Saturday, May 18, 2019

U Bbicchiere di Vino Week 3 Recap

It has been a hectic three weeks of travelling so I am way behind on our daily pasts, will catch up eventually! As well online availability is sometimes limited.

May 2019 - France and Italy

May 5 - Dijon to Lyon

Cafe en Paris Week 1 Recap
Pass the Mustard Week 2 Recap


Day 11 Saturday May 11 - Bordeaux

Bordeaux definitely turned out to be my favourite city, and would have loved to have more time there.

After breakfast we did a bus and walking tour of the city from 9 to 11. The local guide, Martin, was good but a bit dry and didn't include some places he could have.

At the end of the tour Laura arrived with another local delicacy for us to try.

Canelés, small, sponge-cake-like confections, are a speciality of Bordeaux. It is said that they were invented to make use of the leftover egg yolks at a time when egg whites were used to filter wine.

After the tour we had time on our own. we took a pee break in the Intercontinental Hotel (only the best) where Gordon Ramsey has a restaurant.

Never even mentioned by the tour guide. The Place des Quinconces is one of the largest city squares in Europe (approximately 31 ac or 12.6 ha).

We ran into Joe and he suggested a couple of places to see along the river.

Again, never mentioned by the guide.

The Miroir d'eau (Water Mirror) or Miroir des Quais (Quay Mirror) was built in 2006 along the quays of the Garonne river across the 'Place de la Bourse'. It is the world's largest reflecting pool, covering a massive 3,450 square metres.

At Laura's suggestion we stopped for lunch at the Bar y Vin.

CAFA Wine School / CAFA Formations is the first wine school in France based in Bordeaux in Aquitaine and is proud to be a program provider approved by the French government.

This basic program on the knowledge of wine, spirit and spirit of the Sommelier.

The server's suggestion to begin was a rose and a sparkling.

Prices were incredibly inexpensive (especially for France).

Delicious duck pate with a raisin bread.

Merlot salt.

A selection of chocolates for dessert.

We were done in time to catch the bus back to the hotel at 2 PM. 

Then it was 4:30 and we headed out for the optional countryside winery dinner. Most of the group went.

Château du Payre is a family estate passed from mother to daughter for 5 generations since 1881. For over a century, the female offspring is perpetuated in this unique and attractive place due to its charm and history.

Today Valérie Labrousse-Marcuzzi, head of the estate, is developing this château by being innovative, focused on Bordeaux wine tourism, awarded twice by the Best Of Wine Tourism competition.

Her passionate team is committed since 2008 in a wise and sustainable winegrowth in order to preserve the fauna and flora of the vineyard. This evolutionary commitment is demonstrated eco-citizenship through the Terra Vitis certification.

Valerie, herself, led our tour.

We were served several white wines before heading into dinner.

We sat with Richard, Lydia and Phyllis, Zoe and a young couple for dinner.
Three wines were served with dinner.

Click here for our day's details.

STEPS 10,733 8.1 km

Day 12 Sunday May 12 - Loire Valley

The morning starts well with a cognac tasting in Cognac!

Otard, also known as Chateau de Cognac, is a French cognac house founded in 1795 by Jean-Baptiste Antoine Otard. For over two hundred years, Baron Otard Cognac was privately owned, until it was bought by the Italian company Martini & Rossi S.p.A. in 1991. Today, Baron Otard Cognac is a subsidiary of the Bacardi group.

Two samples were provided.

Lunch in another road stop.

And then a lovely break at Chateau de Chenonceau, on our own.

Beloved home of Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medicis, Chenonceau is the second most visited castle in France, after Versailles. This 16th century castle is marvellously furnished (the kitchens are a delight!).

We then made a stop in Ambroise before going to the hotel.
Birthplace of the French Renaissance, the Château d'Amboise, built in the 15th and 16th centuries for the kings Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I, towers majestically over the Loire River and the slate roofs of the houses in the old town of Amboise.

Another Mercure hotel, way out of town.

Service was terrible, par for the course for groups. They want you in and out as quickly as possible,

Another goat cheese salad, beef bourguignon which tasted a little odd, and John was given fish which he said was awful.

Our group happily spent the rest of the evening in the bar over several bottles of wine. L left, but then came back to check on her room mate.

Click here for our day's details.
Steps  8,032 5.9 km

Day 13 Monday May 13 - Paris

We returned to Paris with a brief stop in Chambord, for a photo op only.
We would have liked to visit it.

Commissioned by King Francis I and imagined by the great Leonardo da Vinci, the Chateau de Chambord is the largest and most majestic castle of the Loire. It is a symbol of the French Renaissance and of the power of a passionate ruler who revered the arts.

Laura mentioned that it resembled a Turkish city skyline.

This was the final bathroom stop as Laura wanted to get us to Paris by 12:30, which was fine with me!!

The Statue of Liberty near where the river boats dock.

There was no expectation that our rooms would be available at 12:30, but just as we were getting off the bus Laura announced that the rooms were available. BONUS!
Our room was not on the Eiffel Tower side as our previous one was. It was also quite noisy with water pipes.

We had no intentions of going to the included farewell dinner, so done with this crowd and group dinners. Our plan was to spend our last day in Paris on our own.

Fifteen people took the optional tour of the Louvre which we declined as we've done the Louvre. So they hustled off. Even if you were not going on the Louvre tour Laura would drop anyone who wanted in the area.

The dinner plan was to be picked up at the hotel at 6 PM otherwise meet outside the Pantheon at 6:30. Laura was extremely flexible this way.

We got ourselves settled in our rooms and then grabbed a taxi up to Sacre Coeur Chapel. Taxi rides in Paris are so different than home. The cars are spacious, clean and have sun roofs.

So debonair!

We had a late light lunch in the sunshine.

We then wandered around Montmatre for a few hours.

There were a couple churches visited on the way.

We then meandered back down to the Latin Quarter. Along the way in Tuileries Gardens we came across a couple of mountain goats earning their keep!

We then chose a French bistro for dinner, they played typical French music in the background.

Farewell dinner was included in a restaurant near the Pantheon, we skipped it.

However, John ran into the group on their return and received numerous hugs. Then S and B came to our room with a bottle of wine and we had a great time chatting about everyone!

Click here for our day's details.

Steps 19,382 14.43 km

Day 14 Tuesday May 14 - Paris - Rome Italy


Our scheduled ride did not show up so we took a cab to the airport.

Check in was easy and quick. We stopped for coffee before going through security.

The flight wasn't full. Our lovely driver was waiting for us and he took my suitcase to the car. He even took our bags into the hotel.

First impressions of the hotel were very favourable, complimentary drinks and pastries in lobby. They provide a happy hour with wine and snacks from 6:30 to 8. Breakfast not included but only 8 euros if you want it.
Our room was ready at 3.

Then our room was across the street and down a little in an apartment building with one floor dedicated to the hotel. We were not very happy with the room as it was tired and worn.

The location is prime, however. Crossing the Tiber.

We are immediately on Via Corso, the main shopping street. It runs in a straight line with many lanes and piazzas branching off.

Spanish Steps.

Trevi Fountain with hordes of tourists, not a chance of getting near to make your wish.

Piazza Novona.

Piazza Campo di Flori

Pizza dinner.

Voglia di Pizza | Via dei Giubbonari, 33
Near Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori

If you’re looking for a traditional Italian meal then Voglia di Pizza is where you should  eat. For over 15 years, Voglia di Pizza has been specializing in traditional Roman dishes and gluten-free foods, specifically gluten-free pizza and gluten free beer.
It was packed and it was good without much atmosphere.

Click here for our day's details.
Steps 16,260 12.3 km

Wednesday May 15 - Rome
What a miserable rainy day! And cold.

Justice Palace, around the corner from us.

BiblioBar, perfect!

Also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian, the Castel Sant'Angelo is a fortress located on the right bank of the river Tiber.

This is as close as we got to the Vatican. We have beautiful photos from 2004 on a sunny May day without the throngs of tour groups and annoying street sellers.
Obviously the cops don't like the vendors either as we watch one get dragged away to a paddy wagon.

Even with a steady downpour you had to fight the crowds everywhere.

Breakfast destination is a gluten free bakery on the other side of the Vatican.

Le Altre Farine del Mulino
Via di Porta Cavalleggeri, 155 (Vatican)

It's now almost noon and we head to Trastevere which is a funky, bohemian area that clings to its centuries-old, working-class roots.
But there are few out and above in this rain.

The drivers obviously rule the streets as pedestrians take their lives into their hands at every crossing. So different from France and Spain.

Every popular tourist spot is surrounded by armed soldiers.

Some more churches were involved in our walk.

Thank goodness for gas heaters as the rain plopped over our heads. So many places won't serve you a drink unless you are going to eat. Even if they don't have any customers...

The garbage and graffiti in the city is terrible. We love street art but this is just desecration of beautiful buildings. Every painted door is scribbled on.
Garbage litters the streets.

By 3 PM we are cold and miserable so we look up the address of the gluten free restaurant we had chosen. It is one minute away!!!

Mama Eat
Via di S. Cosimato, 7/9

Bruschetta on gluten free bread, it was good but not great.

John said this pizza crust was much better than last night's at Voglia.
I had lamb, Roman style, very good.

We shared pistachio tiramisu and tired grappa ✅

Sated we walked back to the hotel for a nap and a relaxing evening.

Click here for our day's details.
Steps 15,511 11.67 km

Thursday May 16 - Rome 

What a difference a day makes! 20 C and sunshine.

We have breakfast at the corner, Il Lunch.

The wedding couple were posing in the Piazza Colonna. It is named for the marble Column of Marcus Aurelius, which has stood there since AD 193. The bronze statue of Saint Paul that crowns the column was placed in 1589, by order of Pope Sixtus V. The Roman Via Lata (now the Via del Corso) runs through the piazza's eastern end, from south to north.

The Doria Pamphilj Gallery is a large art collection housed in the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in between Via del Corso and Via della Gatta. The principal entrance is on the Via del Corso (until recently, the entrance to the gallery was from the Piazza del Collegio Romano). The palace façade on Via del Corso is adjacent to a church, Santa Maria in Via Lata. Like the palace, it is still privately owned by the princely Roman family Doria Pamphili.

We stepping on impulse.

The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, also known as the Vittoriano, Il Vittoriano, or Altare della Patria, is a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.

We are stunned that everything is so close by. Fifteen years ago we thought everything was so far away.

The Forum and Colosseum are steps away. There is now a lineup to get into the Forum, as everyone has to go through a security check.

We decided we had to find Piazza del Popolo on a bet between us, spoiler alert, I won!

Again, we're amazed at how close all these monuments are. We head to the other end of Via Corso,

Piazza del Popolo is one of the most visited squares in Rome and the starting point to reach some of the main streets of Rome’s city center such as Via del Corso, Via del Babuino and Via di Ripetta. Surrounded by cafes, shops, restaurants and hotels, Piazza del Popolo is always alive and crowded with people. However, the history of this area was not always as bright as today.
Piazza del Popolo lies inside the northern gate of the Aurelian Walls, Porta del Popolo, the starting point of Via Flaminia, which was the most important road connecting Rome to Northern Italy.

Back in 2004 we were reading Angels and Demons and had enjoyed a drink at Rosati's, also featured in the book.

At the southern end of the square are two symmetrical churches on either side of the Via del Corso, a street leading straight through the heart of Rome to Piazza Venezia. The churches, the Santa Maria dei Miracoli and the Santa Maria in Montesanto were commissioned by pope Alexander VII in 1658. They were both designed by Carlo Rainaldi.

The churches are not identical since the surface area of the plot provided for the Santa Maria in Montesanto (on the left) was smaller. In order to give the impression of symmetry, Rainaldi created an oval dome for this church and a circular dome for the Santa Maria dei Miracoli.

Looking out from Rosati's.

After all the rudeness we had encountered when we just wanted a drink and were told no, we must eat, it was a pleasure to sit here. Their food menu is small, mainly just snacks.
We decided to try the arancini, rice balls. And they were delicious, here is a recipe.

We ended up back at the hotel and decided to skip dinner.

Click here for our day's details.
Steps     19,281   14.3  km

Friday May 17 - Rome to Florence

Check out is 11 AM so we found this lovely restaurant around the corner for breakfast.

My crepes.

John's omelet and because they didn't have gluten free bread the server suggested he bring a gallette (buckwheat crepe) for him.

He was a lovely friendly server and even kissed my hand.

Check out and get a cab to Roma Termini for our 1:20 train to Florence.

Now this is a train station!

That's me up ahead!

Once seated in our business seats we were given a reservation to the dining car.

Not a bad shot considering the train is going 248 KM an hour!

We're off the train and in a cab to our hotel by 3 PM.

Checked in we head out!

Within minutes we are at the heart of Florence.

Possibly the most celebrated cathedral in the world, the Duomo as it is simply known in Florence is the jewel of the city.

It was initially constructed in 1436, but the astonishing front facade wasn’t completed until the 19th century.

Located in the centre of the old city, the Duomo stands out for miles and creates an imposing sight amongst the other medieval buildings.

Street art abounds.

Along the River Arno with the Ponte Vecchio behind us.

Secondly only to the Piazza del Duomo, the Piazza della Signoria is just as important and contains a myriad of buildings and classical art.

The main structure of the Piazza is the magnificent Pallazo Vecchio with its huge clock tower and fantastic statues of David and Hercules.

To the left of the palace is the wonderful fountain of Neptune, and to the right is the Loggia dei Lanzi which contains some beautiful Renaissance sculptures including Perseus, Menelaus and Hercules.

Finally, a grand statue of Cosimo Medici stands near the fountain of Neptune, and a host of high-end shops line the buildings.

Gluten free pizza and pasta options are readily available in many places.

It was a graduation day of some sort and the girls wore laurels in their hair.

Not talk about a lack of class!

Dinner. Gluten free bread that was delicious.

John loved his penne with leeks, bacon and spicy sauce. I had been craving carbonara for the last few days.

Creme caramel was nothing to write about.

Click here for our day's details.
STEPS 13,348 9.9 km

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  1. Wow! Looks like the weather cleared up in France but you caught the rain again in Italy. Still so many, many gorgeous sights. I bet you're glad to be on your own again. I'm definitely craving wine now! And chocolates, pizza, pasta, mustard ... wishing you less rudeness and happy travels.

  2. I was going to say much the same about the weather as Beth. "and how well (most) got along. Okay...." I think because some people kept their mouths shut. Interesting opinion about the differences between French and Spanish motorists, and Italian motorists.

  3. Sounds like you had great fun and you certainly shared lovely photos!

  4. We're going back to Florence in August. Thanks for taking us along on your beautiful trip, the wine and food look so amazing.

  5. Wow, such wonderful pictures! I especially love the shots from Rome, one of my favorite cities!

  6. Wow wow wow, I can tell you love Paris! Your post shows me all the places I haven't seen, lo. The Miroir d'Eau is amazing!You gave a great impression of the overall feeling of the city. This is why foreigners love Paris: wine and cultural places to visit!Interesting combination: duck pate with raisin bread. Would love to visit l'Ecole du Vin (it may be cheaper because it's a training institute?). Gordon Ramsey has a good business instinct = we follow right now the kids contest for food on TV. It's some visitors that display lack of class, lol. Whoa your post was a whirlwind, I immensely enjoyed it myself! Have a great exploratory week, Jackie and Hubby:)

  7. Wow - fabulous shots and so many great experiences.


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