Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sir Loin

When I arrived in America in 1978, I learned very quickly that everyday terms I used in England did not necessarily mean the same thing in the U.S. I recall that when I asked the butcher in the meat department of my local grocery store for “nice joint” for Sunday’s dinner, I realized I had asked for something unusual. It was obvious that although we spoke the same language, there were many things I needed to learn so that I could better convey my true wishes.

In actual fact, the term ‘joint’ or ‘roast’ has been used for centuries to describe a particular cut of meat, notably a sirloin. There are two variations as to which King of England gave the name of sirloin to a piece of beef but both King James I (1603-1625) or King Charles II (1660-1685) have been credited for the incident of ‘knighting’ the meat.

My favorite theory is set in a manor house called Friday Hill, in Essex, located close to Epping Forest a favorite place for kings (and queens) to hunt the royal deer. The king and his entourage had spent the day hunting and returned to his host tired and hungry. He was pleased to see that his host had ordered a magnificent meal be prepared in his honor. A huge loin of beef, roasted to perfection was placed on the table. Being of high spirits after a day of hunting, the king was delighted with the sight before him and suggested it should have a title. He immediately drew his sword in mock solemnity and knighted the meat ‘Sir Loin of Beef’ – hence the term “sirloin” of beef.

Evidently, the long table on which the meal was supposedly served was kept at the manor house for many years. A brass plaque with the inscription: “All lovers of roast beef will like to be informed that on this table a loin was knighted by King James I on his return from hunting in Epping Forest’.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cozumel Trip Planning Advice

My husband and I spent most of a recent Saturday morning using Orbitz, Trip Advisor, and general Google searches to help decide/plan a first-ever Cozumel trip, with only limited success. We selected a package deal and then checked it out on Trip Advisor only to find conflicting reports on the hotel and the area.

After a lot of effort we decided the comments were very subjective and therfore not much help, but without previous personal experience or input from friends and family we were struggling to make our planning decisions--that is until my husband found the Cozumel My Cozumel web site.

This site is packed full of incredibly useful information from two Americans who live on the island year-round. The site offers information and advice in six main categories:
  • Travel Basics

  • Lodging Related

  • Eating Related

  • Things to Do

  • Cozumel for Cruisers

  • Diving Cozumel

  • Living on Cozumel
Each category has as many as 12 to14 subcategories that include "Money Matters", "Health and Safety Issues", "The Art of Bargaining", and so on.

I particulary appreciated the recommendations on lodging and diving. And once the trip was booked, we're now spending time planning the stay with advice on restaurents, trips, and shopping.

In short, if you're planing a trip to Cozumel this is a must-see web site!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Civita di Bagnoregio

Last summer my husband and I were invited by a life-long friend to stay in a chateau he had rented in Umbria. Although we’ve visited Italy at least ten times in the last six years, we’d never spent any time in the Umbrian countryside and decided we couldn’t miss the opportunity and happily agreed.

The chateau is located near the ancient city of Orvieto, which is about 90 minutes drive from Rome airport. Like many of the cities in this area, it is built on the top of a flat-topped hill and has its origins in the Etruscan era, and so has been occupied and maintained as a fortress city for over 2500 years.

Orvieto is a great location for exploring the whole of Umbria and even southern Tuscany. We spent one day driving on country roads from Orvieto to Sienna—a drive that takes you through Montalcino, which is one of the most beautiful wine making areas of Italy, famous for the full-bodied red wine called Brunello di Montalcino.

Lago de Bolsena is also within easy reach of Orvieto and offers swimming, boating, and shopping opportunities in lovely old towns such as Bolsena.

The photograph above is of a unique little city called Civita di Bagnoregio, which is only about 20 minutes drive from Orvieto. Civita can be reached only by the footpath shown in the photo. There are no roads into or out of the city, although we did see scooters using the footpath to take supplies into the town!

Like Orvieto, the city was founded by the Etruscans about 2500 years ago because of its position along trade routes. It thrived until 1695 when an earthquake damaged buildings and roads and forced many to abandon the city for the surrounding fertile valleys.