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Big Sur - Hiking Andrew Molera State Park

One of the great delights of living in the Bay Area is the proximity to the natural beauty of California and it's hard to beat the stunning drive down Highway One to Big Sur. This is certainly one of the iconic American road trips, but for me the joy of being in the area is getting out of your car and hitting a trail, so you can be "in" the landscape rather than just looking at it from the asphalt. 

Ischia - Island in the Bay of Naples

As you can tell from my last post on the Terme Manzi Hotel we greatly enjoyed our trip to Ischia. I had a lovely time with my mother, we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves without doing very much. Ischia is a fun destination, a volcanic island in the Bay of Naples well served by both ferries and hydrofoils. The boat trip was extremely easy and the views coming and going were fantastic. 
Hydrofoil that we took from Naples.
As part of our package we has a bus tour around the island, normally something I would avoid a all costs. However, it was free and given that they would pick us up at the hotel it was an easy was to get an overview of the island. Unfortunately the tour in English left at 8am! Needless to say there was no way we would be making that, so at 2pm we met up with a busload of Italians for a tour in a language we didn't understand! We had so much fun, almost immediately the cd of classic Neapolitan songs began and everyone, with the exception of ourselves and a German couple, joined in! The bus driver who was also the tour guide was kind enough to give us several helpful asides in English but for the most part we sat back and enjoyed the scenery. 

Here are some of the wonderful views.

Ischia - sightseeing on our trip around the island.

Tip: On this trip I used the Slow Food Guide religiously and we had some wonderful meals. In Ischia we  made the pilgrimage up the mountain to the Slow food pick Il Focolare which is know for rabbit and other local favorites. We had a wonderful pasta followed by hearty plates of meatballs and sausages. It was excellent local food served with a good local wine in a family atmosphere, highly recommended and very reasonable, minus the expensive cab fare to get there! Portions are large and can certainly be shared, they were kind enough to give us two half portions of the pasta dishes.

Il Focolare,  Ischia.
My mother made great friends with everyone by mentioning the Italian football great Trapattoni, who  makes a regular appearance in the Dublin papers now he's coaching the Irish team. Merely mentioning his name and saying that he was loved in Ireland brought smiles and torrents of happy and incomprehensible exclamations from all the Italians around!