Saturday, March 26, 2022

Sleep better when flying

As Covid restrictions lift and countries open their borders more people are traveling and flying again, whether for pleasure or for work. Health expert April Mayer from Amerisleep, shares tips from frequent and experienced travelers on how to sleep better in the sky.

Do I need a flight pillow?

A popular neck pillow for sleeping

Investing in a decent neck support pillow for flying can help stop any neck pain as it will properly support your neck. It will also help you sleep because you won’t fidget so much trying to get your head comfortable. You may also find an eye mask useful to block light exposure, especially if you are unable to get a window seat and have control of the blind.

How should I buckle my seat belt?

Not the most restful position for sleep

The idea is that you should buckle your seatbelt over your blanket instead of under it, so flight attendants can see you are wearing it and won’t need to wake you in case of turbulence. This will also pad the buckle so it doesn’t feel uncomfortable and awkward as you sleep.

What clothes should I wear?

It’s very important to wear something comfortable and not too restrictive or stiff, such as tight jeans. Layers are important because you can feel cold after time on a long-haul flight. You also have the option of removing layers if you get too warm.

A window seat gives support
 for sleep

How and where should I sit?

Some people prefer a window so they can lean on the window for support when sleeping and be in control of light exposure. It’s a good idea to not cross your legs either, as this can reduce blood flow in your legs and make you susceptible to blood clots or being in pain when you wake up. Reclining your chair puts less pressure on your lower spine ensuring a better night’s sleep.

What should I eat?

Try not to overindulge before a flight or during the first hour or two of an overseas flight.  Consume something light, so you’re not bloated. You’ll doze off more easily and avoid being kept awake by feeling too full.

Headphones, window sea, and
neck pillow--he's ready to sleep.

What should I listen to?

Find a relaxing podcast and listen to it several times before bed in preparation for your flight. This way you will be familiar with it and associate it with sleep. Noise-cancelling headphones will also help you get undisturbed rest.

What can I take to help me sleep?

Our experts suggest taking a dose of magnesium before take-off. It’s a natural supplement that will help you rest easy.

 This article is used courtesy of Lauren Wright at Amerisleep,

Photos from free sources

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Searching for truffles in Italy

One of the most interesting experiences we had during our trip to Italy last year was a truffle hunting excursion.

To get to the forest where we searched for truffles, we drove through wine country near Alba in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.

We met up with a trifolao, a local truffle expert. Alba is the center of truffle trade in this area. From there we went to a plot of woods outside the city where we spent almost two hours trekking on established paths as we followed our trifolao and his highly trained sniffer dig, Dora.

Truffles are some of the most expensive foods in the world, even though they are actually fungi that grow underground on the roots of certain oaks and other trees. We learned about the environment and conditions needed to produce various types of truffles.

Italian white truffles are the most sought after, but this aromatic delicacy is extremely fickly about growing conditions. They need a specific combination of trees, soils, and moisture levels to survive, so locales where they are grown is limited. Because these are very rare, truffle hunters are exceedingly secretive about where they find white truffles, mostly gathering them at night under cover of darkness. White truffles are also very pricey as a pound can often cost more than $3,200.

Black truffles are easier to find with the season for winter truffles running from November to March and summer truffle season extending from May to September. Since we were there in August, those are the truffles we went hunting for. These have been selling for a not-too-shabby price exceeding $1750 per pound.

Like many other truffle hunting dogs, Dora is not any particular breed. She has an excellent nose and was painstakingly taught to forage for truffles.  She literally sniffs them out and then digs around tree roots to find the treasure. The hardest part of the training is teaching the dog to delicately carry the truffle in its mouth as she trots back to the handler. A close connection and sense of trust be established between human and dog.

Watching Dora work was a quite spectacle.  It’s a task the dog loves and does with great energy. She would trot—sometimes run--away from her trifolao, find a likely source, and start scratching in the dirt until she unearthed the prize. For the dog’s reward, the trifolao kept a stash of treats in his pocket that Dora was very excited to receive, although we never knew exactly what it was.

The truffle hunter collected truffles gathered on this excursion in a small cloth pouch that hung from his shoulder. Our guide estimated that he had accumulated more than $500 worth of truffles during our short time on the trails.

The area where we searched for truffles was on acreage that the hunter owned himself. As full-time hunters, he and his son-in-law gathered truffles almost every day—or night.

They were able to sustain their business during the Covid pandemic even though tours were limited and demand fluctuated. Originally our visit included a luncheon provided by his wife using truffles in several recipes. However, that part was canceled due to regulations during the pandemic. Still, hunting for truffles is one of our most fondly remembered activities. It was a real learning experience about a local way of life and a fun way to spend a morning in northern Italy.

 Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Tourism Ireland partners with legendary Riverdance


Tourism Ireland, the organization that promotes Ireland as a destination, is teaming up with Riverdance as part of the Riverdance 25th Anniversary tour in the United States and Canada this year. The tour is set to include over 120 performances in more than 40 cities across North America.

The beginnings

Renowned dance troup Riverdance broke all box office records during its world premiere run in Dublin, Ireland in early 1995. When the show transferred to London, the reaction was unprecedented. There followed a hugely successful tour starting in March 1996, where a sold-out run at Radio City Music Hall, New York heralded the start of over two decades of touring by Riverdance companies throughout North America.

Since Riverdance first emerged onto the world stage, the show has played to a live audience of over 28 million people with over 6000 performances to audiences of 14 million in North America.

Cliffs of Moher

Joining forces

The partnership will include inspirational Ireland video content playing on a screen to audiences before each performance. A new video has been created featuring the Riverdance cast at some of Ireland’s iconic locations including the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant's Causeway and Dublin.

Devil's Causeway

The video will be shared on Tourism Ireland’s social media channels. To view the video, click here. Travelers will be inspired by unique Irish cultural highlights featured through music and dance. Add in epic scenery, and Ireland becomes a preferred destination.

Executive Vice President, Tourism Ireland US and Canada, Alison Metcalfe says,  “It’s hard to believe that Riverdance is 25 years old, and we look forward to being part of this special anniversary tour and hope that by showcasing the best of Ireland’s unique experiences that fans will start planning a vacation to Ireland in the near future.”

Riverdance performers

Director of Riverdance, John McColgan, adds, Riverdance has taken its place as a performance US audiences enjoy and resonate with. For a quarter of a century the appeal has amplified: audiences of all ages and all cultures love the show, many of the performers are US born and of multi-ethnic backgrounds, and Riverdance with its deep-rooted links to Ireland and Irish culture is known the length and breadth of the US. We encourage our audiences to experience our island and all that it has to offer on future vacations.“

Riverdance’s 25th anniversary tour runs from March to June 2022 and is a powerful and stirring reinvention of the original show which is celebrated the world over for its Grammy award-winning score and the thrilling energy and passion of its Irish and international dance.

Castles add to the lovely countryside

Composer Bill Whelan has rerecorded his mesmerizing soundtrack while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have completely reimagined the ground-breaking show with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage, and costume designs.

Information courtesy of Ruth Moran, Tourism Ireland  For information on Ireland as a vacation destination please visit



Saturday, March 5, 2022

Finding great food and wine in Italy

When many people think of wine country in Italy, Tuscany is the first region that comes to mind. So why did we choose to visit the Piedmont countryside in northern Italy instead?

Vineyards in the Piedmont region of northern Italy

The area encompasses the UNESCO protected landscapes of the Barolo and Barbaresco wine regions, but it also includes rich agricultural land filled with hazelnut trees and woods hiding prized truffles in addition to renowned vineyards. Charming hotels, little villages set on hilltops, excellent restaurants, and fewer visitors than other regions of Italy made this an ideal destination for a late summer visit.

After hiking in the Dolomite Mountains near the Austrian border for five days, we spent a few days in Verona, a very historical and cultural city. Then we traveled by train into the heart of Piedmont wine and agricultural country. Piedmont is the second largest region in Italy, and there is a large French influence there. It’s a perfect place to slow down and relish life’s epicurean pleasures.

Courtyard of Villa D'Amelia

Our resort was Villa D’Amelia, an exquisite resort perched on a hill in the countryside of Benevello. Dinner at Villa D’Amelia was a delightful event at the featured Michelin restaurant.

The next day we had a full day tour that took us to three different local producers--a hazelnut farm, a cheese maker who raises his own sheep, and a winery. We were able to meet small-scale producers and learn about their everyday life.

Sorting hazelnuts

Hazelnut cakes cooling

Our driver navigated winding mountain roads in the Langhe region, passing more vineyards, to reach the hazelnut farm, home of the Barroero family. A member of the family served as guide through the orchard, telling us that hazelnuts are harvested only after they fall to the ground. Machines vacuum the nuts from the ground, after which the hazelnuts are sorted by size. After the hulls removed they are bagged by size. 

We toured the kitchen area where steaming hazelnut cakes were set on cooling racks. The best part was tasting a large selection of cookies, butters, cakes, and other products made with these aromatic nuts.

Returning to the countryside, we again went into the hills where we met Silvio and his son, local shepherds and cheese producers. Our visit was very personal as we were taken inside their home, a lovely collection of vintage furnishing and artwork. A brick oven in the kitchen takes more than a day to heat up adequately for food preparation, so modern appliances were used, too. 

We experienced superb hospitality from
local shepherds and cheesemakers

The sheep barn is attached to the house, and various cheeses are made on premises in a dedicated room. Interesting that there were no inspection certificates or any indication of government involvement in food preparation or serving.

Cheese tasting deluxe

After touring the premises and learning about their sheep and cheeses, we were treated to a feast of various cheeses, each with distinct characteristics because they were aged different lengths of time. All this was served with fresh-baked bread, the most heavenly tomatoes we had ever eaten, and plentiful red wine.

Certain grapes grow in specific areas.

Finally, we stopped at the Manzone family winery where we sampled varietals made in this region. Environmental conditions are just right for producing famous Barolo wine, the production of which is highly regulated by the Italian government. A short tour of the wine cellar and purchase of a bottle of wine concluded our tour.

A second feast with products from our earlier visit.

Back at Villa D’Amelia, we explored the beautiful property and enjoyed the enclosed patio before gorging once again on products we had sampled during the day. Flavorful cheeses, fresh, juicy tomatoes, bread and wine--it was such a lovely experience in a stunning area that we’ll remember forever.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier