Adopting the essentials of Italian lifestyle

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There is, undoubtedly, something about the Italian lifestyle that appeals to many of us. Whether it is the weather, the food, the passion for everything from opera to football, the world-class fashion sense or the historic architecture, many of us want a piece of Italy’s dolce vita.

BRING IT HOME The good news is that you can bring many elements of Italian style into your own life, with relative ease. The Italian lifestyle is fundamentally about valuing quality over quantity; this applies to clothes, food and décor in particular. Italians like to find what works well and stick with it, which is why so much of the nation’s architecture and traditions have lasted for centuries.

For example, the next time you are in Italy, have a look around you at the Italians in the street. You will notice that many are impeccably dressed, but not in garish, up-to-the minute styles. Italian fashion is admired worldwide for its timeless, understated chic and quality fabric and manufacture, and you can see this in the outfits worn by many Italians on a day-to-day basis. Most Italians have relatively few clothes, but what they have is of fine quality, cut and style – quality matters more than materialism.

The same applies to architecture, including domestic architecture. You will notice, on any visit to Italy, that certain elements are repeated from home to home. The use of traditional shutters on windows is a good example – these look great, last for years and do the job well, so why change?

SIMPLICITY Simplicity is another key Italian value. Italian food is fundamentally about good quality ingredients, used well. Most Italian dishes are not complex, but they are cooked from scratch in kitchens up and down the country, using the best ingredients available, just as they have been for years. Italians are not impressed by pre-packaged or convenience foods, and they eat all the better for it.

Similarly, another great Italian passion, coffee. The huge range of fancy coffees that can be purchased in coffee houses across the world nowadays may have been inspired by Italy, but this is primarily an American invention. Italians simply drink good, well-made coffee, which they usually take strong and with just a splash of, if any, milk (cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink, and eyebrows are raised if you order it after 11am). As a result, the quality of the beans and the roasting really shine through in truly Italian coffee.

COMMUNITY VALUES Finally, Italians have a great ability to look outside themselves and recognise that they are part of a wider community. This is expressed in a variety of ways, including communal meals involving family and friends, and a general sociability and preference for company over solitude. There is clearly much to admire in the Italians’ way of life, but there is no reason why you should not also benefit from it.

With a few simple touches – inviting several friends for a home-cooked meal, valuing quality over materialism, looking to tradition for inspiration – we can all move a little closer to the Mediterranean, wherever we happen to live. Why don’t you give it a try, today?

This post was written by David Charles for Take on the Road.

The Best Florida Trip Tips

We chose Florida for our vacation because, well – it’s Florida! It has 1,200 miles of coastline filled with blissful beaches (sun, sea and sand – my heaven!), some amazing theme parks (although they’re not always very budget friendly), shopping to die for (my husband and I switched credit cards for the trip so we couldn’t shop indiscriminately) and a pretty awesome nightlife (the kids weren’t even really a problem and we were out almost every night!).

Buy Sunblock!

I know from experience that if you’re going to Florida you need sunblock so the first thing I did was check for the appropriate product. I found a pretty affordable bottle of 30SPF water resistant sunscreen so I bought it immediately. Our family loves the sun and we spend every minute we can outdoors, and even when it’s snowing or overcast sunburn is a risk so it definitely won’t go to waste!

The water resistant kind is best for any waterside activities and also for those hot sweaty days, although it is horribly greasy most of the time. Arizona Sun also has an SPF 45 oil free/water resistant spray which is perfect for faces or midday touch ups though so I got that as well. I also got a few of those travel size bottles which I filled with the SPF 30 and gave to everyone to put in their backpacks because there was no way my holiday was getting ruined by sunburn!

Travel and accommodation

The kids saw an advert for Aquatica in Orlando and they had been begging us to take them there or to any waterpark like it ever since. We decided why not grant their wish and take them, so we knew we were going to Orlando for our vacation. Once that decision was made it was easy enough to visit Rome2Rio.com and find out about different routes from our home to anywhere in the area. Then I went looking all over the internet for the cheapest flights I could find.

I found the most adorable condo on AirBnB, close to SeaWorld, with a pool, and it had its own free parking which was a huge plus. My husband works in the automotive industry so it was easy enough for him to wangle an amazing deal on a hire car through one of his contacts. If you’re going to Florida then hire a car – things are not as close together as you might think and having your own transport comes in pretty handy. You can rent one without spending a fortune too, the only things you need to do is use an appropriate Hotwire coupons from Discountrue.com.

Aquatica Theme Park

And then it was time for us to start planning how we were going to entertain ourselves for the trip. Aquatica was definitely on the list and I knew it was going to be the most expensive adventure on our trip so I went looking for free (or almost free) options to occupy the rest of our time. And I can honestly say that I don’t regret a single choice we made. We had tons of fun, there are loads of pictures and nobody got burned (thank goodness!)!

The kids weren’t too interested in any of the combo offers I found on the Aquatica website, their only stipulation was that they wanted to ride the Dolphin Plunge so we chose a single park ticket. But we wanted to make a full day of it so I added a Banana Beach all day pass (it’s an all you can eat buffet and we could go back as many times as we wanted throughout the day). Because I made the purchase online I got a 50% discount on the admission fee so altogether it cost me only $212.50! Now that was a saving that came in handy on the rest of our trip!

Lukas Nursery Butterfly Garden

Our family is 3 girls and 2 boys so the girls won and our next adventure was a visit to a butterfly garden. There are two well-known gardens in Orlando, but eventually we decided on the one at Lukas Nursery. I have no words to describe the experience and although they will never admit it, even our boys loved it! We got to feed the butterflies from our fingertips and the girls learned about creating their own butterfly garden back home which is a fun project that won’t cost us much (always a plus!). Plus the entrance fee was only $6 each!

Black Hammock Adventures

We like to play fair in our family so our next trip was especially for the boys with a visit to the Black Hammock on Lake Jesup. They got to go look at some alligators and we took an airboat ride out to Bird Island which even us girls enjoyed! We went later in the afternoon because afterwards we visited the Lazy Gator bar for dinner. And of course the boys just had to order some Gator Bites (fried alligator tail – yugh!) while we enjoyed the free live entertainment they have every weekend.

Winter Park Farmers Market

Our next trip to the Winter Park Farmers Market was more for the adults than the kids, but fairs fair and all that! We had our own kitchen so we’d stocked up on things to make our own meals and snacks, but nothing beats farm fresh produce so we made a day out of it. We visited the tiny little History Museum attached to the Market, then all chose different street foods (along with sweet treats of course), sat on the patio and enjoyed people watching while we tried each other’s meals. We even got to listen to a street musician or two although not in the market itself.

Finally we visited Fleaworld just outside of Orlando which is the largest flea market in the United States and took up a whole day for us to explore. Even then we didn’t get to see all the vendors, acrobatic shows, magic acts or exotic animals! We also took a day and explored Disney’s Boardwalk although between the two our shopping for souvenirs budget was completely shot! And there you have it – our trip to Orlando, not free but not completely exorbitant either! We spent a lot of time by the pool and as much time around water as we could and the rest of the time we just relaxed!

Let your travels inspire your home décor

As the seasons begin to change once again, we’re all getting itchy feet to make a change to our home décor. While few of us have the cash to be pulling up the carpets every time the sun comes out, we can make a few changes to our homes to welcome in the new autumn colours.

Whether you’re making a bigger, more permanent change or just something small, there are plenty of places to find inspiration – including your travels. Here are a few design ideas picked up from some of the most beautiful locations in the world.

France

French décor is very much en vogue at the moment, largely thanks to its blend of traditional floral patterns and modern 21st century designs. For the bolder decorators amongst us, try dark, dramatic colours such as reds and blacks in bedrooms, offset with lighter, floral accessories such as cushions. You could also try experimenting with French designs in the kitchen – nothing tastes better than French cuisine, and if there’s one thing that French says, it’s good taste.

Japan

For a more serene feel to your home, try the simplistic bedroom designs of Japan. In Japan, home décor trends are focused around nature, so try to use as many organic materials as possible, such as wooden floors. Rather than big and bold French, Japanese designs focus on more neutral colours, so consider using greens and browns in your room – headboards, for example, are a great way to bring in a little colour. You can find a great selection at www.bedstar.co.uk.

Scandinavia

If you’re a bit of a clean freak, nothing says clean, crisp, whites like Scandinavian décor. Akin to the Japanese, nature plays a big part in the décor once again, so don’t be afraid to paint your walls in bright white. To avoid making your home look too sterile, you can add a few images of mountains or consider organically-sourced accessories such as twig photo frames. Add an alpine scented air freshener to really give the feel of skiing in those gorgeous Scandinavian mountains.

Morocco

Fancy something a little warmer and exotic? Moroccan décor is largely inspired by deep purples and oranges akin to a beautiful African sunset. Create a relaxed feel by draping jewel-tone fabrics over the walls, and don’t be afraid to go all out on the lighting. Moroccan décor is defined by its lighting, so try lanterns, sconces and lamps to your heart’s content.

Image courtesy of Flickr (Mazzali).

Choosing the Right Wine for Your Meal

Image: Jing via Flickr
Image: Jing via Flickr

Selecting the right wine to sip and enjoy is a difficult decision to make, and pairing a wine with a meal can be even harder. There are plenty of hard and fast rules that people follow—white wine with fish, red wine with red meat. While these do some times make good sense, for the most part your selection comes down to a mix between selecting a good combination of flavours and personal preferences. After all, the most important thing at the end of the day is not whether you’ve followed the rules, but whether you and your guests have enjoyed your meals. So, without further hesitation, here are a few tips on pairing food and wine for your next big dinner party.

1. Don’t Forget the Champagne

If you’re hosting a dinner party then it is something to celebrate, so why not break out a bottle of bubbly? Champagne is the perfect type of wine to accompany anything that has a predominantly salty flavour—such as its traditional pairing with oysters—as both brut Champagne and cava have a touch of sweetness to them.

2. Light Sea Food and Chablis

Any seafood that has a lighter aroma to it will taste best when it is paired with a delicate white wine. This means the the wine won’t overpower the seafood. If you’re considering serving shrimp cocktail with your meal, try pairing it with a Chablis or Pinot Grigio.

3. A Glass of Sauvignon Blanc

If you’re looking to serve something with a little more pizzazz than shrimp cocktail, like ceviche for example, then a bolder white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc won’t be overwhelmed by the taste of the dish.

4. Dry Whites and Spice

For those who like a little bit of spice in their dishes and are thinking of serving something both spicy and aromatic—think Thai, Indian etc.—then a sweet but dry white wine like a Riesling makes for a pairing that will bring out the most flavour.

5. Pizza and Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the world’s favourite wines, and its light bodied but deep berry and earth flavours make for a wonderful match for foods with a wholesome rustic taste, such as pizza, or mushroom and truffle dishes.

6. Malbec and the Asado

Argentina is one of the world’s great Malbec producers, and the bold taste of these wines match up perfectly with the sweet, tangy, and savoury flavours that come from the dishes cooked on the traditional Argentine barbecue, the asado. So if it’s barbecue you’re planning, consider a nice bottle of Malbec.

Remember, while picking the wine for your meal might seem intimidating, it all comes down to what you’ll enjoy most, whether it’s a bottle of Black Tower Wine from Germany, or Jacobs Creek from Australia.

Vancouver: a look at Canada’s vibrant city

Image: Andriy Baranskyy via Flickr
Image: Andriy Baranskyy via Flickr

When it comes to travelling, Canada has pretty much got everything covered. Vancouver is no exception to the rule. It is considered Canada’s most vibrant city with its thriving art and music scenes and the stunning scenery which makes for a brilliant outdoor sports arena. Here is a close up look at Vancouver and what it has to offer travellers:

Face your fears and try to conquer Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain is a little outside of the city centre but is easily accessed by car or bus if you’re using public transport. There’s a host of activities on offer at the mountain – a Skyride which will bring you to the top in less than ten minutes, an Alpine Station with the ski and hiking supplies you may need to have an adventure, as well as plenty of food outlets to keep you nourished. If you’re not visiting during the skiing season, there is also the Grouse Grind to try. Known as ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’ it is a difficult climb up approximately 850 metres of largely wooden steps – an ideal summer activity for the fearless explorer!

Plenty to keep everyone entertained in the evening

There is no end to the bars and clubs to visit when you’re looking for somewhere to unwind in the evening. But if you’re looking for something a bit different there’s also the opportunity to visit one of the casinos in the city – such as the Edgewater Casino or the Grand Villa Casino. Of course if you’re going to be gambling it might be an idea to brush up on your skills before going to the casino itself. By visiting the likes of http://cad.SpinPalace.com you can play some poker or blackjack from the comfort of your hotel room, and maximise your chances of winning.

Visit the Museum of Anthropology

The museum is located on the outskirts of town, approximately twenty minutes from central Vancouver, and houses a spectacular collection of art and artifacts from all over the world. There is a series of information and background offered alongside the exhibitions to ensure that visitors gain as much from the experience as possible meaning that this is both an opportunity to learn as well as appreciating the talent on display.

Pick up some souvenirs and gifts for the loved ones still at home

Of course it’s customary to make friends and family feel left out by posting countless photographs of stunning scenery on Facebook, but it might be an idea to appease them by bringing them back a souvenir or two. There are a number of different areas in Vancouver which are perfect for shopping. If you’re looking for an eclectic mix of unique stores and coffee shops then you may want to head to Commercial Drive. However, if you’re happier in a shopping centre then Metropolis at Metrotown is worth a visit.

5 Egyptian Beaches You Will Fall in Love With

Image: nsgbrown via Flickr
Image: nsgbrown via Flickr

Egypt offers some of the best beaches in the world. Choose between warm sand or smooth pebbles and take a dip in the clear, blue sea. With some fantastic diving destinations there is much more to do on Egypt’s beaches than soak up the sun.

Sharm el-Sheikh

Sharm el-Sheikh is probably the most popular holiday destination in Egypt and if you are looking for a fantastic beach holiday then you can’t go wrong staying here. A whole 10 miles of beach is on offer with every bit of it warm and stunning. Because Sharm el-Sheikh is a tourist hotspot, there are also lots of restaurants to try out the local cuisine.

Soma Bay

Soma Bay is also a beautiful and huge expanse of beach. The sea is clear and inviting and the beach is buzzing with the activity of wealthy tourists and the Egyptian elite. The water in this bay is calm but coastal winds which make it the perfect destination for watersports such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and parasailing. The water gets very gradually deeper meaning Soma is a great place to take the kids for a splash around.

El-Mahmya

The white sands of Hurghada beaches were the home of the first commercial diving base in the Red Sea. The calm and perfectly clear waters of El-Mahmya in Hurghada, still offer some of the best diving spots in the country. The enormity of the sand also makes it great for the family to play beach games, relax or get active on the water. An all round type of beach that will suit everyone.

Ras Banas

Ras Banas in Marsa Alam offers amazing diving opportunities that are more suited to the experienced diver, or thrill seeker. As well as some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world, you could also spot dolphins, turtles and maybe the odd shark. Fortunately, it is only the dolphins and turtles that take an interest in the divers.

Makadi Bay

Makadi Bay is a stunning beach that is perfect for foreign travellers who do not wish to be restricted by the conservative rules adopted on some of the beaches. Revealing swimwear is acceptable and there are bars where you can get a drink and enjoy the sun. As with most Egyptian beaches, you can also engage in diving, snorkelling and various watersports and there are coral gardens that you can see in the shallow waters.

If you are going on a last minute holiday to Egypt and hoping to find a great beach, then you won’t be disappointed. Every beach in Egypt is stunning so you just need to decide whether you want to relax or get involved in the many activities on offer.