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EXTREMELY long trip report: Florence, Orvieto, Capri, Santorini, Rhodes/Lindso, Navplion, Split, Venice, Verona, Bellagio, Monte Carlo and Nice

EXTREMELY long trip report: Florence, Orvieto, Capri, Santorini, Rhodes/Lindso, Navplion, Split, Venice, Verona, Bellagio, Monte Carlo and Nice

Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:12 PM
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EXTREMELY long trip report: Florence, Orvieto, Capri, Santorini, Rhodes/Lindso, Navplion, Split, Venice, Verona, Bellagio, Monte Carlo and Nice

BACKGROUND: This trip was a 50th birthday present to my husband and it took us about 11 months to plan. We used guidebooks as initial resources then checked everything against the advice given here at Fodors.

We started out with a 12-day Mediterranean cruise (visiting Florence, Orvieto, Capri, Santorini, Rhodes, Navplion and Split while cruising), then stayed an additional two days in Venice, followed by two days in Verona, four days in Bellagio, two days in Monte Carlo and finally two days in Nice. We were 47 (me) and now 50 (husband) and love to travel. Food and wine are important to us. We love antiquities and art and equally love quiet places with nothing to do but look at the scenery. We used frequent flyer miles to fly business class on Delta. We splurged on some portions of our trip and went budget on others. We like to pack a lot into each day so we had little down town. Speaking of packing, we took a ridiculous amount of luggage with us (my husband loves clothes as much as I do!). But that was premeditated and we just decided to deal with the hassle of lots of luggage. Going with that attitude saved lots of arguments I am sure!

I have tried to figure out the best way to pass along this trip report and information about restaurants, hotels and shops without it being too long to read. Hopefully the format will be easy to follow. Please forgive all typos, bad grammar, and instances of stupidity. I have tried to include prices and addresses as they are usually what I am interested in.

MISCELLANEOUS INFO: We took a laptop (for keeping a travel diary and so hubby could stay connected to his office) and several DVD’s in case we couldn’t sleep we could at least watch a movie. I do not advise this AT ALL but we took a large amount of cash (euros) and paid cash for almost everything (please, no sermons here about the foolishness of carrying cash) and it worked out well for us. I always travel with a “travel book” that has plastic sleeves for each destination where I can store receipts, postcards, etc. That’s also where I keep our itinerary for the day. We both have Treo 650 telephones with Cingular service. We paid $5.99/month for international service (which you can have implemented for only the length of your stay – no long contract) plus roaming charges. We NEVER had trouble with service (except on our cruising days and we were at sea). We were also able to download and send emails on our Treos when internet service was not available. And, I had scanned in ALL our travel documents (research, restaurant recommendations, confirmations, etc.) and had them stored on my Treo as well as my laptop. When we got home, my cell phone bill was only about $80 more than it usually is (which I don’t consider bad since we were gone almost a month).

CRUISE INFO: I know there is a cruise board and that this part should probably be posted there. Because of that, I won’t go into a lot of detail about the cruise line here. I will simply say that our choice of Crystal cruise lines was perfect. We sailed on their newest ship, the Serenity, and we have never in our lives been treated so good for so long by so many people. We felt like royalty every minute we were on ship. There was NOTHING, I repeat NOTHING, bad that I can say about the experience of cruising on Crystal. Enough said!

Here I go …..
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:12 PM
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TRAVEL TO BARCELONA TO BOARD SHIP:

Though using Delta FF miles, we actually flew Air France to Paris. Business class – now there’s a way to be spoiled. The seats actually laid down completely! You could also stand straight up and not hit your head on the overhead compartment. But Charles DeGaulle Airport was the pits. It was a HUGE ordeal getting from our first plane to our connecting plane to Barcelona. We BARELY caught the connecting flight (all coach seats) because of the maze we had to get through just to get to the gate. But Air France made up for it -- even though it was a short flight (1-1/4 hours), they served us a full breakfast. Didn’t even ask us to pay for it. Gotta love the French!

We were to board the Crystal Serenity in Barcelona in early afternoon. We got there (at the ship) just after noon. So you can see we had no time to explore Barcelona. A crime as I understand it. We DID get to see a Gaudy building which was a hoot. How gaudy! Barcelona is definitely a place we will go back to and spend time.

Now, for a little info on the various ports we stopped in.


FLORENCE: We had been to Florence before and love this city. Made the requisite stops at the Ponte Vecchio and at the Accademia to see the Statue of David. It never gets old seeing it! Also made a much-too-short stroll through the Uffizzi. I had prebooked tickets/reservations for both these museums so we went to the front of the line. Something I wish I had done was studied up on just what art was in the Uffizi. We were kind of lost because it is so overwhelming. I really wish I had done more homework on the collections there so that I didn’t have to spend so much time wondering what I was looking at. If we had been able to spend more time in the Uffizi, we would have rented the audioguides. As it was, since our time was limited we just decided to walk through it.

We also went to the area around Piazza Santa Croce because of the many leather shops there. We walked into several leather shops but nothing blew us away. We were actually looking for the Scuola del Cuoio (School of Leather) which is in the back of the Convent of Santa Croce. I had found out about this leather school right here on this board and learned it was a place where leather craftsmen were trained and we should be able to get one-of-a-kind pieces of leather goods. The school was rustic and the showroom was functional, not fancy. What a great shop. Truly one-of-a-kind leather goods. Purses, jackets and brief cases to die for! We made several purchases here, both gifts and items for ourselves.

Tried to find a Fodors-recommended restaurant, Il Ritrivo. We found the restaurant pretty easily but unfortunately, it had JUST closed after lunch. I was very disappointed because Il Ritrivo is so highly recommended on this board. Ended up eating at Buca Niccolini which is just so-so. We had eaten there in 2001 and simply ate there again for nostalgia’s sake (AND, it was close to the Accademia).

That’s about all we could pack into our too-short day in Florence. Didn’t even get to go into the duomo as the lines were WAY too long and we had to make our way back to the ship.

Addresses:

Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School)
055 244533/244534
Fax: 055 2480337
www.leatherschool.it
[email protected]
Piazza Santa Croce, 16
Via San Giuseppe, 5/R
50122 Firenze – Italia
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:13 PM
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ORVIETO: The ship docked at Civitavecchi and instead of going into Rome like most of the other cruisers, we decided to rent a car and drive to Orvieto. GREAT choice! I had booked our car through Europcar (85 euro) and didn’t have any problems with them EXCEPT it took us a really long time to find their office. It was supposed to be a 10-minute walk from the ship but we stretched that into an hour! Then we had to stand in line for 30 minutes behind a man from who had no car rental reservation (he was unsuccessful in obtaining a car so the 30 minute wait seemed a HUGE waste of time). We were given minimal directions (essentially a map of the country of Italy) to Orvieto so the directions I had printed out from www.viamichelin.com became invaluable. It took us about two hours to get to Orvieto and a few times we thought we were lost but on our return trip home (which only took about 1-1/2 hours) we realized we had never been lost at all, just unsure.

The drive to Orvieto was beautiful. The Umbrian countryside has rolling hills, farmland, vineyards, cypress trees, winding roads … everything you see on TV about the Italian countryside. As we approached Orvieto, we were surprised and taken with how dramatic it looked so high up on a hill. We drove through several switchbacks/hairpin turns to get to the base of the town where we parked our rental car in a covered parking garage (3.50 euro).

We thought we’d have to walk up about a million stair steps to get to the town itself. However, we were presently surprised that there was a tunnel with an escalator most of the way and shallow steps the rest of the way. We went through a nondescript door and entered into a side street in Orvieto. Since by this time it was already near 1:00 p.m. and time of our lunch reservation, we took some pictures of landmarks so we could find our way back to the staircase down to our car and then we asked directions to the restaurant.

Our restaurant, I Sette Consoli (meaning Our Seven Consuls) is a well known restaurant in Orvieto (AND very highly recommended on this board) so we were able to obtain quick directions and the walk to it only took about 10 minutes. As we entered the restaurant, the waiter took us through the restaurant out back to a garden setting. It was quite lovely with a tent-like awning over us with wispy, gauzy white fabric hanging down and tied in knots. Almost deserted except for us and three other tables.

Not knowing exactly what to order, we simply followed the waiter’s suggestions. It was the prix fix lunch menu which consisted of several things I was not sure of but decided to try anyway.

First Course: Octopus on potatoes
Second Course: Ravioli filled with mozzarella and tomatoes
Third Course: Spaghetti with some type of seafood in it
Fourth Course: Pheasant
Fifth Course: Veal
Dessert: Three different types that of desserts -- all unidentifiable and all divine

The waiter first brought us an aperitif to drink. Then with our octopus he brought us a local white wine. VERY good. Then with the remaining courses, he picked out a red wine for us: a Rosso 2002 Sportoletti from Villa Fidelia (in the Frisoli area of Italy) which was so incredible we bought a bottle to take back to the ship.

Lunch was a lazy affair. The weather outside was beautiful and there were about eight little boys from other parties who were running and playing around us (though not disruptive at all). It took us about 2-1/2 hours to get through all the courses. But it was delightful as we met a couple from the Netherlands (parents of two of the boys) who we visited with throughout our lunch. One of our favorite things about traveling is all the wonderful people you get to meet!

As warned by Fodorites, I Sette Consoli was one of THE BEST restaurants we have ever been to. For all the food and drinks (including the bottle of wine we took with us), lunch cost 140 euros.

By the time we finished lunch, it was siesta time and most of the shops were closed. We only did a little bit of shopping before decided to take our sleepy and full bodies back to the ship.

Orvieto is a lovely town and we did not do it justice. We walked solely down the main street and never veered down any of the interesting side streets, nor did we doing much real shopping. There is a theater there (Teatro) which appeared to be for operas and we thought it would be a neat place to come back to. To get the real feel for Orvieto, we will need to come back and spend the night there.

Not surprisingly, the drive back to the ship was much easier and less stressful than the drive there and we were able to get back in about 1-1/2 hours. The traffic back was heavier but it moved along at a fast pace. My husband was stopped at on point by the caribinieri (police) but as he spoke no English and finally waived us on our way, we never knew why we were stopped. Luckily, too, as we entered Civitavecchia, we were close to and able to drive directly to Europcar to return the rental car – no getting lost this time!

Addresses:

I Sette Consoli
Piazza Sant Angelo 1A
Orvieto, Italy
011 39 0763 343911 (reservations needed)
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:14 PM
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CAPRI: Why did we decide to do a in-and-out trip to Capri in the middle of high season when everyone on this board says not to? I don’t know … maybe because it was there! Knowing we would be entering tourist hell, we proceeded to take the tender into Capri and spend just about five hours there. Us and about 2.5 million other tourists. Oh well. Again, this is a place we will definitely go back to and spend a few nights there to get a better idea of what it’s like sans tourists.

While on the island, we took a bus to the top of the island to Anacapri and the drive to the top was breathtaking and, for me, quite harrowing. I didn’t know where to look – the shear cliffs to the sea down below were spooky but so was looking at the road and the oncoming crazy drivers! Though a little scary, it WAS unbelievably beautiful on the drive to the top.

Once in Anacapri, we took a short tour of Casa San Michele, a house that a Swiss doctor built in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s and which has a commanding view of the Bay of Naples below (way below!). This little tour was only somewhat interesting. We did a little window shopping at all the shops in Anacapri but found their prices too high. The only thing we bought in Anacapri was postcards.

After just 1-1/2 hours in Anacapri, we boarded the bus which took us to the main city on the island, Capri(town). We had wanted to eat at a restaurant called Da Paolina’s but it was closed and open only for dinner. So we settled on another Fodors-recommended restaurant, Ristorante al Grottino which was located right off the main town square, down a side street from all the outside dining. We had hooked up with a 46-year-old woman from California (traveling on the cruise alone), Robin, who joined us for walking around and our lunch. Lunch was very, very good. I had ravioli (divine!) and roasted chicken (unadorned but very, very tasty) with French fries (mmmmmm!!) and my husband had caprese and red snapper. My husband had wine with his lunch but I only had Coke light. There was a 3 euro per person cover charge and the tip was already added in to our final check. The total for lunch for us two was 60 euro.

By this time it was already 2:00 and we were leaving Capri at 3:00 p.m. We half-heartedly did a little shopping (mostly window shopping) and since my husband wouldn’t buy me the 625 euro sheets from the Frette linen store (more on this later), it was no fun at all – ha! We road the funicular from Capri down to Marina Grande and decided to sit at an outside restaurant and people watch. We had an excellent location for people watching as we sat right on the main boulevard through Marina Grande.

Our impression of Capri is identical to that of many others. It is an exquisitely beautiful island that must be enjoyed over several days. A day trip doesn’t do it justice as there simply are too many people. We want to return here in either off season or at a time when we can spend a few days and nights and get the feel of REAL Capri after most of the tourists have gotten back on their cruise ships.

Another great day in paradise!
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:14 PM
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SANTORINI: We were very excited about this day as we were going to Santorini – a place we had heard lots about and seen tons of great pictures. Since the town sits so high up on a sheer cliff, there are only three ways to get to it: A sky ride, walking or taking a donkey up. I was all for the sky ride and very opposed to the other two ways. As luck would have it, the sky ride was broken so if I wanted to get to the top and the town, I had to either walk it or take a donkey. It will tell you something about how high and steep the path was when I say that I opted for the donkey.

I was terrified to ride the donkey for two reasons: First, I don’t like to ride any animal. And second, because of the very nature of the ride – up a very, very steep winding road. But I was pleasantly surprised that the ride wasn’t too bad. Four of us comprised our group and the donkey master road in back. The donkeys obeyed his voice commands. He was speaking in Greek so, of course, we had not idea what he was saying but they would stop and start on his command. The trip up wasn’t as harrowing as I thought it would be because there was a rock ledge/wall the entire way up. The worst part was the donkey would go so close to the edge that my leg would get caught between the wall and the donkey. I had bruises on both my calves by the time the ride was over.

The donkey ride only took about 15 – 20 minutes and cost 3.50 euro each. It was still early morning and the shops were just beginning to open. The first thing we I did was try to find a restroom and this took a while. The one we finally did find was the “Turkish toilet” kind – a simple hole in the ground with marks for where you should stand. No toilet paper. No place to wash your hands afterwards. Yuck!

Everywhere we looked, there were jewelry shops. I asked at one of the first ones what the traditional piece of Greek jewelry was and we were told it was the “river of life” symbol made famous by Alexander the Great. Apparently, the design represented the rivers he crossed and Greek tradition has it that if you wear it you will live 10 years longer. I liked the symbolism of it and set out to find a charm for my charm bracelet. I finally found a charm in about the 3rd jewelry shop we entered (Lagoudera Jewelers). It was reasonably priced and after I bought it I realized it would actually be a better pendant to wear from either a gold chain or black leather necklace.

A saleslady from one of the jewelry shops recommended we eat lunch at Sphinx restaurant which we did. We arrived a little before they opened but they let us sit at a table overlooking the Mediterranean while they prepared the restaurant for opening. We had a fabulous lunch here. We both ordered a Greek salad and we split some spicy rigatoni. The salad was incredible. All the vegetables in it were so fresh and the olives were fantastic too. The rigatoni was excellent too and had an unusual spicy flavor. My husband drank the house wine and I had a diet coke. This meal was so good that when we ran into some other people from the ship, we recommended it to them. Lunch was very leisurely and we were pleasantly surprised that it cost only 59 euros!

I was able to convince my husband that he should buy a gold bracelet and he particularly liked the idea of finding a gold man’s bracelet that had the
”river of life” symbol in it. We started checking out various jewelry shops -- the salespeople LOVED getting you to come into their stores where they would INSIST on you trying on jewelry (I tried on several necklaces just from their pressure – one even costing 14,000 euros!!!!). My husband ultimately ended up buying his bracelet from the jeweler who sold me my charm. His bracelet is beautiful and looks great against his tanned arms. It is 14 carat gold and not too bulky nor too dainty. I have been after him to buy a bracelet for years so I was VERY happy he finally complied.

DON’T THINK WE ARE HORRIBLE BUT … Surprisingly, neither one of us was overly taken with Santorini. In fact, we were very disappointed because we thought we would be blown away by it. It IS beautiful but something just didn’t click with us. I am sure the nighttimes are beautiful there but unfortunately we didn’t get to stay long enough to enjoy a sunset. Another place to add to our “you must spend the night here before you pass judgment” list.

On our way to the path down to the shore to catch the tender, we stopped at a local bar to have one last drink. My husband drank the traditional Greek drink, ouzo, and I had another diet coke. On our way down the hill we could have taken the donkeys again but opted this time to walk it. It was TOUGH – at least for me – and I pride myself on being in pretty good shape. The rocks were slick and my flip flops (I know – crazy choice for shoes but I thought I was riding the sky ride!) had no traction. AND, the whole way down we were navigating around the donkey poop. It was hot and it took us about 20 minutes to walk down. I hate to sound like a baby but my legs were quivering by the time we arrived at the shore. In fact, about half way down I had to have my husband slow down and hold onto me so I wouldn’t fall.

Addresses:

Sphinx Restaurant
847 00 Fira, Santorini
Phone: 22860 23823
Fax: 22860 23829
[email protected]

Lagoudera Jewelers
84700 Fira – Santorini
Phone: 22860 22027
www.lagoudera.gr
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:15 PM
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LINDOS AND RHODES:

We had booked a shore excursion to see The Acropolis of Lindos. The drive to Lindos was beautiful and it took about one hour. The entire way, our tour guide, Dimitris, talked to us – not about the sites of Rhodes or the history, but about everyday life in Greece and the unique customs. It was extremely interesting. Dimitris said that you can’t understand a culture until you know something about that culture to compare with your own and he was right! Mostly Dimitris talked about the customs of a dowry for the daughter, marriages, births, living conditions, cost of living, naming of children, way of life, etc. It was THE BEST tour I’ve ever been on. I felt like we came away knowing a little bit about Greece.

Sadly, about half way to Lindos, we happened upon an automobile accident which appeared to have been a head-on collision. There was an older man in the road who was obviously dead. It kind of put a pall on the bus and it was hard for Dimitris to pick up his stories after having witnessed something so serious.

When we arrived in Lindos, both my husband and I thought it was a much more beautiful place than the hyped Santorini. We began the 300+ steps climb to the Acropolis (which literally means highest city) where there was the city’s temple. The road was slick rock and narrow at points and there were vendors selling their wares most of the way up. Mostly they were selling linen cloth goods (which we later found out from Dimitris that they were made in Croatia). When we got to the very top, we had a spectacular view of the Aegean Sea below and also of St. John’s Bay. This small bay (which was a vivid blue and green and incredibly beautiful) was a bay into which the Apostle John sailed into. It was so neat to be near where one of the apostles of the Bible had been. We believe the Island of Patmos was very near Rhodes and we would have liked to have seen it since that is where St. John was exiled and wrote the book of Revelation.

Deciding it was best for me NOT to walk down the slick rocks (as I had AGAIN worn flip flops), we decided to take the donkeys down (5 euro each). Hey, I’m a pro now! We rated this donkey trip an A+ because the donkeys looked not as shabby, their saddles were much cleaner and comfortable, and the view was breathtaking. On the way down (it was just my husband and me), the guide walked beside us and led us all the way back into Lindos. The trip only took about 10 minutes and it was well worth it.

We had about 30 minutes to wander around Lindos (which was plenty of time) before boarding the bus and heading back to the ship. When we got back to the ship, Dimitris pointed out that the old walled city of Rhodes was 400 meters from our ship and that it had the best shopping and eating in Rhodes. He even recommended a restaurant to us all to have lunch at: Pythagoras. As soon as we parked the bus, we went on ship to use the restroom and then immediately set out for the walled city. It was so unique and interesting! Again, we liked it much more than Santorini and even more than Lindos.

It didn’t take us any time at all to find Pythagoras and before we were done eating, several of our tour mates showed up for lunch too. Dimitris even arrived which confirmed his stamp of approval on this restaurant! We had a table by the open door and we were able to people watch as we waited on our lunch and then ate.

Lunch WAS incredible. We shared a Greek salad, fresh green olives and bread and then we split broiled sole (which we had picked out of the menu by a photograph!). The sole was delicious – I mean it, I actually loved this fish and I am not a fish-lover! My husband drank wine and I had a Sprite and our meal was only 18.60 euros. We couldn’t believe it!

We next walked around the old city of Rhodes for about an hour and walked into a few shops. We didn’t make any major purchases though I was extremely tempted to buy a handmade bedspread which was absolutely beautiful. It was a patchwork quilt made from Greek wedding dressings – very ornate and beaded. The price was 640 euros but I ultimately decided not to buy it. This may be one purchase I wished I had gone ahead and made as it was such a unique piece of art.

Addresses:

Pythagoras Taverna
22, Pythagoras Str.
Old town – Rhodes
Tel: 22410 23711
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:16 PM
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NAVPLION: We were not too excited about this city because we hadn’t been able to find a lot of info about it so we cancelled our shore excursion (which was to go to the “Canal of Corinth” – whatever that is). Instead, we had a leisurely morning on ship and took a tender to Navplion about noon AND BOY WERE WE SURPRISED! What a wonderful, charming, beautiful town. It was our favorite of the three Greek cities we have seen and we were so glad we decided to get off the ship and see it. Ironically, all the info put out by Crystal Cruises downplayed this port – it was the first time Crystal had docked here – and we really thought it would be a nothing town.

We ducked our head into a few shops, one of which my husband asked the proprietor where to get a good lunch. He told us to go back to the shore and find the restaurant Agnanti. He even gave us a map. It was only about a 10-minute walk to the restaurant and we found it quite easily – though we weren’t QUITE sure it was the correct place as its name was in the Greek alphabet. Since the first and last letters looked like they were “A” and “I” we figured we had arrived at Agnanti. We had!

What a spectacular view and wonderful lunch. We both ordered Greek salads and we could have easily shared one with lots left over! There was no lettuce in it at all – just olives, red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, green bell peppers and feta cheese. We put our own oil and vinegar on it. I also ordered French fries (and only ate a handful) as well as spicy pasta with chicken in it. My husband asked the waiter to bring him the house specialty and it was a variety of seafood in pasta with a mild red sauce. I drank a diet Pepsi and my husband had a liter of the house red wine. We were so surprised to find our lunch only cost 38 euros. We would have paid double that for the view alone. The icing on the cake was that the food was good too. The view overlooked the harbor and we could see the Crystal Serenity from where we sat. We also watched two seaplanes landing and skimming the water, picking up water and then taking off again to dump the water on a fire on a nearby mountainside.

After we left the restaurant, we went back to the shop where the guy had recommended we eat there – we wanted to buy something to thank him for the recommendation. We really couldn’t find anything in the store that we wanted so we just told him it was a great recommendation and thanked him.

This was a really fun shopping town. I purchased a Brighton-type ring in one jewelry shop and at another shop my husband bought me a matching silver necklace, bracelet and earrings, all having a red stone in them. I also bought two large scarves (one white, one black) that are very versatile as I can use them as a wrap, a coverup, or on top of the piano.

We thoroughly enjoyed this afternoon and decided if we ever come back to Greece we would definitely like to spend a few days/evenings in Navplion. It was a touristy place without the tourists if that makes sense. We were told all the tourists were at the beach and that at night the town becomes quite crowded and lively.

Addresses:

Agnanti (I can’t translate the address from the business card as it is in the Greek alphabet but it is along the port shore)
www.agnanti.gr
Telephone: 27520 29332
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:16 PM
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SPLIT: We went ashore via a tender and arrived at the very beautiful Split port. It was fronted by a wide promenade which was tree lined (palm trees, even!) and outdoor cafes. This promenade was called the “Riva.” We met our tour guide (our excursion was called the “Highlights of Split” but it essentially only consisted of a tour of Diocletian’s Palace and an Archeological museum. Diocletian was the emperor of Rome in about 305 A.D. and he built a fantastically large and beautiful palace that faced the ocean. He was one of the all time biggest persecutors of Christians at the time. Most of the palace is gone but what does remain in most part is the “basement” of the palace which gives an idea of what the upper floors looked like. We neither one knew anything about Diocletian and we found this part of history very interesting (though our tour guide was kind of a dud – just going through the motions for the most part) and we want to read more about Diocletian’s reign.

We were scheduled to go on to the Archeological Museum but decided to leave our tour and stay in the old part of Split as we were afraid the shops would be closed by the time we returned (since it was a Saturday). We are so glad we did this. It was really fun walking around this city. We happened upon the Saturday fish market which was smelly but fun to walk through. Split looks to be an ancient city and there were lots of interesting shops. We were able to find quite by accident a women’s shop that sold garments made in Croatia. I purchased a fun top and then we got an identical one for one of my husband’s clients who was born in Croatia. The saleslady in this shop told us where we could find some authentic Croatian ties and scarves and ironically it was a shop (Croata) that we had seen while on our tour and we had wanted to go into it.

We retraced our steps to this shop and found some beautiful Croatian workmanship. My husband buying a few ties and I bought a BEAUTIFUL scarf from Croatia (as well as one for husband’s client). I would DEFINITELY recommend this shop if you are looking for authentic Croatian ties or scarves. This was a small shop where the handle on the door was shaped like a tie – very unique.

Next, we headed toward the post office so that we could mail the client her gifts directly from Split. We enclosed a postcard from Split with a note to her about the gifts (costing approximately $24 for postage). It wasn’t TOO bad or confusing using the Croatian postal system and, in fact, I was quite surprised they were open on a Saturday. The longest part of the process was (1) buying the envelope the gifts would go in from the postal supply shop and (2) filling out the customs forms. NOTE: The client got her gifts in about two weeks. She was shocked because she said as a young girl mail would routinely get lost from Croatia and her birthday cards with money from grandma always arrived without the money.

Once this task was completed, we were ready to find the recommended restaurant for lunch: Sarajevo. We had happened upon it earlier in the day and so we knew how to get back to it. This restaurant had been recommended by our tour guide and since we had had such good luck in Rhodes with our guide-recommended restaurant we decided to follow THIS guide’s advice.

Sarajevo Restaurant was very charming and clean. They spoke very little English here though! My husband asked what the traditional Croatian lunch would be and they brought it and salads to us. The traditional lunch was thinly sliced beef with a red wine gravy over it (which reminded me A LOT of the goulash sauce in Austria) and gnocchi as a side dish. To our astonishment, when the young 15-year-old assistant poured my husband’s house red wine, he also picked up the water bottle and poured water in the wine glass. We thought this HIGHLY unusual and when we questioned two other restaurant employees about it, they didn’t understand what we were trying to ask them. So, we don’t know if that’s how things are done in Croatia OR if the young boy just made a mistake! Lunch cost 160 kuna (approximately $27).

After lunch, we strolled through the old part of the town and ended up in the street market area just adjacent to the water. It was very much like a flea market, with vendor after vendor hawking their wares and trying to get you interested in some very cheap and not-needed items! Still, fun to see.

Before heading back go the ship (which was sailing kind of early to us – 5:00 p.m.), we ducked back into Diocletian’s Palace and purchased a book about Split (we were hoping to find a book on Diocletian himself but there weren’t any).

We thoroughly enjoyed Split. In fact, it has been one of our favorite stops (right up there with Navplion) and we would seriously consider coming back here.

Addresses:

Sarajavo Restaurant
Donaldova 6, Split
Tel: 47 454

Croata (tie and scarf store)
Mihovilova Sirina 7
2100 Split
Tel: 021 346 336
www.croata.com
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:17 PM
  #9  
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Posts: 104
VENICE: This is where our cruise ended (though we stayed on ship one more night). We docked in Venice early this a.m. We were allowed to be off ship by 8:00 a.m. and we were passengers numbered 2 and 3 who left. We had decided to do a jog/run in Venice as opposed to on the ship. We headed away from Piazza San Marco, running by a modernistic grey sculpture that looked like a waterfall and past another large white “thing” that looked like a Ku Klux Klan hat – weird! Our run took us past a park (who knew there was a park in Venice??!!), past the Italian Navy yard, and into a newer, probably upscale neighbor. Our route took us back to the ship and as we hadn’t run long enough we headed toward Piazza San Marco. Our run was complete once my husband circled Piazza San Marco so we then walked back to the ship. Ahhhhh, it feels good to be back in Venice!

A couple we had met on the ship had arranged for she and her husband to be picked up and taken to the island of Murano for a tour of the glass factory. The personally arranged tour was “free” (as far as transportation goes!) with the expectation that a purchase was expected. We had tried to arrange the same excursion and come to find out, they put us with not only the couple who had arranged the tour, but also another couple we had grown fond of on the trip! So, us and our two sets of friends would be spending part of the day together!

We met at 9:50 a.m. (after a leisurely shower and breakfast after our run) and were taken to our water taxi for the 15-minute ride to Murano. At Murano, we were met by our guide of the factory and showroom, Valentina, who we later found out was the wife of the owner of the factory. Valentina was very lovely and quite friendly and helpful. She took us first to see a master glass blower who showed a little of his technique, making a vase and then a horse (my husband wanted to buy that very horse!). It was unusual for us to get to see this as we were there on a Sunday so we felt very lucky. Next Valentina took us to the several floors and rooms of glassware. It really was like a museum. Every piece was a work of art. There were some of the most beautiful glasses and chandeliers I have ever seen. AND, it was all very, very expensive.

My husband and I wanted desperately to find two anniversary glasses (we buy two unique glasses every year) but they would only sell the glasses in sets of six. Even if we had wanted six (which we definitely did not), they were so exorbitantly priced that we wouldn’t have been able to get them! For example, one set of six glasses that I particularly liked cost over $3,500!!!

I did love several of their glass plates and finally settled on a beautiful blue plate that could be used as a centerpiece or functionally as a serving dish. It cost 300 euros – YIKES!!! I also bought a very small cluster of blue grapes that was only 9 euros and then shortly before leaving made an impulse buy of some red square glass earrings for 40 euros. When we arrived, Valentina had told us we would get a 20% discount (which we did) and free shipping (which we did not get!). Apparently our purchases weren’t large enough to constitute the free shipping!!! Finally, before leaving, we were given the glass horse the master glass blower made while we were watching his demonstration. Some things in life ARE free – ha!

We spent about 1-1/2 hours in the glass factory. Valentina then gave us the option of returning to the ship by water taxi OR taking another (free) water taxi to the island of Burano where we would be met by another guide to take us through the lace museum (Burano is known for its handmade laces). One couple chose to go back to the ship but we and the other couple chose to go on to Burano.

GREAT DECISION! The taxi ride was another 10-15 minutes and we were met by a delightful young woman whose name escapes me. She met us at the water’s edge and walked us the short walk to the lace museum. On our walk to the museum, we were so taken with the loveliness of this island. All the buildings and houses are quite colorful – kind of like an old Italian version of Seaside, Florida! The guide explained that Burano was also primarily a fishing village and the fishermen painted their houses quite brightly in order to find them in the fog. I had remembered reading about what a lovely village this was and we were not disappointed!

We took a very short tour of the lace museum (which was in the top of a lace store!) and learned how it is a dying art (hand making it, that is) and takes so long that it is cost prohibitive to pay people to do it. In the shop was a very old woman who was demonstrating the art of handmade lace and it was beautiful what she was doing but boy did it look tedious!!!

I bought just a few things here – mostly gifts for others -- monogrammed handkerchiefs and hand towels. They did have some very beautiful tablecloths and sheets but, as expected, they were quite expensive.

The guide told us of two restaurants. The mostly highly recommended was Ristorante do Romano which was just a few doors down from the lace store/museum. It looked crowded and pricey so we decided, instead, to go to the other recommended restaurant, Trattoria Il Gatto Nero (Black Cat) which was off the beaten path. We had been given a map and the restaurant proved to be quite easy to find. And boy are we glad we found it.

All of us had the sole for lunch. My husband also had spaghetti with meat sauce. We shared some red wine too. This was a delicious meal and for the four of us, it cost 103 euros, roughly $55 per couple, including tip. There were lots of locals in this restaurant too – and at one table several policemen (caribinieri) were eating so we felt not only physically safe but also safe in our choice of restaurant!

We then had a very pleasant walk back around the island toward the water’s edge and we purchased our tickets for the vaporetto back to Piazza San Marco. We had 1/2 an hour before the boat left so we walked back into town to find a bathroom. All four of us thought Burano was incredibly charming, that lunch was great, and that we were certainly glad we had not only gone to Murano but had ventured on to Burano.

The boat ride back was more like a passenger ferry, holding LOTS of people, and surprisingly it took us 1:20 to get back to Piazza San Marco, after having stopped at Lido (where we would like to go back to!) and several other stops. After the ferry dropped us off at Piazza San Marco made the 10-minute walk back to the ship

Addresses:

Trattoria Al Gatto Nero (Burano)
Fondamenta Guidecca 88
30012 Burano (Venezia)
041 730 120
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:17 PM
  #10  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
VENICE DAY TWO: This was the day we actually disembarked the Crystal Serenity. Did I mention how wonderful this cruise line was?!!

We disembarked at about 9:45 and took a bus to the terminal. This bus ride was quite comical as it took us MAYBE a grand total of 3 blocks. We could have walked it faster by far if we had known it was that close! There was a Crystal agent inside the terminal who directed us to the area where our luggage was and we were able to retrieve it quite quickly. We weren’t quite sure what to do as we were looking for customs and we saw a long line. We exited the building and realized the line was for the water taxi which we needed so we went back into the building. My husband decided he could just wait for me outside with the luggage and I re-entered the building and just blended into the line. True confession: In actuality I butted in front of SEVERAL people. I don’t think they realized it but I felt REALLY bad about it once I knew what I did!

The man arranging the water taxis asked if we would share a ride which was fine with us. It cut the cost of our taxi ride almost in half – down to 40 euros for each couple! We only had to wait for the water taxi about 5 minutes and the ride to our stop took only about 10 minutes. The taxi driver was quite open about wanting a tip for helping with the luggage. Both of us chipped in 5 euros to give him a 10 euro tip.

It took a little maneuvering to get our luggage to the Hotel Galleria, simply because we had so much (5 heavy bags) but not because the hotel was far away! It would be about 1/2 an hour before our room was ready so we took off and walked around the Dorsoduro area where Hotel Galleria is located. We had never really explored this part of town and I quickly decided it had some of the best mask shops I had seen. And the prices were MUCH better than the shops nearer Piazza San Marco! We saw a museum we were interested in and a closed art shop that we wanted to return to.

Walked back to the hotel and checked in. Unfortunately, we did NOT have the same room we had in 2001 – the “red” room which is Room 10 (where we had gotten engaged). We had Room 8 which was also a large room. I was disappointed but Room 10 was already taken. Room 8 turned out to be a very, very nice alternative. It had plenty of room. It also had a raised platform/sitting area by the arched window that overlooked the Grand Canal. On that raised platform were two chairs and a table. AND, the best part – we only had to pay 155 euro per night for this room in a great location! My husband immediately opened up the window and drew back the curtains. AHHHHHH, Venezia!

We headed back out and went back through Dorsoduro, looking for a place to eat lunch. The place suggested to us was closed so we ended up in a very small eatery (can’t remember the name of it) where we had a very satisfying lunch of sandwiches and Coke Lights. And we LOVED the price – 13.50 euros!

We then walked over to Piazza San Marco and did lots of window shopping on the way. It was starting to sprinkle and we didn’t have our raincoats so we headed back toward our hotel. Along the way, it started raining just enough to get us good and wet but it was not really a downpour. So, as a diversion, we went into what we discovered was the World’s Smallest Bar (at least that’s what WE called it – ha!). This was the bar at the Hotel Flora and it had only two barstools in it. We had just read that the traditional drink in Venice is the Spritz so we ordered Spritz con Aperol (apple liqueur, I think) and not the Spritz con Campari which is more bitter. It was really quite good and it tasted like a wine spritzer. We only sat there about 20-30 minutes before heading back out into the rain. (We had tried to get a Bellini at Harry’s Bar earlier but my husband had on shorts and they wouldn’t let us in – BOSSTURDS!!! – ha!)

We decided this would be a good time to go into the museum we had seen earlier in the day – Gallery Accademia. This is a very important museum in Italy, and especially in Venice. However, again we did not know enough about the history of the museum or the works contained there to have a truly good appreciation of what we were seeing. We got the audioguides this time and went into each room. The art there was of great significance because of how old it was and who the artists were. I would say about 95% of it dealt with religious themes – the crucifixion, the virgin birth, Mary, the apostles, miracles, etc.

We then went back to our room to nap (I love vacations!!) and get ready for dinner. We had made dinner reservations for 8:00 p.m. at Gran Café Quadri which is the nice restaurant on Piazza San Marco – the same restaurant we ate at on the night we got engaged though back in 2001 we had eaten sandwiches outside. We arrived promptly at 8:00 and were seated at a window table for two, directly above where the small orchestra was playing. Throughout dinner, we were able to listen to the orchestra each time they played and to also watch the people who were standing in the piazza watching the orchestra. Great fun!

Now, about Gran Café Quadri. In hindsight, I wish we had eaten outside like we had in 2001. We had impeccable service and the food was good (though not fantastic as we expected for the amount we paid for it – 270 euro). But the restaurant was somewhat deserted and it felt like all the fun was to be had outside. My husband had veal which was somewhat tough and I had steak which was not tough but lacked great flavor. I would not say this was a bad meal or a bad restaurant. Just not “Gran” like we had expected like their name.

Once outside, we took a table near the orchestra and ordered Bellinis. We didn’t stay long – just long enough to hear a 3-song set and drink our drinks. Then back to our hotel where we crashed! We had to shut the window in the middle of the night as I was getting some mosquito bites but other than that we had a great night’s sleep!
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:20 PM
  #11  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
VENICE DAY THREE: Had our first breakfast on our raised platform by the window. OH MY GOSH!! The croissants were made in heaven and delivered hot! Even hubby – who is NOT the bread connoisseur that I am – was smitten with these croissants. Besides croissants, we had hard rolls, butter, jams, spreadable cheese, coffee, tea and orange juice. A simple, but delicious breakfast.

We couldn’t dilly dally this a.m. as we had a 9:50 reservation or the Secret Itinerary tour (pre-booked which cost 30 euro for both of us) of the Doges Palace. The Doges Palace was essentially the seat of government/power in Venice. We met our tour guide promptly at 9:50 and there were only a total of 20 people in our group. We were given a more in depth tour of parts of the Doges Palace that you don’t see if you just take the normal tour. On the Secret Itinerary tour, you see the Senate room, the Council of 10 room, Casanova’s cells, various other clerk’s rooms, and you can walk back and forth over the Bridge of Sighs. The story of Casanova’s stay and escape from the prison here was quite humorous and interesting and we ultimately bought Casanova’s book about his life to read at a later time. After the Secret Itinerary tour, we did a self-tour of the remainder of the Doges Palace. Beautiful, palatial, huge and daunting. Again, we should have read up on the Doges and the Palace before we toured there so that we would have had a better understanding of what we were seeing!

It was 12:30 by the time we were done touring and buying books from the bookstore. So, we ate a quick lunch at a no-name pizza place and returned to our room for a nap. After resting and reading a while, I decided I better go back to a mask store I had seen the first day in Venice. They had a set of comedy and tragedy masks that I was very interested in. I ultimately found the store (it is in Dorsoduro) and bought the comedy and tragedy masks and also another large Carnivale mask and a smaller black mask for the piano. The woman who made the masks was in the store and I asked her to sign them for me which she did. She also arranged to have them shipped to me so we wouldn’t have to carry them with us.

When I had left the hotel to find the shop, I took a wrong turn. I wasn’t scared about being lost as I figured I was making a large circle. I was SO glad I took the wrong turn as I ended up on a very wide promenade by a very large canal. It was BEAUTIFUL in this part of Venice/Dorsoduro. Hardly any crowds at all and the pavement was wide with an expansive view across the grand canal. And beautiful flowers everywhere. I can’t believe we have been to the Hotel Galleria twice now and just a two-minute walk from it (in the opposite direction we usually go) there was this beautiful and quiet area of Venice. I hurried back to the hotel room and woke hubby who was still napping and told him he’d have to see this area!!

After our joint stroll around this newly found area of Venice, we had to rush back to our room and get ready for our dinner. We had reservations at the Terrace Restaurant at the Cipriani Hotel. What a hoot! We took the free taxi that the hotel provides near Piazza San Marco and arrived early enough to walk around the hotel and enjoy pre-dinner Bellinis (35 euro for two – YIKES). This truly is a beautiful hotel and I am so glad we followed the advice to have a dinner here. Dinner was delicious – seafood for both of us. Impeccable service. Glorious surroundings. It’s hard not to like a place that offers all that. And, yes, it was expensive (275 euro including tip).
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:20 PM
  #12  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
VERONA: Woke up in Venice – our last day. Hubby decided to take an early morning walk around Venice and to capture some of it on video and in pictures. He was gone quite a while and when he returned, he had filmed the entire walk from Hotel Galleria to Piazza San Marco. Along the way, he had taken pictures of the some of the shops we had enjoyed window shopping at as well as some of the shops where we had made purchases.

I used this time to pack us up – no small feat as by now we have six large pieces of luggage. Too much luggage, we know, but with all our formal nights (both on ship and upcoming) and the length of this trip, it was difficult to pack much lighter and still dress like we would have liked to. At any rate, one bag is entirely toiletries and the computer and all the attendant cords we needed for the trip and another quite large bag is filled with items we won’t need for the remainder of the trip (i.e., purchases or items used solely on the ship).

Our delicious, though simple, breakfast consisted again of just croissants, rolls, jams, honey, soft cheese, coffee/tea and orange juice. After we ate by the window (watching the canal activity below), hubby headed for the internet café and I took one last walk along the long boulevard I had discovered the day before.

At almost 11:00 a.m., Stefano (one of the owners of Hotel Galleria), called for our water taxi. Seconds before it arrived (just under the Accademia Bridge at the vaporetto stop), he hurriedly helped carry our luggage out to the taxi. We very quickly loaded our luggage into the boat as the scheduled vaporetto was in site and would need to dock where we were. The trip to Piazzale Roma took only about 10 minutes and we went through parts of Venice we hadn’t seen before – some of it industrial yet most of it more like a middle-class neighborhood (newer as opposed to ancient). The driver dropped us off just about ½ block from where the driver would pick us up. We paid the taxi driver an exorbitant price for such a short distance (70 euros total) and considering we could have probably gotten here by vaporetto for about 5 euros total, but with the amount of luggage we had we decided to take the expensive, no stress route. For future reference, we figured out that if we have this much luggage again, that we should arrange for a driver very early in the morning as transporting lots of luggage via vaporetto very early before the crowds arrive should not be a problem (say, 7:00 a.m.).

We arrived at our scheduled meeting place 45 minutes early. I called the limousine service to see if the driver could meet us early which he did, though only by about 10 minutes. Matteo, the driver, picked us up at 11:50 in a beautiful black small Mercedes that easily held all our luggage in the trunk. The drive from Venice to Verona took only about 1 hour 10 minutes. We both agreed that it is the way to go (getting a private driver) if you want to eliminate the stress of transportation and if you want to enjoy the scenery AND you have a lot of luggage. It IS expensive – this leg cost us 195 euro – but it was one of the splurges we wanted.

Matteo drove us into the central (i.e., old and historic) part of Verona, through Piazza Bra where the great Teatro d’Verona is located, to our hotel, Hotel Torcolo (which cost only 115 euro per night). He helped us in with our luggage and while hubby paid him I was greeted by Sylvia, one of the owners of this hotel. I had found this hotel through research at this Fodors’ website and knew there were two woman who run the hotel, both of whom have reputations as being quite helpful. Well, Sylvia sure fits that bill! In less than 5 minutes, she had us in our room (our luggage making the journey by elevator – two trips!) on the 3rd floor (Room 21). We quickly checked our room and were very pleased. It was a medium sized room (large by European standards) on the corner of the building. It had a queen size bead, a small desk with mirror, a small chest with mirror, two nightstands on either side of the bed, a refrigerator/safe combination, and a very small TV. The en suite bathroom had blue tiled walls, a toilet and a bidet, a small shower, and the usual small hotel amenities (cheap toiletries). There was also a two-door closet that could be used to hang clothes and store luggage and where they had placed two extra pillows and an extra heavy blanket.

Within just a few minutes of checking out our room, we headed back downstairs to begin our exploration of Verona. Before we could get out the door, Sylvia stopped us and gave us invaluable advice. First she handed us a map and a guidebook. On the map, she showed us where we should go – suggesting we go see the five most prominent churches “as in America you have better museums but you don’t have better churches”!!! She showed us on the map a few bridges we should go see and the two major shopping streets. When asked where we should eat, she suggested 12 Apostoli (12 Apostles) and she even called and made our dinner reservations for us. She then explained breakfast hours and asked our preference for eating inside or out (out, of course!) and she told us anecdotally that she had NEVER met an American who wanted breakfast in the room but that Italians always wanted breakfast in their room! Finally, just before walking out she kindly told me to close my purse properly as wherever there are tourists, there are thieves!

This hotel is perfectly located just one block from Piazza Bra. The Teatro d’Verona is the centerpiece of the piazza which is lined also with restaurants. We had two recommendations from Fodors for lunch: One was Brek right on Piazza Bra. The other, quite coincidentally, was for Nastro Azzurro which was on the one-block-long street in front of our hotel – the street leading to the piazza. We decided to eat at Nastro Assurro and were lucky enough to snag a table closest to the piazza so while we sat there we did our customary people watching/critiquing!

Lunch was DELICIOUS. Actually, it was quite simple. We ordered one Pizza Margherita (basically a thin crust cheese pizza) and one green mixed salad. Both were large enough for us to split. We also split a half-bottle of the house red wine and had a bottle of water. This meal probably tasted so good to us because it was EXACTLY what we were craving. The atmosphere was incredible AND it was a cheap lunch – only 23 euros! After being in Verona less than an hour, we knew it was a great destination!

Next, we walked down one of the two main shopping streets and did a little shopping We kept walking until we found our restaurant for the evening, 12 Apostles, and then walked a little further to Piazza Erbe where there was more of a market type setting there. We went back to the hotel via the second shopping street and noted that most of the shops were closed for a big chunk of the afternoon and most of them scheduled to reopen around 6:00 p.m. We were both tired so we returned to the hotel for a nap.

After napping, hubby headed to an internet café to catch up on office email and I headed back to a woman’s shop to purchase something long sleeved -- I thought I’d need something long sleeved for what I thought would be a cool night. After making my purchase, I met up with hubby at the internet café and we stayed there until he was finished and they were closing! It was still ½ hour before our dinner reservations so we walked around Verona some more. You could tell the opera crowd had arrived as there were long lines at the arena and the crowd was dressed significantly better than earlier in the day!

We were very pleased with the interior and ambience of the 12 Apostles. Our dinner was good but not great (hubby had veal and I had beef). However, our wine, an Aperone which we had never heard of before, was fantastic. We had let our waiter pick this out for us and we were told the Aperone varietal was grown very near Verona. We only had a split (1/2 bottle) but that was plenty. Dinner cost 127 euro. Sylvia had told us to be sure to see the “cantina” which was actually the wine cellar. Just before we left the restaurant, one of the waiters took us and a family of six from Australia down into the wine cellar. The first level had lots of character but we were told this was only where they kept their olive oils and vinegars. We both thought it would make a great model for a wine cellar at hour house. The next level was even cooler and where they kept the red wines. We went down even further, to a 3rd level below the restaurant. This section had a very narrow staircase which lead to an area at least 2,000 years old. This portion of the wine cellar was discovered 30 years ago when the restaurant was renovating their wine cellar. What they came across was actually part of ruins of a Roman temple!!! There was even a deep well of some sort that had been used for refuse disposal. The restaurant restored this section themselves, not letting the country of Italy do it as they (Italy) would have “taken over.” This was quite fascinating and a wonderful touch to the end of our evening. The waiter told us the restaurant was 250 years old but the family that owns it now had “only” owned it since 1931!! It was in its 3rd generation of that family!

We strolled back to Piazza Bra and sat down at an outdoor café (La Costa in Bra) at the very edge so we could people watch again and to have a cappuccino (hubby) and coffee (me) (5.50 euro total). Just as we were sitting down, the opera dismissed for intermission. At first we thought it was over as it was already 10:30 p.m.! Then we found out it was just intermission. That gave us some idea of how late our night would be the next night when we had opera tickets.

Back to the room where we fell asleep to the movie Planes, Trains & Automobiles. It was quite noisy outside our window and at some point in the night hubby had to get up and close the window. We were not too bothered by this though as we both fell asleep quite easily!

Addresses:

Hotel Torcolo
Vicolo Litone 3 (Piazza Bra)
37121 Verona
Italia
39 045 8007512
Fax: 39 045 8004058
www.hotetorcolo.it
[email protected]

Nastro Azzurro (restaurant very near Hotel Torcolo)
On Vicole Listone
045 8004457
www.nastro-azzurro.it

Ristorante 12 Apostoli
Vicolo Corticella S. Marco 3
37121 Verona
045 596999
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:21 PM
  #13  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
VERONA DAY TWO:

Woke up about 7:30 a.m. and decided to go ahead and eat breakfast early. We ate breakfast outside, just in front of the door of the hotel. It was not a fancy breakfast but it DID contain more protein than our last hotel! We had hard boiled eggs, coffee/tea, breads, a strange looking sausage that looked like ham with a lot of fat in it, yogurt, cheeses, and (I think) grapefruit juice. The weather has been perfect so it was great eating outside.

Hubby went on a 40-minute run through the city while I walked over to Teatro d’Verona and took pictures of the props for the opera that night, Aida. They were huge! I had learned on this board that Verona is known for its summer opera series with operas performed in the centuries old Teatro d’Verona which is very, very similar to the Colliseum in Rome.

When hubby had been out running, he had ran by a Frette linen store (I have wanted Frette lines for at least four years when I first heard about them on this website) that had a 70% discount going on. So, we headed off in the direction of the Frette store, of course! When we arrived in the Frette store, it was a little overwhelming as the salesclerks spoke very limited English and my Italian is “get by” Italian only! We were essentially looking only for those things that were 70% off too! I finally settled on a BEAUTIFUL blue bedspread (237 euros), a set of white sheets (my favorites – 198 euros) and a set of dark blue sheets (86 euros). We got the bedspread and blue sheets at the 70% off discount but the white sheets were only at 40% off. I know that is still expensive but I somehow had convinced hubby they were a bargain at those prices!

Maddeningly, both of our Mastercards were rejected in Frette (one of them had been rejected just previously in another retail shop but I was able to use the other). Instead of stopping the Frette sale and going back to the hotel, I used my cell phone and called Mastercard to find out what the problem was. I had called the credit card companies before we left the U.S. to let them know we would be out of the country so I was very confused. I was told that the card had been used by Crystal Cruises (in their U.S. office) while the same day was being used in Italy so they thought it might have been stolen as we couldn’t be in two places at once. It was a somewhat minor delay and I was glad we were able to have both cards reinstated and complete our purchase!!!

By this time we were already tired and hungry! We walked back toward our hotel (hubby said the Frette sack was unbearably heavy!) via the Romeo and Juliet tourist trap. It was so weird to me … to see so many tourists looking at a balcony where FICTIONAL characters once were. Crazy! Since we had enjoyed our lunch at Nastro Azzurro so much yesterday, we went back there today … sat at the same table, had the same waiter (a man named Daniele), and had the same lunch … kind of. Today we had Coke Light instead of wine and hubby got bruschetta. It was just as good today as it was yesterday!

Time for our afternoon nap! To lull us to sleep, we popped in “Fog of War,” a documentary about and by Robert S. McNamara. We were asleep 10 minutes into it! After napping, we went to eat find a supermarket to buy food for snacking at the opera. Before arriving at the supermarket, we walked over the medieval bridge which spanned a river that I can’t remember the name of it. Took some pictures and walked back to the old part of the city. The supermarket was just one street off Piazza Bra and though small we found everything we needed – wine (Brunello di Montelcino), bread, cheeses, grapes, crackers, etc. We probably bought too much but you never know these things ahead of time! Next, we headed to the restaurant, Brek, which is on the Piazza Bra. This is an Italian fast-food type eatery that has lots of good reviews. It had opened one hour earlier than usual to accommodate the opera crowd so it was somewhat empty. Nevertheless, I was a little intimidated by all the food stations. My limited Italian seemed even more limited. We finally ended up with one salad, one bowl of pasta and one plate of (really good) fried potatoes. I had a Coke Light and hubby had a 2.50 euro mall bottle of wine that he thought tasted really good for 2.50 euros! We ate outside and watched the foot traffic around Piazza Bra. While sitting there, hubby bought a program guide for the opera tonight, Aida, and read the opera synopsis so he’d know what it was about.

We then headed to a different internet café, this one on a side street off Piazza Bra, just before going under the double arches and clock tower you turn right and it’s about 3 blocks down. Hubby purchased a 30-minute card and I had a 15-minute card. I sent personal emails and he worked on office emails. When my card was up, I headed on back to the room and read some more of the book I had brought on the trip (The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kay). Hubby checked in with me and then headed off on a walking trip to take pictures of the Roman Bridge and more pictures of the Medieval Bridge. He also stopped at a bakery and bought some cookies and breadsticks for our opera snack – you can never have too much food!!

At about 8:30, we walked over to the Arena d’Verona, literally one block from our hotel and across the Piazza Bra! As way of background, I had somehow found out that Verona had a very famous coliseum, much like the coliseum in Rome, that was used throughout the summer for operas. In planning this portion of the trip, I did some research and found that of the two days we were to be in Verona, the two operas playing would be Turandot and Aida. Hubby and I neither one know much about opera so we asked his office administrator who LOVES opera which one to see. She suggested Aida as the sets are so massive that it is a hard opera to see in America because there aren’t the venues to adequately support the types of props needed. So, Aida it was! (Ironically, I had seen the Broadway version of Aida which was partially written by Elton John and had enjoyed it very much).

We had the cheap tickets (24.50 euros each) so we sat in the unassigned seating WAY up in the arena. It was very crowded and there was a worker there moving people closer and finding seats for us. However, the setting was magnificent. The weather was perfect, though the sporadic clouds kept us from seeing an almost full moon until very late in the opera. The opera was LONG – 3-1/2 hours! There were 3 intermissions and LONG bows after each major set of songs. I admit I did not follow the story very well. Hubby had a better understanding of what was going on. But despite that, it was a lovely evening. I enjoyed it tremendously. There were no microphones used but you could still hear. We were WAY up in the peanut gallery but we had such a panoramic view of everything that we couldn’t complain about the view. It was crowded but we had rented cushions (5 euros each) and the people sitting around us were not boisterous or rude. AND, we had food with us! About the food – we took WAY too much. Next time, we think it would be much better to take a pre-made sandwich and a sweet and some water along with the wine. We ended up eating on the grapes, the breadsticks hubby had bought at the bakery, the brie cheese, the olives and the cookies. We only drank a very little of the Brunello and ended up splitting a Coke sold by a vendor. The third act was kind of slow and we both got sleepy. And, we thought there would be a big hoo-haa thundering ending but there wasn’t – just a sad song that we couldn’t understand. HOWEVER, we both really enjoyed this experience and are SO glad we did it. As hubby said, before this night, he didn’t even know there was the Arena d’Verona or that this was something we SHOULD have done in our lifetime! And now, we have!

We exited the Arena at 12:30 a.m. (quite an easy exit consider the number of people in the Arena – we guesstimated there were about 12,000 people there) and it being the late hour that it was, went straight back to our hotel – a short five minute walk.

No movie tonight, but instead we fell asleep reading. A great last day/evening in Verona!
Oklahoma_Traveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:22 PM
  #14  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
BELLAGIO DAY ONE:

On our way to Bellagio/Lake Como!!!!

Slept until 8:30 a.m. but had to get up and packed as our driver would be picking us up at 10:00 a.m. Even into the trip this far, we are dealing very well with the outrageous amount of luggage – and quite nicely I might add! Breakfast was the same as yesterday – out front of the hotel and consisting of eggs, cheeses, breads, yogurt, juice, coffee, tea, cantaloupe and prunes.

We had just enough time to finish breakfast, finish the last minute packing, get downstairs and pay the hotel bill, and wait for the driver. Our wait was short – only five minutes. It did take some maneuvering, however, to get all of our luggage in the Mercedes! (NOTE: Sylvia told me that for future reference, she can arrange private transportation for us to Bellagio and that it would be cheaper and possibly we could split the cost with another couple traveling to the same place). We used Milano By Car to secure a driver and this leg of the trip cost 295 euro.

It is a 200 kilometer drive from Verona to Bellagio. A lot of it was autostrade and not very appealing. However, about 30 minutes out the scenery changed dramatically. There were mountains in the near distance and the towns set on the mountainsides were beautiful. It only took the driver about 2 hours 15 minutes to get us to Bellagio. He wasn’t quite sure where our hotel, Hotel La Pergola, was but we were very fortunate as we drove into town we saw a sign for it and were able to drive right up to the door.

I have to admit, I sighed a huge sigh of relief as hubby looked into the hotel. From the front door, you can see all the way through the lobby and out the back to Lake Como and the mountains beyond. Breathtaking!!! “Worth the price of admission” I believe is what hubby said!! I was worried about this hotel as it is only $105 euros per night – a steal by European standards AND highway robbery by Bellagio/resort town standards! And, on the internet, the rooms looked quite spartan. Not that we mind spartan, but they looked REALLY spartan!!

Our room was not ready yet so we sat outside at the adjoining restaurant under the pergola – hence, their name!!! – and had lunch. We had a prime table for two right on the lake. As we ate, we saw boaters coming up to the restaurant, securing their boats (there is no dock), and climbing up the ladder to the restaurant. We soon realized this was a popular place to eat! Lunch was really, really good. We shared a salad that was called “salad with cheese and olives” and that’s just what it was. Very fresh, very delicious. I also had grilled perch and hubby had fried perch. Lunch cost 38 euro. It was a beautiful, glorious day. The sun was out, the temperature was mild though not cold. We think this part of Bellagio is a little piece of heaven!!

NOTE: Hotel La Pergola is officially in what I call a suburb of Bellagio called Pescallo. It is a 10-minute rigorous walk to/from town. From the hotel, there are 157 wide (really wide) steps UP and 57 wide steps down to get to Bellagio. The reverse when returning from Bellagio to the hotel. NOT for the faint of heart OR for those with lots of luggage coming from the ferry!!!

After we walked to town – our first experience with the tough climb. YIKES! I told hubby that my new rule was that we would go to town ONE TIME each day and no more – ha!!!

Bellagio is everything you can imagine. Upscale boutiques. One-of-a-kind shops. Lots of tourists. Serious stairs (made of cobblestone) down to the lake. Winding streets. Cars on the streets forcing pedestrians to stand in storefronts so they can pass. Beautiful scenery everywhere you look. And the lake …. pristine and lined on both sides with colorful houses and villas. We walked along the first road that took us into Bellagio to the edge of town and then down, down, down to the lake front. There are several hotels on the lake front that I had considered us staying in but we are really thrilled with La Pergola – DESPITE the walk!!! We stopped into several shops but made no purchases. There are lots of jewelry and glassware shops and some very, very nice men’s and women’s shops which we’ve never heard of. After getting a feel for the town and what we want to do here, we got a gelato and headed back to our hotel for by this time it was about 6:00 p.m. and I was tired.

Hubby sat outside by the water’s edge and took pictures and read the book on Como we had just bought in town. I tried to rest again but to no avail. Hubby had fortuitously gotten us a dinner reservation at our hotel. At first he was told it was “impossible” but as he sat outside the male proprietor came and told him there had been a cancellation so we got a table for two after all.

When we arrived for dinner, it was almost dark and the restaurant (with 18 tables outside) soon filled up. We had a table tucked back in to the corner but not under the pergola. No matter as it still had a great view! Dinner was very good (though not FANTASTIC) and I ordered another “cheese and olive” salad. The bottle of red wine we had was very good – I don’t think we’ve had a mediocre bottle of wine yet! After dinner, we went on up to bed. Our plan was to download pictures from the camera and look at them. And then watch a movie. I think we were both asleep by the time the 4th picture (of about 125) had downloaded! I woke up and the computer was off. I don’t know how long we had been asleep … I unplugged the computer and turned the lights out. It had been a glorious day!

We woke in the night from a rather vigorous thunderstorm. Our windows were wide open and you could hear the thunder and the downpour and see the lightning on the mountains. The sound of rain just made the sleeping that much better for me.

NOTE: The husband-wife proprietor at La Pergola were sour pusses. Not very nice at all. We LOVED this hotel, but they put a damper on it. The “momma” who helped at the front desk was delightful though. The sour pusses wouldn’t keep us from going back here but I have to be honest in saying that they didn’t make us feel welcome.

Addresses:

Milano By Car
Via Luigi Mancinelli, 19
20131 Milano
39 02 28510772
Fax: 02 700400426
www.milanobycar.com
[email protected]
Oklahoma_Traveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:23 PM
  #15  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
BELLAGIO DAY TWO:

The night before, we had decided that we would spend this day going to Milan to shop … not for anything in particular, but POSSIBLY to find hubby a new business suit and a “power tie.” We woke and decided that even though it was still raining, quite hard at times, that we would still go as the rain might keep some of the crowds away. And anyway, we had our raincoats!

Breakfast was the usual European fare – muesli-type cereals, ham, cheeses, breads, yogurts, and fresh fruit. Coffee stronger than you can imagine too! We ate heartily, packed up our backpack with water and energy bars, put on our rain coats and walked to Bellagio. THIS time, the walked didn’t seem so bad – probably because by now we new what to expect! On the way, we saw a restaurant, Bilarus, which had been highly recommended on Fodors as a place to eat. It was already open and hubby walked in and got us 9:00 p.m. dinner reservations (we didn’t know how late we’d be returning from Milan). Got to the ferry in plenty of time, bought our roundtrip ferry tickets to Varenna, and waited under a tree. When we got to Varenna, the rain was coming down quite hard so we elected to take a very short taxi ride to the train station.

I couldn’t figure out how to buy a train ticket at the station but someone mentioned we could buy the ticket on the train. That kind of stressed me out but it worked! About 20 minutes before arriving in Milan, the train guy came along and sure enough we were able to purchase our tickets then and there!

Getting out at Milano Centrale was kind of intimidating – aren’t all things that are new, especially if you are surrounded by a foreign language!!?? I was determined to get our train tickets to Monte Carlo before we left the train station so I first went to a ticket machine. I couldn’t get the Monte Carlo tickets but I was able to buy our return train ticket to Varenna. Using the automatic ticket machines was very easy! We had to stand in line for international tickets for the tickets to Monte Carlo. The line moved pretty slowly and it took us at least 30 minutes before we had our tickets and were on our way. I am glad we have this little detail worked out – we purchased 2 one-way first class tickets for just about 90 euros.

Outside, it didn’t look like were anywhere near the heart of Milan (too industrial) so we took a cab to the Duomo. Good choice as it would have been a LONG walk there! The cabbie told us that during this particular week in Milan that most of the shops and restaurants were closed for holiday. I’ve heard that before and been in Milan in August when everything was open. NOT TODAY! Milan was a ghost town. I would guess that at least 80% of the establishments were closed. So, it wasn’t the rain that kept people away. It was the “holiday.” By the way, by now the rain had stopped and we no longer needed our raincoats though it was still cloudy and dreary outside.

First stop in Milan was the Galleria shopping area. We walked down all four wings of it, stopping in just a few of the shops but made no purchases as nothing grabbed us. We then walked across the street and got right into the Duomo. In 2001, the line to get in was quite long and wound around the building. We strolled through the Duomo and were struck by how massive it was. The prettiest thing in the Duomo – to me at least – were the stained glass windows. On one set, we were able to determine that each window told a piece of Jesus’ life – from conception through to his crucifixion. On another set of windows, we figured out they were stories from the old testament – creation, Adam and Eve, Cain killing Abel, Noah receiving the 10 commandments. These windows were absolutely beautiful!

After leaving the we took another taxi to Ristorante Nabucco, a very good restaurant we had eaten at in 2001. We were THRILLED when we saw that Nabucco was open as, like I said earlier, MOST restaurants were closed. We got a table inside and had an incredible lunch. And incredible wine! Always … incredible wine!

From Nabucco, we walked a short way and then got on the subway back to Milano Centrale. It didn’t make any sense to stay longer in Milan as it was essentially a closed town! We were amazed at the cleanliness of the subway. Fortunately, a subway worker saw we were struggling with the ticket machine and he helped us (he had to help us twice in fact as I was so slow!) purchase our tickets. In just about 5 minutes after getting on the subway, we were back at Milano Centrale. We found a departure/arrival board and determined our train would be arriving on track 6 in about 45 minutes. At about 40 minutes, hubby left and went to the restroom. I decided to check the departure time again and discovered we were supposed to be on TRACK 8!!! I had to hurry and find hubby and we then had to hurry over the track 8 where our train had been sitting for quite some time.

Most of the train cars looked packed so we felt lucky to finally find one that had seats in it. We sat across from each other but after the first stop some people got off and we were able to snag two better seats next to each other. I knew it was too good to be true as just before arriving in Varenna the ticket policewoman came through and told us we were in a first class car and would have to pay the difference and a fine. The difference was only 2.40 euros but the fine was 5 euros. AND, we had forgotten to get our tickets validated before getting on the train. I even knew we were supposed to do this (because of this board) and simply forgot. Oh well … something TOLD me this was a first class car when we sat down and I should have followed my instincts.

The ferry ride from Varenna back to Bellagio was, again, beautiful and only took about 15 minutes. It was about 6:15 p.m. and we walked along the lake to see if we could go to the gardens of Villa Melzi (sp?). They had just closed at 6:00 p.m. Drat! We then walked slowly back through town with the intention of going back to our hotel and cleaning up for our dinner reservations. We stopped at a few more stores and one in particular caught my attention. It was Arte e Moda and it had BEAUTIFUL scarves and ties in the window. We wandered in and the designer himself, Pierangelo Masciadri, was in the shop and showed us around. He had designed ties worn by Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and George Bush. And his work was extraordinary. His designs were on scarves, ties, cummerbunds, purses, glasses cases, etc. And they all were exquisite. Hubby found his power tie! The tie cost 70 euros which IS a lot but for the quality and beauty of it, and the fact that we met the artisan, we felt like the splurge.

Since it was now 7:00 p.m., we peaked our head into Bilarus and found that they could seat us then so instead of going back to our hotel and then returning at 9:00 p.m., we went ahead and took the 7:00 p.m. seating, even though we were not that hungry. What an experience!! The setting, though just on a street and not along the lake, was also under a pergola like at our hotel. It was beautifully arranged and the weather was just right. The wine was a 1995 vintage that had to be decantered and it was delicious. My appetizer was worth coming here alone. It was ravioli filled with cheese and cooked in some type of oil and butter sauce. Decadent. Hubby and I both had steaks – his had a spicy, mustard sauce and mine had a milder peppercorn sauce. The steaks were very tender (though maybe a little undercooked for our tastes) and we enjoyed this meal immensely. Fodors did it again! No dessert, but we did have cappuccinos – fast becoming our new favorite dessert! Dinner cost 95 euro.

We left the restaurant a little before 9:00 p.m. and there were just traces of light out. We walked back to our hotel in the dusk and it was just a lovely ending to a lovely day. We were in bed by 10:00 p.m., intending to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding. I was asleep before the opening credits finished and hubby was asleep shortly thereafter!

Addresses:

Ristorante Bilarus
Bellagio
Salita Serbolloni
Lagodi Como
031 0950480

Ristorante Nabucco
Via Fiori Chiari, 10
20121 Milano
02860663
Fax: 028361014
www.nabucco.it
[email protected]

Arte e Moda (designer tie shop)
Salita Mella, 19
Salita Plinio, 6
Bellagio
031 959967
Fax: 031 682965
www.masciadri.it
[email protected]
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:24 PM
  #16  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
BELLAGIO DAY THREE:

We both awoke about 6:00 but stayed in bed until 8:00 though I’m not sure the last 2 hours were good sleep. It had rained again during the night/early morning and we were a little disappointed. We had decided this would be our lazy day and that we would do some reading and relaxing by the lake. But the sun is not out and doesn’t look like it’s going to be either!

Breakfast was the same as yesterday. And after breakfast, I got my computer and sat under the pergola and worked on my diary while hubby sat closer to the lake and began reading a biography of Casanova. We pretty much didn’t do anything but read and rest up until lunch time.

Lunch was at our hotel – hubby had a pasta soup and I had spaghetti with meat sauce and the olive/cheese salad again. It was still raining so we went to our room to watch Gods & Generals (a movie about the Civil War) and to nap. Finally, at about 4:00 p.m., though still raining, we could stand it no longer. We HAD to get out and leave the hotel as it was getting a little claustrophobic! We put on our rain coats and headed to town.

First stop was the internet café where I sent a few emails and hubby caught up on some office emails. Then down the big hill/steps to walk along the water front (still raining). We decided to walk to the Villa Melzi even though it was 5:30 and it closed at 6:00. We wished we had gone earlier as the gardens were absolutely beautiful. Again, we didn’t have any background on what we were seeing so we had no clue about the history of this place – just that it was breathtakingly beautiful. The “museum” was quite small and there were some pieces that indicated Napoleon had been an influence here at one time. At about 5:59, we exited the garden on the opposite side of town and we purchased a small book about the villa and gardens. The book states that in 1808, Francesco Melzi d’Eril commissioned architect Giocondo Albertolli to build one of the most beautiful villas in Italy. Francesco Melzi d’Eril was vice president of the Cisalpine Republic and later became the great chancellor of the Italian kingdom and personal friend of Napoleon who conferred on him the title of Duke of Lodi. Melzi wanted to build a villa for himself worthy of his title. The entrance fee to the Villa Melzi was 12 euro for both of us.

Since we were now on the opposite side of town and the garden gates were closed, we would have to go back to our hotel a different route. However, we new that on this side was the Hotel Silvio and we were wanting to eat dinner there anyway so we decided to find it to make dinner reservations. It was not too hard to find (i.e., we did NOT get lost but at times I was worried!) but part of our trek included climbing another 150 steps. No wonder the Italians are all skinny!!! We found the hotel and its restaurant appeared to have a great view of the lake. We made dinner reservations for 7:30 p.m. and asked directions back to Pescallo and our hotel. The directions, for the most part, were given in Italian but with our interpretation of a few words and the hand gestures that accompanied the directions, we were able to find our hotel. It was not a bad walk at all (though it included walking across about three football fields) and, in fact, we enjoyed it after having been cooped up in the hotel most of the day.

We only had about 30 minutes to clean up before we needed to head back to Hotel Silvio. It had stopped raining but as it was still “rainy” we took our rain coats. The walk back to Hotel Silvio was even easier than the walk from there as this time we went a little different way and we were able to stay on roads the entire route – no football fields! We were seated immediately and the older woman who had given us directions made some comments in Italian that I interpreted to be, “Hey – Good for you. You found your hotel and got back OK!” They are already nicer to us here than they are at Hotel La Pergola!

Our view was incredible. We sat right by the window, high above Lake Como. There were some antennas on houses as well as satellite dishes to interfere with the view but they were miniscule interferences when compared with the vast panoramic view we had.

We started our evening off with glasses of prosecco (sp?). This time, we only ordered two courses each but they were identical. The first course was a white lake fish pan fried and served over white rice. OH-MY-GAWD! This was by far and away THE BEST fish I have ever had – EVER. The restaurant only serves fish that they catch in the lake themselves and it is never over 24 hours old! Our second course was another white fish with a green salsa over it. It was served with potatoes and a tomato stuffed with something really yummy though I don’t know what it was! We had chosen a red Valpolicello (sp?) wine and were astounded at how good it tasted as the entire bottle only cost $12! We have decided this is one of our best meals on the trip and maybe one of our best meals ever. Dinner, including wine and tip, was 80 euro.

To make the evening more delightful, we struck up a conversation with people sitting next to us, a couple from Australia. They were staying in the hotel and were coming to the end of a 5-week trip. They were wonderful people to talk with and before the evening was over, we had pushed our tables together and were discussing our travels, etc. The woman loved travel and travel planning as much as I do – my soulmate!! – so we compared notes on how we find our great hotels. She uses www.viamichelin.com and I told her about the Fodors website which she had never heard of. Pat, our new friend the travel nut, insisted we come to their room so that she could show me some of her travel research. Their room was not as nice as ours at La Pergola but they had a balcony and a commanding view of the lake. Hubby and I had a big laugh about Pat’s travel book – it looked just like mine (only hers was green) with its plastic folders to hold info, etc. These were wonderful people who invited us to look them up if we ever get to Australia. By far one of our favorite things about travel are the wonderful people you meet.

A sucky, rainy day turned into a wonderfully delightful evening because of the great food and great company we found!

Addresses:

Hotel Silvio
Via P. Carcano, 12
22021 Bellagio
031 950322
Fax: 031 950912
[email protected]
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Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:24 PM
  #17  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
BELLAGIO DAY FOUR:

Our last day in Bellagio and we woke up to overcast skies again. Drat! As fate would have it, we would not see the sun in Bellagio until the day we left.

After breakfast, the “momma” of the hotel gave us two boxes as we were going to try to mail home some of our things. OK, maybe the luggage was starting to get to us!! She directed us to a paper store to buy paper to wrap the boxes in. After we purchased the paper, tape and postcards, we followed the same street to the restaurant, La Punta, to make 8:00 p.m. dinner reservations. La Punta means “the point” and this restaurant is situated just there – at the point of land where Lake Como breaks off into the “Y.”

Before heading back to La Pergola, we stopped by the post office to see if the boxes would need to remain open (for customs inspection) and finding out that they did not we then returned to La Pergola to pack and prepare the boxes for mailing. I am soooooooo glad we did this. We were able to get the Frette linens, the Murano glassware, and tons of clothing in the two boxes. This eliminated one of our suitcases and we were now back to five bags! But now we had to make a 2nd trip into town – but this time with two heavy boxes! It was rough –hubby carried both boxes himself halfway up the first 157 steps. I carried one the 2nd half and then all the way into town to the post office.

The post office experience was long. We had to get the boxes weighed and then fill out two forms for each box then wait in line again to pay the postage. We decided to send the boxes by ship as air mail cost over twice as much. The total process took about 40 minutes but, again, this helped us out so much. We can handle five pieces of luggage but no more! It cost us 93 euro to mail back two very large and very heavy boxes. (They arrived in two weeks!)

We had decided to visit Villa Carlotta but as the ferry didn’t leave for 1-1/2 hours, we decided to eat a quick lunch. We ate at Café San Remo (right on the promenade by the lake) and it was just barely OK. We both had pizza but it wasn’t the thin crust that we like so much. And our aperitif (which was like the Spritz of Venice but this time with Campari) was yucky. The best part of the meal was the Coke Light and the people watching! Luckily, lunch only cost 14 euro.

It was really a very cool day and I had on a sleeveless top. Before getting on a ferry, I knew I’d need something on my shoulders. So, I bought a beautiful multi-bronze colored scarf, the designer of which was “Laura” (my first name) and the designer’s name was stamped on the scarf too! After lunch and scarf shopping, we were on our way to buy gelato when we ran into our friends from Australia. They were going to Villa Carlotta as well AND on the same ferry!

We sat with our new friends on the ferry over to Villa Carlotta (ferry ride was 11 euro for two and the entrance fee to the villa was 14 euro for two) and toured the garden and villa with them. Pat was extremely knowledgeable about plants and she was able to point out several varieties of plants, flowers and shrubs. We would have been clueless as to the significance of most of the plants we saw if it had not been for Pat. The gardens surrounding Villa Carlotta are exquisite! Every kind of flower, tree, shrub or plant that you can imagine – from bamboo to palm trees, azaleas to Christmas ivy -- are in the garden. The villa had been a wedding gift to Carlotta from her mother and we were never quite sure if SHE had had the garden planted or if the villa came with the gardens. (Again, more research needed. Just who is Carlotta??)

Inside the villa, we were so impressed with both the view of the lake (the villa is directly across the lake from Bellagio and you can also see Villa Melzi from it) AND the furnishings. It had some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen – most as good or better than what I’ve seen in museums! As we wanted to catch the next ferry (if we didn’t, it would be another 45 before the next one came along), we rushed through the 2nd floor of the villa. We would LOVE to come back here in the spring when more flowers (azaleas) are blooming.

Back in Bellagio, we bade our new friends farewell for the 2nd time, with joint promises to email each other. Meeting them was certainly a highlight of this trip!

We were back in our room by 4:30 p.m. Time for napping and watching the last of “My Big, Fat Greek Wedding.” When that was over, we got up and got about 90% of our packing done. All that remained out was what we would need for dinner and traveling the next day. Hubby went ahead and showered up and got ready for dinner at La Punta and headed for the internet café before dinner. I was going to meet him there an hour later. After I showered up and dried my hair, I had an “incident” with my curling iron – a little matter of not using the transformer when I plugged it in! The first swipe of my hair, and it literally burnt it to a crisp, breaking off immediately. The hair that had been wrapped around the iron burned black in just seconds. The smell was awful! I did this same thing back in 2001 – you would have thought I had learned my lesson then!

Met hubby at the internet café (this is now the THIRD trip from Pescallo to Bellagio – about 460 steps uphill and 175 downhill total!) and we walked the one kilometer to La Punta. The restaurant was almost empty and we were able to have a good table outside. La Punta was another Fodors-recommended restaurant and again we were not disappointed. The view was breathtaking (I know – I am overusing that word but it fits!) and hampered only by the dreary skies. You are literally at the point of the “Y” and you have a spectacular view of Varenna across the lake.

Dinner was very good, but not nearly as fantastic as the dinner at Hotel Silvio. I had baked lasagna for my first course and then we both had fish for the main course. The wine was local and very good, as always. Service was fast and we were served our food much quicker than before, probably because the restaurant was so empty. We surmised the restaurant was empty as this was a Monday night, and a cold night at that! After eating, hubby and I took our wine and walked out to the water’s edge where he smoked only the 2nd cigar of the trip! As I was cold, he insisted I go back to the restaurant while he finished up his cigar – which didn’t take long at all. Dinner at La Punta was 80 euro.

When he returned, we moved to a table inside the restaurant. Here, we had cappuccino and dessert (cream caramel – a custard with caramel and chocolate drizzled over it) before finally leaving. This restaurant had a beautiful setting, a very nice wait staff, and very good food. We will return – hopefully to see a sunset the next time!

Walking back into Bellagio, we found a shop still open (it was 10:30 p.m.!!). Hubby (who, by the way, loves shopping more than any woman I know) had been in there earlier in the day and had seen a couple of ties he liked. We purchased two very colorful ties for him and he also bought me a shear green scarf. Next, we headed to a bar that hubby thought looked interesting: The Divine Comedy. We walked in to get a drink and were told there were three rooms: (1) Heaven, (2) Purgatory, and (3) Hell. We chose to take our drinks in Purgatory! We only had one Baileys on ice each – our first Baileys on this trip. This bar is only open from 9:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and we must have hit it before things got hopping as it was also deserted like the restaurant had been. After our drink, we walked slowly back to the hotel, marveling how out of 4 days we had only seen the sun the first day, and then only for a few hours!

Hubby made a call to the office and was yelled out from down below to keep quiet! He WAS talking a little loud. To add insult to injury, this “shout out” came from the people who were in Room1 – the room we had wanted with a balcony but didn’t get!!! When he came to bed, we popped in the movie, Presume Innocent, and quickly fell to sleep.

Addresses:

La Divina Commedia
Salita Mella 43-45
22021 Bellagio
031 951680

La Punta Ristorante
Via E. Vitali 19
22021 Bellagio
031 951888
Oklahoma_Traveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:25 PM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
MONTE CARLO DAY ONE:

We had breakfast promptly at 8:00 a.m. and our driver who was to drive us to the Milan train station was already at our hotel (we were scheduled to leave at 9:00 a.m.). We had a quick breakfast and marveled at the sun finally showing up in Bellagio on the day we were leaving. Hubby snapped as many pictures as he could before we had to leave. We paid the hotel bill (420 euro for four nights – a steal) and thanked the “momma” working there for helping us get our boxes – she was really the ONLY hotel worker who was nice to us.

We left Bellagio at about 8:30 a.m. with our driver, Adrian, from Milano by Car (address listed earlier). He was very charming and talked with us quite a bit on our way to Milano Centrale. The drive to Milan took only a couple of hours and Adrian not only helped with our luggage initially, he took us all the way to the track. What service!!! The cost of the driver from Bellagio to Milan was 160 euro.

We purchased sandwiches and water for the train ride and only had to wait about 45 minutes before our train arrived. We were lucky to find our proper train car and our reserved seats pretty easily. The train ride was scenic and interesting and took almost five hours -- the last two of it were along the Italian coastline.

Arriving in Monte Carlo, you could already tell from the train station that this was an upscale place. The train station was quite swank and sleek! We got off without too much trouble considering the amount of luggage we had and we made our way through the train station to the exit. Unfortunately, when we finally reached street level and “outside” we were stymied as there were no signs for where to grab a taxi. This was totally unexpected on my part! We looked very lost and as I was looking at a map of the city, two French older men tried to help me. But they spoke no English! They finally got across to me that the taxis did not stop at the train station and that we had to call our hotel and have them send one for us. Strange – at least to us!

Fortunately, just as we were standing around looking lost, a driver of a van was letting out several passengers. After the driver had gotten the passengers on their way into the train station, hubby asked him if he could transport us to Hotel de Paris. He had to call his company first and have them call him back. Some sort of red tape thing! He was, indeed, able to take us to the Hotel de Paris and when we got us to the Hotel de Paris, he insisted on dropping us at the front and taking our luggage himself to the porter who would deliver it to our room. We found out later that no luggage is allowed through the lobby of the Hotel de Paris – well, lah-dee-dah!! Ha! The cost for the transport from the train station to the hotel was 20.

Monte Carlo is quite hilly and beautiful. There was tons of traffic on the way to the hotel but it was a short drive nonetheless. Just getting out of the car we were quite taken with the beauty of the architecture AND the amount of extremely expensive cars parked outside!! Bentleys, Rolls Royces, Maseratis, Ferraris, Jaguars, Mercedes, BMW’s – you name it, if it was an expensive luxury car, it was parked in front of our hotel.

The Hotel de Paris is everything it was cracked up to be. Opulent wouldn’t even describe it. Sooooooo beautiful. Marble everywhere. Very classy and old world rich looking – none of that nouveau riche crap here! Check in went surprisingly fast, too. We sat at a little private desk and within 3 minutes we had our personal escort ready to take us to our room, Room 411 in the Rotunde part of the hotel. The escort took us to our room, opened up the doors to the verandah, told us where the spa was, and left. Just before she left, though, I spilled the beans and asked her where the bottle of champagne was that I had pre-ordered (the next day would be hubby’s 50th birthday and I wanted to start the festivities off early). She said it was on its way – if I had only waited two more minutes or asked her privately it would have been a very big surprise for hubby.

Our room was gorgeous and huge! It faced the Mediterranean Sea and had a tiny balcony. There was a king-sized bed with very nice linens. Two HUGE closets and one smaller closet with built in drawers. A rather large flat screened TV and a nice writing desk and chair. Also another easy chair. The bathroom was huge, with a separate toilet/bidet room. The tub was huge and there was a glassed in shower. Even bathroom scales (ugh!). The bathroom amenities were Hermes and I am not ashamed to say I took them all home with me! AND, I took both pairs of house shoes because they said “Hotel de Paris” on them. I’m sure my Mastercard will be charged!!!

The champagne literally arrived within two minutes of our escort leaving and within five minutes of us stepping foot in the hotel. And along with it came a tray of goodies – mmmmm, mmmmm, mmmmm! The porter who brought the champagne also uncorked it for us and poured our first glasses for us before he left.

This was kind of a fun moment in our trip. Here we were in “the world’s most expensive hotel” (not really), looking out onto the Mediterranean Sea and the Monte Carlo Casino below, sipping champagne, eating French goodies, and feeling pretty spoiled, just about 12 hours from hubby’s 50th birthday! We spent the next half hour or so talking about hubby’s first 49 years and 364 days.

We decided to check out the spa – it was really cool looking, with a hallway leading to it that reminded both of us of the “hall of mirrors” in Versailles. On the way back to our room, we got lost and ended up in the lobby of the Hotel Hermitage. How’d we do that??!! Apparently the hotels share the spa and it is connected by a tunnel. Who knew??!! Before going back to our room, we headed down the street a short distance to the restaurant, Rampoldi, which had been recommended to us by the maitre d’. Hubby made an 8:30 p.m. dinner reservation and we headed back to the hotel. Interestingly, the waiter had also recommended Train Bleu as a place to eat – it is a restaurant in the Monte Carlo Casino. But when we walked into the casino to check it out, they wanted to charge us the 10 euro per person entrance fee – we didn’t want to do that JUST to check out a restaurant. HOWEVER, if we had been thinking, we could have used our “Gold Card” which was given to us as guests at Hotel de Paris and which gave us free entrance into the casino and the spa.

As we didn’t even arrive at the hotel until about 6:00 p.m., it was now close to 7:30. We went back to the room and cleaned up for dinner – not too dressy but hubby wasn’t allowed to wear shorts to Rampoldi so he had to change from what he was wearing when he made the reservation.

When we arrived at Rampoldi, the restaurant was already filling up. They sat us (as promised) at an outdoor table, right next to the foot traffic. GREAT place – and I do mean GREAT – to people watch! It was a tight squeeze sitting where we did – really close to the people next to us but that’s how they do things in Europe!! Hubby and I could barely talk to each other as we were busy gawking at all the “pretty people” walking by. One of those “pretty people” walking by and who actually ate at Rampoldi was Liza Minelli and her entourage of about six others. She walked right past us and I was too busy gawking to get the camera out. I did try to get a picture of her kissing the maitre d’ but she just looks like a fuzzy blog!

I just cannot describe the people who walked by and who were eating at Rampoldi. EVERYONE looked and acted rich – super rich. Their clothing was the latest fashions, they dripped in jewels, the women AND men didn’t “walk” by, they “strolled” by. I think it was just about then that hubby and I realized “we are not in Kansas any more!!” Some very, very beautiful women ate at Rampoldi this night – they all looked like supermodels. They were so beautiful, all of them, that I couldn’t even get upset at hubby for looking at them. Heck, I was looking at them!

Back to dinner at Rampoldi – it was GREAT. And part of what made it great was we had a very, very nice Italian waiter who was very hurried and harried at times but always kind. In fact, he thanked US for being so kind and patient with him as other patrons were not. Hubby and I shared Chateaubriand and it was pretty good, though not fantastic. What made this restaurant great was the people watching, its location and the staff. Dinner cost 250 euro.

Back to our room where I took a bubble bath before we both headed off to bed. By the time I was done bathing and hubby was off the phone (he had made a few business calls), it was officially August 24 and his 50th birthday. The mood just struck me to give him his birthday gifts then and there – 12:30 a.m.!!!

The first gift I gave him was a “birthday wish book” which I had compiled. It consisted of birthday wishes to him from our family and friends (over 80 birthday wishes!). It took him about 30 minutes to read through them all. Some were funny, some were poignant, some were just straight to the point – Happy Birthday! Then, I gave him his REAL birthday gift – a pair of sapphire and diamond Faberge cufflinks. These were cufflinks he had seen in New York back in October of 2004. He fell in love with these cufflinks but would buy them for himself. So, I went back the next day and haggled with the jeweler and bought them for him. They had been in my bedroom closet for 10 months! I wanted to have a nice birthday present for him because in relation to the cost of this trip, I didn’t think a shirt from Lands End or a DVD would be appropriate. Ha!

Hubby was very gracious when he opened up the cuff links. At first he didn’t realize they were the SAME cuff links he had been so taken with back in 2004 as he thought THESE cufflinks were black and not blue sapphire! When I pointed out they were the same Faberge cufflinks from New York he was surprised – really surprised. And elated. The cufflinks just looked black because of the bedroom lighting! The cufflinks ARE beautiful and they are numbered 27 of 1,000 cufflinks of this style. My husband spoils me ridiculously so it felt good to spoil him for once.

We couldn’t go to sleep so we ordered a movie in the room, “Up A Creek Without A Paddle,” which was pretty poorly acted and not very funny. Really, a bad movie. At 3:00 a.m., we turned the TV off and finally went to sleep.

Addresses:

Hotel La Pergola
Piazza del Porto, 4
22021 Bellagio
(located in the fishing village of Pescallo)
031 950263
Fax: 031 950253

Rampoldi Restaurant
(Sorry – can’t find the address but it’s on a main street just around the corner from the Hotel de Paris)
Oklahoma_Traveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:26 PM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
MONTE CARLO DAY TWO:

Hubby’s 50th Birthday!!!

We were awoken early (6:05 a.m.) by a happy birthday call from husband’s daughter – sweet! Hubby stayed up after the phone call but I went back to sleep and slept until 8:30 a.m. when our previously ordered room service breakfast arrived. This breakfast was befitting a king – or at least a birthday boy! Coffee, tea, two HUGE fruit plates, a basket of assorted breads, pancakes, milk, potatoes, (runny) scrambled eggs ….. we ate way too much which quite scarily was becoming a habit!

After breakfast, we waddled to the spa for a work out. While in the workout room, the musician Yanni came in and worked out right along with us. He is a lot shorter than I thought he would be AND a lot buffer. Very, very fit! I don’t know his nationality but he looked to be Greek and he didn’t look much older than he had when I had seen him on TV last (he has lots of TV commercials for his music).

After workout, we took the hotel shuttle to the Beach of Monte Carlo – we had free admittance with our “gold card.” However, free admittance did NOT get us a chair at the beach and, instead, we were relegated to the pool. Not bad digs, but we had really wanted to be at the beach. I sunbathed and hubby read – and we both people-watched, fast becoming our favorite Monaco pastime (it’s the only thing we can afford!). Some topless gals but not many. Hubby ordered us the “local” drink which was a bunch of fruit pureed together with some rum added in. I didn’t like it very much (too much watermelon) so hubby drank them both – of course he did because they cost 20 euros each!!! Hubby walked over to the beach and swam in the Mediterranean which he enjoyed immensely. As I wanted a picture of him, I wanted to go back there which we did about an hour later. UNFORTUNATELY, just as we got back to the beach, the camera battery died so I have no pictures of hubby on his birthday swimming in the Mediterranean. I will just have to remember what it looked like! NOTE: The first time hubby swam, he was stung by jellyfish three times. The second time he swam, he was stung once. Crazy man! The second time he swam, he helped two young boys catch some jellyfish – boys will be boys!!

We only stayed at the Beach of Monte Carlo about two hours. Plenty of time to get some sun, look at people (a few who were bare breasted and shouldn’t have been, a few who were bare breasted and should have thought about a cover up!), and get sleepy. We caught the shuttle back to the hotel just in time for napping! Vacations are great in this regard! After getting up, we tried to do a little shopping. By “try” I mean that we looked at some things but there was no buying going on. We have laughed because we feel like we have saved money in Monaco as we can’t afford to buy anything! I saw shoes I liked for 990 euros and a cute – just CUTE, not even beautiful or elegant – shirt that I liked for 395 euros. YIKES! Prices like that make it no fun to even look!

We decided to go to the ultimate people-watching spot – our hotel bar, Bar Americain, which is right off the hotel lobby. We sat there and had the world’s most expensive drinks – I ordered a “Fiesta” (something with champagne in it) and hubby ordered a Mojita – both cost 22 euros each. We switched drinks as I liked the Mojita better and hubby liked the Fiesta better. The snacks they brought with the drinks ended up being our late lunch.

The lobby was a perfect place to see people who were probably important – they sure walked around like they were, at least. We have concluded that we are glad we got to see Monte Carlo but that we don’t really like it very much. That probably sounds weird to say since we really did have a good time there!

By now it was 7:30 p.m. and time to get ready for hubby’s special birthday dinner. He wore his tux and new cufflinks and I wore a formal gown I had worn on the cruise. We headed down to the lobby of the hotel as that is where the restaurant, Louis XV, was located. We looked quite dashing if I don’t mind saying so myself!

We were immediately seated outside at a table for two. That’s when the fawning began. Every few minutes, there was wait staff at our side, bringing us something, changing silverware, reading the menu to us – you name it, they were VERY attentive. Louis XV restaurant is world famous because of its chef, Alain Ducasse, and we had chosen this restaurant because of its reputation. A very nice waiter read the entire menu to us – it was in French with NO English subtitles! We finally settled on pigeon for my main course and hubby settled on lamb. The sad thing is that by the time our entrees arrived, we were already stuffed. And a little tipsy. As soon as we sat down, they gave us both a glass of champagne. And, for dinner we had only a half bottle of a local red wine, but it worked its magic as we were very tired! Before our appetizers arrived, they brought us both a different dish “compliments of the chef.” I call this the pre-appetizer appetizer. Then we had our appetizers – mine was a salad and hubby’s was fois gras. Oh yeah, before that, they brought out a HUGE basket of bread to choose from. We shared the second course – cannelloni stuffed with spinach. THEN, our main course, which I mentioned we were too stuffed to eat much of. Hubby ate more of his than I did (I only had two bites of pigeon). Before we got our pre-appetizer appetizer, they had had us order our desserts. VERY crafty of them as we wouldn’t have ordered dessert after our entrees!

Before the desserts arrived, they brought us out, once again “compliments of the chef,” what I call the pre-dessert dessert. It was a tray of raspberry cookies, lemon tart cookies, and some chocolate cookies. Oh yeah, a box of four chocolates arrived too. THEN our desserts came. Did I mention we were already stuffed? I had ordered some sort of custard thing (not even sure what it was). Hubby had a cake-like thing that they poured rum all over. Did I mentioned we had already had plenty to drink? His cake-like thing was quite stout with the rum on it so he wasn’t able to drink the tiny cup of rum they left along with it! Then, it was time for the post-dessert desserts. They brought us these long marshmallow “things” that they cut off from a long section of marshmallow and handed them to us. Then they brought us out a single “nougat” each. THEN they brought us out a chocolate wrapped in cellophane. By my count, we had about eight desserts total. We drank coffee to cap off the evening and finally waddled out of the restaurant at about 11:00 p.m. A three-hour eating orgy. Oh yeah, when we left, they gave us a box of cookies (JUST IN CASE WE WERE STILL HUNGRY!) and they gave hubby a birthday gift – an ash tray!

Our assessment of Louis XV is this: Ambience, 5 stars. Attention of staff and quality of service, 5 stars. Quality of food, 4 stars (though the entrees were only 3 stars). The food was very interestingly cooked and the presentation was 5 star all the way. However, we would rate the overall dining experience as a 3-1/2 stars. Why only 3-1/2 stars? It just seemed all a little ostentatious to us. Good, REALY good, food. GREAT service. BEAUTIFUL setting. Just a little too over the top for us. I haven’t felt like a hick in a long time (not to say that I shouldn’t!!) but I did this night! I am not even going to tell how much it cost. Think new set of tires.

At any rate, it was STILL fun and we are aghast at our good fortune and luck to be able to have experiences like these!!

At almost midnight, we walked over to the Monte Carlo Casino, showed our passports and “gold cards” to get in, and found a roulette table. We were going to bet 100 euros on the number “23” – that’s the number of people in hubby’s office – and if we won, we would give it to his employees (with 32-1 odds, that would have been about a 3,200 euro winning). Alas, it was not to be. The number that came up was 18 but interestingly the number most bet on during that roll was 23! Hubby went outside to call his office and let them know we were losers. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh! We walked around just a few more minutes and found no craps tables (my favorite game). Probably a good thing. We did, however, want to gamble A LITTLE so we spent 20 euros on the video poker slot machines. Only took us about six minutes to lose our shirts – ha!

It was not extraordinarily late, but we were so tired. I think it was a combination of the sun, predinner drinks, a huge meal, champagne and wine at dinner – all that served to make us just really, really tired.

I’m not sure about how hubby’s actual birthday went. I know we had a fun day but we feel that Monte Carlo and all its trappings are (forgive me) kind of shallow – I am not convinced we picked the right place for his birthday. I just don’t know. Only time will tell if our memories of this night will be hugely fond or not!
Oklahoma_Traveler is offline  
Sep 23rd, 2005, 02:26 PM
  #20  
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 104
NICE DAY ONE:

We woke at about 8:30 and decided to pack up. Hubby’s one request when we checked into Hotel de Paris was to NOT have to repack until just before we left. Not much to ask for your birthday, huh? (I am the packing nazi and usually like to be packed up and ready to go the night before.) It took us about an hour to get our things together and then we went to the hotel restaurant, Cote Jardin, for breakfast. We figured it couldn’t be as expensive as room service had been the day before! It wasn’t – “only” 70 euros total for a breakfast buffet. The buffet itself was good, but we were surprised that a restaurant in a hotel of this stature kept running out of things – eggs, bacon …. But the food did taste good and we were able to eat outside, just across the harbor. You can’t beat the setting.

We went back to the room, brushed our teeth, and called for a bellman to take our luggage down. By the time I checked out of the hotel (which only took about four minutes), the luggage was already being put into a taxi.

We asked our lady taxi driver if she would take us by the Grimaldi Palace on our way to Nice which she did. She was a very nice woman and she waited patiently while we got out of the car at the palace and took pictures. The drive to Nice only took about 30 minutes from the palace (costing 75 euro). She took the scenic route (lower corniche) and we saw the Mediterranean almost the entire way. We arrived at our hotel in Nice, La Perouse, at about noon but our room wouldn’t be ready until 1:30. The very, very nice desk clerk showed us where the restroom was and told us we could sit out by the garden while our room was being readied. Actually, we sat by the pool and both of us took short naps. The weather was divine and just perfect for sitting in the shade (or the sun as hubby did for a short while) and napping!

We got into our room promptly at 1:30 p.m. and it was a very lovely room with a very large terrace with a table and chairs and two lounge chairs. The terrace is about the same size as our room and it overlooks the hotel restaurant and just a little further beyond (over some rooftops) is the Mediterranean Sea. We were very, very pleased with our accommodations. We took a short nap and then went down to the hotel restaurant for lunch. We split a club sandwich which came with a huge order of DELICIOUS French fries and both had a Coke Light (our new favorite drink!!). This meal only cost us 29 euros and we enjoyed it a lot more than the expensive meal at Louis XV last night! AND, 10 euros of that 29 euro price were for the Coke Lights – a little expensive, huh??!!

After lunch, we put on our swimsuits and headed for the beach, just across the street from the hotel. There are hundreds of lounge chairs which you have to rent – at 10 euros each for ½ day. We rented two and settled in for a couple of hours. The “beach” is completely rocks. No sand at all. And the surf comes almost to the edge where the rocks begin. Hubby swam in the sea and, though he enjoyed it immensely, he thought the water yesterday at Monte Carlo Beach was prettier (clearer). Again, just a few topless women. But, GROSS! Most of them were elderly with breasts sagging to their navels and tummies sticking out past their chests! Only a few beauties. Lots of men in Speedos, though! We stayed right at two hours and had bottles of Evian water (9 euros total). Since it wasn’t the heat of the day (it was about 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.) we didn’t get too hot and I don’t believe we got too much sun either. Just a beautiful day to be lying by the sea!

Walked back to the hotel where hubby bathed and I worked on our travel diary. We ordered up a bottle of red wine and a salad (which we just picked at) and we ate energy bars. No dinner tonight as our breakfast was huge and our lunch was late and the wine is filling! It was a beautiful early evening on our terrace –hubby read and I typed away on my travel diary. We couldn’t ask for a better place to relax.

Our room was quite nice – decorated in taupes and tans. There is no internet connection but there are movies that can be ordered. The main drawback to our room is that our hotel sits directly on the flight pattern for incoming planes to the airport in Nice. There is quite a bit of jet noise. But it finally subsided once it got late!

We decided to take a late walk into Nice. We’ve been here eight hours and haven’t even seen the town yet!!! By the time we left the hotel it was already 8:00 p.m. and a beautiful evening. The old part of Nice was just a couple of blocks from our hotel. It was filled with markets – actually, numerous vendors selling such things as aprons, tablecloths, necklaces, oil, and other Provence, France related things. AND, restaurant after restaurant – all with outdoor seating. We walked the length of the old town, probably ¾ of a mile, and then took a left for a block and got out onto the main street where the Mediterranean Sea was. We returned to closer to our hotel walking along the wide promenade which abutted the sea. Beautiful, beautiful evening! We saw Hotel Negresco in the far distance (looking away from our hotel). This is the big grand hotel in Nice and where we were supposed to have dinner the next evening. However, we have decided that we have had too many grand dinners and are ready to just have a normal dinner so we decided to cancel that reservation (at the restaurant Chantecler in the hotel).

Just a few blocks from the hotel, hubby figured he better eat something. Neither of us were hungry but he had a hankering for a pizza and Coke Light. So, we got back onto the main drag through the old town and sat down at La Safari. This was a Fodor’s recommended restaurant, though I didn’t have much information on it at all as to WHY it was highly recommended. Probably because of its location and the type of food – most of it was easy, though not technically “fast food” food. We snagged a table for two right on the edge of the restaurant and by the main path through the markets. Again, a great people watching place to be. Hubby ordered pizza margarita and we both had Coke Lights (20 euro). It was a very good pizza and as usual we marveled at how great the Coke Lights taste – better than any coke we get in the U.S.!!! I was still too full from the huge buffet breakfast and late lunch to think of eating anything. It was a thin crust pizza and hubby ate the whole thing!! Good thing I wasn’t hungry!!!

It was 10:00 p.m. by now but just a 3-minute walk to the hotel and on the way in hubby decided to use the internet and check office email. The computer for that was just off the lobby. I went on up to the room and got ready for bed. Hubby wasn’t busy too long with the email and he was in our room by 10:30. Just a few minutes of reading before lights out and we were fast asleep by 11:00 p.m.

Addresses:

Hotel de Paris
Place du Casino
Monte Carlo
MC 98000 Principaute de Monaco
377 92163000
Fax: 377 92163850
www.montecarloresort.com
[email protected]
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