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Villa Brunello 1

Villa Brunello 1 is a perfect Tuscan country retreat set amongst a haven of natural beauty and twenty five hectares of vineyards. The traditional house with a cottage have been lovingly restored by the owners, using only natural materials found in the area. It is approximately eleven kilometers from Montalcino which is well known for Brunello wine.

Dining out at Villa BrunelloVilla Brunello 1 and its cottage can accommodate twelve guests with four bedrooms and four full baths in the main villa and two bedrooms and two full baths in the cottage. Both have two stories tastefully furnished with a comfortable mix of antique, modern and traditional Tuscan country style.

Dining in at Villa BrunelloFrom the Villa, you have territorial views of the terraced lawns, swimming pool and countryside lined with grapes. A gazebo on the lawn is ideal for al fresco dining: the outdoor barbeque and pizza oven await a cook. A small, two floor building with a modern gym, jacuzzi and sauna completes the grounds.

Holiday CraftsTravel Gifts and Crafts

Now that the holidays are upon us, my mind is focused on honoring my friends and family with a gift. Each year I try to choose something special for each, and since I particularly enjoy writing, crafts and homemade items, I explore the possibilities in that realm. With travel being a major joy, I'd like to encourage your "craftiness" by sharing some ideas with you, my fellow travel junkies!

When I travel abroad I take lots of photos and purchase tons of postcards wherever I can. I also keep placemats, coasters, guides, maps, tour info, tickets, and anything else that's made of paper or plastic and is easy to tuck into my suitcase. This gives me a mountain of craft materials to choose from when I get home.

Then when I find myself with a bit of alone time on a rainy afternoon, I pull out my file full of memorabilia, sit down with a cup of tea, and put together a keepsake for myself or someone near and dear. What's better than to relive the joys of travel while sharing yourself with others?

Here are a few things I've done with such materials:

Throw a party centered around an area you saw on your travels: Use memorabilia to make invitations, table decorations, games, and prepare local cuisine.

Make a picture frame decorated with travel memorabilia.

Make a card out of a photo or postcard, add stickers, a little journaling, and a special greeting.

Decorate a small wooden box that can be used for trinkets, letters, jewelry, or photos.

Give a gift of travel (reservations at a villa or apartment in the future) in the form of a card or album sheet.

Make a memory album using a variety of materials along with written memories of the times you enjoyed along the way.

Write a story about your adventures, using the photos and memorabilia to add interest and color.

I also love to pick up little gifts while I'm abroad. I try to choose small, durable items that are particularly noteworthy from a special area. I remember a small glass heart from Florence for a granddaughter. And a beautiful grape wood rolling pin from Tuscany, for my sister. Along with a hand made card depicting the area, these make precious keepsakes for those we think about on our travels. I don't know about you, but sharing the experience after I get back home is half the fun!

Have a most wonderful Christmas season, and I wish you every happiness in the New Year!

Two WolvesThe Cherokee Story of Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, "My son, the battle is between 2 "wolves" inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy,sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Dear Travelers and Friends,

As we enter into this holiday season and the last month of 2005, I just want to take a moment to thank you all for your continued support and wonderful travel stories! Our customers are our inspiration and it is only with your help that we move ahead to improve our services to you! I have a feeling that 2006 is going to be a great year for travel as many of you have already proven. Properties are steadily being booked throughout the new year with Tuscany and Mexico still ahead in terms of popularity. I encourage those of you who have discovered and rediscovered Tuscany to branch out. Take a chance on France and
Portugal you'll be pleasantly suprised!

We at want to wish you and your loved ones all the best during this month of festivities

Bon Voyage!

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


Set your sights on Puerto Vallarta Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta is located in the western part of the state of Jalisco in central Mexico, overlooking the Pacific Coast. On Banderas Bay, one of the largest bays in the world (42 kms north to south), when visitors step off the plane they're awestruck by the natural beauty of this popular Mexican destination.

With a backdrop of the rugged and lush Sierra de Vallejo and Sierra del Cuale mountain ranges, and next to the powerful Ameca River, this beautiful piece of Mexican geography was once land-locked. But even then whalers and fishermen frequented the bay, and Spanish ships used it to repair their vessels, provision with fresh water and food, take refuge from storms and pirates, and even build new ships. Later vessels from the Philippines and the Orient found this wonderfully safe harbor.

The mountains held silver, and when large and prosperous mines developed in the nineteenth century, the entire area prospered. Mountain communities became hubs of economic activity. The village of Puerto Vallarta, then called Las Penas, became the main port for the loading and unloading of supplies and materials for the mining companies.

In the 1880's Don Guadalupe Sanchez Torres began a salt trade there. The mines needed vast quantities of salt to process the silver ore, and Don Guadalupe mined the salt on nearby islands, brought it to the port, and loaded bags on donkeys for transport to the mines. With his charismatic and enthusiastic leadership, the people got the port officially named Las Penas and officially opened it to national maritime traffic with its own Maritime Customs Office. In 1886, the town was given official political and judicial standing by decree from the State Congress. Don Guadalupe is still a local hero.

The town grew daily with the arrival of new families. Many were in the salt trade, but the fertile Ameca valley was so rich that it produced 3 corn harvests in a single year, so agriculture and raising cattle was a real draw. Then in 1918 Las Penas was granted the title of municipality as well as a new name, Puerto Vallarta, in memory of the illustrious lawyer and Governor of Jalisco, Don Ignacio L. Vallarta.

As banana plantations flourished with brisk trade to the United States, railways were built that furthered trade. During WW II, soldiers were given shark liver oil as a nutritional supplement, so the bay's plentiful shark population supported the local fishing business. And over the course of years, a few national and foreign tourists began coming to Puerto Vallarta, returning year after year to spend their vacation enjoying the tranquility and great natural beauty of the port. Then the hit American movie Iguana was made here in 1963, and Puerto Vallarta's beautiful wide beaches and tropical forest background became known to the world. Big Hollywood stars, intellectuals, and national celebrities led the way to paradise.

Relaxing on one of Peurto Vallarta's beachesNow the second most-visited resort city in all of Mexico, attracting 2.2 million tourists per year, it is easily accessible from key U.S. gateways including Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Phoenix and Newark. The city caters to visitors, offering great shopping, restaurants and cafes, tours, water sports, and a relaxed and festive lifestyle in an ideal climate. has numerous villas and apartments in the area, and if you don't see exactly what you want on our site, let us know your needs and we'll work to find it. Our owners in Puerto Vallarta are knowledgeable and accommodating.

RecipeThe Making of Plum Pudding

Plum pudding began as a medieval harvest dish, an unsweetened wheat and grain stew. As the dish evolved, beef broth was added, and brown bread for thickening, then spices, gingerbread, raisins, and currants.

In Old England plum pudding was called simply Christmas pudding. Although plum pudding can be complicated to make, an easily made pudding can be just as good, if not better. Here's one adapted from an 1845 recipe.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup grated carrots
1/4 cup candied orange rind
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup minced, peeled apples
3/4 cup currants
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup brandy
blanched, split almonds (optional)
1/2 cup flour, sifted with:
1/8 tsp mace
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except eggs and brandy until well blended. Stir in eggs. Pour into a lightly greased pudding mold or coffee can and cover tightly with foil or a lid. Place on a rack in a pan with boiling water extending two thirds of the way up the sides of the container. Boil for 3 hours. To serve, reheat by wrapping pudding in aluminum foil and heating in the oven. For decoration as well as extra flavor, you can sprinkle with blanched, split almonds and pour the brandy over the top. Garnish with fresh mint. May be served with a hard sauce on the side if desired.

Apartment Marais DelightApartment Marais Delight is a beautifully situated apartment in rue de Turenne in the Marais (4th arrondissement), near Musee Carnavalet and Musee Picasso and between St. Paul and Place des Voges. It is at the end of the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, one of the most exciting shopping streets in Paris. The nearest metro stations are St. Paul and Chemin Vert which is a direct line to Bastille.

On the second floor of a beautiful historic 17th century building, Marais Delight is light and bright with views onto both the garden side and the street. The living room is elegant and functional; the kitchen is furnished with modern appliances. Two spacious bedrooms and two ensuite bathrooms complete this lovely Parisian apartment.

"The apartment is a delight!". JR, Albany, CA

"We thoroughly enjoyed our apartment in the Marais District. It was a very convenient location and the manager was very helpful in all things."
DM, Bellevue, WA

Newsletter editor: Kathy Hayes

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