Saturday, July 18, 2015

C&G Goes Below the Equator!


We are just back from an epic adventure to Peru, where we hiked through the Amazon rainforest (avoiding the poisonous palm trees and vicious fire ants), explored ancient Cusco and mostly avoided altitude sickness (thanks to its 11,000ft elevation), white water rafted down the Urubamba River in the Sacred Valley, biked and hiked past fields of colorful quinoa in the Andes, and climbed to the top of Machu Picchu for the photo that Big C&G has been waiting months to take. He's the reason why we travelled so far outside my comfort zone this summer (basically anything below the equator is outside my comfort zone), it was his summer to choose where we travelled in celebration of a big milestone birthday. 

We had an amazing vacation but now I need a vacation from our vacation. I've got some serious chilling out to do now that we're home and my first stop will be my favorite swimming spot, Bresca and the Honey Bee. Check out this past post to see why it was the place I was dreaming about as we hiked high above Machu Picchu (still not over my fear of heights!). I'm thinking some of Bresca's homemade ice cream and a few afternoons in the inner tubes will help me forget our perilous hikes and encounters with tarantulas. Cheers to a relaxing summer ahead!  


Friday, June 5, 2015

Cheers to June!

Wow it's been a while since I've blogged! Things have been crazy and my computer has been gathering cobwebs on my desk. We went on desperately needed tropical vacation back in April (more to come in a future post) and I got sick and was down for the count for a few weeks. Ironically the lifetime supply of Cipro I got for our summer vacation would have been much more useful if I'd brought it instead of leaving it on the counter at home.

Add that to soccer season starting, baseball season starting, throwing a big birthday bash for Big C&G (who didn't really listen when I said "small party or big trip", because somehow he's getting away with both), and preparing to travel so far outside of my comfort zone this summer that it's no wonder my last post was 8 weeks ago.

With all that madness you'd think there would be lots of cocktails flowing but even Mr. C&G has been too busy to do anything other than open my screw top wine bottles. Plus it's impossible (and illegal) to drink when I've been on shuttle duty, bringing the boys from one sports field to another until the sun goes down. Things are starting to wind down and I'm looking forward to getting some writing done before we head off on our next adventure. I'm hoping that blogging will distract me from my current obsession, which is checking the CDC travel warnings website on an hourly basis.

Some upcoming posts to look forward to include a new local hot spot I'm excited to share, with a great cocktail menu and an equally creative kids menu you'll definitely want to add it to your list. I'm also working on a "best of" post for your summer vacation plans. Portland has been in just about every travel magazine in the past few months and I'll give you the inside scoop on our favorite places (Duckfat fries, without the wait!). Now if Mr. C&G could make me a cocktail to go with the typhoid vaccine we have stored in our fridge. . .

Friday, April 10, 2015

Cocktail du jour: The Chilly Parisian

It's chilly out and I wish I was in Paris. Instead I've been spending way too much time on Instagram admiring the perfectly pink cherry blossoms and chic spring wardrobes of the world's most stylish city. Not a single puffy coat to be found and I'm afraid I might be wearing mine well into June.

The Chilly Parisian
2 1/2 oz Armagnac
1/2 oz Chambord
Add ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and strain into a brandy glass


Monday, April 6, 2015

It's Opening Day, Go Red Sox!

The three baseball fans in my house are very excited that it's finally opening day for the 2015 baseball season. Big C&G sprinted past me as he got off the bus this afternoon to go turn on the Red Sox v. Phillies game and call dibs on the comfy corner spot on the couch. In honor of America's favorite pastime I'm re-running this post from last August about our visit to Cooperstown. The boys loved it, and I was more than happy to sit lakeside with a cup of coffee at the nearby Otesaga Resort. As they say, play ball!

If you have baseball fans in your house then chances are you will find yourself making a pilgrimage to Cooperstown at some point on your summer vacation. Families come from all over the country (as evidenced by the license plates up and down Main Street) to play on the Field of Dreams and visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Baseball is not my thing, unless it's a local Sea Dogs game and then I'm only there for the Sea Dog biscuits. But all three of my C&G boys are huge Red Sox fans so we made a second visit to Cooperstown a few weeks ago at the start of our summer road trip. They were beyond excited to see the new exhibit for the 2013 World Series champion Red Sox and I was more than happy to drop them off at the front door because I had a plan B thanks to my friend J.W.

Inside the museum be sure to pick up a scavenger hunt for the kiddos from the ticket desk. They have to follow the exhibits carefully (not a worry if they love baseball) and answer all the questions to win a prize from the gift shop. The boys loved the replica locker rooms and checking out all the old uniforms and memorabilia. The Babe's original Red Sox contract is there and "the curse" had to be explained to the little C&Gs who have seen three World Series titles in their lifetimes.

If, like me, you aren't so interested in obscure baseball trivia, stats, and old muddy cleats then leave the fans at the museum entrance (no worries about finding a parking spot) and drive over to the grand Otesaga Resort just a few streets away (plenty of free parking).

My friend and former local resident J.W. told me about the beautiful hotel and grounds and said it was the perfect place to spend a few baseball-free hours. Pull up a rocking chair on the Otesaga Resort's sweeping porch overlooking Lake Otsego and you'll quickly forget you are in the baseball capital of America. I sat there with my coffee (free and self serve in the lobby) for a few hours catching up on my vacation reading and watching sailboats drift by on the lake.

The Hawkeye Bar & Grill serves breakfast and lunch out on the porch and I'm going to keep this in mind for our next visit. I met the boys back in town for lunch on Main Street and it's always crowded with masses of hungry baseball players and their families in between games on Dreams Field.

Squeeze into a table at the Doubleday Cafe, their menu has something for everyone. Or if you're in a rush or on a budget walk over to Sal's Pizzeria and grab a few New York style slices to go. They have more seating out back on their covered patio and don't be afraid of the line, it moves very quickly.

The Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is open every day (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's) from 9:00 to 5:00 (open until 9:00 in the summer). Admission is $19.50 for adults and kids 13 and up, ages 7-12 are $7, and under 6 are free. We've never stayed in Cooperstown but I do know many hotels offer packages that include museum admission. The cozy fire pit and outdoor bar put the Otesaga Resort at the top of my list, if the boys can ever convince me to return for a third visit to Cooperstown.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Maui Monday

I can't bring myself to post anything about Maine today. It's snowing. Again. Our heat is not working. Again. And I'm recovering from a stomach bug that I caught from Little C&G. So overall not a great weekend. There were no cocktails and I missed out on the trip to Gelato Fiasco for their special tasting weekend.

My C&Gs went without me yesterday and I hear Lemon Oreo and Chocolate Sea Salt donut (from our friends at Holy Donut) were the favorites. Mr. C&G loved the peanut butter Sriracha (um, no thanks) and I asked for my vote (in absentia) to go to the Michigan cherry truffle gelato. We'll have to wait and see what makes it into the freezer case. Until then I'm eagerly awaiting the Easter candy flavors this weekend and dreaming of opening a branch of Gelato Fiasco in Hawaii.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cocktail du jour: Scarlet Manhattan

A friend asked me a few days ago when I would be posting some fun and fruity springtime cocktails and I had to tell her it's been nothing but hot toddys and dark and brooding Manhattans as we wait for the snow to melt. It's been so un-springlike that I spent five hours the other day making French onion soup from scratch. My trusted recipe calls for one cup of Port, which leaves two cups available for cocktails and après soup digestifs. I'm hoping by the time the bottle of Port is empty it will be safe to break out the Cirôc coconut. Wishful thinking!  

Scarlet Manhattan
2 oz Rye
1 oz Port
1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice
Stir and serve in a coupe or martini glass

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maine Monday: Coffee & Gelato

There were no visits to Gelato Fiasco in Portland this past winter, which is absolutely unheard of here at C&G. Nobody could be coaxed out of the house unless it was for soccer, school, or groceries (in that order) when the thermometer barely registered in the double digits for most of January and February. But a winter without gelato is almost as depressing as a January without alcohol (and we know I'm not very good at that) so I was very happy to find the elegantly designed Gelato Fiasco pints in the freezer case at my nearest grocery store.

Just because the snowbanks have taken all the good parking spots in town doesn't mean you have to wait until May (or June, or July. . . ) to get your caramel sea salt fix. Or a dose of some much needed cookie therapy. Maine favorites like "Maple Sap Tap" and "Maine Wild Blueberry Crisp" (beloved by the editors of Bon Appetit magazine) can be found up and down the East Coast, and even as far away as the "other" Portland. I adore the packaging and the plastic tubs have all been recycled corralling the Little C&G Lego collections.

A few of the gelato containers have made it onto my countertop (a daily reminder to swing by Hannfords and get another pint!) to store the other necessary C in my C&G, coffee. The flagship store of Coffee By Design on Diamond Street is one of my favorite spots on the rare occasions I've left my couch to get some writing done. The industrial East Bayside neighborhood does a great job of clearing the snow and a cup of Alonzo's Double Dark can cure any writers block.

But no matter what Mother Nature has in store for us next week (clearly the calendar means nothing to her because it was 16 degrees this morning) nothing can stop us from returning to Gelato Fiasco. It's that time of year where the Peeps come out and get turned into gelato. Peeps. Gelato. Cheers to spring indeed!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cheers To Spring!


Clearly this is not a view out my front door.
The calendar may say "First Day of Spring" but we are months away from seeing anything green peek through all that snow. Oh well, a girl can dream. And drink, because it's Friday. It's time to dust off the bottle of Aperol and toast to warmer and more colorful days ahead. Tonight at exactly 6:45pm EDT I will be raising my Aperol Spritz (3 parts prosecco, 2 parts Aperol, splash of club soda) to the end of 13 miserable weeks of winter. Happy weekend & happy spring!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Maine Monday Returns With Tiqa

It's hard to believe Memorial Day is just ten weeks away! We've had a cold, miserable winter and most of us haven't been motivated to leave the house. But now is the time to take advantage of longer days and (slightly) warmer temps and get to some of your favorite local restaurants before the tourists descend. In a little over three months those parking spots will disappear and we'll all be stuck wandering the Old Port in search of an empty table and a wait list that isn't two hours long.

Guaranteed to be hotter than a July afternoon in the Moroccan desert is the latest restaurant to open with the small plate and great cocktails concept, Tiqa. This pan-Mediterranean restaurant on Commercial Street has been open since February and is getting plenty of media and foodie buzz. Focusing on locally sourced foods flavored with exotic spices, Tiqa offers Portland a taste of distant lands where the thermometer never dips below freezing.

Pull up a cozy leather couch in the low lit lounge and order some cocktails and small plates while the kiddos are entertained by the view out the floor to ceiling windows. The mezze plate is perfect for sharing and comes with an assortment of Middle Eastern snacks like warmed pitted olives, cucumber slaw, hummus, baba ghanoush (eggplant) and plenty of pita bread.

For a real dinner treat ask for the seats in front of the kitchen bar, it's where all the action is. On the left (as you're facing the kitchen) it's nonstop movement and the kids will be mesmerized by the sizzling pans and dashes of colorful spices and sauces. We sat on the quieter side, the right side, opting to watch the breads and desserts being made by two talented and chatty ladies.

There might be a children's menu (it is in a Marriott hotel after all) but we didn't ask, both little C&Gs ordered kabobs (I think just so they could play with the skewers) and were very happy with their choices. They split the fattoush salad, mixed greens with torn pieces of pita bread, and ordered the chicken and beef kabobs. Neither dish was overly spicy and the boys liked the unusual flavors. Little C&G raved that the chicken was better than anything I've made him and I resisted challenging him to a skewered veggie dual.

After watching countless desserts make their way out of the kitchen we had to order the pistachio olive oil cake and the flourless chocolate cake. Dense, moist, and not overly sweet they were a tasty ending to our night out. We had a deliciously fun and unusual dinner at one of the most talked about places in town and we can definitely recommend Tiqa as a place to bring your adventurous kiddos. Grab a table soon (they're on OpenTable for reservations) and order some creative cocktails and exotic dishes to chase away this horrible winter.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Summer 2015 Sorted

For the past four months I have quite literally had my nose stuck in this pile of travel books along with about ten different travel sites open in my internet browser. We have a milestone celebration coming up this summer and we gave Big C&G the opportunity to pick anywhere in the world as our destination. Anywhere. Within reason, of course. I'm not about to climb Mt. Everest but if he wanted to bungee jump off the Sydney Harbor Bridge then I would (reluctantly) go along with it. I lobbied very hard for a macaron tour of Paris but as I've been reminded by multiple C&Gs, it's not up to me. Tant pis!

Big C&G narrowed down his very long list and Little C&G and I took advantage of a few snow days back in January and put together a slide show with some highlights of where he wanted to go. I did a lot of research and planned five very different trips for him to choose from just as if he was a very discerning (aka picky) client. There may have been a little more attention paid to the adventures I was hoping for (the picture perfect turquoise waters of Fiji, serene sailboats along the Dalmatian Coast) but in the end Big C&G went with exactly what he said the first time we asked him where he would go on a dream trip.

Our flights are booked, our deposits have been paid, and I am more than ready to stop thinking about travel planning for a bit. I'm incredibly sad that our destination can't be found in any of the books I insisted on buying (yes Mr. C&G you told me so) and they will all go back on the shelves until 2016. I am just a wee bit superstitious and won't write about a trip before it happens so you'll just have to wait until summer to find out where we're headed.

Rest assured all those months of research won't go to waste, I'll share some of my findings in the weeks ahead because I'm not quite ready to give up on a resort in Fiji that provides you with your own marine biologist. Or lazing away the summer days in the hills of Tuscany at an olive oil resort (cooking classes for the kiddos and afternoons at the spa for the grown ups). Big C&G might be forcing me out of my comfort zone (and out of continental Europe) but I know I can count on Little C&G when it's his turn to choose. I foresee a lot of German soccer and Italian pasta in his future. . .

Monday, February 16, 2015

Stealing Some Time With the Crown Jewels

I'm re-running this post on visiting the Crown Jewels in London for some friends who are heading to England this summer. With Valentine's Day having come and gone (and nothing crown-worthy tucked in amongst my chocolates) it's always fun to think about spending a little time with the world's greatest collection of baubles.       

Just how I like my jewels, all to myself
Everybody in the world wants to see the Crown Jewels, and if you're visiting London with kiddos you don't want to be waiting in line behind all those everybodys. I've got a few tips to share to get you in, get you to the goods, see some swords and battle armor along the way, and then be off for cocktails. Yes the Cullinan diamond is magnificent, but you're going to need a glass of bubbly to cheer yourself up when the guard doesn't let you take it home.

The Tower of London lets you buy your tickets in advance and gives you a seven day window in which to use them. Which is awesome (and rare) because when you're traveling as a family you need a bit of flexibility in your schedule. Print out your tickets from home or use the hotel printer (there's always a station for printing out boarding passes) before heading out the door and you will be so much happier when you see the masses outside the Tower Hill tube station.

Like a jewel thief planning a heist you've got to grab a map (free at the info and ticket booths), plot your course, and stay focused. Try to get to the Tower as soon as they open, 9:00am Tues - Sat, 10:00am Sun & Mon. Head straight through the entrance gates, make a left at the Bloody Tower and straight back to the Waterloo Block and home to the jewels. Don't let the kiddos (or you) get distracted, the Beefeaters have been there for more than 600 years and they'll still be there after you tour the Crown Jewels.

A Lego version at Hamley's (no pics allowed)
You can see in the first photo (at 10:10am) we didn't have to elbow our way through the displays with hundreds of tourists from around the world. And let me assure you it was not the case as we exited the building 20 minutes later. Crowds were already winding their way through the barriers as the hot sun beat down (there's no shelter, no matter what the weather) and the boys were thankful I made them rush.

A moving conveyer belt whisks you past the greatest treasures of the British Empire. I lost count of how many times I rode it, while the little C&Gs (and Mr. C&G) waited patiently by the exit. The diamonds, rubies, sapphires, pearls, crowns, scepters, orbs, rings, swords and diadems were dazzling. There's no nose pressing or photos allowed so the best I could do is share with you the Lego version of St. Edwards crown. I think the boys found this one much more fascinating than the real thing.

We grabbed a quick snack and some drinks from the cafe (raspberry tarts with powdered sugar crowns should be the official C&G dessert) and then made our way to the White Tower. If you see a Yeoman Warder (the dark blue and red coated Beefeaters) giving a tour, they're free and you can come and go with the group as you please.

The White Tower is much more entertaining than the sparkly bling of the Crown Jewels (for the kiddos, not me) with the endless displays of arms, armors, and life-sized carved wooden horses. Check out the many different versions of armor made for Henry the VIII to accommodate his changing size.

On the top floor you'll find a giant dragon made from old weapons and lots of hands on activities for the kids. Move the kids out of the way and channel your inner Braveheart (or Brave) with the arrow shooting challenge. Those tiny eye slits make it virtually impossible to hit your mark.

By the time you've worked your way around the rest of the Tower of London it will be time for a drink. And maybe some food. Escape the crowds (after taking the requisite photo in front of Tower Bridge, aka London Bridge) by heading for the St. Katherine Docks where you'll find the very popular chains StradaZizzi, and Côte Brasserie. Chains in the UK are nothing like what we have at home, they're all very good, fresh, delicious and fast. With a full wine list. And cocktails. Yet another reason I want to move to the UK. . .

Monday, February 9, 2015

Cocktail du Jour: Double Coconut

It's time to double up on the coconut, because things are looking a little bleak outside my front door. My usual nightly hot toddy or Stormy Scot just reminds me that a good five months stand between me and seeing my green lawn again. The sun hasn't poked out from behind the clouds in days and I'm really regretting our decision to not join my mother for her annual Mexican vacation this year. Darned Big C&G and his education!

Mr. C&G clearly misunderstood me the other night when I mentioned St. Tropez, I was talking about booking us on the next flight to the South of France and instead he headed for the drinks cabinet to start making a St. Tropez Spritzer. Or more likely he just has very selective hearing. With no pineapple juice in stock he dusted off the bottle of Cirôc coconut and improvised a new cocktail that deserves to be sipped under a striped umbrella on a pebbled French beach. Now back to the Air France website . . .

Double Coconut
2 oz Cirôc coconut vodka
sparkling coconut lime soda*
Rose's lime juice (or fresh lime)

Raise the flag to attract the attention of your garçon
Tell him to add the vodka into a cocktail glass filled with ice
Top with soda and a squeeze or two of lime
Stir and à votre santé!
(* if you don't have a Hannafords near you for their private label soda, Lorina French sodas are the exact same thing)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Dreaming Of Drinks & Dinner In Aruba

Warm sunshine on my face, the sound of palm trees rustling in the light ocean breeze, and the sound of ice clinking in a cocktail glass. . . Just a few scenes from the movie I've been playing in my head since the start of winter storm Juno. The snowbank outside our door is up to my shoulders and we've got more snow on the way. I'm not sure where it's all going to go or how long the contents of our wine fridge will last.

Aruba is blessed with perfect weather year round, it sits just outside the hurricane belt and you could easily make it through your vacation never swapping dollars for Aruban florins. It's a very busy port for the mammoth cruise ships traveling from the East Coast and you can get cheap, direct flights from most major cities. If you're looking for a quiet, relaxing Caribbean island, Aruba is not it. Chain restaurants and cheap bars assault your senses as soon as you exit the arrivals hall (or step off the boat) but in true C&G fashion I found some small local gems on our visit last November.

An absolute must visit is Gelatissimo, a cocktail bar AND a gelato bar. What a brilliant combination, who would have thought? You can't miss it on the main hotel strip in Palm Beach, a purple and white oasis between Señior Frogs and the Hard Rock Cafe. Pull up a wicker lounge chair and order a mojito or a mangotini while the kiddos go press their little noses against the gelato case.

There's a small panini menu at Gelatissimo but Amore Mio and Gianni's Restorante Italiano are next door and both offer delicious and authentic Italian cuisine. If you're too comfy with your cocktails and gelato all three restaurants share the same owner and our waitress said we could order food off any menu without leaving the lounge.

Amore Mio is a tiny and popular spot for thin crust authentic Neapolitan pizza so if the lines are long stay put and order while you sit in Gelatissimo. Gianni's Restorante is huge with plenty of tables to choose from, indoors or out. Our dinner at Gianni's was delicious, sometimes when we're away from home I just want a big, comforting bowl of pasta and the rigatoni ai quattro formaggi was perfect. For a real treat order the spaghetti al formaggio parmiggiano (serves two) and a giant cheese wheel is brought table side and your dinner is cooked and flamed (thanks to a few dashes of whisky) right in front of you.

Local favorite Madame Janette requires a rental car and a very good map (even with 4 phones and GPS we got lost) or better yet have your hotel call you a cab. But the adventure is totally worth it for their classic European cuisine with a touch of Caribbean flair. When you make your reservation ask for a table in the back pebble garden, very little wind makes it this far inland and the rooms up front can be very stuffy. Bring bug spray for your ankles but if you forget the staff is happy to share.

Madame Janette is known for their saucey dishes, locally caught seafood, and famous plate-sized schnitzel. Ask them to downsize their schnitzel for the kiddos or order just plain pasta, there's no kids menu but the friendly staff will happily accommodate picky eaters. Big C&G had a caesar salad with steak and Little C&G ordered the shrunken schnitzel, but as you can see from the photo above it was still almost as big as his head. Save room for dessert, because the other part of my "escape to Aruba" movie always ends with Madame Janette's delicious coconut cream cake . . .

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cocktail du jour: The Hot Toddy

March is the new January I've decided. There's no sticking to resolutions, no matter how well intentioned, motivated, or inspired I am in the beginning of the new year. The days are just so dark and polar vortex cold that it feels like I'll never see the sun or the thermometer hit double digits.

The return to school inevitably exposes the little C&Gs to all sorts of fun germs and already one of them has missed a week of school. Which explains why I give up right around the mid-month mark every year and dust off the martini glasses. January just doesn't work for me and February is a short month with yet another school vacation to look forward to, so March will be my month to swap out the cocktail shaker for the Vitamix.

With all the illness going around (I've stopped Facebooking, too many posts about friends with flus) Mr. C&G and I have been boosting our immune systems with nature's Nyquil, the hot toddy. Whiskey is an excellent decongestant and germ fighter, which we learned from this great article on Vinepair "Your Drunk Aunt Was Right: The Hot Toddy Is The Cure To The Common Cold". Whatever whiskey or bourbon you have on hand will work to ward off the winter chill and any cold germs your kiddos have brought home. Plus it certainly tastes better than vile cherry flavored Nyquil!
 
Hot Toddy
2 oz whiskey
1/2 oz lemon juice
2 cubes of sugar
6 oz hot water

Add all ingredients into a heat-proof glass, stir, enjoy, and stay healthy!





Friday, January 16, 2015

Cocktail du jour: Mexican Manhattan

There's nothing like a little tequila to take away the chill of winter. And by chill I mean arctic blast. Last week it wasn't just us Mainers freezing our Bean boots off, even our friends in the South were approaching single digits.

This recipe comes from Mr. C&Gs (other) favorite cocktail resource, Kindred Cocktails and it's a very tasty winter warmer. The sweet orange of the Cointreau cuts the bite of the tequila and the few dashes of chocolate bitters add an unexpected finish. I'm not a huge fan of tequila (there's only one other tequila cocktail here on C&G) but waking up to -11ºF is enough to make me reach for the Sauza around cocktail hour.

Mexican Manhattan
1 1/2 oz añejo tequila
3/4 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino)
1/2 dry vermouth (Dolin)
1/2 oz Cointreau
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Aztec chocolate bitters

Add all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice
Shake and strain into a martini/coupe class
Cheers & keep warm!


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Other Guggenheim (Venice On My Mind)

It was 2°F this morning on the school run. So I haven't left the house since and instead have been dreaming of warm sunshine and an Aperol spritz on a canal-side palazzo. I'm re-running this post from last January, clearly this "summer in Venice" movie has played in my head before . . .     

A Kandinsky in the living room
An unfinished palazzo directly on Venice's bustling Grand Canal hides one of the most magnificent collections of 20th century modern art. Bohemian socialite Peggy Guggenheim opened the doors to her Palazzo Venier dei Leoni in 1951 to share the works of her friends, unknown artists named Pablo. And Jackson. And Salvador.

After her death in 1979 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation (yes, that would be Peggy's uncle Solomon) turned the palazzo into a museum and opened it to the public. All of the artworks were left in their original places, which makes for a fascinating museum experience. It's a perfectly manageable size for your kiddos and the rooms are filled with iconic works that represent the best of modern art.

No doubt he's wishing for a return visit
Strolling across the peaceful courtyard is a wonderful way to escape the tourist crowds on your trip to Venice. Be sure to say hi to Peggy and her dogs (buried in the corner) and stop by Yoko Ono's Wish Tree, where you can write down your own wish and attach it to the tree. See how many languages your kiddos can find on the paper "leaves". Sculptures surround the courtyard and gardens and it's fun to have art the kids can interact with and contribute to.

Pull open the heavy iron scrollwork doors to enter into the palazzo where you'll be greeted by a few Picassos and a hanging mobile by Alexander Calder. Can't you just imagine the elegant Peggy greeting you at the door, wearing a flowing caftan and bearing champagne glasses? She was known for her elaborate parties and eclectic guest lists, with artists, actors, composers and dancers all gliding across her terrazzo floors. I would have loved to have had a few cocktails with her.

The collection is displayed mostly in chronological order but let your kiddos lead the way to things that spark their interest. Enthusiastic art students can be found in almost every room and they're very happy to answer any questions or share their knowledge. We had a charming young Italian student approach the boys to ask if he could tell them something about a Chagall and to practice his English. I'm sure the boys didn't understand a word, but I was very proud that they remained attentive and even asked a few questions.

Don't miss the excited boy sculpture
When your crew is done with art head out to the canal side terrace for a stunning view of Venice. You can see why Peggy chose to remain in Venice until the end of her life. Be sure to share the story of sculptor Marino Marini's The Angel of the City with your kiddos. The figure on the horse is very excited (I would be too if the Grand Canal was my permanent view) and a certain body part stands at full attention.

Peggy had the sculptor make the body part detachable, just in case she had some prudish guests over for drinks she could simply remove it. I'm sure one night the martini glasses were overflowing and in the morning Peggy found it had been unscrewed and stolen. So a new one was quickly made and welded on and there it still is today. The little C&Gs thought it was the funniest story and I can't help wondering who has the bronze piece on their mantle.

There's an excellent gift shop with great kids activity and art books and a small but expensive cafe. We headed out for cocktails and gelato in Campo San Barnaba, the square best known for its library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The boys ran off to grab gelato at the highly recommended Grom Gelateria while Mr. C&G and I found the nearest shady table and ordered a few Aperol and Campari cocktails.

Lounging under the Pollock
Honestly I don't think the Peggy Guggenheim Collection was on our list of things to do on our trip to Venice, we were looking for a place to escape the heat and crowds and decided a cool palazzo was it. But it was truly one of our best adventures, the boys even listed it in their top three.

The building and grounds are gorgeous, and the artwork is a nicely curated collection. Plus who doesn't love a few splattered Jackson Pollocks? Check the website for opening hours and the schedule of family friendly art activities. Admission is €14 ($19) for adults, €8 for students ages 11-26, and under 10s are free.

Thursday, January 1, 2015