New York

August 1 - 10

Only in New York..............................

can you turn up to a restaurant at 11.30 pm without a reservation and still be served with a full menu and excellent service and be the last customer there at 1am. It was Casa Mono and really excellent Spanish fare. We loved the pork belly with spicy sandia, piquillo peppers with oxtail, pumpkin and goats cheese croquetas, quail with summer squash and harissa. This restaurant also boasts a comprehensive Spanish wine list.

can you find a "Comme des Garcons" (clothing designer) in your own street. We stayed in a circa 1868, but recently renovated, Brownstone building apartment on W22nd Street and Ninth Ave, Chelsea. Very cute and conveniently located.

does an attentive men's clothing shop assistant make you reservations for lunch, then walk you to the restaurant just so you don't get lost. We did spend a lot of time and money there - Massimo Bizzocchi 433 West 14th Street , - thanks Tony.

can you have the best cupcakes in New York just across the street - Billy's Bakery, We happen to go there everyday for a cupcake and coffee. Approximately 2400 cupcakes get made and iced in the front window each day. Maddie and Nastassia's favourite is the coconut cake with fresh meringue and it's open till 12am!

can you become a New York Mets fan overnight after you have been to just one game - this baseball game is addictive - thank you B+T Tognini family xx

can you eat the freshest of fresh lobster sushi and sashimi prepared in front of you at the Chelsea Markets , 75 Ninth Ave The Chelsea Markets is also where we have found the best coffee in New York (in our experience).

ride the "Beast" and get to the Statue of Liberty in just 10 minutes from Pier 83 on W 42nd Street US$22 a ticket!

do you have the household rubbish - "trash"under lock and key at the front door.

does it take approximately 30 seconds to hail a cab on 9th Ave.
Places we went to and enjoyed

Nobu next door , 105 Hudson Street, Tribeca, NY (Japanese)

Spice, 199 8th Ave NY , (Thai)

LeGrainne Cafe ( great crepes & omelettes for breakfast ) 183 Ninth Ave New York, (French)

Gallo Nero, 402 W44th St (great pasta ) (Italian )

Casa Mono, 52 Irving Street , NYC (excellent Spanish)

Boqueria , 53 W 19th St and Fifth Ave , Spanish tapas

Spice Market , 403 13th St / 9th Ave - (Thai )

Macelleria, 48 Ganesvoort St, Meatpackers District - (Italian)

Chelsea Markets, 14th St and 9th Ave , Chelsea

Murray's Bagels ,W 22nd Sve , Chelsea (bagels, best hot smoked salmon )

Billy's Bakery , W 22 nd and 9 th Ave , Chelsea ( best ever cupcakes )

Magnolia Bakery ,180 Varick St, West 11th St. West Village ( almost as good as Billy's )

One of the most rewarding parts of this journey has been renewing old friendships of long distance relatives and meeting new ones as well.

We are fortunate enough to have family in the north of Italy in a tiny town of Colorina, several hours out of Milan, and family at the opposite end of the country in Piedmonte Eteno, Sicily.

Their differences are many, but so are their similarities. The overwhelming sense of "family" is what's important to both sides. Mark's father, Alfredo, was born in Colorina and has two remaining brothers there. Mark's mother, Nunziatina (Nancy to all) has the Sicilian heritage and first cousins still in Piedmonte Etneo, a tiny town nestled at the base of Mt Etna only about 15 minutes drive from Taormina.

In Colorina, not far from the Swiss border , Mark has two uncles and six first cousins - this makes for about 30 direct cousins, second cousins and extended family at the local pizzeria the night we go. To my surprise all of the children eat an "American" pizza that is covered in french fries. Another surprise is a dish called "sciattia' which is a deep fried buckwheat fritter filled with cheese - a little harsh on the waistline!

We share many family meals and conversations over the weeks we spent in Colorina between our touring. Another memorable time was a lunch spent in Caspoggio - a ski village only about a half hour drive from Sondrio (our base). This is where Mark's uncle has a home that is used in summer to escape the heat. The day we went it was rainy and the temperature dropped from 33 deg the day previously to 13 deg up the mountain. In winter the place is completely snowed in. The views are amazing overlooking the valley. One can only imagine the beauty of the snow in winter.

We share a massive bowl of pizzoccheri this day. The traditional buckwheat pasta is mixed with potato, cheese and beans till it forms a creamy texture plus some good Sondrio red wine. A lovely day shared with family eating traditional fare. The fire place was on in the middle of summer to keep us cosy!

In Sicily, we, along with Beni and Tracey Tognini spend time with one of Mark's 'uncles' in his country retreat - beautifully positioned on Mt Etna, the house overlooks villages and out to the Mediterranean.

Here, Pippo has a healthy self sufficient farm growing everything from potatoes, zucchinis, tomatoes, all kinds of fruits including figs, citrus and grapes of course. Pippo makes his own wine. There are turkeys, chickens and eggs are plentiful.

It gave us great pleasure to be able to prepare brunch for Pippo made from the ingredients entirely off the farm.

The time spent with family in both Colorina and Sicily is to be treasured - our lives are so completely different - but we share a sense of belonging when we are with family. We spent weeks in Sondrio - it really feels like home.

We shall miss our afternoon drinks at our favourite bar in Sondrio "la fragola" and will fondly remember these times in the coming months.

Santorini, Greece

July 12 Sunny - warm about 35 deg

Santorini is famous for it's breathtaking views, whitewashed buildings, the deep deep blue sea, donkey rides and great memories of a fantastic lunch shared with great friends. As I recall, Bennie found the back street cafe where we had probably the most authentic Greek food on our Greek cruise.

With a view of the other side of the island , surrounded by plants potted in old Dodoni fetta tins and a deliciously cool breeze blowing in we settle in for an afternoon of eating, drinking and lots of laughing.

The dips all homemade - skordalia, eggplant, taramasalata and baked feta (new favourite). The dish of the day was a slow cooked veal shank with eggplant. The eggplant is the secret flavour - they are much sweeter and the flesh is white and tender. This was served with roasted potatoes. We also enjoyed traditional Greek salad and pork souvlaki and grilled sardines - all food shared with great local wines- another perfect day in paradise !

Athens , Greece

July 17 40 deg - HOT !

Stayed at Hera Hotel, , a really lovely hotel that is close to the Acropolis - the rooftop restaurant has an amazing view to the Acropolis.

After a very hot day of climbing and exploring the Acropolis we meet friends and share a fabulous meal at Ehaia Resturant, 105 58 Plaka. This rooftop restaurant has a fabulous view of the western wall of the Acropolis and a great view over Athens. It is beautiful in the evening but would be way too hot in the daytime. During the day it is essential to find one of those outdoor cafe's that have the fan/mist set up - brilliant idea.

Monemvasia, Greece

July 13 35 deg sunny

Monemvasia, one of our stops from the good ship Pegasos , is a tiny little peninsular built around 1147AD and used as a port and shelter during the Norman's attacks in the 1200s. This ancient village can be reached easily and many of the buildings are still intact and today have been converted to up market jewellery shops and restaurants. The streets are narrow, cobbled stone pathways with hotels hidden away and cafes with breath taking views to the sea. A really charming village steeped in history.

Back on the mainland we order our lunch from a restaurant called Aotepias 'on the beach'. We have a swim in the beautifully refreshing Mediterranean with a very rocky floor just 10 metres away from our table, then sit in our bikinis to eat - this is my kind of dining!

We order the 'village rooster' (pictured) just because someone had to eat him! Not sure what the village is doing now for a rooster! Rooster is a common offering on menus in Greece. We discover it is cooked slowly in a tomato-based sauce and traditionally served with spaghetti. It tastes very much like corn fed chicken.

After a good selection of hand made dips, baked feta , pita and fresh fish - we are all happy.