European Hotspots and Travel Tips
Dear Friends and Fellow Travelers,

If you like to travel, as we do, you've probably been to Europe, probably more than a few times too. Why? There is always some amazing country or region to return to, or visit for the first time. Europe is a cornucopia of delights, especially for those of us from the "New World," to whom an historical site is 100 years old.  

European cities and countrysides are layered with history, architecture, art, and gorgeous landscapes. From Pre-Christ ruins to centuries-old castles and palaces, legendary archeological sites, paintings from the Grand Masters and venerable homes, spending a day in a European city is like stepping back in time.
For those of you who prefer to remain in the 21st century, don't forget the stately boulevards, fabulous restaurants, coffee houses, bazaar bargains and designer shopping. Just don't be surprised if you're sitting in the coffee house where Freud developed his interesting theories on the Ego!

Whatever your passion, it's our business to get you to the coolest places, at the best time, and on your budget. Read on for some ideas on where to take your next vacation, then call us and we'll make it happen.



Dennis Hein 
EUROPE...Trains, Boats and Planes...So Many Choices!
So you've finally decided you're going to Europe! Now the fun begins as you figure out where and how you're going to go. There is a European experience to suit everyone, whether you love being pampered or prefer to "wing it" on your own.

Spend a little time thinking realistically about how you like to travel. Do you like to see as much as possible in a short time? Do you prefer to absorb one or two places at leisure? Do you want the majority of your trip costs paid before you leave home? Do you like to share your adventures with friends or family?

Escorted Tours: One of the most popular, economical and time-tested ways to visit Europe is on an escorted tour. It's a great way to visit multiple countries or to really see all of one country. You can still find an "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium" tour, but they are becoming more rare.

The "new" way of touring frequently keeps you in one place for two or more days, taking day trips for sightseeing before moving on to the next locale. This gives you more free time to explore on your own and less time spent packing and unpacking. All or most of your travel arrangements are taken care of, including transportation, lodging, sightseeing and meals. You are escorted by a trained Tour Director, whose expertise adds even more flavor to the tour. You generally travel with a group of 25-50 people who are also interested in seeing the same things, which can result in new friends and travel companions!

Click here for an Iberian Adventure: Spain, Portugal and Morocco

Click here for the Jewels of Italy Tour

You say you want the convenience of an escorted tour but you don't want to be in such a large group? Or perhaps you want your tour to emphasize a specific focus or activity? There are a number of "Small Group" tours waiting for you! The "Small Group" tours generally have no more than 24 passengers, with the average being closer to 12-16. Many of these tours have a particular theme, such as wine-tasting, theatre, gastronomy, gardening, walking, biking, music or art, to name a few. With a theme tour, you are almost guaranteed to be surrounded by people who share your interests or you can put together your own group and itinerary.

Big Ship Cruises: Do you love the convenience of Big Ship cruising? You unpack once - you have easy access to entertainment and multiple restaurants - you generally travel during the night, leaving your days free to sightsee. You decide what to see and do at each port, either wandering on your own, taking one of the ship's excursions or having your travel agent arrange private sightseeing for you. Because you travel at night or during an "at sea" day, you can go great distances and easily visit multiple countries in one cruise. It's easy to control your expenses and, like the escorted tours, some of the cruise lines have "themed" cruises and also "overnight" in certain popular ports.

Click here to read all about our Barcelona to Venice Mediterranean Cruise

There is a cruise line for every taste and budget with ships in Europe right now. You can spend two to twenty-plus nights cruising the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Adriatic, the Aegean or the North Seas. A 12-night Mediterranean cruise is an amazing "sampler" for the first time visitor. A wine-themed Fall Harvest cruise is wonderful for either a seasoned European cruiser or a wine enthusiast. Your choices are limited only by your time constraints, budget and imagination.

HINT: Your shore excursions can be the highpoint of your cruise. Many of the "luxury" cruise lines include shore excursions - and adult beverages - in your cruise fare, which actually makes them far more affordable than they first appear.

Click here to read about our 12-Night Immersive Wine Cruise

River Cruises: How would you feel about a European travel choice that combined the best of escorted tours and big ship cruising? Ladies and gentlemen - We give you River Cruising! The rivers of Europe were the highways of old and now river cruisers reap the benefits of ships that dock near the original centers of historic towns, allowing passengers to easily walk into town on their own to enjoy additional sightseeing, shopping or café sitting. With an average of 100-140 passengers, river cruisers tend to blend in with the townspeople, rather than inundating them. You unpack once and enjoy the view. For the most part, your accommodations, meals and shore excursions are all included in your river cruise fare and most of the river cruise lines also include beer and wine with dinner. The entertainment is brought on board and tends to be low key and more cultural and port-specific. You may be entertained by musicians or dancers or watch food demonstrations or listen to a speaker talk about your next port or region.

Click here to read about our Portugal River Cruise

Themed river cruises are a huge trend, some with an emphasis on Jewish heritage, wine-tasting, art, WWII, music, Christmas Markets and more. The additional activities for the different themes are included at no extra charge. You can combine the best of land and water by adding a city stay at the beginning or end of your cruise.

Click here to read about our Jewish Heritage Danube Cruise

Finally, you may choose to travel independently, either by rail, car or short flights. Travel on your own can be intimidating for first-timers, but there are ways to combine city stays that make it fairly easy. These independent packages include hotels, transportation arrangements between cities, guided excursions and a local host you can call for assistance. Driving in Europe can be fun - parking is not. Before deciding to rent a car and take off, think about where you want to go. Driving into big cities can be frustrating, unless you have good directions and a parking spot waiting for you.

Trains are a great way to get around, as long as you are a good packer. You will usually be in charge of moving and storing your own luggage, so make sure you are able. Once you are settled, you can lean back into your comfy seat and enjoy the passing scenery. The main train stations are usually in city centers with many public transportation options to choose from. There are some inexpensive intra-European flights available, but they are inexpensive only if you travel very light. The baggage costs can exceed the airfare and some airlines even charge for carry-on bags!

Obviously there are more choices than these, but these are your main ones. There are trips for 18-35 year olds, seniors, families, honeymooners, singles and more. How do you decide which is best for you? Talk to your travel agent, be aware of your own travel style, know your budget and travel dates and most of all, have a fabulous time once you are there! Relax and go with the flow.
Unforgettable Italy
What makes Italy such a natural vacation choice for Americans? It combines the familiarity of home with the romance of a new adventure. We love pizza, chianti, and spumoni. Venice has gondolas. Pisa has a leaning tower. Rome has a colosseum. We are comfortable with Italy. We are all Italy experts. We visualize ourselves shopping in Milan, exploring Pompeii, spotting George Clooney in Lake Como, or seeing the Pope appear on his balcony. We have superb taste.

Italy is a perfect destination for virtually everyone - families, seniors, college students, honeymooners, and all the rest of us. Whether you have a week, a month, or anything in between, there is a perfect vacation awaiting you in Italy.

Italy is only slightly larger than Arizona, but the sightseeing possibilities are endless. Do you love the excitement of big cities? What can beat Rome? For the ancient history buffs there are the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. For the religious scholars there are the Prison of Peter and Paul and St. Peter's Basilica. Art lovers won't want to miss the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Then there is the food, the Tiber River, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain.
Roman Coliseum
The list is endless. But there is so much more to Italy than just Rome. Starting in the North, you have the Lakes Region - Lake Como and Lake Maggiori. The draw here is not primarily churches and ruins, but beautiful scenery and a relaxed resort type of vacation. The big city in Northern Italy is Milan, the fashion capital of Europe. It is also the home of "The Last Supper" by Leonardo Da Vinci (reservations required), the famous La Scala Opera House, and the Duomo where you can take an elevator to the roof and take in the view while walking on your own among the spires.

Moving east from Milan you come to Venice, the city of islands. No taxis, no buses, no bicycles, no skateboards. Instead you have water taxis, water buses, ferries, and gondolas. There are many sights to see in Venice - St. Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace, the Lido beach, but the real draw is the city itself. Riding the water bus down the Grand Canal, shopping on the Rialto Bridge, a gondola under the Bridge of Sighs, memorable experiences around every corner.

Moving into central Italy you come to Florence, the captal of Tuscany. The old town is perfect for strolling and the museums (Uffizi and Accademia for starters) are spectacular. Delicious, reasonably priced food is everywhere, especially around the Central Market. The Arno River divides the city and many people prefer its traghetto rides to the gondola rides in Venice.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Click here for Ribolitta Tuscan Soup Recipe

Pisa with its leaning tower is about an hour away. Another hour gets you to the beautiful hill towns of the Cinque Terra, perfect for hiking and visits by car or rail. Board the high speed Le Frecce train in Florence and 90 minutes later you will be in Rome. That is where many tours of Italy end.

Moving at a moderate pace you have now spent about two and a half weeks on your adventure. But wait! There's more! Naples in Southern Italy is just over an hour from Rome on that wonderful high speed train, and Naples means Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii as well.

Still not enough? The island of Sicily beckons, but maybe we should save that for another trip. If you are new to European travel, or just like to let someone else worry about schedules and reservations, then an escorted tour is perfect for you. If you are more experienced or just like to "do your own thing" then a rail trip with city stays and day tours should suit you fine.

Don't feel you need to do it all at once. Italy is worth a second trip. Even a third or fourth!

Click here to read all about our Barcelona to Venice Mediterranean Cruise
Pourquoi Visiter la France ?
(Why visit France?)

Good food, fine wine and excellent champagne are usually the first three things that spring to mind when thinking of France. In fact, the country produces some of the best wine in the world and the Bordeaux region in particular produces around 960 million bottles of wine each year. It could quite literally take you years to explore everything this amazing country has to offer and visiting Paris is a must, even if you only get to spend a couple of days there. If you want to experience the best of France, but don't have long to spend exploring, here are our top five highlights:

It would be simply criminal to travel to France and miss out on Paris, even if you only get to visit the most popular attractions such as the Louvre Museum, spectacular Notre Dame Cathedral and of course the iconic Eiffel tower, it'll be well worth the visit. You should aim to spend at least three or four days here if you really want to experience the best that this romantic city with its chic and trendy inhabitants has to offer. Don't forget to take a stroll along the Seine River or enjoy an evening cruise if you're feeling particularly romantic and want to woo your significant other. The Eiffel Tower is beautiful at night. Try to leave one day for a spectacular day trip by rail to Versailles.

The French Alps
Winter sports fanatics are well aware that France is an excellent destination for finding plenty of the white stuff and Mont Blanc (White Mountain) in the French Alps makes for a particularly excellent location for skiing or snowboarding with slopes for those of all experience levels. Mont Blanc is actually the highest mountain in Western Europe reaching 15,775 feet at its peak. Even if winter sports aren't your thing, a visit to the French Alps is still highly recommended as the scenery is absolutely stunning. You'll get plenty of opportunities to snap away with your camera, thanks to the beautiful valleys, sparkling lakes and abundance of flora and fauna to be found here.

If you want to taste some of the superb wine that France has to offer, what better place to visit than Bordeaux with its abundance of vineyards and laid back culture. You'll find plenty of examples of lovely labels that don't appear on the shelves in the supermarkets back in the USA. The city of Bordeaux also makes for an excellent place to do some shopping. Bordeaux has a rich cultural heritage and could certainly be considered the music capital of France with its wealth of concert venues and plenty of great places to dance the night away. You'll also find an excellent public transport system with an environmentally friendly electric bus, three tramlines and over 360 miles of cycle tracks. There are plenty of places to rent bicycles if you want some exercise.
A real favorite for many travelers because of the spectacular Roman amphitheatre. It was also once home to the renowned painter, Vincent Van Gogh. The hospital he stayed in after cutting off his left earlobe is now a Van Gogh museum and has been restored to how it would have looked when he painted it during the 19th century. Die-hard fans can also visit the memorial to him in one of Arles' parks which is said to be made from a deathmask after he'd shot himself. You'll find plenty more by way of Roman ruins here, including a well preserved stretch of aqueduct, a water mill and an impressive Roman villa from the height of the Roman Empire.

Pyrénées National Park
If you travel down to the Spanish border you'll find the beautiful Pyrénées National Park which has six stunning valleys with more of that mountain and lakeside scenery that'll keep your camera happy. There's even a "Tiny Railway" which you'll find at an altitude of 6,000 ft (reached by cable car) traveling along a six mile stretch with panoramic views over the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you're lucky, you might spot one of the few remaining brown bears that call the area home - there are over 70 species of animals in the park. You'll also find  plenty of opportunities to go skiing, climbing or hiking in what has to be some of France's most spectacular scenery.
Pyranees Lac D'Aumer
Know how you constantly hear that the French are "sooo rude"? Well, the truth is they kind of are, or more accurately, Parisians are kind of rude. But guess what? People also think that New Yorkers are rude and the bottom line is that the whole question of friendly or not friendly has a lot more to do with a fast paced, crowded city lifestyle than anything else. This is precisely why getting out of Paris is a great way to see how the rest of France really lives. Tucked away in these small villages, travelers can not only eat rustic and traditional French food, but they can also spot friendly old men playing games of pétanque in the town square and get to know locals in the markets. If you are lucky, and speak a little French, you may even be invited into a local's home for dinner.

A great way to see the other side of France is by taking a barge or river cruise. France is laced with a network of canals and rivers that once served to connect the country's main waterways and aid in the transportation of goods. Today there are many choices and many barge and river cruise companies to choose from. Let us help you find the one that is right for you.
Discover Portugal

Once an overlooked strip of land west of Spain, Portugal has become a destination of choice in recent years. A land of incredible beauty and center of world exploration, Portugal offers visitors experiences ranging from driving through/hiking in the Algarve to exploring castles and palaces to swooning over Fado, the country's musical obsession.

Arriving by air, visitors find the airport's proximity to Lisbon's center city means reasonably cheap fares to the heart of the capital. One of the special joys of Lisbon is walking its older neighborhood's cobblestone streets and taking in the picturesque architecture. Lisbon is built on seven hills, however, so you'll want to take advantage of the ample public transportation, especially both the old fashioned trolleys and newer electricos.

Click here to read about our Portugal River Cruise

BelemEach of Lisbon's neighborhoods holds its own special charm. A perfect place to begin is Belem and the striking Tower of Belem, built in the early 16th century as a fortress. The starting point point for Portuguese navigators, the tower became a national symbol of Portugal's age of exploration and expansion. With its Moorish watchtowers and openwork balconies, this ornate national treasure is a must-see.

Passing by the massive angular Monumnent to the Discoveries, just a short walk across the avenida is the Jeronimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors not only enjoy its exquisite architecture including the Church of Santa Maria, but also flock to Casa de Pasteis de Belem next door. This is where Portugal's national pastry, pastel de nata (aka pasteis de Belem), began and is THE place to mingle with locals and enjoy these delicious custard tarts.

Click here for Pasteis de Belem Recipe

After the liberal revolution in 1820, all convents and monasteries in Portugal were shut down. To survive, someone from the monastery offered sweet pastries for sale at the shop in the sugar refinery next door. The pastries followed the ancient secret recipe from the monastery. Passed on and known exclusively to the master confectioners who hand-crafted the pastries in the "secrets room," this recipe remains unchanged to this day. Although the pastry can be found all over the world and recipes do exist, this is the only place to enjoy the "real thing."

After visiting the National Palace, an easy walk from the monastery, visitors may wish to explore Lisbon's other picturesque districts: the artsy Barrio Alto and Estrela, Baixa featuring the Praca des Restauradores, Alfama with it's famed Fado restaurants, and the fishing towns, villas, and palaces of the Lisbon coast.

Fado is a form of music characterized by mournful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. The intensely melancholic songs are usually about love, woes, and pains, or express sadness and longing for things that were lost or that were never accomplished. It became popular with the singer Maria Severa, who died at the age of 26 and later became the subject of Portugal's first sound movie in 1931. To this day, female performers wear a black shawl in her memory and her life story has been the influence of several Fado songs, poems, novels, and plays.

But it was Amalia Rodrigues in the 20th century who made Fado known beyond Portugal, performing all over Europe, Japan, South America, and even in the United States, in New York's "La Vie en Rose" in the 1950s. She's been credited with defining the style of the music, and when she died in 1999, the government declared three days of national mourning and awarded her a state funeral. As a national icon, she is buried in Lisbon's National Pantheon.

When visiting Lisbon, spending an evening at a "Casa de Fado" or Fado restaurant is an essential experience. There are many in the Bairro Alto district, but the most authentic are found in Alfama. Recommended are the Casa de Linhares and Pateo de Alfama Fado houses. Also consider Clube de Fado or Parreirinha de Alfama or see Ana Marina sing in the small and friendly Sr. Fado in the same area.

About 90 miles east of Lisbon is Evora. This museum-city and UNESCO World Heritage Site whose roots go back to Roman times reached its golden age in the 15th century when it became the residence of the Portuguese kings. Its unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses decorated with azulejos (tin-glazed ceramic tilework) and wrought-iron balconies dating from the 16th to the 18th century. A popular stop is the Chapel of Bones, constructed using thousands of human skulls and bones in the Church of St. Francis.
The maritime province of the Algarve, known as the "garden of Portugal," stretches 100 miles from Cape St. Vincent to Real de Santo Antonio on Portugal's south coast. With temperatures ranging from around 60 in winter to the mid 70's in summer, this countryside abounding in vegetation, estuaries, and sheltered lagoons provides a satisfying drive that can best be enjoyed over a few days time. Lagos is one of the most visited cities in the Algarve and Portugal, due to its variety of tourist-friendly beaches, bars, restaurants, and hotels, and is renowned for its vibrant summer nightlife and parties. Yet, Lagos is also a historic centre of the Portuguese Age of Discovery, frequent home of Henry the Navigator, historical shipyard and, at one time, center of the European slave trade. In 2012, travel website TripAdvisor, classified Lagos as the number 1 travel destination, on a list of "15 destinations on the rise" worldwide.

Heading north, the country's longest motorway (A1 from Lisbon to Oporto) goes up to Braga (A3) in the heart of Costa Verde. If you follow the coastline on the road from Vila do Conde to Valencia, you'll see the beautiful beaches, seaside resorts, and enchanting villages such as Caminha and Vila Nova de Cerveira. Inland and worth visiting is the Peneda-Geres National Park. Oporto, the capital of the country's northern regions, offers the delights of a riverside city as it is magnificently situated on the Douro River from where boats leave to sail up the beautiful river. Although Portugal is often paired with Spain for an exciting Iberian vacation, this small country approximately the size of Maine offers enough of its own charm and historical significance to merit your full attention when planning your next trip.
 April 2012
In This Issue
EUROPE...Trains, Boats and Planes...So Many Choices!
Unforgettable Italy
Pourquoi Visiter la France ?...(Why visit France?)
Discover Portugal
Iberian Adventure: Spain, Lisbon and Morocco
Barcelona to Venice Mediterranean Cruise
Jewels of Italy
Portugal River Cruise
Jewish Heritage Danube River Cruise
Pasteis de Belem Recipe
Iberian Adventure: Spain, Lisbon and MoroccoIberian_Adventure

October 6-18, 2012
14 Days: Just $2419 pp

This fantastic trip covers three countries - Spain, Morocco, and Portugal-concentrating on the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula.

Click here for complete trip details

Spain Tour Map

Itinerary Includes:
Madrid ~ Segovia ~ Avila Salamanca ~ Fatima ~ Lisbon ~ Seville ~ Algeciras ~ Tangier Granada ~ Toledo


Mediterranean Cruise Barcelona to VeniceMed_Cruise
Oct 10-20, 2013
9-Nights from $849 pp

Click here for complete cruise details
Cruise Map

Ports of call include: Barcelona ~ Marseilles ~ Florence ~ Rome ~ Naples ~ Messina (Sicily) ~ Dubrovnik (Croatia)~ Venice

Cabin Prices*
Inside: $849
Oceanview: $1,199
Balcony: $1,519

*Prices are per person, based on double occupancy and do not include taxes and fees of $158 per person.

$400 deposit per person due by May 20, 2012

Deposit fully refundable up until July 1, 2013.
Jewels of Italy Italy

15 days from Rome to Rome, or 16 days incl. travel
Priced from $1899 land only (per person double occupancy)

Jewels of Italy Map

This exciting vacation covers Italy's main sites, but with a special focus on the green, hilly landscapes of Tuscany and the romantic Gulf of Naples.

Begin with an overnight and free time in Rome, then stop in Orvieto, an Umbrian town with a beautiful cathedral, and reach Poggibonsi, your base for exploring Tuscany.

Join the included excursions to Renaissance Florence to experience Signoria Square, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Duomo complex, and to Pisa to see its famed Leaning Tower.

Experience the lesser-known but equally interesting city of Verona, as well as magnificent Venice with its maze of canals. Stop in Ravenna, known for its Byzantine mosaics, and overnight in San Marino, one of the smallest countries of the world.

Dedicate a day to Italy's Umbria region with visits to Urbino, Gubbio, and Assisi. Cross the Apennines, see the Benedictine Abbey of Montecassino, and spend three nights in Naples.

Enjoy included excursions to the beautiful Isle of Capri, the fascinating archaeological site of Pompeii, and the lively resort of Sorrento.

Return to Rome for two more nights and guided sightseeing of the "Eternal City" that features the Colosseum and the Roman Forum.

Call for more information or to book your trip. 
Portugal River CruisePortugal_Cruise

For a wonderful cruise experience, enjoy Viking River Cruises' new eight day river cruise including eight guided tours and two additional nights in Lisbon.

Viking River Cruises arranges for you to be met at the airport in Lisbon and transported to your hotel. You have a day of free time followed by a day of guided city sites and an optional fado dinner show.

On your third day you have a scenic motorcoach transfer via Combria to your ship and the beginning of your cruise on the Douro River to sample Portugal's northern charm including a tour of Porto, dinner at Alpendurada Monastery, wine tastings, the Mateus Palace Gardens, and a taste of Spain via a full day excursion to UNESCO site Salamanca. And of course, many opportunities for time on your own.

Prices start at $5799 per person, double occupancy depending on dates.

BUT book and pay for your 2013 cruise by May 31 of this year and get Viking's 2 for 1 discount making a cruise as low as $2956 per person.

Book your air through Viking and pay in full by May 31 and get a $1000 per couple discount:

$1095 per person roundtrip from San Diego March, November, December
$1195 per person April, May, September, October
$1595 per person June-August.
Jewish HeritageJewish Danube River Cruise

Budapest to Prague
Oct 28 - Nov 10, 2012

Seven Night Cruise on the Avalon Tapestry PLUS two nights in Budapest and three nights in Prague

This special Jewish Heritage Cruise takes in the museums, monuments, and landmarks significant to Jewish history.
Visit Budapest's Jewish Museum and the second-largest syagogue in the world, Jewish Vienna, and Regensburg's Jewish quarter.

In the Czech Republic, an expert Local Guide 
introduces you to Prague's Jewish Museum, Jewish Cemetery, and synagogues, then visit the former WWII Jewish ghetto of Terezin. 

PRICES: Price includes $250 per person promotional discount for booking with Firstworld Travel.

Per person tour only rates
Category E: $3,089 Category B: $3,638 Category A: $3,688 Category P: $3,788 Suite: $4,388

Port charges $105

DEPOSIT: $250 per person

FINAL PAYMENT: Due July 31, 2012

AIRFARE: Available upon request.

INSURANCE: $329 to cancel for any reason
Pasteis de Belem Pasteis

Pasteis De Belem
Culling ingredients and directions from various recipes, the following comes close to authentic results:

1 pkg frozen puff pastries, thawed
1/4 cup flour
2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp lemon rind finely grated
6 egg yolks
1 Tbls powdered sugar
1 cup granulated sugar

Working with half the dough at a time, roll out to 14x10 inch rectangle.

With a 4 1/2 inch round cookie cutter, cut out circles.

Press into 12 muffin cups lined with foil. Fill with pie weights or dried beans.

Freeze until hard, about 15 minutes. Bake in bottom third of 425 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a microwaveable bowl, whisk together cream, egg yolks, granulated sugar, flour, and lemon rind.

Microwave on medium for about 8 minutes or until the consistency of pudding, whisking three times. (Or cook in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly, for about 10 minutes).

Strain into bowl and let cool 5 minutes.

Pour into shells. Broil 6 inches from heat for 3 minutes or until custard has dark brown spots and pastry is browned.

Let cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan.

Refrigerate until custard is firm, about four hours.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

Recipe Courtesy of
Jim Williams
Ribollita Tuscan SoupRibollita

Ribollita is a famous Tuscan soup made with bread and vegetables. There are many variations but the main ingredients always include leftover bread, cannellini beans and inexpensive vegetables such as carrot, cabbage, beans, kale, and onion. Its name literally means "reboiled".

Like most Tuscan cuisine, the soup has peasant origins. It was originally made by reboiling the leftover minestrone or vegetable soup from the previous day.

Some sources date it back to the Middle Ages, when the servants gathered up food-soaked bread trenchers from feudal lords' banquets and boiled them for their own dinners.

Ribollita is perhaps the most requested dish at Za Za's, our favorite restaurant in Florence.
The following recipe comes directly from their kitchen:

1/2 head savoy cabbage 1 bunch shredded Swiss chard
1 bunch black-leaf kale
3 carrots, finely chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
10 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
3 russet potatoes, cut into medium size pieces 3 zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 peeled roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup dried cannellini or Great Northern beans
Stale French or Italian bread
High quality extra virgin olive oil

Serves 6-8.

If at all possible, cook soup and keep to rewarm the next day when it tastes even better.

Soak beans overnight.

Saute carrots, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, and rosemary in olive oil about 3 minutes.

Add Swiss chard and kale, leaving off the bitter center stems and cook another five minutes.

Add tomato and enough water to cover about 1/2 inch. Cover pot and let boil.

Add zucchini and potatoes. Cover and simmer about an hour, adding water when necessary. 

Mash half the soaked beans or pass through a food mill. Add all beans to the pot, check water level, and cook another hour.  

Be careful not to add too much water as it will dilute the taste. Better to add more chopped tomatoes or canned diced tomatoes.

When ready to serve, put a slice or chunk of bread in the bottom of each bowl. Drizzle liberally with good olive oil and add soup. 

Recipe courtesy of Merrie Williams
12-Night ImmersiveWine Wine Cruise

Roundtrip from Southhampton, UK
Celebrity Constellation Nov. 6 - Nov 18, 2012

Ports include:
Southampton, UK
Paris (Le Havre) overnight
Bordeaux (Le Verdon) overnight
Bilbao, Spain overnight Vigo, Spain
Porto (Leixoes), Portugal

Wine enthusiasts and culture seekers alike will savor the Immersive Europe Wine Cruises aboard Celebrity Constellation.

Visit classic wine countries such as France, Spain, and Portugal.

With an overnight in Le Havre, you'll have plenty of time to sip Champagne in the City of Light and visit Normandy or Versailles.

Taste robust Bordeaux in... where else, Bordeaux!

Discover the Rioja region outside Bilbao - and visit the world renowned Guggenheim Museum.

These sailings take place at the height of the wine year - the Fall Harvest - a highly anticipated time for every vintner.

Your onboard experience will be enhanced with special activities, developed in partnership with local wineries, that highlight this amazing region of the world and time of year.

~ Rioja tastings
~ Champagne brunches 
~ Bordeaux Chateau
   Tours (featuring up to
   five wines from well-
   known Chateaus)
~ Port and Food Pairing
   Dinners and more!

Cabins from $899/pp dbl occ. Call for airfare specials. Offer is subject to availablity so don't delay!


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Offer Expires: May 31, 2012