Insight into Italy

When it comes to experiencing Italy through the eyes of a local, Insight Vacations could not have chosen a more apt name for “Country Roads of Italy,” a 17-day journey around Italy’s top cities and stunning countryside. My Insight Vacations trip began with a five-star hotel on Rome’s famous Via Veneto and ended on a sunny November afternoon in Venice, where the world’s best airport transfer takes place by chartered water taxi.

Behind the scenes  -> Read on, meet the characters like Sergio, the gelateria man in San Gimignano. The escorted tour with local authenticity.

Gelateria Dandoli and its enthusiastic owner, Sergio, in San Gimignano's medieval square

Gelateria Dandoli and its enthusiastic owner, Sergio, in San Gimignano’s medieval square

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Filed under Europe, Italy, Tuscany

See Venice Now: It’s Sinking

As we transferred from our Insight Vacations motorcoach for an eight-person water taxi into the heart of Venice, excitement was palpable despite light drizzle under a waning November moon. The water was high and glassy. Incongruously, a massive passenger cruise ship docked in the distance appeared larger than a Manhattan city block, dwarfing the lights of Venice beyond.

Read about the changes in cruise ships to preserve Venice…

Venice: Piazza San Marco under water on a sunny day in  November 2013

Venice: Piazza San Marco under water on a sunny day in November 2013

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Filed under Cruises, Europe, Italy, Venice

Price of Trader Joe’s ‘Two-Buck Chuck’ Goes Up in California

Charles Shaw wines, universally nicknamed “Two-Buck Chuck” at Trader Joe’s stores, are no longer two bucks in the state of California. Some San Franciscans are not pleased. The staff at my local Trader Joe’s said they are seeing resistance from shoppers and more than a few off-color comments around the rhyme, usually delivered with a tight little smile.

Hits on Shoppers’ Wallets

With a 25-percent increase of 50 cents per bottle from $1.99…what did people say?

Two buck Chuck goes up in price

Two buck Chuck goes up in price

 

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Filed under San Francisco & California, Shopping & Dining

Lincoln Highway: San Francisco History You Didn’t Know Was There

If you’ve been to visit the fine art treasures at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, you’ve been to the western terminus of the first transcontinental automobile road in the United States, but probably did not know it. Lincoln Highway, where the museum is located, once spanned 3,389 miles across the nation. It was the first paved road across America, linking San Francisco’s Lincoln Park to New York’s Times Square at 42nd Street.

 From the Atlantic to the Pacific

Just where the parking lot of the Legion of Honor meets the grass of the Lincoln Golf Course, see a Lincoln Highway marker indicating the end of that two-lane transcontinental road. It displays a Lincoln portrait medallion that looks just like a big penny set into the cement post. A small plaque reads, “This Highway Dedicated to Abraham Lincoln.”

Discover the Lincoln Highway, Main Street Across America,  on its 100th anniversary in 2013.  More ->

The western terminus of the Lincoln Highway in San Francisco

The western terminus of the Lincoln Highway in San Francisco

 

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Filed under History, San Francisco & California, Travel & Leisure

5 San Francisco Places That Feel Like Another Country

Poke around San Francisco’s Richmond District to discover five spots that can transport you to another part of the world. Within this neighborhood hugging the Pacific Ocean at its western end and surrounded by the expansive green spaces of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, there are mini-foreign adventures to discover.

Wilhelmina and Windmills

There is likely no single item more closely aligned with the imagery of Holland than the windmill. Not one, but two historic windmills grace the western edge of Golden Gate Park near the Pacific coast. The Dutch Windmill and the Murphy Windmill, exceptionally tall at 75 feet and 95 feet, cannot easily be missed.

Authetic-feeling slices of Tokyo, Hong Kong, Dublin, and London are all found in one neighborhood.

More.  >>>

A Dutch Windmill by the Pacific in San Francisco

A Dutch Windmill by the Pacific in San Francisco

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Bay Area Breweries at the Forefront of Craft Beer Movement

As Beer Week in San Francisco approaches, 65 Northern California brewers from startups to pioneers prepare to converge under one roof on February 8, 2013. The nine-day gathering will trigger lots of tasting, talking, and blogging about Northern California’s rapidly evolving beer movement. Home brewing and microbreweries have experienced exponential growth over the past decade, pushing boundaries to new levels.

A Burgeoning Local Beer Movement

Calling it a “renaissance,” the San Francisco Brewers Guild underscores the degree to which the public is refining its palates around beer.

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Beer Week is coming to San Francisco February 8, 2013

Beer Week is coming to San Francisco February 8, 2013

Read about the best local brews and the importance of wild yeast. 

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Filed under Lifestyle, San Francisco & California

An Empty Coffin and Other Amazing Lost Property on the London Underground

Detective work and good samaritans combine to successfully reunite just a fraction of the lost items on London’s tubes, buses, and taxis with the rightful owners. Astonishing stuff has been lost and found underground – although not necessarily retrieved by its owner – on the tubes, to the tune of 220,000 items per year. Since 1933, Transport for London‘s log indicates 15 million items so far turned in across the 249 network miles traveled by 1.1 million passengers a year.

Every day, about 1,000 items found on the tube or on London buses make their way to be tagged up at the lost property depot located, fittingly enough, across the street from the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street.

Crazy, remarkable items lost. If only Sherlock Holmes could help out…read what’s been turned in.

Lost and Found is called Lost Property in England

Lost and Found is called Lost Property in England

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Filed under England, London, Travel & Leisure

California’s New Cottage Food Operations Legislation Paves Way for Small Businesses

Read what’s cooking!   How does it work?

Saint & Olive biscotti-maker at Oakland food festival

Saint & Olive biscotti-maker at Oakland food festival

La Luna Cupcakes makes popcakes, too, in San Francisco

La Luna Cupcakes makes popcakes, too, in San Francisco

This new law is a good law.

 

 

 

 

Approved on September 21, 2012, and effective from the start of 2013, AB 1616 is the California Homemade Food Law. This law opens the door for a growing movement of community-based food production in home kitchens, sometimes called “cottage food,” “artisanal food,” or “slow food.” The new law allows increased opportunities for microenterprises to flourish without investing incommercial kitchen operations, thereby supporting household incomes for small business entrepreneurs. Currently, 32 other states have similar laws on the books.

 

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Filed under Food, San Francisco & California, Startups

How the Golden Gate Got Its Name

If you believe that San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is named after the straits of the waterway known as the Golden Gate, you would be correct. But have you ever wondered how the Golden Gate got its name? Actually, it has nothing to do with the fact thatCalifornia is known as the Golden State. Nor has it any connection to the 1849 Gold Rush. It’s not about the color of the bridge, either; that color is called international orange. The Golden Gate is named after the Greek word for a harbor in Istanbul, Turkey.

Read the story on Yahoo!

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge spans the Golden Gate

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge spans the Golden Gate

And so, for trivia and pub quizzes: The Golden Gate is named for the Golden Horn adjoining the narrow that connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara at Istanbul. This is the unlikely but true story of how the Golden Gate got its Greek-derived name from an American explorer from Georgia buried in New York.

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Filed under History, San Francisco & California, Travel & Leisure

Forget the Diet Resolution: Eat Your Way Through San Francisco in 2013

San Francisco is a sparkling jewel in the crown of great American food cities, and has been for decades. Indeed, with a list of attributes that includes excellence in dining, Business Week pronounced that, “San Francisco is America’s best city in 2012.” With a reputation that reaches beyond our shores, Zagat, Huffington Post, Travel & Leisure, and Food & Wine are among the publications to award San Francisco a sky high ranking among the top twenty dining cities worldwide.

Visit in January
Eat out for less! San Franciscans are placing theDine About Town dates, January 15 through 31, 2013 in their calendars. The locals know that twice a year for two weeks, about 100 of San Francisco’s restaurants offer a special promotion of a two or three course lunch for $18.95 or a three course dinner for $36.95. Zagat suggests a hit list of 10 restaurants to book now.

To read on, click here

Farm to table cuisine is the Northern California way

Farm to table cuisine is the Northern California way

Union Square will host SF Chefs in late July 2013

Union Square will host SF Chefs in late July 2013

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Filed under Food, San Francisco & California, Shopping & Dining, Tips for Saving Money, Travel & Leisure