Tartines: Delicious, Healthy, Simple to Prepare

I had never even heard of a tartine before being seated in the restaurant Le Pain Quotidien last July. The restaurant had been highly recommended by two Insta-friends: Claudia, who visited one in Mexico City and Preethi, who visited one in Madrid. Preethi told us we could go to a right here in New York City!

You can read my review of Le Pain Quotidien

Le Pain Quotidien: Affordable Gourmet Dining in the Heart of Manhattan

The text-only menu left us wondering what these tartines were so we Googled images and wow, they looked delicious!

Lunch table at Le Pain Quotidien restaurant
The tartine I ordered is in the top-left corner of the photo.

The word tartine means “a piece of bread with a sweet or savory topping”. 75% of French people eat tartines for breakfast, but these are basically just a slice of baguette with butter and jelly spread on top. More complex tartines are eaten later in the day and this is where they become interesting. A tartine is simple to prepare, but the ingredients have to taste great together is the art.

Delicious! Healthy! Simple to prepare at home!

The tartine I prepared is pictured above, made with multigrain bread (toast it a little to make it firm enough to support the ingredients on top), prosciutto, home-made mozzarella, watercress, basil pesto and dried tomato pesto, and finally, avocado. I also sprinkled … Add balsamic oil and voila, your tartine is ready to serve!

My tartines were as delicious as they look, and they left my family asking when we would have them again!

The one pictured at the top of this post was similar but with a few variations. The store-bought chips have rosemary added and were fried in olive oil.

Preparation time: 10 minutes! What could be better!

Tartines On The Road Or At Your Table

A tartine is a perfect choice if you’re traveling in France since they are quick, they will fill you up and they won’t cost you a huge amount of money. In fact, these became popular in France for just that reason, according to Chez bonne femme. People everywhere need a quick bite to eat.

If you’re not traveling to France, prepare them at home. There are plenty of tartine recipes online, if you need help choosing the right ingredients. Remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. My tartine above was delicious, even though my Insta-friend Nancy pointed out that I should have add some balsamic oil. Next time…

Tip! Make yesterday’s leftovers look more beautiful today!

You will not be disappointed! If you make them, let me know how they came out…

Fun Day for Wine Lovers: Concha Y Toro Vineyard in Chile

The moment you begin researching your trip to Chile, you’ll come across different tours of the Concha Y Toro vineyard. This cloudy, cold July day did not look like a great day to tour fields of grapes, but they say a glass of wine warms the heart on days like these. We bundled up and got in the car for the one hour drive to Pirque, a town about one hour south of Santiago, Chile. My cousin Saverio, our Peruvian friend Cesar and our Chilean friend Manuel joined us on the Concha y Toro vineyard tour.

The entrance of Concha Y Toro vineyards

This was our Argentina and Chile trip, and turned into our wine-drinking trip as well, as we experimented with a variety of Argentine wines and Chilean wines and came home with new favorites.

Viña Concha Y Toro was founded in 1883 by Don Melchor and is now Latin America’s leading producer of wine. Each section of the field is divided by types of grapes. These vines are grafted here specifically for the tour, allowing visitors to see each type while the guide explains them to the group. Sure it’s touristy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun.

By this time we were cold. Fortunately, the tastings began!

Wine tasting at Concha Y Toro in Chile
There are plenty of chances to taste Concha Y Toro’s wines on the tour here in Santiago, Chile

There are plenty of chances to taste Concha Y Toro’s wines on the tour here in Pirque, Chile.

The guide instructed us to hold the wine glass by the stem. Your body heat will change the taste of the wine. Swish the wine in the glass to provoke the aroma and to oxygenate and soften the wine before your first sip.

Manuel tasting wine
Our Chilean friend Manuel: 😮 “Hold the glass by the stem!” 😜😆

Hold onto your glasses, we were told. There would be many more tastings and the glasses would be ours at the end of the tour. We also had our elegant bright orange Concha Y Toro boxes to transport the glasses. They made it to NYC without breaking.

The Chilean flag and the wine cellar below
Below me is the Casillero del Diablo (The devil’s cellar)!

We were about to head into Concha Y Toro’s cold, dark caverns.


Wine develops more slowly in this purple glow and low temperature. Once your eyes adjust, you can see the rows of wine barrels along the narrow passageways. The guide told us interesting stories about Don Melchor and Concha Y Toro’s history, as well as explaining the different processes involved in producing wine.

Don Melchor’s
The highest quality wines are stored in Don Melchor’s private wine cellar.

We ate dinner at Concha Y Toro’s restaurant, where we could enjoy a bottle of one of their house wines. The restaurant is expensive but if you go all the way to Chile and you take this tour, you may want to save enough Chilean pesos since this is a very good restaurant. Anyway, it not that expensive.

Saverio (left) and Cesar

My cousin Saverio and our friend Cesar chose the wine for us: Camenere 2013. We enjoyed the meal and the conversation. Saverio introduced us to several reasonably-priced restaurants and different excellent wines, all close to his Santiago apartment. Alone in Argentina, we tried the Argentine equivalents. Our favorite ended up being an Argentine Malbec from Viña La Linda.

Cultural Observations

Tigre, our waiter in Buenos Aires
With Tigre, our waiter in Chiquilín, a steak house in Buenos Aires (behind me is a portrait of Carlos Gardel, who made tango popular)

Tigre, our friendly waiter in Buenos Aires, became serious when we mentioned a Chilean Malbec that we liked and quickly brought us an Argentine Malbec. The rivalry is strong between the two countries. Cesar’s observation was that Ecuadorians want to be like Peruvians and Chileans want to be like Argentinians.

We met Cesar and Manuel on this trip so this enjoyable tour made conversation easy. The wine tasting made it even easier. Manuel taught us a lot about Chilean culture. He is from the south and taught us about his experiences there. Cesar a geologist, like my cousin Saverio. Cesar can speak to you intelligently on such a range of subjects and he’s very cultured.

The Concha Y Toro visit, including dinner, lasted 3 hours. I recommend this fun tour if you’re in Santiago, Chile. If you’re booking a tour from your hotel, ask about the tastings. Many of these tours provide you with just one glass of wine. If there are several of you, you might be better off splitting a taxi and purchasing the tour at Concha Y Toro. The one-hour ride will cost you under $40. An Uber will cost even less.

Aixa’s Reading Recommendation: Road Trip in Chile

Road Trip In Chile: Visiting The Three Homes of Pablo Neruda

Mayan Culture and Everyday Life in Guatemala

Lake Atitlan and Its Three Volcanos

We arrived at Lake Atitlan by taxi, all the way from Guatemala City. Your first view of Lake Atitlan will leave you speechless, this beautiful lake is surrounded by three volcanos. The little villages around the lake are populated with ex-pats from all over the world, looking for an inexpensive and leisurely lifestyle, and by Mayan people who still dress traditionally and speak their native languages at home and learn Spanish in school.


Micro Loans Help Poor People

Restaurant Palopo
Our driver Jorge at my side, and our boat driver is in the background

A young Mayan man took us across in a his boat. He bought it through a micro loan, like the ones we’ve helped finance through Kiva.org. Kiva works with local lenders to raise funds through it’s website. It’s fun to browse Kiva’s website. Choose a country and look at how people plan on spending their loans. Here at Panajachel we loved seeing someone benefit from his loan!


Artisan Cooperatives and Mayan Fashion Models

Antigua is a stunning city with cobbled streets and colonial architecture. The city is heavily populated with more ex-pats. The busier interesections have police officers stationed.


The town is full of tourists, too, some who come just for the nightlife. A couple of teenage girls were laughing at some Mayan women who were selling in the central square. I have never seen tourist act so disgustingly!!!

Newspaper article
The headline says: Artisan dreams come true

In Antigua, we learned of an artisan cooperative group which eliminates third parties from the sales chain, which means more profits for the artisans. The most exciting part, for customers like us, is seeing the authentic Mayan models in their beautiful color catalogues.


Unfortunately we hadn’t made arrangements ahead of time to visit some of these artisans. That will have to be our next trip to Guatemala!

Laura and Xibalbá


We became friends with Laura, the owner of an artisan jewelry shop in Antigua, called Xibalbá. Xibalbá is the ancient Mayan underworld. The name translates to ‘place of fright’.

“Flesh falls from the body, eyes hang from their sockets and bodily functions are no longer controlled.”

[source: www.ancient.eu/Xibalba/]

The ancient Maya believed that the only way to avoid Xibalbá was to die a violent death.

Most tourists avoid the highly dangerous Guatemala City, but if you spend at least a day there, I highly recommend the Popol Vuh museum and the Ixchel museum next door. Popul Vuh is the Maya story of creation and it is fascinating to learn about, but at the museum, you will learn about how the Maya civilization developed through the ages.

Aside: How Dangerous Is Guatemala City?

We went to a small shopping mall close to the museum in the wealthy Zone 10. The mall was filled with non-uniformed guards. Every time someone entered, a uniform guard radioed his colleagues with a slight description.


We walked two blocks to a restaurant we found on TripAdvisor and we found more non-uniformed guards on the streets.

Laura from Xibalba
Laura even showed us the area surrounding Antigua.

Laura and I talked for a long time about precious stones and our personal feelings of connection to them. We met her on-site artisan and watched him work.


We were excited to see that the Miss Universe Guatemala 2016 competition chose Laura’s shop to create the crown!

Mayan Sales People in the Streets

The poorer artisans try to sell their goods to the tourists. They’ll ask you your name. If they see you the next day, they’ll call you by name from across the street!

We caught one woman lying about the authenticity of the scarves she was selling. Her goods were from China. When I asked he why she lied to us, she laughed and said because she wanted to sell us the scarf. We agreed on a price and I bought the scarf from her. April nights can be cold in Antigua.

The lesson: If you want a low price, don’t expect something handmade in Guatemala.


We came home from Guatemala with new friends, new acquaintances, new experiences and totally in love with Guatemala. You can read some of our other experiences, like our tour of Luis Mena school and and our visit to Casa Santo Domingo, below. Soon I’ll write about our visit to Tikal, the ancient Mayan city.

Why Did Two Tourists Visit A School In Guatemala and How Did It Turn Into A Highlight of Their Trip?

Historic Casa Santo Domingo Is The No. 1 Thing To Do In Antigua Guatemala

Boutiques & Eateries, Industrial Design, Google and Oreos? WHAT???

Chelsea Market is an arcade of boutique stores and unique eateries with an industrial-themed look, located on the entire city block between 15th and 16th Streets and 9th and 10th Avenues. I’ve visited many times and I am always fascinated by the hard granite, rustic metal and worn brick look of the place.

What is the story behind Chelsea Market?

In the 1890s baking companies occupied this space, which consisted of 19 different buildings at the time. The space has now been transformed into just one building.

In 1898, several of the larger ones merged into the National Biscuit Company, better known as Nabisco. It was here, back in 1912, that the Oreo cookie was invented.


Nabisco left in 1958 and the space remained mostly empty over the years. In the 1990s, a new owner developed these empty buildings, connecting them into just one.


When you walk through the Chelsea Market arcade of stores, you are immediately charmed by the granite benches, industrial ceiling fans, exposed elevator shafts (no longer in service, of course), plaques, antique ads painted on the faded brick walls, historic artifacts preserved in glass cases. It makes the place look like they pretty much left it as it was… but don’t be fooled. Chelsea Market is that way by design. Still, these touches make Chelsea Market very enjoyable to walk through, and it maintains the feel of the history of the Chelsea neighborhood.


On the upper floors are television studios like Food Network, MLB.com, music producers and YouTube offices.

What is Chelsea Market’s Future?

Google is currently in contract to buy Chelsea Market. The deal is expected to finalize in April 2018. They already own the 1932 Art-Deco building across the street, a building that occupies the entire city block and has more floor space than Apple’s brand new headquarters in California.


Why are they buying Chelsea Market? We’ll have to wait and see…

Best Taqueria in NYC

Los Tacos No. 1 is our favorite taqueria in the city. My former students from Sonora, Mexico, Valeria and Evguenin, once told me before class that they had the best tacos since Mexico and then told us it was the taqueria at Chelsea Market.


The taqueria is very popular and has since opened Los Mariscos, a seafood taco area, also in Chelsea Market. Your lunch will be healthy, inexpensive and delicious. If you want seafood tacos and your traveling companion wants regular tacos, tell him to meet you in the seating area in Los Mariscos. If you want a beer or other alcoholic drink, buy it in Los Mariscos.

How Much Time Will I Need At Chelsea Market and What Else Is There To Do Around there?

We always bring friends and family to Chelsea Market when they’re visiting, and we always eat at the taqueria. You won’t need too much time at Chelsea Market, maybe about an hour, and you can exit through the 10th Avenue side for Highline Park, the abandoned elevated train that has been converted into a beautiful park above ground. I’ll have a post about Highline Park soon.

A word of warning: Chelsea Market gets very crowded on beautiful days, but I still highly recommend it.

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Take #iconic NYC Photos eBook by Aixa

Sightsmap.com Is An Invaluable Sightseeing Tool

Sightsmap.com looks like a thermal map, but the heat comes from the concentration of photos of an area. The thermal map is then overlaid on a Google map.

My examples, of course, are from NYC, the city I mostly write about. Sightmaps itself says it’s a sightseeing tool and has included several features to back this up.

Here are the features of Sightmaps.com

Here is what I like about Sightmaps.com

🙌 The “zoom” button lets you see the sight and the surround area and the “see more” button gives you a brief description.
Sightsmap has several buttons for sightseers (see the photo above).
🙌 Save a sight to have a list of places to visit!

🙌 Read a description of the sight with a Wikipedia button!

Here is what I don’t like about Sightmaps.com

😖 The only unfortunately part is that the website runs slow on my iPhone, iPad and Chromebook. Still, it gives me enough value to recommend it here. I will be using it for my next trip.

😮 The directions are given on the map, not in my GPS app…

I don’t understand how I ended up with this starting point…

😞 I’ve only had success with cities, not with less urban areas. I guess there aren’t enough photos to draw from…

😮 There’s no specialized app for the phone…

😕 I get the feeling that Sightsmap.com got off to a good start, and then they lost interest in it…

Sightsmap.com is a lot of fun to use, despite its limitations. Try it in a city of your choice! Let me know how you like it. How do you plan for a trip? Let me know in the comments…

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What would happen if your wallet and your phone were stolen while you were traveling?

Imagine this: you’re traveling outside of your country and…

😮 Your bag is stolen. Your phone was in it and so was your wallet, so here you are in a foreign country without money or a phone.

Continue reading “What would happen if your wallet and your phone were stolen while you were traveling?”