“For whatever it’s worth: It’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start over.”
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
“Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss.”
Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Screenplay
I am a bit of a quote girl (as you may know) and I have lots of favourites. Two of the many (right up high on the list) are Eric Roth quotes. You will have heard them before, I am sure. It might seem a little nuts but I have made some big decisions in my life, living by these quotes……. and so far, they have worked for me. Why do I love them so much ? ….well for one reason, they typify why and how Relish Mama came to be as well as the wonderful journey it has taken us on ever since. I mastered some time ago that we cannot control the universe but we can fearlessly enjoy the ride.
Heading up to Portofino
Close on to two years ago, I received an email from a man who lived (and still does) in England. This man named William said he liked the cooking school, Relish Mama very much and what I was about. He then said he was coming to Melbourne in the coming weeks. It was at about this point where I was expecting the inevitable email punch line ….”oh and may I advise you that we are long lost cousins and therefore, can I borrow a very large sum of money please? This man named William then went on to say he would love to speak to me about hosting some tours to Italy for his company ‘Tastes of Italy’. So a few weeks later, I took my life in my hands (slight exaggeration but makes for a better story) and decided to meet this man named William (oh yes, I did!) who was incredibly tall and incredibly charming and as it turns out…… we are not long lost cousins after all and he didn’t even want my money (and although this does not make for a better story….it makes for a happier ending)!
Since our first meeting, I say with great pride that William and I have become ‘friends across the water’. I think a great deal of this man named William and his wonderful company, Tastes of Italy as well as his passion and dedication for the bespoke tours he creates for keen travellers, foodies, wine lovers, go- getters and all round good folk. William and Tastes of Italy really do rock!
…………..Fast forward eighteen months from this initial meeting and as most of you may know, I have recently returned from our first food tour to Italy. This tour caught me by surprise. I mean I knew with all that I had that I really would love it…. but I am not sure anyone could have told me just how much. I adore travel and have been to Italy quite a few times over the years but this experience was different again. For me, it was like that feeling you get when you are listening to your favourite song and you just have to turn that volume up really loud because it’s really moving you and you feel it all through you….well that was this trip! I kid you not! The whole trip really was like playing my favourite song really, really loud. I smiled and laughed so much each day and took in the most breath taking sights and people.
Before I move on, you may ask “was it hard to say goodbye to my family”…..and the answer is “yes” and “very”. I had never been away from my girls for more than a few days. I worried about things that were so unlikely to happen (the usual stuff, you know…..like holes being blown into the side of the plane, like the plane never landing, like meeting someone very bad one night in a dark alley) and the possibility of never holding them again……not being able to tell them one last time how incredibly proud I am of them and how much I love them. As I was leaving, Michael held me that little bit tighter (had he envisaged the plane not landing too?) and each beautiful daughter handed me a letter they had written. I was what might be referred to as ‘a mess’ after leaving them all but it was my daughters who managed to turn that around for me. On the plane, I opened their letters one by one. Ava & Ettie’s letters were simply beautiful, as I knew they would be. They spoke of how proud they were of me, how much they loved me and how much they would miss me. I opened Grace’s letter last only because it was quite thick and I assumed it contained many pages that I thought most of which, would make me cry. As I opened it, I realized its thickness was due to some photo’s she’s enclosed of each family member for me to look after whilst I was away. It also contained a very special one-page letter, which she has given me permission to publish below. This might just be the most beautiful letter I have ever received. The tears that came were happy ones. It felt more than okay to be going. I was so proud of my family and the fact that we all really want each other to be happy and follow dreams. I was also proud that I was allowing myself to be me and I think this is a really important thing for our children to see and for our own fulfillment and happiness. This makes me a better and more balanced person and for that, I think, a better Mother and wife. I was away.
Heading off on this adventure, I didn’t know any of the people (wonderful people, as it turns out) who would be my travel buddies for the next 7 days. All the guests, with one exception, were from Queensland. I had had one Skype call pre departure with a big-hearted man called ‘Pietro’, who is one hell of a passionate Sicilian man. Pietro works for William / Tastes of Italy and was to be taking this tour with me. On the Skype call, Pietro spoke with such enthusiasm (hands of course) about what we would see (and eat!) during our great week together. I felt an instant connection and I knew if nothing else, we would have a lot of laughs….and that we did. Each of these gorgeous travel companions are now fondly thought of as my friends. We have shared something very special and I thank them all for trusting in Pietro & myself and just being so willing to try all that we did over the week together. These people were all doing something for their own fulfillment and happiness. They all had their own stories and reasons for being there. These people all have a very special place in my heart.
The tour itself was a 7 day / night adventure. Some guests also took their own travels either before or after our week of magic (due to work commitments back home, I personally had a quick one-nighter in Rome before returning home but which I highly recommend). The feedback was that this tour was so unique to the many others out there. Tastes of Italy put together a tour with such a wonderful array of experiences for all. Each day was quite a contrast to the one before it. We ate in the homes of people we would never have had the pleasure of meeting, if it were not for William and Pietro. These people were generous beyond words. Some of these places were quite off the beaten track too and I really loved this. We also held cooking classes in a stunning Palazzo, as well as in restaurants in remote towns with jaw dropping views. We ate more food and drank more wine that I thought humanly possible. Some dinners were a delicious marathon effort (there was just a little more of me to love when I returned home) but really how can one say no? We were treated to private degustation dinners, exclusive wine tastings as well as olive oil tastings (something has to push all that food down). We walked and visited four of the five amazing towns along the Cinque terre (what a highlight). We purchased a delectable assortment of fresh ingredients at Chiavari markets before cooking up a wonderful lunch together to share. We felt alive walking along the pristine waters from stunning Santa Margherita to mind blowing Portofino. We took a majestic boat ride together. We rolled pasta together. We mastered making many regional dishes as well as rolling out pasta dough and cutting it out with a beautiful ‘croxetti’ stamp (Croxetti are circular medals of pasta pressed one by one by hand with a wooden stamp. I loved it so much that when we visited a lovely man by the name of Mr. Pietro Picetti, I just had to buy my own to take home. I am delighted to report we are using my new Croxetti in some classes this week at Relish Mama). Everything I ate was buonissimo. Everywhere I turned was a postcard. I was unable to stop taking photos so it was very hard to select just a few to share with you all here.The world really is one very special place but Italy will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Upon returning home, I can tell you that I had not felt so ‘topped up’ in years. This was a trip that fed more than just my belly. Thank you to all those who made us feel so welcome and loved. Thank you to William and Pietro, for going above and beyond and a thank you to my other new found friends / travel buddies for being so fabulous to travel and experience ‘the new’ with. The music was indeed turned up very loud in my head of happiness.
I would love to talk to others further and even more that that, I would love for you to experience this for yourself. We are heading back to experience the magic again in 2016 and would love for you to join us
Join us October 3rd – 10th.
More information via this link here or call or email us for more info.