Firenze and Paris

Nov 5th, 2006, 12:40 PM
  #1  
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Firenze and Paris

Beginning December 14 my husband and I (adventuresome and mature enough that we get a senior discount at the movies even though only one of us is legally entitled to it) will spend five nights in Florence and six nights in Paris. Hooray!

We have air, hotels and museums all arranges and hope forum readers can provide some answers on other matters.

FIRENZE AND PARIS:
1. We are from southern southern California and clueless about daily trekking in December weather in these two places. Suggestions, especially for comfortable footgear that will survive rain, are very much needed.

2. After about two hours in a museum all the visuals run togehter - any suggestions for some in between breaks? We'll have a museum pass for Paris and timed entry for Firenze.

3. We love good food and would welcome recommendations. We don't mind spending for special experiences and have also found some of our best food memories come also from tiny plain places. One specific question: Jules Verne yes or no?

3. Recommendations for Jazz or other evening fun (no hip hop, no rap)

4. Firenze - what time is the midday shop closing? Does this change during Christmas shopping season? How late are they open? Also I have seen vague web site info about "special" activities in Firenze in the couple weeks before Christmas but can find nothing for 2006. Any ideas?

5. Is a train day trip to Rome sensible?

6. Any advice on a guided Brunello tour? We prefer Montalcino wines to Chianti even though some think it a sacrilege.

7. Last -- any special issues getting transport to Roissy-CDG on Christmas Day?

Many thanks to all. I've never tried a forum posting before and appreciate your responses greatly.

Regards,

Quinn Adams
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Nov 5th, 2006, 12:51 PM
  #2  
 
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what a wonderful time you'll have!! AS to the day trip to Rome -- have you been there before? I'd go either way, but was just curious, and would obviously make a difference in what you decided to see for the day!!) I'm just home from 2 weeks in Rome and did the reverse - a day trip to Florence. Fast train (think it was 1 1/2 hour ride thru lovely scenery) and both train stations are situated for easy transit/touring.

have a great time!!
momofrajah is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 02:58 PM
  #3  
MaureenB
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Here are some ideas for restaurants in Florence. My daughter had studied there last semester, and these two were her favorites. It's from my trip report, which you can find by clicking on my name above, if you want more information about Florence.

"The afternoon we arrived, my daughter took me to a rooftop café, which overlooks the Duomo. It is on the top of a nice little ‘department’ store. I think it’s called Ristorante Ottorino, via delle Oche, 12-16r. We enjoyed wine and salads, on the sunny afternoon, with a close-up view of the Duomo. A very nice introduction to Florence for me.

... That evening, my daughter recommended one of her favorite restaurants, the Trattoria Garga on Via del Moro 48/R, phone 055 2398898. We had an amazing meal there, probably my best in Italy. My dish was veal with avocado, which sounds odd (most really good dishes do, I think), and was mouth-watering. Our waiter was a riot-- singing and joking all over the restaurant. It was a friendly, lively, bustling atmosphere with excellent food. We paid 81EUR for two, with a half-liter of house wine.

...After the Accademia, we found a place to sit on the patio and enjoy a nice lunch, at Trattoria Za-Za, at Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26R. It's popular with business people, and we enjoyed nice omelettes there. Lunch for two, with a glass of wine for each, was 25.50EUR.

...We returned to our hotel, to get ready for dinner, again at one of my daughter’s favorite restaurants, Acqua Al 2 (pronounced 'aqua al duo'), Via della Vigna Vecchia, 40/R, phone 055 284170. They are known for their perfect steak with balsamic. I had it and was impressed. (They are now opening a restaurant in San Diego, believe it or not.) This restaurant is known throughout Florence, and is very popular, so it gets loud and crowded, but very worth it, even though the service was a tad spotty. We split a half-liter of house red wine, and we paid 50.70EUR for two dining."

And from my trip report to Paris in 2005:

"Had our favorite meal on Ille St. Louis, at Le Caveau de l’Isle, at 36 rue Saint-Louuis en l’Isle. Great menu, with a three-course fixed prix around 30 EU. Excellent and friendly service. Small and atmospheric place."

Have a great trip!
>-
 
Nov 5th, 2006, 04:31 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
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Heartily agree with the Acqua al 2 recommendation. My sister, niece and I ate there twice in mid-October. Try the blueberry steak (steak with a blueberry-flavored "gravy"). Open 7:30 pm. - 1:00 am. Reservations only.
cookiedog is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 04:55 PM
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Quinn,
Even though we just returned from Italy, I am envious of your upcoming trip! Ican't get enough. I'm sure you'll have no problem finding " in between" activities in Paris. Could a cup of coffee ever taste better than at a sidewalk cafe in Paris? And could "resting your dogs" ever feel less like time-wasted than on a bench along the Seine. I doubt it.
Last year we visited Paris...our first visit to Europe. We had one of the BEST dinners ever at a tiny restaurant called Restaurante Argenteuil on a street of the same name (behind the Normandy hotel.) Complete dinner for the two of us was about 80 Euros, and just a little over 100 with wine, coffee and desert. Not cheap, but it remains on my list of my 5 Best dinners ever. Also, I am on a lifelong search for the ultimate creme brulee, and theirs is currently in first place. This is in 1st Arrond., not too far from Louvre.
We just returned from a wonderful 2 weeks in Italy. Unfortunately we only had one day in Florence (we were on a cruise.) but we managed to have a nice lunch just a couple blocks from the Academie. I think it was called Trattoria Antiche.
Whatever you do, I know you'll have a great time.
hanabilly is offline  
Nov 5th, 2006, 08:50 PM
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Recently returned from 2 weeks in Italy, one week spent in Montalcino. I can highly recommend a day trip to the area using a private guided tour with Luca Garapa of www.hillsandroads.com. If you do a search for his name on this board, you will find many glowing recommendations.

As to restaurants, my favorite in Firenze is Quattro Leoni near the Palazzo Pitti.
Flame123 is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 03:18 AM
  #7  
ira
 
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Hi QA,

I think that most folks would recommend a week in Rome.

I'd do it as a separate trip.

This visit, you might want to visit Siena and Bologna.

Don't forget to take the no. 7 bus from the SMN train station up to Fiesole (1E 20 min) to watch the sun set over the city from the terrace of the Bar Bleu. (They have heaters.)

ira is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 09:45 AM
  #8  
 
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Another great "in between" iea in Firenze--hot chocolate! Incredibly thick and puddinglike . . .
ellenem is offline  
Nov 6th, 2006, 09:24 PM
  #9  
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Thanks so much to everyone for your responses! In answer:
MOMOFRAJAH -- we have never been to Rome so especially welcome day trip ideas.
MAUREENB -- thanks for the delicious suggestions; my mouth is watering and I can't wait. Will heed your suggestion about reservations and check your trip reports.
COOKIEDOG - a second for Acqua al 2 cinches it. Blueberry steak sounds amazing! Do we need to reserve before we get to Florence?
HANABILLY - the Restaurante Argetneuil sounds delicious and creme brulee is a favorite here, too! Thanks for that and for the reminder that relaxing on a bench along the Seine is one of life's better experiences!
FLAME123 - thanks much for the hills and roads heads up. checked their site and it sounds just perfect. A week in Montalcino -- heaven!! We'll give Quattro Leoni a try. So much great food, so little time!
IRA -- thanks for the Fiesole sunset suggestion -- we would never have known otherwise and are now looking forward to it.
WELLENM - Hot chocolate!! yes, yes, yes.

Thanks again to all. I now envision us having to be rolled onto the airplane for our return trip, but we'll be delightfully happy! Actually, I'm betting we will do enough walking to balance out the food.

Anybody have shoes/boots they just love for extended city walks? Being from the San Juan Capistrano/San Clemente area of southern California -- no one walks! except on treadmills or in the sand.

Many thanks again to all. We've got a month to go so are open to any other thoughts and suggestions!

Best,

QuinnAdams
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Nov 7th, 2006, 03:51 AM
  #10  
 
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Check out the catalog for Winter Silks. It will be quite cold in Firenze, and perhaps Paris too. You need warm socks and waterproof shoes with good traction for wet marble. (Not running shoes.)

A fleece scarf and hat goes a long way to keeping you warm. Since you will spend so much time walking outdoors you'll need a winter coat, and I would recommend one that goes to your knees and has a hood for maximum dryness.
nessundorma is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 04:24 AM
  #11  
 
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Shop closings are usually 12:30-3:30 or 1-4 and reopen from 4-7.

Many museums have cafes with surprisingly decent food if you need a break.

The ES train from Florence (station is a short walk from historic district) to Rome Termini station takes 1 1/2 hours and cost is about 30E one way. Schedules are on www.trenitalia.com. Termini is also on a subway line so you can catch that to either the Vatican or Coliseum.
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 7th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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Some tips at Quattro Leoni. If you decide to go, try their fabulous first course pasta dish made with pears, asparagus and cheese. The name always escapes me, someone else may remember it, but it is absolutely magnificent. Their cheesecake for desert is divine, tiramisu is just surprisingly so-so. You may not need reservations in December, but it is worth making them if you can.

For a fabulous quickie lunch, we had the famous boiled beef sandwiches at Nerbone stall in the San Lorenzo market.
Flame123 is offline  
Nov 7th, 2006, 07:00 AM
  #13  
MaureenB
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Just a caution regarding Acqua al 2, though. As I said, it gets loud and very crowded. And servers aren't especially attentive. It's very popular with the twenty-something and student groups. And you might have to share a table. So just be aware that is the atmosphere. It's not a quiet, romantic type of place. Great food, though, and definitely a fun experience. I don't think you'd need reservations more than a day or two in advance. Maybe try to a 'school' night when students might not be out and about so much. Although there are tons of students in Florence!

Another spot that gives a good hillside view of Florence is from San Miniato church. You can take a city bus there. (More info. in my trip report.)
>-
 
Nov 7th, 2006, 07:01 AM
  #14  
MaureenB
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P.S. I meant to say try to GO On a 'school' night at Acqua al 2.
 
Nov 7th, 2006, 08:03 AM
  #15  
 
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Quinn, you might want to try Acqua al 2 location in the Gaslamp area of San Diego before your trip. I beleive it is another family member of the florence location.
StephenG is offline  
Nov 9th, 2006, 07:38 PM
  #16  
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Thanks for all the info about Acqua al 2 -- we'll try the San Diego version just for the fun of it! And delighted to have another couple good food ideas. Thanks to Ira and MaureenB for the suggestions on easy busrides up the hillside to overlook Florence. We would not have known of this simple and special view without you two! Ira, thanks for the heads up that we might want to do Siena and Bologna instead of Rome. We're looking into it. I know that Rome can't possibly be seen in a day trip but I have the urge to visit Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps - which I will try to redirect.
The heads up on shop closings will be very helpful. I'm thinking since daylight is comparatively short we'll be trying to coordinate outdoor time and museums in Florence with the daytime hours which I think end about 5PM at that time of year. No matter, 5PM in Florence and Paris has got to be better than 5PM in most other parts of the worldf!!
And finally, nessundorma, I appreciate the Winter Silks headsup and especially for the info on shoes with traction on wet marble! That would not hace occurred to me.
We've still got a month before we go, but once we return I will work on a trip report!

Best holidays to all,

QuinnAdams
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Nov 10th, 2006, 01:54 AM
  #17  
 
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Regarding transportation to CDG, all of the usual transportation options should be operating as they usually would on a holiday, keeping in mind that it is an extremely light travel day for air traffic -- so there would be fewer shuttles or taxis than on a normal day. The RER (train) from Paris or the Roissybus will be operating on a normal holiday schedule, and the Air France bus schedules are invariable, as far as I know.
kerouac is online now  
Nov 10th, 2006, 02:26 AM
  #18  
ira
 
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You are welcome, Q.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 02:45 AM
  #19  
 
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Quinn:
Here's a boot rec. We were in Florence/Paris in January and these boots kept me warm & comfy. The leather is so soft they req'd no breaking in. Rubber sole/heel. Shop around for price. I took waterproofing spray with me.
Sesto Meucci "Semira"
http://tinyurl.com/yfcv6v
I generally prefer a more substantial heel---Merrell-like---for so much walking. But those seem "clunky" at night.

I loved my Winter Silks. If you haven't already ordered, consider the mid-weight. I don't know how much difference there is, but my lightweights sometimes left me cold. (no pun intended!)

I bought a nice pair of heavy ski-type gloves in the Florence market: Gucci!...for only 13 euros! ;-) Also bought a 2nd wool scarf...one wasn't enough some days in both cities.

I hope you get a lucky break and have mild weather. But you're smart to prepare for cold.

Lastly, I wouldn't do the Rome day trip. With daylight hours so short consider Sienna or elsewhere closer to Florence.
JeanneB is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 08:25 AM
  #20  
MaureenB
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In Italy, be aware that restaurants close around 3p until dinnertime around 7p. So plan accordingly. When we were hungry during that time-frame, it was a challenge to find a market with fruit or something.

I hope this isn't information overload, but I've pasted below my entire Florence trip report:

"Florence, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Florence via EuroStar from Rome, around 3:00 in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we were charged an unpleasant fine on EuroStar, because our ticket was mistakenly printed for 1:30 p.m., and we were actually on the 12:30 train. We bought the ticket at the window in Rome, barely in time for the 12:30 train, and the agent knew we were rushed. But, she issued the ticket for the wrong time, and we had to pay 8 EUR on the train for her mistake. Because, of course, the conductor didn’t believe our explanation. And, to make matters worse, we didn’t have our reserved seats, so we had to search for seats. Oh, well, we got there safe and sound.

We took a short cab ride to the Relais Cavalcanti. a very charming little 'hotel', at Via Pellicceria, 2. It occupies one floor of a building located near the Uffizi gallery, in a very good central location. Because my daughter had just finished her semester in Florence, she was able to recommend her favorite location in town for lodging.

The Relais Cavalcanti building has been in the same family's ownership for 100+ years, the owner/manager of the new-ish Relais is Francesca. She said she inherited this one floor of the building, so she recently renovated it to create a little hotel. It's relatively new, with beautiful tile bathrooms, showers, etc. The rooms are very charming, and good-sized. Our rate for a double/twin was 120EUR, which included an extra 10EUR/day for the better view. Francesca also offered a 5 percent discount for payment in cash.

You have the feeling of entering a very nice, private Italian home, when you unlock the Relais door and smell the potpourri set out on the beautiful tables in the hallway and entry way. It has a small elevator and a/c, too. No breakfast is served, but even better I think is that they have a beautiful little dining room/kitchen that is open 24/7 for guests. You have always available the makings for coffee, hot chocolate and tea, plus containers of pre-wrapped pastries and dessert cakes. That's about as much as you get in any Italian B&B for breakfast, and this way you can serve yourself whenever. One evening we bought wine, cheese, bread, and fruit and enjoyed our own private time in this beautiful room.

The only thing to be aware of at Relais Cavalcanti is that the first floor of the building is the Old Stove Irish pub. The good news is that it's a decent little place for panini, and has free wi-fi. However, it attracts a lot of students and young people, so it is quite noisy into the early morning hours. Our room window was directly above the pub's patio, with a nice view of adjoining rooftops. The double windows, plus the wooden shutters, can block out about 90 percent of the noise from the pub below. I found that I could also turn on the a/c fan in our room, which would then totally cover any outside noise.

Francesca also cautions her prospective guests that she does not staff a 24/7 front desk. She is there during posted hours, mostly till 6 p.m., and has an emergency number on the door. But she is careful to tell guests that hers is not a hotel with full-services at night-time. I highly recommend the Relais Cavalcanti.

The afternoon we arrived, my daughter took me to a rooftop café, which overlooks the Duomo. It is on the top of a nice little ‘department’ store. I think it’s called Ristorante Ottorino, via delle Oche, 12-16r. We enjoyed wine and salads, on the sunny afternoon, with a close-up view of the Duomo. A very nice introduction to Florence for me.

We then walked a bit, and I saw Ponte Vecchio for the first time. Shops were closed by then, but it was fun to see the bridge and the Arno River, after all the photos I’d seen of them from before.

We walked around some more, and window-shopped the designer shops. I have to say, Florence is more upscale than I expected. Because so many students are there every semester, I expected it to be less expensive and have more the feeling of a ‘college town’. Instead, I loved its classy shops and wonderful windy roads. Without my daughter guiding me, I’m sure I would have been lost half the time, though, on those cute cobble-stoned streets. Or, hit by a car on those narrow ‘streets’!

We walked over to visit Santa Croce, which had just closed unfortunately (I think at 5 or 5:30 p.m.) So we got some gelato to console ourselves, at the place recommended by my daughter’s host family as the “best” gelato in Florence. I think it’s called Vivoli (sp?). A very cute little place, with wonderful gelato.

That evening, my daughter recommended one of her favorite restaurants, the Trattoria Garga on Via del Moro 48/R, phone 055 2398898. We had an amazing meal there, probably my best in Italy. My dish was veal with avocado, which sounds odd (most really good dishes do, I think), and was mouth-watering. Our waiter was a riot-- singing and joking all over the restaurant. It was a friendly, lively, bustling atmosphere with excellent food. We paid 81EUR for two, with a half-liter of house wine.

The next morning, we went to the Uffizi. Even though we had a reservation, it was still an ordeal of standing in line, with many people butting ahead of us. I am so amazed how some people have no regard whatsoever for a line, and how chaotic it can become.

But, once inside, I had a personal art history guide, as my daughter had been studying in Italy all semester. She was able to tell me all about each of the ‘significant’ pieces of art. It is all pretty overwhelming, and a lot to take in. I especially liked Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. It is amazing to see all that art in person, and under one roof.

We walked all day, seeing places my daughter had visited during her semester. We went up the hill to her college’s villa, so I could see it and meet the coordinator there.

We also took the bus up to the San Miniato church, to visit it and enjoy the sweeping views over Florence. It’s pretty to see the Duomo and all the rooftops of Florence from that perspective. Walking down the hill a bit, we found a little café with a nice outdoor terrace, which actually looked across the hills at the college’s villa. It was a nice place to take a break, again with caprese salads and wine.

We returned to town and finished our shopping mission: to find a wallet and a belt for my son. My daughter’s recommendation was a little store on Via del Corso 69/r, called Leonardo da Vinci. A very nice woman runs it, and my daughter thought her prices were the best for quality pieces.

That evening, we were invited to her Italian host family’s home for dinner, which was a special evening, with a very nice woman and her two daughters, who shared their home with my daughter. It was a treat to meet them, share dinner at their table, and see where my daughter had lived all semester.

Our second day, we took a train and then a bus to San Gimignano, for a day-trip. We had beautiful blue-sky weather, about 75 degrees. It was a perfect day to wander the little town. We had wine and salads at a wine bar, overlooking the hills. It was called Enoteca di Vinorum, Pza Cisterna 30.

We returned to our hotel, to get ready for dinner, again at one of my daughter’s favorite restaurants, Acqua Al 2 (pronounced 'aqua al duo'), Via della Vigna Vecchia, 40/R, phone 055 284170. They are known for their perfect steak with balsamic. I had it and was impressed. (They are now opening a restaurant in San Diego, believe it or not.) This restaurant is known throughout Florence, and is very popular, so it gets loud and crowded, but very worth it, even though the service was a tad spotty. We split a half-liter of house red wine, and we paid 50.70EUR for two dining.

Our final morning we had reservations at the Accademia. I am now a life-long admirer of Michelangelo. Having just seen his Sistine Chapel and the Pieta at St. Peter’s Basilica, I was primed to see David. But, I don’t think anything prepares you for seeing it in person. I will say it is more impressive and awesome than I’d expected, as is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. As people rightfully say, it appears as though David will walk right off that pedestal. How on earth did Michelangelo create such life out of marble?

After the Accademia, we found a place to sit on the patio and enjoy a nice lunch, at Trattoria Za-Za, at Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 26R. It's popular with business people, and we enjoyed nice omelettes there. Lunch for two, with a glass of wine for each, was 25.50EUR.

That afternoon we walked through the gardens at the Pitti Palace, before taking our late day train to Venice."

Have fun!
>-


 

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