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Lina May 5th, 2006 01:12 PM

Best & Worst of our trip to Rome & the Cote d'Azur
 
My husband and I combined a business trip with pleasure at the end of April. It was real pleasure because we hadn't seen our son, who is studying in Rome, in four months. I was desperate for a "mommy fix" and loved every moment with him!

ROME:
Best casual meal: Osteria da Mario near the Pantheon. A great family-run restaurant with charming atmosphere and quality food.

Best fancy meal: Ferrara in Trastevere. This is a very pricey place but one of the few restaurants that can be considered "innovative." The presentation of the dishes was beautiful and the service was impeccable. If you don't want to wade through the 6" wine list binders (one for whites and one for reds), ask the sommelier for a recommendation. He will already know what you ordered and will choose wines based on your price range.

Best View: Looking over Rome from Piazza Garibaldi in front of of Il Fontanone (Pauline Fountain) on Janiculum Hill.

Best Gardens: In that same neighborhood, a few blocks further up the hill. The wisteria arbors were magnificent. We also walked through the gardens at Villa Borghese, but they weren't as serene.

Best Free Entertainment: A giant pillow fight outside of Santa Maria in Trastevere Church! We were sitting in a cafe, unaware of what would take place when the bells tolled at 6:00 PM...it was wild! Hundreds of people whipped out pillows from their backpacks or bags and started pounding each other. Apparently this is a new European phenomenon and word spreads through blogs and chat rooms. It was great fun to watch. When the 6:30 bells rang, it was over.

Best Day Trip: Orvieto. It was an easy train ride and a nice change from the city. The duomo there has a magnificent mosaic facade. We thoroughly enjoyed the underground cave tour and, since we bought the multi-purpose ticket, also visited the bell tower for amazing views and the Etruscan Museum.

Best Tour Guide: Our son! Sorry, he's not for hire.

Worst part of Rome: The crowds. Did everyone who came to the Vatican for Easter stay an extra 10 days? It was terribly, terribly crowded everywhere we went...much worse than the last time we visited in the middle of summer.

Worst drink: White grappa. Think jet fuel. The darker stuff is smoother.

Worst decision: It would be unfair to say that Hotel Alimandi Vaticano was the "worst hotel" because it was nice; it just didn't live up to our expectations. They advertise a free airport shuttle but don't tell you that it only runs every two hours, so we missed it coming and going and had to pay 40-50 euros extra each time. The location was not convenient and our room was much smaller than we expected. Details are in my Tripadvisor report. I wish we had stayed at the Albergo del Senato near the Pantheon again.

Worst bargain: We flew from Rome to Nice on Blu-express, a discount airline. The ticket prices weren't bad, even though the taxes were as much as the fare, but we were socked with a 70 euro surcharge for luggage. I knew that the weight limit per suitcase was 20k, but didn't know that each passenger was limited to one suitcase. We had three between the two of us and it cost dearly.

To be continued...the French Riviera...


laartista May 5th, 2006 03:08 PM

Thanks for the post. Pillow fight sounds awesome! Will check back for the riviera.

Lina May 6th, 2006 06:11 PM

I found this explanation on Wikipedia:

"A pillow fight flash mob is a fad that has emerged from the social phenomena of flash mobbing. The flash mob version of massive pillow fights is distinguished by the fact that nearly all of the promotion is Internet-based. These events occur around the world, some taking the name Pillow Fight Club after the London pillow fight group.

The trend owes much to uses of modern communications technologies, including decentralised personal networking, known as smartmobbing. Word of the events spreads primarily via digital means, usually on the internet via email, chat rooms and text messaging which result in seemingly spontaneous mass gatherings. Pillows are sometimes hidden and at the exact pre-arranged time or the sound of a whistle, the pillow fighters pull out their pillows and commence pillow fighting. The pillow fights can last from a few minutes to several hours.

While ordinary pillow fights have existed for as long as there have been pillows, the difference here is that these events are massive in scale, occur in public and are promoted primarily via the Internet. Many massive pillow fights have been organized for in an effort to break Guinness World Records. Others have been organized by university students around the world for fun.

Pillow fight events have occurred in Italy, France, Spain, Israel, Hungary, USA, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Canada, and Jersey, among others."

Who knew?


LoveItaly May 6th, 2006 06:15 PM

Pillow fights..there was at least one a year or so ago in SF, lol. It was the first time I had heard of them. I would love to see one!

Maire May 6th, 2006 06:21 PM

I enjoyed your report, Lina, and I like your format best/worst. I would like to see one of those pillow fights, too.

ice_leopard May 6th, 2006 10:02 PM

nice report.

Marianna May 7th, 2006 03:28 AM

Hello Lina, I heard about that pillow fight in Rome. I think I even saw a clip on the news. I noted the restaurant recs for our trip. I am enjoying reading your report and will look forward to the Cote d'Azur part, too.

Lina May 7th, 2006 05:44 PM

We had been to the Mediterranean coast of Italy before, but this was our first trip to the French Riviera. It was beautiful, but quite different from the hilly Cinque Terra. We stayed in Cannes for several nights (on business) and then moved to Nice.

Best hotel in Cannes: Carlton Intercontinental. Duh...this hotel is a classic and the public areas are beautiful. Our room was small and the breakfast buffet costs 34 euros/person, but the company picked up the room tab so we can't complain.

Best meal in Cannes: 3 Portes (www.3portes.com). Exceptional food and wonderful jazz twice a month. We were lucky to be there for the music; the saxophone player was incredibly talented.

Worst meal in Cannes: Le Pacific/Le Pacific Express. My son's crayfish appetizer was excellent, but the rest of the food was mediocre. We were charged 8 euro for a bottle of water (usually 3-4) and overcharged for the wine (didn't realize until later). This restaurant is on Rue du Suquet, a cute pedestrian street right in the "bend" near the Old Port. There are dozens of cafes...just choose a different one.

Best meal in Nice: Les Viviers (www.les-viviers-nice.com), which has a bistro and a formal restaurant. The menu and prices are the same, only the atmosphere is different. We ate in the bistro. We guessed at the menu (no English translation and my son's Italian didn't help) but loved all the food. The artichoke and pear salad was amazing. The bouillabasse, prawns with veggies, and red snapper risotto were great.

Runner up was Brasserie Flo (www.flonice.com/en/), mostly because of the atmosphere. It is in an old theater and the kitchen is on stage. The seafood platters are huge and very good. Again, I guessed at the menu and got veal livers instead of veal...urgh...but the sauce was outstanding.

Best restaurant in St. Paul de Vence: La Colombe d'Or (www.la-colombe-dor.com). We ate in the beautiful garden but the interior is worth looking at. Artists used to "pay" for their food with art, so the walls are full of originals by Picasso, Miro, Matisse, and others. All the entrees were wonderful, but we also enjoyed the hors d'oeurves platter that came with a basket of veggies (uncut), sausages, marinated & pickled fish, and half a dozen salads. Mmmm.

Best hill towns: In order: St. Paul de Vence, Eze-Village, Gourdon, and Mougins.

Best gardens: Jardin Exotique at the tippy-top of Eze-Villages. The views are spectacular but the statues and plants are impressive too.

Runner up (for Gardens and View) would be the top of the hill, adjacent to Vieux Nice (Old Nice). I think it was called Le Parc du Chateau, even though there is no Chateau there...just ruins of a cathedral. You can walk up the hill or take a lift from near the beach. The park includes a nice waterfall. From the top of the hill, you can see over Vieux Nice, the Port, and Baie des Anges.

Second runner up (Gardens): The private garden at Hotel Windsor. It is a quiet oasis and nice place to unwind after walking 10 miles a day. The hotel is nice too.

Best free entertainment: the sand artists on the beach in Cannes. Wow...amazing art/architecture with great detail.

Best day trip: Monaco (with a stop in Villefranche sur Mer). I loved the fishing village of Villefranche, but the guys loved Monaco with the huge yachts, elegant casino, and super-clean Old Town. We visited the Grimaldi Palace and the cathedral with Grace Kelley's grave. The gardens across from the cathedral are beautiful, too. Views are great and we all enjoyed the day. Preparations were underway for the Grand Prix at the end of the month.

Final thoughts to come...



Underhill May 7th, 2006 07:19 PM

A bit of history to add to this excellent trip report...

Castle Hill is were the fort that once guarded Nice stood; it was destroyed in 1706, according to my guidebook. But there's certainly a great view.

The theater in which the Brasserie Flo now stands was at one time the restaurant opened by well known chef Jacques Maximin after he left Chantecler, at the Negresco. Not too long after that he migrated to Vence and opened another restaurant; it now has two Michelin rosettes.

Lina May 8th, 2006 05:49 AM

Thanks!

Sue_xx_yy May 9th, 2006 02:42 AM

"...I guessed at the menu and got veal livers instead of veal...urgh...but the sauce was outstanding...."

lina, you are my kind of traveller - when life gives you veal livers, enjoy the sauce....

(actually veal livers can be quite nice once you get to know them - and sweetbreads, too....)

Enjoying your report.

Tulips May 9th, 2006 04:39 AM

Thank you for that report Lina.
We've eaten at Les Viviers too, and liked it. I had forgotten the name, so thank you for reminding me. Nice music when you click on the link for Les Viviers!
3 Portes in Cannes looks nice too; we'll try that this summer.


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