Mangia Bene! Farmers Markets at Home & Abroad

Growing up I remember my mom didn’t buy her meats, fruits and veggies from the big chain grocery stores. She actually went to “El Mercadito” (local market) that was set up in la Noria (a neighborhood in Mexico City.) 

I have fond memories of joining her for her weekly food shopping trip on Sundays.

Perhaps that’s the reason I like farmers markets so much when traveling abroad. They reflect the area’s culture and economy.

I enjoy everything in between, from the little stalls with bright and bold vegetables, to the meat stands, to the booths of bulk spices that fill city blocks.

It seems these days Americans are craving food grown locally and farmers markets in the U.S. have sprung all over the country. According to a recent article I read on National Public Radio, there are over 6,000 farmers markets across the U.S. That’s a 250 percent increase since 1994.

Produce at farmers markets is known to be super fresh and locally grown. Markets benefit farmers, helping them stay in business and supporting the local economy. Farmers markets preserve natural resources as food has less packaging and it travels fewer miles, and they also help consumers as well by providing them with a variety of healthy and fresh products.

These are a few shots of farmers markets during my travels in St. Tropez, MarseilleVeracruzVenice and of course here in San Diego.

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The Castles of Bohemia

Scanned crop of 15th-16th century Bohemia map ...

15th-16th Century Bohemian Map

Have you ever fantasized about traveling back in time? Picking an era you would’ve liked to lived in…I do!

I would’ve loved to live in the 1800s in a beautiful castle in the “Vieux Continent.”

When I visited the palace of Versailles, I was like a kid in a candy store. Everything was so grandiose and ostentatious, I didn’t think any other castle would surpass my likeness. But then again, I was proved wrong.

The Czech Republic, formerly known as Bohemia, is a Castle dream come true. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Czech Republic houses more castles per square mile than any other country in the world!

So here’s a list of the castles I visited during my trip to the Czech Republic last year.

As a side note, I really want to thank my friend Jana, a native of Prague, for showing me around. Can’t wait to visit her again!

My Top 5 Castles

1. Český Krumlov 

This charming castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With 300 buildings, Český Krumlov, is the largest castle complex in the Czech Republic.  According to its official website, the town was most prosperous during 1302-1602, and during this period the town laid across Czech, Bavarian, Austrian and Northern Italian lands. You can see evidence of these cultures all around the complex.

The building that caught my eyes right away was the castle’s tower with its colorful pastel brush strokes, evidence of its Renaissance influence.

I truly enjoyed walking down the town’s cobblestone streets and taking in all the sights and sounds.

The tower has six floors, four bells, and it is 179-feet tall. It is open to the public and offers great views of the town.



2. Karlštejn Castle

According to Wikipedia, this magnificent Gothic castle is one of the most famous and most visited castles in the Czech Republic. It stands over the glittery river of Berounka. During its heyday, all the crown jewels and royal treasures were kept here. To top it off, this is where my friend Jana got married! Indeed, a very special place.

Karlštejn Castle

Berounka River

Karlštejn Castle





























A must stop on your way to the castle, Czech’s own version of the Grand Canyon, Velká Amerika (Big America). Velká Amerika is a partly flooded, abandoned limestone quarry near the village of Mořina. It is nearly 2,635 feet long, and 656 feet wide, with a 59-feet deep lake on the bottom. 

Take a Peek!

Velká Amerika

There are other quarries near-by, including Malá Amerika (Small America).  They are all connected with each other by long tunnels.

3. Červená Lhota

This beautiful bright red castle (hence its name, meaning red village) is located on the south and stands in the middle of a lake in a rocky island. The two-story castle occupies four wings and there’s a small courtyard in the center. A stone bridge, built-in 1662 links the castle with the banks of the pond. 

This castle has mainly been a summer residence, a place for parties, and relaxation, and even survived a fire in 1774.

Červená Lhota


Hallway Frescoes

4. Konopiště

This four-winged, three-story castle is located about 30 miles southeast of Prague. Here’s a tidbit for all the film lovers out there. Part of the 2006 film “The Illusionist”, starring Edward Norton and Jessica Biel, was filmed here!

The castle is known for being the last home of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria whose assassination triggered World War I. He was an avid hunter and there are many hunting trophies in the interiors of the castle. The gardens provide visitors with an exquisite opportunity to relax.

Don’t forget to pay a visit to the castle’s pet Bear, Kazimír.


Kazimír the Bear

Castle Creatures

5. Pražký Hrad (Prague Castle)

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, covering an area of 18 acres. The castle dates back to the 9th century and its buildings are an example of almost every architectural style of the last millennium. The buildings include St. Vitus Cathedral, the Basilica of St. George, a monastery, several palaces , gardens and defense towers.

Prague Castle

St. Vitus Cathedral

I sat for hours on a bench just contemplating this magnificent example of Gothic architecture.

St. Vitus Cathedral

A super interesting fact, the crown jewels are safely kept in a tight, inaccessible chamber in this cathedral. There are seven locks to the chamber’s door, and there are seven different key holders as well, including the President and the Prime Minister. But it is the President himself who has absolute power to decide on the display of the jewels which are rarely seen in public.

The jewels include St. Wenceslas Crown, the Royal Apple, Royal Sceptre, and the Coronation Cloak.