Villa Twilight

Villa Twilight is exquisite

Villa Twilight

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Villa Twilight is extremely spacious with over 14,000 sq. feet and offers a wealth of private facilities, as well as 10 bedrooms that sleep up to 20 guests. The villa boasts a 1,400 sq.' sun terrace with outstanding 360-degree views, comfortable sun beds, shade umbrellas, outdoor tables, a private heated pool, tiled Jacuzzi, and a pool bar.

Villa roof Garden

Villa roof garden

Another 1,300 sq.' terrace is a roof garden, or "Terraza Mirador". It also has 360-degree views and is the perfect location for weddings and special events, (available only by pre-arrangement for events, with a supplementary fee). Rental of the villa also includes the services of the staff: Chef, Sous-chef, waiter/houseman, housemaid, and English-speaking villa hostess.

Without a doubt, one of the focal points of any stay at this villa is the supreme, mouth-watering cuisine. The dining room at the villa offers an unparalleled dining ambience with breathtaking views, candlelight, and an amazing, specially designed, handmade iron and tile dining table to comfortably seat 16 people. As a guest in the villa you will not need or want to eat anywhere else.

Villa cuisine

Mouth-watering cuisine

Dinner service is at 7 pm nightly and Hors d' oeuvres are served at 5 to 6 pm, prepared by the Chef and Sous-chef. Breakfast is served daily between 9am and 10am. It is a hearty buffet breakfast that includes a daily choice of: eggs, potatoes, breakfast meats, fruit, cereals, freshly baked homemade pastries, toast, yogurt, granola, and juice, tea, and coffee. Generally the first evening's menu will be: Hors d'oeuvres: Chicken Taquitos, guacamole, and salsa. Dinner: Caesar Salad, Steak and Chicken Fajitas, Quesadillas, Guacamole, Salsas, Rice and Frijoles (Beans), with Flan for dessert. At the beginning of your stay, you will need to decide on your choice of menu per evening (one choice of entrée, main course, and dessert); a kid's menu and vegetarian options are also available upon request. The chefs do not prepare lunch. However, with prior notice, they are more than happy to pre-stock your refrigerator with your favorite lunchtime snacks or to arrange for delivery service from one of the many excellent restaurants in Vallarta.


Truly a luxurious property!

Sunday is a day of rest in Mexico, and is the staff's day off. We trust that you will use this time as an opportunity to sample one of the many excellent restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. Please feel free to ask us for recommendations. Should you wish to have breakfast served on Sunday, a special pre-arrangement can be made at an extra cost of $60 US. Dinner is not available in the villa on Sunday evenings. If you wish to arrive at the villa on a Sunday, there will be a $150 US surcharge, and staff will need to take a day of rest during the week.

The villa enjoys a private spa terrace for daily in-house spa treatments: massages, facials, pedicures, and manicures (prices for treatments made available at time of villa booking). One of the very popular in-house services is a traditional Swedish massage. A professional licensed masseuse offers superb massage in our private day spa terrace. This is highly recommended by past clients!

Invaluable local information is available from the hostess who can also make reservations for restaurants, local tours, excursions, golf courses, and tennis courts. Let us know if you would like to pre-arrange these services. We know from experience that it is far better to pre-book your excursions, such as Dolphin programs and sailing, to avoid disappointment. Popular in-house services include, Mariachi bands, Trios, flowers and celebratory cake services.



Villa Lucca veranda

Veranda dining at Villa Lucca

Meals in Europe

I guess I'm kind of an old-fashioned mom and grandma. I have this habit of planning menus, probably because I've always taken responsibility for feeding my family three meals a day. And even now with my husband working from home, I do menu planning for him and anyone else who might be around. Fortunately I love to cook. It's no different when I travel. I still want to know when, where and what we're going to eat. Since I've traveled to Europe with several times, I have a few suggestions that may be of help to you.

Some of our properties come with a welcome dinner the evening of your arrival. If your property choice does not include this, you can arrange for a cook to come in, usually for little more than what a restaurant would charge to serve a meal at their establishment. The benefits are many. First and foremost it's wonderful because you're not yet familiar with local eating establishments, you're tired from the long flight, and you just want to get settled in your new "home away from home" as quickly as possible. This is a great opportunity to be served out of your own kitchen, enjoy chatting with a local, (take notes on what to see, where to eat, etc.), make time for a relaxed exploration of your new "digs", move out of your luggage into your new personal space, and get rested and restored so that you can be ready to do all the things you came here for.

Oftentimes owners will leave you a basket of food to at least cover the essentials for breakfast (milk, eggs, bread, fruit, coffee) plus local wine and sometimes olive oil that was produced on their property. If not, you can request a few things like this, for a small fee. This makes the first day much more relaxed since people in your party may be adjusting to time zone changes, different arrival times, needs of children, and such.

I like to eat a light breakfast at home each morning, either eat a mid-day or evening meal out, and cook the other meal. It would depend on what type of property we're in, and who I'm with. If we have a group that includes children and it's a large countryside villa with a pool, I would want to spend a good portion of the week at home.

Many kitchens furnish salt and pepper, olive oil, and other condiments. But if you do plan to cook, check your cupboards so when you go out exploring you can purchase everything you need. The open markets are a blast with fresh meat and fish, veggies, fruits, pasta, etc. There are numerous specialty shops almost everywhere so you can purchase wine, cheese, bakery goods, milk and butter. And you'll even find grocery stores that will remind you of home. The kitchens at all properties are furnished with crockery, glassware and flatware for the maximum number of guests allowed at that property, cooking pots and pans, a coffee pot, and often additional appliances that make cooking more convenient. Most of the properties also have dishwashers to help with cleanup. Look on the website for the listed amenities for your particular property.

For your meals out you will have plenty of opportunity to try a wide variety of foods, served from everything from fast-food portable stands that sell quick and hearty fare, to small cafes where you sit down and are served from a menu, to classy restaurants with white linen tablecloths and waiters. Most menus are posted outside each kind of establishment so you can make the decision with privacy. And don't forget to visit nice country restaurants that are usually run by a couple who live in the house attached. We've enjoyed some of our best meals at these. Your property contact can make recommendations, as well as any of the locals you get to know.

Many clients choose to hire a cook to prepare a going-away dinner for their last evening at the property. This makes preparation for traveling home much less hectic and is often the most enjoyable meal of the entire trip. Here people talk excitedly about their favorite experiences during their stay, sites they saw, funny things that happened to them, and a mellow glow settles over the table. Group and individual pictures are taken. Perhaps an individual presents a gift or asks a spouse to take a stroll around the garden or a last dip in the pool. Don't be surprised if all agree that plans must be made to return!





Dear Travelers and Friends,

It's finally time for many of you to pack up and head for that long awaited vacation property. Others are still planning and I want you to know it's not too late - we still have some good availability. We're running some good specials, too! Let us know your desires and we'll make some recommendations.

We're always on the lookout for quality properties in prime locations. In fact some of our staff is currently traveling in Asia, and looking forward to tours of South Africa and Greece where they expect to find some new exotic villa rentals. We'll keep you posted!

Enjoy your travels!

All the Best,

Emmanuel de Ricard, President


St. Peter's Square

View of St. Peter's Square

Rome's Culture of Water, Part II

Last month we began a series on Rome walking tours. These are chosen from several recommended by the Rome Tourist Bureau that invite visitors to discover some of the numerous monuments in Rome that demonstrate the continuous and vital relationship of Rome with water. The delightful itinerary below takes you from Ponte Sisto to St. Peter's Square.

Itinerary #2
Ponte Sisto was the first bridge in Rome to be built by a Pope after the ones erected in antiquity and is thus named after him. It was restructured over an ancient bridge on the occasion of the Jubilee of 1475. It is curved in a shape known as a "donkey's back", which gives it a very pleasant line. It consists of four wide arches in tufa, travertine and brickwork, and is supported by three strong pillars. The central pillar has a large circular opening that was used as a hydrometer. If the Tiber flowed through the hole it meant the safe high water mark had been exceeded. Piazza Trilussa is located by the bridgehead towards Trastevere and is dominated by the Fontanone di Ponte Sisto. It was moved here in 1898 after destruction of the Beggars Hospital where it once stood. The deeply recessed niche, flanked by two columns set against ashlar-work masonry, has a small basin in the upper section from which water pours into the wider basin below. At the top, the inscription surmounted by the Borghese coat of arms celebrates Pope Paul V, who brought water to this area of the city by restoring the Aqueduct of Trajan.

A lovely walk through the picturesque alleys of Trastevere will lead you to the main square of the district, and the ancient Piazza Santa Maria Fountain. It has a complex history because of multiple restorations due to lack of water supply, deterioration of travertine, and simply age, but has four double seashells that collect the water gushing from four bronze wolf mouths. The travertine has been replaced with gray bardiglio marble. On the octagonal basin, four inscriptions sum up the fountain's complex history.

Fountain on the Janiculum

Fountain on the Janiculum

Along Via della Scala, before reaching Porta Settimiana, turn into Via Garibaldi that will take you to the top of the Janiculum hill to see the famous Fontanone which is actually the monumental fountain placed at the end of the conduits of the Traiano Paolo Aqueduct. Starting in 1608, in order to provide an adequate water supply to the western section of the city, Pope Paul V promoted the difficult task of restoring the aqueduct of Trajan. It was originally built in 109 AD and was fed by the Vicarello springs near the lake of Bracciano and took a course over 57 kilometers. Part was underground and part above, on elevated arches. The architectural structure of the fountain clearly recalls the Fountain of Moses in Piazza San Bernardo. It presents three large central openings flanked by two others smaller in size. Six columns from the old basilica of St. Peter were placed in between the arches and the rest of the material was taken from the Roman Forum. The central arches have three large windows that originally offered a glimpse of the beautiful garden. The animated upper section is decorated with two colossal figures of Winged Fame placed on the sides of the coat of arms of Pope Paul V. A single basin rests below the arches and widens at the center.

Return to Porta Settimiana and continue along Via della Lungara up to Largo Cristina di Svezia and the entrance to the Botanical Garden. In this beautiful area surrounding the university you will find the Fountain of the Tritons. A high jet of water spouts from two travertine tritons on a rock placed in a quatre-foil basin. In line with this charming fountain, Fuga designed an avenue that leads uphill to a monumental staircase with three ramps. At the centre of the last ramp stands the Fountain of the Eleven Jets. Made up of a series of six staggered cups from which eleven jets of water spout, the fountain recalls famous examples of other fountains, such as the Boiling Fountain and the Water Staircase.

Continuing along Via della Lungara, past Piazza della Rovere, you will reach the Samnto Spirito in Sassia Hospital. Here you can enter into "the cloister of the nuns" by passing through the hospital building to see the graceful Fountain of the Dolphins. It was built towards the middle of the 16th century and is named after the four dolphins that support the circular basin.

Attached to the hospital complex is the Palace of the Commendatore. Here you can look into the courtyard and catch a glimpse of a charming fountain set against the wall at the far end. It was originally built to adorn the Vatican but was removed during construction of the colonnade in St. Peter's Square. The elaborate fountain is decorated with seashells, masks, grotesques and pensile basins and placed in a niche encrusted with colored pebbles.

When you reach St. Peter's Square you will see two practically identical fountains standing on the sides of the elliptical colonnade designed by Bernini. Both consist of a large mixtilinear basin with an octagonal pedestal supporting a round basin. Both bear coats of arms and both have a stem at the center with four spirals supporting the second basin made of a single block of granite, the surface of which is carved in large scales and with the concave part facing down. In this way, the water gushing from the seven spouts creates a multitude of splashes and refracts the light with a lovely effect.



Michelangelo 3

Rooms are bright and cheerful

Michelangelo 3

Florence, Italy

The Michelangelo apartments are located on the Piazza de' Ciompi which is found in the old city center of Florence. In total there are twenty one completely renovated apartments in the building. Just inside, guests will find a reception desk, and all apartments can be reached by elevator. The apartments are beautifully furnished, bright and cheery. In front of the building is limited parking which can be reserved in advance.

Every apartment has central heating, air conditioning, telephone and separate connections for internet and satellite TV. There is also a fully equipped kitchen corner with stove, oven, dishwasher and fridge. Please note that the photos represent a variety of apartments in the building, and may not be this specific unit. If you want frescos on the ceiling please request this. Washing machines and dryers are available on each floor.

The only regularly scheduled flea market in Florence is open daily on the plaza which is across the square. On Sundays the market becomes even more spectacular as one hundred additional vendors join in! The famous Santa Croce square and Piazza del Duomo are nearby.

"The Apartment was beautiful, quite possibly the nicest place I have had the opportunity to stay in in Florence and I have been renting apartments in Italy for 15 to 20 years!!"

- VP, Palm Springs, CA.



Tortilla soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

From The Pampered Chef
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings.
Make it light and make it Mexican! This soup proves low-cal, low-fat foods can still have loads of flavor.

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas
½ cup onion, chopped
3 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 12 oz)
1 clove garlic, pressed
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp ground cumin
2 cans (14 ½ oz each) chicken broth
1 can (4 ounces chopped green chilies), undrained
4 tsp fresh cilantro, snipped
2 oz reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (½ cup)
4 thick slices fresh lime (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut tortillas into ½ inch strips using shears. Place on flat baking sheet and bake 7-8 minutes or until crisp.

Meanwhile, chop onion. Cut chicken into ½ inch pieces. Heat heavy 4 quart pan over medium-high heat. Spray with vegetable oil. Add chicken; cook and stir 3 minutes. Add onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin. Cook and stir 2 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes and chilies. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Snip cilantro using shears. Divide tortilla strips among 4 bowls. Ladle soup over tortillas. Shred cheese over top. Sprinkle soup with cilantro. Garnish each bowl with lime slice to squeeze juice into soup, if desired.

Nutrients per serving (about 1 ½ cups):
Calories 290
Fat 9 g
Sodium 1320 mg
Dietary Fiber 2 g
Serving suggestion: Top each serving with a dollop of light sour cream. Serve soup with cornbread sticks and fresh oranges that have been cut into wedges.


For a little laugh

a little laugh


"Employees only" read a sign in the greenhouse.
"All others will be planted, propagated or pruned."

Our local bar warns: "If you're smoking,
you better be on fire."

A billboard outside a nearby restaurant raged
"QU!T 5T3ALING O R lett3RS."

Newsletter Editor: Kathy Hayes

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