Here I go!

I've been told many times over the years that I should write travel guide books, but this is as close as I plan to come to that!

Since getting my first passport at age 43, I have gotten to go places in this world that I never dreamed of seeing, and I'm an inveterate note taker. My travels since 1986 have been as a professional travel agent...which only increased that note taking. I hope to share some of the things I've found interesting for one reason or another -- maybe for cultural or historic reasons, maybe just beautiful, maybe ultra good, maybe just hilarious. And sometimes just because I liked it, related to travel or not.

My speciality in the travel business is Italy, though I handle travel pretty much worldwide..and if I don't keep up with a particular area, one of the great agents in my office does. See for more about the professional side of my life.

Your comments and shared tips are very welcome! I truly believe "we get by with a little help from our friends."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Divina Cucina

My friend Judy Witts Francini, aka "Diva," is going to be doing cooking class on the West Coast of the US soon. How I wish my schedule allowed me to be present for at least one!

Diva is a treat: an American who moved to Florence in 1984, fell in love with Italy and an Italian, ran a cooking school in Florence for many years. She now offers Market Tours at the wonderful Florence market -- doing that with her is such fun, as all the vendors know her and she can tell you what booth has a third-generation butcher, what booth sells her special blend of herbs, etc. Judy also does three-day or week-long cooking classes in the Chianti area, and there's truly no telling what she will come up with next!

Diva's website has wonderful tips for restaurants and shops in Florence and the Chianti area, a "Strada del Vino" route with suggestions for each town...see . And of course, a fun blog at

And oh yes, that US West Coast Cooking Class Schedule:

Feb 12,13 and 14th- Ramekins Cooking School- Sonoma

Feb 15 and 16th -Arroyo Vista Inn B&B and cooking school-Pasadena A B&B with its own wine cellar!

Feb 19- guest chef Angeli Cafe in LA ? to be confirmed still

Feb 21- Cavallo Point Cooking School- Sausalito

Feb 22 - Slow Food Dinner in Marin ( members only)

Feb 25 - Cooks, Pots and Tabletops Cooking school- Eugene, Oregon

Feb 27 and 28- Diane's Market Kitchen- Seattle

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bernard and Trust and Me

First work day of this new year, three potential new clients contacted me about my services. I was struck that some of the things they asked me were different from past first inquiries. This time the questions were less about how I worked and what it would cost, and more about whether they could trust me to be real and solid. Questions about how often I travel to Europe (generally twice a year), when was the last time I was in Italy (three weeks in Fall 2008). In fact, one caller got right down to it and said, "I just needed to find out if you are real." Another via email asked various questions and then wrote, "You do sound like you know what you're doing."

My oh my, what the latter half of 2008 has done to us all, with Bernard Madoff being the icing on that cake. I've had people tell me that they felt they could trust me because of the picture of me with my grandchildren on my website. But I'm sure Bernard could have offered that, too. I've made a point of putting 'testimonials' from past clients on my website. But I'm sure Bernard could have offered that, too. So how do those of us who are indeed 'real' and 'solid' make clients comfortable with us in this 'new normal?' Carrying hard-earned credentials isn't enough, and grandchildren photos and client testimonials may not be, either.

In the mid-80's I worked with someone who has gone on to become an instantly recognizeable, nationally known figure in the political arena; if I gave the name, some of you would crack up and some would pass out, so I won't. But he once said a very insightful thing to me: "Sally, you trust people until they give you a reason not to. Most folks don't trust someone until they give them a reason to." Then he had a question: "Don't you get hurt a lot?"

My answer was that no, I didn't get hurt a lot, though some had been doozies. But that pretty much I had found that we get back what we give in this world, and that self-fulfilling prophecies indeed exist. So, I planned to go on trusting people until they give me a reason not to, much preferring that approach to the opposite.

I'm still doing that, and hope that even in the jaded state that hangs over all of us as we emerge from 2008, I can continue. But I'm pondering how I can most easily help potential new clients become comfortable that I am real and genuine and won't let them down.