A splash of holiday color along the Lungarno.

As the year comes to a close, like many of you I am full of gratitude. For love, health, safety (after miles of traveling), family and friends and the kindness from all those who keep these programs afloat.

To quote poet David Whyte, I am twice blessed to have a first love as a work, but also, ultimately, to see it as no work at all, but as a way of being in the world; a way of holding the conversation of life that is enlarging, generous, deeply satisfying and a full reward in and of itself.”

What we look for when we travel is to find ‘authenticity.’ We want to rub up against something unfamiliar so it sparks us out of our daily slumbers. Waking up our senses to notice Piero’s hands dancing through the air when he teaches a cooking class in Tuscany, Francesco the busdriver’s spontaneous opera in Sicily, the perfection of Fabrizia’s elegant Sicilian cassata, Antonio’s tack and wind-shift with the sails while octopus slow cooks on the gimbled stove, Bahija’s excitement to get her elegant hands in to fluff the hot couscous… these are the gestures that touch us unexpectedly and make our trips meaningful.

Our culinary adventures get you into the kitchen, all sorts of kitchens where few others have been welcomed. It’s like crossing a border where connection, kindness and curiosity are the passport for getting in. We learn new recipes, become familiar with new tastes, but the most satisfying part of the journey has come from going a bit beyond the kitchen, beyond our comfort zones to stretch parts of ourselves that we are unacquainted with. Letting down our guard to change our view of others who live differently and learn about ourselves at the same time offers something for the soul as well. The trip therefore, has been not about getting away…but about coming home. The world is not such a foreign place after all, and we seem to fit in it better than we thought. We see ourselves as citizens of the world. More similar than different.

As the refrain of “Auld Lang Zyne” says, should “times gone by” be forgotten?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang zyne?

For “times gone by,” my dear,
for “times gone by,”
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for “old times gone by”…

Please join me in whatever way you can to make this upcoming 20th anniversary year of 2012 a celebration of “times gone by.” Send us your stories, a memory, a photo, a word if it affected your life in some way. Join us on a new trip, or the anniversary trip to re-visit a few of our old haunts and pals.

Happy Holidays and Buon anno nuovo!! Happy New Year!


Peggy, et al.