Paris!

 

I love Paris!  It’s one of the best “walking” cities ever (second only to Rome, I think!)…..and one of the few that I can get around pretty good without a map!

We arrived at Gare de Lyon just after noon.  Grabbed a taxi and headed to our apartment.

The apartment we rented on Rue St Denis, on the border between the 3rd and 4th arrondissement, was through Airbnb.  It was on the 5th/6th floor with NO ELEVATOR!!  What were we thinking???

We left one suitcase at the bottom while we both carried the other up and up and up….with stops on the second floor and 4th floor landings!!  It had a nice-ish little balcony that overlooked the street and with pretty good views of the Paris rooftops and the Pompidou Centre.  Small and compact but had two bedrooms and all that we needed……and more because Olivier, and his little family,  lived in the apartment!!  We had guessed this from the pics on the website so were prepared.  I have stayed in a couple of other places similar where the owner just simply moves out (somewhere???) while the apartment is being rented by tourists.  Not my fav type of vacation rental because I generally find the place cluttered, crowded and just weird with someone elses “stuff” in closets, the fridge, cupboards etc.  However, the price was right and so was the location so we booked it.  It was clean-ish but again because of “stuff” all over, including a kiddy pool still filled with water on the balcony, it’s sometimes hard to tell what is old versus what needs a good scrubbing….that said, we had clean sheets and a clean bathroom, which were the main things…..and a coffee maker!!

The location,  just a few blocks up from Rue de Rivoli and one or two blocks from Les Halles shopping centre, and close to two metro stations,  was handy for going off in different directions each day to explore.  Rue St. Denis is a busy street….day and all hours of the night.  That is not a bad thing except at 3AM!!  There were kebab shops below us open 24hrs!

We only used the metro a couple of times (Pere Lachaise and Montmartre) but otherwise walked and walked….with café and/or wine stops along the way.  For the metro we bought a book of 10 tickets, which we shared, and worked out to be the perfect number of tickets we needed.

One of our first stops was to Dehillerin  https://www.edehillerin.fr/en/

I didn’t buy anything this time because I just did not have any room to carry it home!!  Brenda ordered some type of linen cloth for making bread.  If anyone loves to cook and loves pots, pans, spatulas, whisks etc. this is the place to visit!

I won’t go into great detail of the places we visited but suffice to say we covered a heck of a lot of Paris in 5 days!!  A second visit to Pere Lachaise cemetery for me…..and I think I’d even go again!!  I’m sure Brenda though I was crazy when I said we should pack a picnic and have lunch there…..we did and she thoroughly enjoyed it!  That was one of the highlights.

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Pere Lachaise….incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

 

One of the tombs that I really wanted to see was that of Oscar Wilde.  When I was there a number of years ago, it was covered with red lipstick kisses….and because it was Gay Pride week while we were there I thought for sure it would be red kiss overload…..but was not to be!  They had cleaned it up and put a plexi-glass barrier around it…..I do understand but it was rather disappointing 😦

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before….

 

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……after

 

Museums, due to our limited time, were not a high priority.  Brenda had seen Mona so we skipped the Louvre.  She hadn’t been to the Musee d’Orsay, which is always worth a visit (my 4th!!), so off we went.  They had a ticket special…..the d’Orsay and the Rodin for the price of one so that’s what we got.  The Rodin is about a 15 or 20 minute walk from there.  We also went to the Pantheon.  We walked down Champ De Mar to the Eiffel tower but didn’t go up or for that matter even stand under it due to all the tight security in that area now….too bad but we still got some great pictures.

One day, walking along the quay, we heard a commotion behind us.  Turning around we saw a cyclist that had somehow fallen off his bike and was clinging to the edge with both hands and still managing to hang on to his bike with his foot around the handlebar!!  We ran back to help……he wanted us to grab his backpack, which he had somehow gotten off with one hand.  Luckily a couple came along and assisted with the rescue….the guy was able to lift his bike, with his foot, up far enough for the man to grab  and then pull himself back up onto the quay.  The quay, eventhough there was no railing or barrier, was pretty wide along there so how he managed to get himself into that dilemma, I have no idea!!  Thank goodness it all turned out OK.

Montmartre….so, so touristy and crowded now…..unless you head away from Sacre Coeur and Place due Tertre.  We did have lunch at one of the little cafés facing all the artists in Place du Tertre, which was not terribly good and overpriced.  After lunch we wandered away from there…..it’s quite lovely and there are much better restaurants with better prices!!  But be warned there are no ATMS….you would have to go back down the funicular to find one.

When we arrived in Paris, unbeknown to us, it was the last couple of days of Gay Pride week!!  Lots of parades day and night, music….and great people watching.  Also tons of security everywhere.  The best part was that many of the streets were shut down to traffic through the day and early evening, which was nice.

Paris was also bidding on the 2024(?) summer Olympics so some sort of promo thing going on with lots of mini Olympic venues set up along the left bank of the Seine….high jump, long jump, hurdles, marathons etc.

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Mini-Olympic venues across the river.  Pont Alexandre was closed to traffic for a couple days.

 

This also meant a couple of the bridges were closed to traffic. For pedestrians it was necessary to go through security check points before crossing the bridges.  All very interesting and totally understandable because of what has happened there.  That said, it was all done rather low key so not noticeable until you came upon one.  The rest of the city was pretty much as it was the last time (2012) with maybe a bit more of a police and military presence at key areas of the city.

Shopping….some but not much, mostly because of the space available in our luggage.  We did visit Galleries Lafayette, BHV http://www.bhv.fr/en/magasins/bhv-paris/ and lots of wonderful little clothing shops selling some of the most exquisite scarves…..one day I will get that Hermes!!

Even if you don’t plan on buying anything it’s still worth a visit to Galleries Lafayette….the entire basement floor is all shoes!!

It’s also fun to visit the flower and bird market  (Marché aux oiseaux) on Ile de la Cite (between Notre Dame and St Chapelle).

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Food…..lots of it, some good, some not so good.  After a couple days of typical French cafes we tried Thai and Japanese and an English style pub….all very good.

The weather was perfect until the last day….rain, thunder, lightening etc. but that didn’t stop us, it just meant more coffee/wine breaks.

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Lucky we had decided to sit inside for our Japanese lunch….!!!

 

I’ve been to Paris a few times now…..the first trip was just Ken and I.  We covered an incredible amount of the city on foot.  We visited all the major museums and sites, found some wonderful little cafes and thoroughly enjoyed our few days there.  The other times I’ve gone it’s been with people who hadn’t been there, or were there 20 – 30 years ago.  I don’t know why but I feel like I have to be the “tour guide” and as a result end up going to the same places over and over again and again.  I am museum-ed out in Paris!!

There are some things though that you just have to do no matter how many times you’ve been there….a walk along the river looking at the bouquinistes https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouquinistes ….stop for a glass of wine at one of the cafes along the Seine and watch Notre Dome light up at sunset…..walk through the Tuileries and Luxembourg Gardens.  But the best thing really is to just wander…..we did this our last day this time, rain and all, it was one of my favorite days.  So many little alleys and narrow streets that open onto a beautiful little square with cafes and unique shops….and a great, off the beaten tourist path,  little English pub for lunch!

Less than a month until my trip to India!

L.

 

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Food and Wine in Burgundy

You cannot go wrong in Burgundy for food and wine!!  We did not have one bad meal anywhere along the route, including breakfasts!

The hotels we stayed in all had pretty good breakfasts….European style continental ones.  Breads, various types of spreads (confit) and cheeses, usually an assortment of cold deli type meats, fruit, yogurt, cereal (some hot too), hard/soft boiled eggs that you did yourself in those neat little machines.  A good way to start the day.

Lunch was usually a salad, something quick that we could gobble down and get back on the road/trail before the heat got to be too much.

Jambon Persille and a salad…..another day salad nicoise….yummy!

 

It was a little embarrassing stopping at nice places like this…..with our lovely padded biking pants and really bad hair (from the helmets!!) .

Dinners were all really good.  A couple places we stayed were out in the middle of nowhere ,which meant eating at the hotel…..certainly not the cheapest option but the two dinners we had were so good…..the food, the service, the ambiance etc.   I’m pretty sure I’ve never eaten in a Michelin star restaurant but I do think these meals were close to what and how that would be.

We came across, in Prisse, the French version of a “strip mall”…..if only ours were like this!!  No McD’s or Burger Kings here!!  Everything you could possibly want or need.  Amazing cheeses, a bakery with incredible breads, pastries and pre-made baguettes, a wine store with all local wines.  Everything is presented so beautifully!We had a great little lunch at a table outside after wandering through all the shops….

 

Wine…..what can I say???  Amazing wines, all for one fifth (or less!!) than what a bottle would cost at home….even in restaurants.  Besides the famous burgundy wine (pinot noir for red and chardonnay for the white) we had Aligote,  https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/aligote-burgundys-other-white-wine/    which we found very drinkable….a nice “patio wine” (good with or without food on a nice warm summer afternoon!).    And the burgundy sparkling wine, cremant.   https://www.burgundytoday.com/gourmet-traveller/cremant-de-bourgogne.htm.

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Our route was from Beaune (Cote de Beaune area) to Macon (Maconnais).  We stopped for lunch or a drink in a few of the towns on our route….all lovely!  If it hadn’t of been so hot, we probably would have headed to a few more of the places a kilometer or two off the trails….

Burgundy Wine Map by Wine Folly

The hotels we stayed in were all really quite lovely….two that sort of stick out though are:

http://www.auberge-du-camp-romain.com/uk/home.html  This was in the middle of nowhere…..up a huge steep hill to end our second day of biking!  It is pretty much a self contained resort where people go to get away from the cities….lots of hiking and biking and of course vineyards to visit.  It has everything you need (except air conditioning in the old building…where we were!!).  We arrived fairly early in the afternoon and after cleaning up we immediately hit the bar!  Instead of wine we had a good old Canadian favorite to quench our thirst….the lady in the bar knew about it from other Canadians!

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Beer and tomato juice….known as a Calgary Redeye!

 

Then, with some energy restored, we had a good look around the place….the spa, the pool, the grounds and the little church in the hamlet.  The rest of the afternoon was spent just relaxing on the beautiful outdoor patio with a nice bottle of burgundy.

This place was where we had one of our best dinners…..I forgot to take pictures of the main course and the dessert/cheese plates.  The other thing that we had here, and just about everywhere else, to start our meal was an “amuse bouche” or an “amusette”.  Usually it was a small taste (think large shot glass size) of a cold soup….here it was a celery and pea puree with cream…..sounds odd but was incredibly delicious!

Our appetizers…..goat cheese wrapped in marinated thinly sliced beets and mussels in cream….

 

The other “in the middle of nowhere” place was http://www.ledracy.com/en/  Lunch and dinner here!  Fantastic service and food, beautiful pool and grounds with many little places to sit or wander around….. and a great outdoor bar area.  Thank goodness the cost of the hotel was included in our package because our bill at the end of this stay was almost $200 each!!  Not cheap but so, so nice to splurge a bit after a hot day of cycling.  After lunch we hit the pool and bar with our books for a great relaxing afternoon.

Dinner appetizers…..crab cakes with smoked salmon and a “stew” of frogs legs and escargot

Dinner fish (bass if I remember correctly) and duck…

And last but not least…..the cheese plates (hardest part was deciding which 4 cheeses from a trolley of about 50!!) and dessert.  We picked 4 different ones each then shared!

 

We started this trip in Beaune, https://www.beaune-tourism.com/  which is lovely place with lots of history (and good wine!).  I’d been thru Beaune years ago but didn’t really spend a lot of time there to explore…this time I had a day and half so took in as much as we could.

Lunch in Beaune after our first half day of cydling was a little hole in the wall bistro down the street….no menus here!  The plat du jour is what you get…..a salad, a beef burgundy type stew and dessert!  Absolutely delicious….so famished forgot to take a picture!

Our tour ended in Macon http://macon-france.com/   ….definitely a place to go back to.  It’s on the Saone river and has an great waterfront area with tons of restaurants, bars, various outdoor entertainment venues and a wonderful old historic centre.  A great dinner to celebrate our accomplishment of biking thru Burgundy!

A burgundy cremant and my fav dinner, moules et frites to finish off the trip!

My only advice for Macon is to not expect to get a taxi on a weekend!  Headed down to the lobby early Saturday morning to order our taxi to the TGV station….only to be told there are no taxis on the weekends!!  Ack!!!  The gal did manage to round a driver up for us, which was a good thing as the station is not within walking distance and it was already too late to try to catch the bus!!

It was on to Paris for our last week…..

L.

Biking in Burgundy!

 

This might have to be two separate posts…..just so much to share and so many pictures that I could post.

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Our quaint little hotel in Beaune to start! Two nights, which also gave us time to explore Beaune one afternoon.

 

All the “stuff” we had in our package.  All the info on the Beaune – Macon wine route, maps with the daily routes and directions (which left a bit to ones imagination sometimes!!) to follow etc. The one that shows the ups and downs of the routes made me drink!!

 

It was really quite a lot of fun….overall a very good experience and one I wouldn’t mind doing again with a few adjustments to the itinerary (less hills, shorter daily routes for more time to spend tasting along the routes).  A couple things came up that we weren’t prepared for:  1. the hilliness of the route and 2. the weather.

This was a “Level 1” bike trip.  http://burgundybiketour.com/multi-days-bike-tours/self-guided-6-days-bike-wine-tour-beaune-to-macon/  No where on this site does it show the varying degrees of the terrain you’ll be biking on….there were more hills than we expected.  Some places it was a gradual uphill for quite a distance, which we could deal with, other places it was pretty steep and we had to walk our bikes up the hill, even using all the gears it was virtually impossible to ride up.  Brenda was in much better shape than me and faired better on the hills but even she struggled (the heat didn’t help!).  There was also downhills, of course, which I thoroughly enjoyed!!  One full day, the longest ride day, was along the canals the entire route, so nice and flat!  I had gone bike riding for a few months ahead of our trip as well as going to the gym to get my legs strengthened, and I’m sure it helped, however I would not call this tour a “casual bike ride thru vineyards”…..so not something I would recommend for someone that only bikes once or twice a year.

Some of beautiful Burgundy!

 

All that said we also had to deal with a heat wave!  Daytime temps were well up into the mid-high 30’sC (100F)…..the worst June heat they said in 10 years!!   Because of that and the limited amount of shade on the route, we set out early each morning with the goal of getting to our next hotel by lunch time or before it got unbearable in the heat.  As a result it was not the leisurely ride we’d planned on so we didn’t stop at many of the places that we’d have liked for wine tastings and nice two hour lunches.   We left our hotels each morning with 6 or 8 frozen bottles of water, all of which were gone in no time….it was pretty brutal in that heat.  Often we’d ride for miles before seeing anyone else out and about on the bike routes….I wonder why???

France has an incredible network of bike routes along canals, greenways, thru vineyards, small towns and villages and beautiful scenery….the best part of which there is no regular road traffic.  These trails are bike and pedestrian only, which makes them very safe, even for a novice biker.  We did come across various types of farm/vineyard vehicles/machines but had no issues with them.

More along the route….trees with balls of mistletoe and the Bois Clair tunnel (1.6KM or .99M) 

I really did get to push myself to the limit on this trip (a good thing….I think!)  I was more than ready to throw the towel in one day but Brenda convinced me to keep going….that taxi in the town looked pretty damn tempting when the temps had hit 37 at 10AM!  Luckily I did persevere because the rest of that day turned out to be one of the best rides we had.  After the very hot and hilly start it leveled out and carried on along a canal, on the shady side, for the rest of that leg.

And of course there was food!!  And wine….lots of both and all excellent.  I tried to remember to take pictures of the food…..the presentation of everything, even the simple croissant at a café, is done so well.   That will be my next post!

L.

Excellent Cornbread!

It turned out really good!  Much more successful than my gluten-free/non-dairy butter tart squares!

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It was a little more cakier, or denser, and drier than the regular cornbread but a lot of the cornbread I’ve had is the same texture.  I also reduced the butter a bit because it just seemed like a lot (4tbsp instead of 6)  They also didn’t tell you where to add the honey, so I added it to the wet ingredients.  I would definitely make this again and even give it a try using almond milk (for my gluten-free, non-dairy DIL).

That and the cabbage roll soup made for a great dinner last night.  And the wine……OMG, this is the best Riesling I think I’ve ever had.  I picked up this bottle on our trip up to Naramata last month….I liked it then but often you kind of get caught up in the moment when doing these wine tastings…..everything tastes good…..but I will actually go in search of this wine!  It’s not available in our local government liquor stores but I’ve managed to track down a couple of private, specialty stores that I can get it in.  I’ll have to drive into Vancouver but it will be worth it.  I don’t think I’ve ever done that before!  The winery will gladly ship some to you…..but you have to order by the case.  It’s a minimum of 2 cases for them to pay the shipping.  I like it but not sure I like it THAT much….that would be a lot of wine to go through….although….

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This wine is fantastic!  It went really well with the cornbread…that little bit of sweetness.

Speaking of Naramata….it’s in the Okanagan Valley which is where some pretty darn good wines are made.  It’s our version of Napa Valley I guess….at half the price!  It’s an absolutely beautiful area in the summer and fall.  There are tons of wineries for tours and tastings…..based on my experiences up there visiting 5 a day is about the max…..yes, it is possible to get “wined out”.  You start to lose track after a the first couple of tastings….I try to remember to grab one of the business cards and make a note of the wine I buy or taste and like or don’t like.  Some of the wineries also make cheese….one especially has really good cheeses (Upper Bench).  If you head up there for 3 or 4 days you can cover off at least 2 of the different areas.  The Naramata Bench, which is where I’ve stayed the last two times, the Golden Mile, which is a bit south and the area across the lake which is Summerland, Peachland and West Kelowna are easy to do in a day.   But there are so many more it could keep you busy for days and days!!  https://explore.winebc.com/view-region/?id=5  And on top of the wine, the area is pretty beautiful too.  It’s also where most of our local fruit is grown, so depending on when you go, you could come home with not only cases of wine but peaches, cherries, pears and apples of every kind.   Wine tasting (and buying) is not the only thing to do up there….in summer there are lots of lakes for fun and fishing and in winter, some of the best sky slopes in BC…also lots of restaurants…even at a few of the wineries.  Just a great place to visit year round (in winter it depends on the roads though….).

 

A few pics from that girls trip….the house was huge and gorgeous!  And the views were spectacular.

The house…..

Some quirky, fun stuff at many of the wineries…

And of course, grapes galore!

Tonight I’m off to dinner with the India trip girls….Brenda, Cathy and my daughter.  We’re of course going out for Indian food!  I’ve been to this restaurant before and it was really good…..looking forward to it.  Lots of yakking, planning etc…..just a fun evening.

L.

And On To Burgundy!

Up bright and early to catch our train(s) to Beaune, France.  Had time to grab a coffee and croissant from the hotel continental breakfast and that was it.

Arrived at Milan Centrale to find out that our train had had a schedule change!!  On Sundays sometimes they will add an additional stop or two…..and that is what they did on this Sunday!!  All this meant that our train arrived in Lausanne Switzerland exactly 1 minute after our connecting train to Dijon left!

It was a very picturesque train ride….beautiful countryside.  Unfortunately all the pics were out the train windows!!  The area coming into Lausanne, which is on the shores of Lake Geneva was lovely.

In Lausanne the lady at the ticket counter was very helpful in getting us on the next train….4.5 hours later!!  She also exchanged some Euros for us so we could have lunch and get a locker for our bags.  20 Euros equated to 18SF.  The locker supposedly held two large cases….it did, eventually!  Brenda had much more patience and perseverance that me.  After quite a struggle we did manage to get them in and then the stupid thing promptly ate 9 of our precious Swiss francs!  Of course the door wouldn’t lock….argh.  I waited there while Brenda went in search of some assistance….it was lunch time and the people in charge of the lockers wouldn’t be back until 2!  We hauled them back out and found a place at the station for lunch.  A bit of a shock costwise after Italy…..for a mear 14SF’s you got a Panini and a drink….that would have cost about 5 or 6 Euros in Italy.  I’m sure it would have been cheaper had we wandered a bit further but weren’t going to do that rolling our bags along.  Oh well…..Switzerland, from what we seen of it, appears to be an expensive place to visit….but very beautiful!

Finally just after 4:30 we were on our way to Dijon.  I had been through the station there once many years ago and seem to recall it being busy but not as confusing as it was….some construction which included elevators that weren’t working.  Lots of stairs to go up and down with our very heavy suitcases before sorting out which track our train to Beaune was going to be on.

Arrived in Beaune just after 6.  No taxis to be seen anywhere so a quick call, again….I’d already called to let them know we’d be a few hours late….they sent one for us.

Beautiful and very typical quaint French country style of hotel with a very helpful lady at the desk.  Our bike person arrived to give us the orientation and all the maps and other information for our self-guided bike tour and to introduce us to our bikes!!  A quick little tour around the parking lot to make sure the seats etc. were all good we were all set.

A walk down the road to one of the few restaurants that was open on a Sunday night was enough for one day.  The waiter was not the most pleasant person but the food and wine was good, which is really all that was important.  This was our first of two nights in Beaune so thought we’d save any wandering and touristy stuff for the next afternoon when the town was alive again.

Tomorrow was going to be our first bike adventure…..a loop route through some of the vineyards!  I’ll summarize our week long biking adventures in the next post….

L.

 

 

Milan….

Not too much of it though…..we were only there for a few hours unfortunately.  It was never really on my bucket list of places to see but after being there it is definitely some place I would love to go back to and spend a few days.

In summer it’s a busy, bustling, vibrant, fun place to be!  In June they had just set up in the duomo piazza for a music festival of some sort.  According to the desk guy at the hotel this is something that they do each year for most of the summer.  Lots of people, lots of music and just plain old lots of fun.  People wandering around with drinks in their hands and all behaving!!  What a fun place.

Our hotel was in a great location, only a block or two from the main piazza and the Galleria shopping mall, which is huge!

We left Bologna around 1PM and were in Milan a couple of hours later.  The Bologna train station is new….and very boring!!  Very efficient though……once you figure out where to go….it’s all underground and our taxi was able to drop us off right at the escalators that took us down to our train.  Certainly not like other train stations I’ve been in, except for maybe St Pancras in London.  It’s pretty sterile with only one fast food type café on the bottom floor.  There are a number of different levels that the trains come in on….the TGV, or Frecciarossas come in on level 4 or something, so quite easy to find your track!

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this was pretty much what the entire station was like…..

I didn’t take any pictures from the train enroute to Milan….some countryside but also a lot of industry along the way.

We had a very nice seat mate…..it was a he/she.  Brenda and I were struggling with our luggage because you had only the overhead racks to put it on and lifting 50 pounds, or pretty damn close to it, was not an easy feat.  This lovely person immediately jumped up and lifted our bags up there like nothing!!  Luckily, they also helped us get them back down at the end of train ride.

The Milan train station is unbelievable!!  Iconic I think is what you would call it…..huge and absolutely beautiful!

Our hotel was a 5 minute taxi ride from the station…..the drive took us past the main historical centre area which was crazy busy but got us pretty excited about getting out and seeing as much as we possibly could in our few hours there.

Our first stop was at a café for a celebratory drink to start the next leg of our adventure.  Had a fun time with the waiters and bartender, who tried to make special drinks for us but failed miserably.  They had things like White Russians, Whiskey Sours etc. on their menu but the guy was hopeless, even with our help.  After tasting a couple that he tried to make we decided to stick to Prosecco….pretty hard to make a mess of that!  Another waiter came along and told us we didn’t have to pay for those first horrid drinks…yeah!!  They also had “apertivo” there, which means if you order a drink you can help yourself to all the nibblies they put out around 5ish…..sort of a happy hour but with enough food to make a meal.  Pasta, antipasti etc….

We had so much fun there time got away from us and when we finally headed another block to the piazza the duomo was closed for the day…..oh well, just another reason to HAVE to go back.  I’m sure it is just as spectacular inside as it is outside!

Read all about it here.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milan_Cathedral  Who knew it was the largest cathedral in Italy!! (St Peter’s is in Vatican City….so technically not Italy!!)

We wandered around the piazza for a while…people watching, listening to the music and just generally enjoying the whole scene.

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Our next stop was the Galleria shopping mall….which is pretty amazing too.  Huge, multi-level with all the designer shops, restaurants and lots of bars and cafes…..where we stopped for yet another drink!!

We found a great little restaurant down a narrow street where we shared a delicious osso bucco (no pictures of the food….  😦  )  We kept an eye out for the size of the meals that were being served and decided that since we’d already had almost a meal at the apertivo bar we’d just share a dinner.  It was a good idea because the portions were huge and we had more than enough.

We spent the rest of the evening just wandering around listening to all the buskers, or street musicians, most of whom were really good!  Singing and/or playing cellos, violins….most were really good!

We of course had to see Teatro La Scala https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Scala .  From the outside it’s certainly not what I expected!  We actually walked by it a couple of times before realizing that was it….pretty non-descript building with no signs other than a couple of banners.  We were in the Piazza La Scala so knew it was there somewhere!! Some gala gala do appeared to be happening so other than sticking our heads in the door for a quick peek at the lobby we didn’t get to see inside the theatre…..another thing to do next time!!

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It was almost midnight by the time we headed back to our hotel….early morning for us the next day for the trip to France.

Definitely a city to go back to one day.  So much more to see and explore.  In hindsight, I wish we’d spent a couple of days there but truthfully nothing I read about it had really piqued my interest enough…..live and learn!

Today is a domestic chore day around here…..grass cutting being the number one thing on my to do list.  The weather is supposed to be awful for the next few days so getting the grass cut before that is a must otherwise it makes it difficult trying to plow through long, wet grass.  I never understood why it took Ken so long to cut the grass!!  Now I know of course.  It’s the weedeating the edges, emptying the bag 50 times (otherwise too hard to get the grass out if it gets packed in there….) then blowing all the mess off the road and driveway….   Hahaha….I thought he was just slow!

I have spent a few hours the last couple of days putting old pictures in albums….many more to go but yesterday the kids did have a look through them, which is why I’m doing this.

I also made enough green pea soup to feed a small army.  My son went home with 3 containers and I still have another 4 and that was after we’d had it for dinner!!  I won’t be making it again anytime too soon!

Off to Bev’s for dinner tonight to visit with her little granddaughter Eleanor.  I haven’t seen her for a long time….not since she started walking so will be a fun evening.

Our “mis-adventure” in Lausanne Switzerland and the rest of our trip to France will be next…..we found out that it is VERY expensive in Switzerland!!

L.

 

More Food In Italy….

I should have just posted from my journal….although that might have been a bit TMI!

We really ate well…..the food markets are the highlight of the week in town!  Besides the food, lots of people just congregate in the piazzas…..kids and adults on scooters (seems to be the latest craze there), the men while the women shop etc.  The cafes also get crowded with the shoppers stopping for a coffee, or if it’s close enough to noon an aperitif or a glass of wine.  It’s a fun, festive atmosphere.  Parking can be a bit of a challenge though and often rather than trying to get as close as possible we’d just grab the first spot we came hoping that we didn’t have a big hike, or worse still a big uphill hike to get to the market.  Not that the walk didn’t do us good…..an excuse to be able to eat and drink all that we did!

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The house from the driveway….behind us was the olive grove and off in both directions were the hilltowns which at night were so pretty all lit up.

 

Our house was really well equipped, which is a good thing if you are planning to do a lot of cooking.  We didn’t think we’d eat in quite as much as we did but due to the lack of restaurants in our immediate area.  It was fun though…..we all enjoyed the prepping with our glasses on wine close at hand.  Not sure that it was porcini mushroom season but someone at the market had beautiful ones…..we bought a few and made a great risotto one night.

We’d bought a lot of fruit one day thinking we have it for breakfast every day…..the melons were so delicious and peaches, firm and so flavourful….they even smelled like perfume!  One night Rae, who is the baker of the bunch, used up all our fruit that was slowly starting to ferment and made a great crumble dessert……this was after we’d finally figured out that there was a plug for the gas stove….it was rolled up and tucked under it!  We’d been using matches to light the burners and couldn’t figure out how to get the oven to work!  Just by chance…..dropping something under the stove….did we discover the cord and plug!  Good thing we did because besides the dessert we did a leg of lamb, eggplant parm, bruschetta etc.

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Having dinner at home was one of the best times of the day…..just sitting around, chatting, laughing, going over all our adventures for the day and also catching up on phone calls or facetiming home.  One night a friend called, after a few glasses of wine I think….the only problem was it was evening for her and 4AM for us!!

Enough food I think….next I’ll post about places we went.  Le Marche is really a very beautiful and diverse part of Italy.  I would definitely go back again.  Other than it not being touristy in some areas and having the amenities that go along with that…..not a bad thing for us….it made for a great relaxing, laid back part of our vacation.  In hindsight, we should have done our planning so that this part came after our bike trip and the hustle and bustle of Paris.  Something to think about for the next one!

Today though back to reality……looking at the pictures kind of takes you back…those “ah sigh” moments.  The grass needs cutting…..what was I thinking when I put that moss control and turf builder stuff on it????  It’s still a bit sad looking with black patches (dying moss) and bright green new grass popping up in clumps here and there.

I’m surprising myself in that I really don’t mind cutting the grass…..kind of one of those therapeutic type of jobs.  I should have fired my grass guy a long time ago….it would have caused much less aggravation when he didn’t show up when he was supposed too!  Next on my agenda will be weed control…..we’ll see how that works!

I also managed to finish the walkway at the side of the house that I started last year….it’s terribly crooked but oh well….it’s in now with grass seed around it that I’m hoping will sprout soon.  The soil is so dry and dusty I’m not sure it’ll take root.  I’ve had to water it a couple times a day because it’s been so hot and sunny.  We’ll see.  These were never my jobs before and I can’t say I’m doing any of it the right way but it’s getting done and I guess that is what counts.  Being retired certainly has helped in doing all this…..pretty sure this just would never have happened if I’d still been working.

L.

Ah Italy….Some of the Food!

I don’t know why but we seem to eat so differently when we’re away.  Because we’re on vacation I think it’s the concept of keeping the food prep simple and fun.  Often this happens because you don’t have all the same “stuff” in your rental kitchen that you do at home….knives are often the issue.  That wasn’t the case this time which made prepping everything more fun as opposed to fighting with a dull knife or as happened once having only a bread knife period!  You also don’t want to spend half the evening doing clean up either, so the less dishes, pots, pans etc. used the better!

Also because you’re not there for a long time you tend to buy only what you need for a day or two and of course with the markets there everything is farm fresh.  It’s fun to shop at the markets….just looking at the displays of produce, cheese, meats etc. makes you hungry!

One off my favorite things in Italy is the porchetta….it’s the crackling that makes it.  Probably so bad for you but hey…..everything in moderation, right?

 

There is always at least one porchetta guy at the markets.  Depending on  the space they have it’s usually a whole pig that is on display.  They lop off hunks of it along with a good bit of the crackling…..it’s absolutely delicious hot or cold, as long as the crackling is crispy.  You throw a few pieces of it into the bun with the pork and it’s fantastic.  That and a salad and some local wine made a great dinner one night.Al

Al fresco dining is great…..during the heat of the day at lunch we’d move the table under the mulberry tree (yes they are trees, not bushes…) and enjoy the food and views.  Not so much the sticky mulberries that would fall off every now and again.  In the evening the house was our shade and again we’d sit an and enjoy the food, the wine, the views and the company!

I have to go to work today 😦  .  I really shouldn’t complain see it’s only a couple of of hours two days a week or so…..but really I’d much prefer to sit here and carry on with our Italy adventure…oh well.  More soon.

L.

 

Ah…..Italy!

There might have to be a few parts to this…..just so much there to talk about!  Food, wine, people, beautiful countryside, beautiful villages and towns….the list just could go on and on!

We tried to find where the local farmers markets were each day and then plan our outings based on that.  Le Marche, the area that we stayed in, is not the tourist mecca like so many other parts of Italy.  As a result it’s kind of a catch-22 situation……you don’t get the touristy type services (ie lots of restaurants) and at the same time because there aren’t that many tourists, there really isn’t the need to have all those restaurants, shops etc.  Not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing.  Their economy does struggle, which worries some people, but then we talked to others who were more than content with their way of life….sometimes a lot of work but so worth it to them to retain.  Very interesting!  Siesta is also a big part of Italian life in Le Marche…..just about everything closes around noon and reopens late afternoon, 4:30-5ish often, depending on where you are restaurants and cafes!  We learned to do our “shopping” earlier then search out one of the restaurants that was open and have a long leisurely lunch!

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The Sunday market in Arcevia!  Not many food stands….mostly a market for household goods, clothing (including polka dot bras!!), tools, etc.  They don’t have any of the big box stores nearby so the weekly markets enable people to get what they need without having to drive for miles or hours.  Some of the clothes and shoes were pretty darn nice…..lots of scarves!!

The market in Gubbio (Tuesdays) was the best ever…..we remembered that from our last visit here so made the trek (a good hour or so drive).  It’s a huge market with lots of everything……beautiful fresh produce, the porchetta guy and clothes and shoes galore!

What surprised me more than anything was the number of young people in these towns.  Young as in their 20’s.  A lot of these places have only a few hundred people so it seems incredible to me that so many of the younger people remain.  They work in the shops but more often than not they work on the family farms and vineyards.  On the outskirts of many of the towns there are some large industrial complexes as well (tires, farming/vineyard equipment, cement works)…maybe that too keeps them close to home.  We’d see them in the cafes and bars in the evening (having a glass of wine, not beer!) chatting and visiting with their friends as well as all the oldies that would come out for the evening passagiata.

Little Apes (pronounces aa-pay, which means bee in Italian) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piaggio_Ape , are in abundance and the best way to get around on the many narrow little roads.  We seen a lot of “souped” up ones driven by the young guys racing around in the evenings…..no Ferraris for them!

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lots of little “apes”…..the kids spiff them up with fancy paint jobs and race them around the streets in the evening!

 

 

They really do have their priorties right……family is probably the most important, or maybe it’s the food…..it would be a pretty close second for sure.  Everywhere we went all food, even just a pizza, is served with care.   Most places the servers are very attentive….not for tips, which are not the big thing there like they are here….round up the bill and that’s it.  You never get just a glass of wine or a coffee, it will always come with a little cookie of bowl of nuts or olives…..sometimes a few little pieces of cheese.

The place we stayed was fantastic! Here is the link to the rental through airbnb  https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/1480738?guests=6&adults=6&location=Italy&s=1BFHm4CJ Huge….especially loved the big kitchen with lots of room…AND the best part, good, sharp knives!!  The white stove at the end of the table has now been replaced by a lovely 6 burner stainless steel gas stove.   The ground floor was still somewhat in it’s original state….the barn.  We had fun looking around down there finding all the old troughs, stables, storage areas etc.

Italy is all about food to me….buying it, preparing it and then the best part….eating it!  I was going to try to get lots of foodie pics but unfortunately often I’d remember the picture halfway through the meal!

Food and cooking…..and wine of course….seemed to be on our mind all the time!!

All of us prepping away for dinner was one of the best times of day…..and then of course eating whatever we’d prepared and sitting around talking about our day.

I could go on and on……and will in the next post.

L.

 

 

Bologna

Another city to go back and spend some time in!

Ten years ago we drove through it, this time I spent one night there.  Next time it will be a couple of days…..lots to see, lots of history, lots of good restaurants, food, wine and shopping!

The flight (British Airways from Heathrow) was great…just a couple of hours but they served us breakfast!  Had clear skies all the way so flying over the Alps was pretty spectacular.  Mountains, lush valleys with lakes….

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Bologna and the beautiful surrounding rolling hills……and smog!

We arrived in Bologna early afternoon which at least gave us some time to do a bit of exploring.  Taxi from the airport to “centro storico” was a flat rate, which I can’t remember now.  It took a while because it was a holiday weekend and traffic was a little crazy as everyone was heading out of town to hit the coast….the heatwave had started! We stayed at the Hotel San Donato, which was in a great location for walking everywhere.  They also have a couple of lovely terraces with great views of the city.  We started our visit off with an aperol spritz (good but a little too sweet for me!).  Drinks were served with peanuts and other little snacky things…..which is pretty much the norm anywhere in Italy or Europe…definitely doesn’t happen at home!!

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View from the terrace…

It’s a beautiful old city with lots of piazzi and porticos or colonnaded walkways which nicely protect you from the weather while shopping  Lots of great cafes, restaurants and shops with beautiful clothes, jewelry….if only my suitcase hadn’t already weighed a ton!!  And shoe stores…..and the scarves……

 

Bologna also has a leaning tower.  There used to be a couple of hundred but of course over the last few hundred years they’ve either fallen down or been taken down.  Supposedly they were built by rich families as a form of protection or just simply to show off their wealth.  There are only a few left standing today….one of which leans.

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We had lunch a great little café just down the street from our hotel……13E for your choice of a couple of different kinds of pasta and a salad.  We celebrated the next leg of our trip with a couple of bottles of wine…..a nice leisurely lunch to get into the Italian way of life!

The doumo (San Petronio Basilica) is very interesting…..the front façade has never been finished!  Over the years (hundreds…) apparently a number of people were commissioned to do a plan for finishing it but I guess whoever was in charge wasn’t impressed so today it remains as it was 500+ years ago.  The inside is beautiful….huge.  It is the largest basilica in the world built of bricks!!  There was a mass happening so we didn’t venture inside too far but like most churches in Italy many frescos, beautiful tile and a lot of decadence.IMG_1882

The food shops were most impressive…..as they are everywhere in Italy!  It’s “eye candy” for your stomach…..everything is displayed beautifully.  We did pick up a few goodies for the next day when we arrived at our house.  Lots of wine stores…..picked up some of that too!!

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We had dinner at a pizza place…..good but not the best I’ve had in Italy.  One thing I should have learned from other trips there is that a small pizza really would feed a family!!  We probably should have just split one or two between the 4 of us…..live and learn, or in my case, NOT!!  Next time I will remember!

One thing that was pointed out to us by taxi drivers, the desk people at the hotel, the waiter in the café and just about everyone else we talked to……contrary to popular belief, Bolognese sauce is not from Bologna!!  I must say we didn’t see “spaghetti Bolognese” on any menu, so we have to take their word for it!

Back to the hotel for a nightcap on the terrace which had a terrific view of the Bologna rooftops and the towers.

Breakfast the next morning was included at the hotel…..very good continental type with lots of variety…..cheeses, meats, fruit, bread and hardboiled eggs!

I was joined on the terrace by pigeons…..as soon as they see you, they appear hoping for a crumb or two…..it was a gorgeous morning and a great place to just sit and enjoy my coffee.

Bologna pigeons

It’s a very clean city…..I was very impressed with the garbage system!!  I know really …..but I did wonder why the garbage cans were never overflowing at the end of the day like you see in many other places……who knew!

Bologna garbage pick up

all you see on the street is the small garbage can-ish thing on the top…..the rest of the container is buried under the street!  The truck comes along and lifts the entire contraption up and somehow dumps it in the back….really quite impressive!

So much more of Bologna to see on another trip…..

L.