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Go Where the Olives Grow

August 23, 2013

I want to go where the olives grow.  After two weeks of traveling throughout Holland my appreciation for the healthy Mediterranean lifestyle has deepened.  The windmills, canals, and stretches of greenery are beautiful visions but we had a difficult time finding food that wasn't heavily processed, preserved, or packaged in plastic.   We enjoyed Holland's famous dairy products very much and tried our best to keep our diet simple.  We noshed on freshly baked bread (with butter), splurged on daily milk shakes and attempted to avoid the plethora of traditional, fried foods at restaurants by ordering salads, but those too came with cheese and heavy dressing.  It was a good thing we walked for miles everyday, otherwise we would be rolling back to Italy like Michelin tires.   When the rain set in and the skies turned gray, we packed our bags to travel towards the sun, sea and olive trees, it was time to go home.  Through our drive we passed through Burgundy and visited where Michel stayed during his youth while he and his family learned about winemaking and the possibility of growing pinot noir grapes in Oregon.  We stopped off at the huge city of Marseille and continued our journey through the south of France.   Olive trees began to appear and from the autostrada we could see groves scattered in the dry terrain and along the hillsides.  In Monte Carlo, Monaco the main decorative landscape element in pots and in parks was the olive tree.  We were back in the region where the olive tree and all that it bears was considered nature's prize.  Upon arriving in Italy, we decided to take a breather for two nights near Genoa at a castle turned B&B.  With a ten-year-old boy and a puppy in the back seat, road trips can be long and tedious.  So we spent a day hiking above Rapallo along the ridge of Montallegro that overlooks the Mediterranean on one side and deep valleys sprinkled with villages on the other.  It's one of our favorite treks.  At the top of Montallegro is a sanctuary so I shouldn't have been surprised when a group of young nuns came quietly around the corner.  They asked us for directions to the sanctuary and then proceeded with their rosary prayers as they walked.  Besides the nuns, we were the only ones on top of the mountain, it was so peaceful and the perfect place for reflection.  In the far distance we could see Santa Margherita and Portofino.  As we gazed out of the view, lost in thought, the brief moment of silence was broken by, "Mom, do you have my snorkel gear?" The blue waters beckoned us for a swim so after our long trek down the mountain we found ourselves swimming in the Mediterranean and devouring pizza topped with Genovese pesto -- no more butter, just lots of really good olive oil, basil and a bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  I am truly beginning to understand why the Italians hold on to their history of art so fiercely, protect their natural wonders, and insist upon quality food with minimal processing .... it is a holistic lifestyle .... it is one.  Italians believe that health is beauty and beauty supports health.  Not superficial beauty, but natural beauty inspired by the earth.  After a long day of work or one of play create a meal that is beautiful, healthful and delicious to celebrate the day.  Add extra virgin olive oil to your diet ... your body and mind will be grateful.  See our health page on this website for a detailed explanation of the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil.

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