wonderful to have this time with my father! We have had some great times together including in 2001 going to Game 1 of the Diamondback-Yankee World Series together and celebrating his 80th birthday in style with a day at the Spa!

So that’s the story. Dad didn’t teach me or mentor me to be an artist or architect….no my Dad is just like the Dad in the TV series “The Wonder Years” – in fact that was virtually my family and life growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. My dad could fix anything –I’m the opposite…. I’m useless with any kind of power tool with the exception of an electric eraser or a cell phone. But what Dad did instill in me was hard work and that perseverance that I spoke about earlier in the blog. You see my Dad, despite never being rich or wealthy, just kept going! Dad, hopefully, you now see that you are rich and wealthy! You have two sons who love the hell out of you and we would be nowhere close to where we are without your inspiration, example and love.

I wish you and all the Dad’s out there a super Father’s Day!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Candelaria Design Tour Italy June 2016 - Day 8 - Cooking In Umbria

Trip 13 keeps us on our toes and Day 8 kept the tricksophobia streak in tact!

 Well Day 8, Wednesday, is a day to chill and rest up and relax at the Farmhouses. At least some of my travelers did that. Isabel and I had a busy day ahead. We started with a little coffee and a light breakfast at the house while we watched the fog burn off after sleeping until 9am.

From there a group of us made it down the hill, and through the valley to the town of Umbertide and the local farmer’s market which I always love. I love the sounds, the people and of course the food. 

The one thing I really noticed this year was the increase in the Muslim presence – something I never saw 16 years ago when I first came and a marketed increase from just last year. Perhaps twenty percent of the people at the market were Muslim. So things are definitely changing with the events of the world and its changing the makeup and culture of even the small towns and villages here in Italy. Even the restaurants around the town now have Kabab and Halal restaurants obviously catering to the new inhabitants.

But many of the same faces and vendors were in the same spots they have been for the 16 years I have been coming. So I grabbed my favorite porchetta sandwich and a cappuccino and life is good!

From there we made our way past Citta di Costello to the Lacole’ showroom. The Lacole’ showroom and Porte del Passato are two of my favorite stops. Both businesses are owned and operated by the Belli family whom I have known and done business with for over 16 years. We currently have several projects in the works! Of course they welcomed us in style with a plate of crostinis, fresh fruit, and blood orange juice.

Lacole’ is a spectacular showroom and outdoor yard featuring thousands of antiques, collectibles, and salvaged building materials, from wells, fountains, fireplaces, stone arches, tiles, pavers, furniture, well…’s pretty much endless. The showroom and yard are huge and you can easily spend hours here.

Isabel is working with Gabriele Belli on a line of doors from Italy and millwork that she will be carrying at her store Earth and Images. Gabriele is also making a beautiful custom set of doors for a home for one of our clients in Desert Mountain who went on last year’s trip. We are very excited with how our relationship has grown over the years with the Belli family. We had time for a conference call with our client to review details and then it was back to the houses to start our cooking class with Elizabeth Wholey.

The start of the cooking class marks the halfway point of the trip. It’s been a crazy first half and when we got to the house we got word that one of our travelers had twisted her back and it had locked up and she was now unable to move and was bedridden. Seriously….. they got some meds in her and iced her down and so we were down a traveler again.

Well the rest of us carried on and went up to the big Farmhouse to start some cooking. This year we had a surprise as I had my office Fed-ex our newest creation, the Candelaria Collection Pasta Machine and it was going to get its first testing where else but in Italy, on our trip, by true Italian chefs! So we would be making some pasta today!

Add some prosciutto wrapped asparagus, fried pepper bruschettas, grilled pork shoulder, local sausages, and then raviolis with the Candelaria Collection Pasta machine! Elizabeth and her staff guide us through the various dishes and of course the best part is enjoying all the smells and flavors not to mention the camaraderie that occurs when all cooking in these homes. We made a big fire, opened some wine and prosecco, and enjoyed the lovely sunset along with the sounds of laughter and music.

Despite being down one traveler everyone got the aprons on and got into the act. I loved watching the new pasta machine in action and the Italian cooks loved it and gave us the thumbs up – not to mention the ravioli was fantastic!

We all sat down to eat, went around the table and spoke about how and why we came on this trip, and then gradually made our way to dessert, which we also made, and then retired to the porch for a cigar and solved the world’s problems….where what is said and solved in Umbria….. stays in Umbria!