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Trip Report: tedgale in Rome, Tuscany, Normandy and Paris

Trip Report: tedgale in Rome, Tuscany, Normandy and Paris

Mar 30th, 2008, 02:47 AM
  #1  
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Trip Report: tedgale in Rome, Tuscany, Normandy and Paris

This is sent from the Air France lounge in Terminal 2E, Paris CDG. So it will be a start to a trip report; more will follow when I get home.

First, three little tips about CDG and AF:

1. The AF lounge in 2E is fantastic -- sure beats the other AF lounges I have visited in the rest of Terminal 2. Don`t miss it if you have access.

2. If you are making a connection in CDG, even within Terminal 2, you must now exit the Secure Zone and pass again through security. Surely it was not always thus???

Anyway, it means that any liquids will be confiscated. Thank goodness someone in the Duty Free shop at Montreal told us that, when we were about to stock up on cheap Cdn duty-free booze and perfume before leaving home.

3. AF often prices its flights within Europe VERY low. We found it was cheaper to buy a flight Montreal-CDG return, plus a separate ticket CDG-Rome return, rather than buying Montreal-Rome return.

The return flight CDG-Rome-CDG was 37 dollars plus tax -- 143 dollars total.

Our Rome rental was from Rental in Rome -- "Tiber View". I have seen mixed reports on the company, esp the poor way it handles those unfortunate glitches (eg apt withdrawn at the last minute) that sometimes arise.

But we had no such problem. And the apartment, which cost us 170 euros/night, was sublime: Centro storico address (Lungotevere Marzio) ....views for miles along the Tiber.... huge windows (many aparrtments looked SO dark on the website)......brand new bathroom with glass shower.........decent kitchen......plenty of storage for 2.......great bed....and 2 terraces (one tiny off the bedroom, one large off the living room).

A couple of times I was disturbed in the night by traffic noises, esp motorcycles -- hence had to resort to earplugs. A small price to pay, IMO.

We noted to the agent that there was an iron but no ironing board. The next day, the owner`s maid, from the penthouse -- yes, a maid in black uniform and white apron -- arrived with a brand-new ironing board.

Oops, they are calling our flight. More soon.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Arrived home, safe and sound.

One always lands back in Canada with a bit of a thud, however....

After 4 weeks abroad it is hard to accept that we cannot pop 'round to the Bistrot du Peintre or drop in on my other favourite Bastille brasserie, l'Encrier, in the rue Traversiere....

Too tired to post more tonight but I will get cracking tomorrow.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 30th, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Welcome back, tedgale. I'm looking forward to hearing about the rest of your trip.

"After 4 weeks abroad it is hard to accept that we cannot pop 'round to the Bistrot du Peintre or drop in on my other favourite Bastille brasserie, l'Encrier, in the rue Traversiere...."

That is exactly the feeling we have when we get home.

Anselm
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Mar 30th, 2008, 03:25 PM
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We have many recommendations to pass on -- more for Italy, perhaps, than for the well-trodden and well-documented byways if Paris.

L'Encrier in the rue Traversiere was, however, a little gem in that smartish neighbourhood: Simple, unpretentious, friendly, bustling ....the perfect place to go for a simple meal "dans un cadre sympa".
tedgale is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 03:09 AM
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Here is the link for the Rome apartment we rented:

http://www.rentalinrome.com/tiber_view/tiber.htm

I don't plan to wite about all the usual sights in Rome -- others have done that better and with more enthusiasm than I can muster. So this report contains no rhapsodizing over the Forum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Piazza del Popolo, St Peter's.

But yes, we saw all those places.

I want to highlight two gems that never get covered enough: the Capitoline Museums and the Villa Torlonia.

The Capitoline (two buildings, joined by an underground passage) is the perfect museum, IMO. It has so much variety -- something for all tastes. BUT not so much of anything that you feel overwhelmed, as in some museums. Some of it is very grand, some (like a donated collection of porcelain figures, with monkey musicians and other silliness) is delightfully quirky.

High points:

* Housed in two of the most beautiful structures in Rome, one built to a design of Michaelangelo
* Excellent bilingual panels explaining both the architecture and the contents
* Historical connections with the Papacy and the city administration but also with the earliest phases of Rome, back to 500 BC
* The most beautifully located museum cafe in Rome, complete with a breathtaking terrace -- and staff to match: self-absorbed male fashionplates
* A mid-sized collection of Renaissance paintings -- some duds but also Caravaggios, Tintorettos and other must-sees
* A great, great collection of Roman statuary, displayed just as when a Pope, some centuries ago, opened this as the first public museum in Rome
* Unbelievable views over the Forum from the ancient Roman foundations of the complex -- these were formerly the archives of imperial Rome
* In a fantastic new glass-roofed atrium, recently excavated foundations of an ancient temple

I believe the third building of the complex, the office of the Mayor, is open to visitors one day (Sunday) a week ...or month. So you might try to time your visit to take advantage of that.

Once you have climbed the Capitoline Hill (just west of the Roman Forum), make sure to visit the plain, brick-faced church next-door. Magnificent. Beside the "new" Palazzo (the one with Roman statuary) is a set of stairs that lead to a side door to the church. Church closes midday until 2:30 PM, museums open throughout.

Torlonia next.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 05:09 AM
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Welcome home, tedgale

Ah yes, the male fashionistas at the Capitoline Museum cafe. With a wink and a smile, their service was .. well, Italian, lol! And you're so right about the views from the terrace. They're unbeatable!

Your apartment looks dreamy. What a view of the river, wow!

Now I'm going to google the Paris restaurants you mentioned. We leave next week, and I can never have too many recommendations.

Thanks!
swisshiker is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:45 PM
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Villa Torlonia: via Nomentana 70, just outside the old walls in an area north of the termini station.

The appallingly boring streets you traverse to get to this villa may be one reason why people don't go.

We took a bus from Termini. Museum visitors were few that day, though the villa's park was full of Romans.

Imagine a nobleman's magnificent neo-Classical (1802) villa in a large park -- a property so desirable that Mussolini made it his home for many years (at the owner's invitation).

Then imagine that a descendant also got the notion to convert a small "Swiss cottage" into a miniature Transylvanian castle.

Imagine the whole place falling into ruin, post-war, and then being meticulously and beautifully restored.

The main villa is a neo-Classical marvel, filled with Pompeiian motifs and trompe l'oeil. Most rooms are sparsely furnished but the walls and ceilings and floors are decor enough. To put it mildly.

The Brothers-Grimm mini-castle, the Casa delle Civette, (ie Owl House: the owner was obsessed with owls and bats and all nocturnal things) is now a museum of Art Nouveau.

Apart from the superb decoration of every surface of the house, it boasts the finest Art Nouveau stained-glass collection I have ever seen. All Italian, all splendid.

There is another "casino" that houses temporary exhibitions. If there is a show when you visit, the ticket price for the property (biglietto cumulativo) rises accordingly.

We had blustery weather when we visited but I imagine the park is lovely in the sun.

Next, some restaurant suggestions and favourite places to hang out.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 12:53 PM
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Thanks, this is the kind of information about seldom visited sights which makes Fodors such a great help in trip planning after you've read the guides.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 01:36 PM
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This is great, tedgale. I'm putting Villa Torlonia on my list. Looking forward to your restaurant recommendations as well. I'm always interested in suggestions for Rome!
SusanP is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 01:37 PM
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One place that is truly "little seen" is the Palazzo Farnese, because it is open only on Monday and Thursday afternoons and only by prior reservation.

You gather at the main doorway and someone comes out and ushers in the elect.

I saw it years ago before the French embassy got so starchy about admission. It was and I suspect still is magnificent -- huge and decorated with a truly French eye to the need to impress a longstanding cultural rival.

From a US newspaper article:

"Free 50-minute tours of Palazzo Farnese are offered through the embassy on Mondays and Thursdays. They're offered only in Italian and French, but even if you don't understand either language it's worth taking the tour to see the stunning interior. Children under 15 are not admitted; photo ID is required. E-mail tour requests to visitefarnesefrance-italia.it or see the French Embassy Web page for more information: www.ambafrance-it.org/ (click on the "L'Ambassade" photo and then "Le Palais Farnese")."

Next time I'll get my act together and reserve a place in advance.
tedgale is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 02:12 PM
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Welcome home, Ted. Hope the thud wasn't too jarring. You've started your trip report way before I have. I look forward to reading about Paris, our get-together, your walk through Kerouac's neighborhood, and whatever else you did. Did you make it to the course at the College de France?

Eagerly awaiting details.
Nikki is online now  
Mar 31st, 2008, 02:31 PM
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>>huge and decorated with a truly French eye to the need to impress a longstanding cultural rival.<<

Not so. The famous frescoes in the Palazzo Farnese were executed between 1597 and 1608, while it still belonged to the Farnese.

The French acquired it in 1874.
Zerlina is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 02:36 PM
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welcome back Tedgale - heading to rome in September and looking for hotels right now. saw your post on the apartment, looks fabulous - was it? was the agency good to deal with, any surprises for you? for 2 nights do you think we could squeeze my mother onto the couch?

thanks,
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Mar 31st, 2008, 02:45 PM
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We like some places so well -- for a low-key evening out, with good food and minimal fuss -- that we went more than once on this trip. These old favourites have never let us down. They are listed below.

But I'll start with a negative report:

A restaurant frequently recommended on this board is Der Pallaro, near Campo de' Fiori. No menu, you take what you're given, robust Roman cooking and a motherly boss-lady -- it sounded kinda like fun.

The food is abundant and very inexpensive. Apart from that, it's nothing special. Our antipasto was the best part of the meal: chopped fennel, lentils, prosciutto, salami, fried potato balls, green olives, fried tuna balls.

The rest was banal.

As for "authentic Roman atmosphere", that would be hard to achieve with a middle-aged waitress who refuses to speak Italian, which I speak it correctly and with a very moderate accent.

"Per favore, ci porti un mezzo litro del vino della casa."

"So ho-kay, you wanta wine? You wanta redda wine o' white-a wine?"

I don't normally belittle people's efforts in another language. Except when they make themselves obnoxious...I got visibly testier and said Why are we speaking English? but it had no effect.

Zero for atmosphere, 5/10 for food.

Now, my favourites:

Osteria del Pegno, via di Montevecchio just off via dei Coronari. Ate there twice.

Typical dinner I ate: Abundant tagliatelle with artichokes and pancetta + Abbacchio al forno (roasted lamb) with melting-soft patate arroste (roasted potatoes). We ordered their Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, which was great.

My abs, previously a source of intense personal pride, began to loosen and my waistline to spread after a few days of meals like this + no gym access....

Very popular spot: diners in their 30s and 40s, very much a neighbourhood place though there were also lots of well-mannered tourists earlier in the evening.

A stone's throw from there, right on the via dei Coronari, is Cantina del Vecchio, whose Lazio cuisine is a little showier than what the Osteria offers. But it is still a neighbourhood hang-out and a lively one at that. The bar operates all evening so diners may overlap with the early-evening drinks-and-cicchetti crowd.

We wanted a light dinner on our first evening. We ordered, respectively:
* tartare of tuna with julienned carrots, black olives, capers and red onions + a risotto with guineafowl and pecorino cheese

* about 3 dozen tiny clams in broth + maltagliata (diamond-shaped) wholewheat homemade pasta with polpette (octopus) and sundried tomatoes

Very deft, old-school service from our waiter -- offset a bit by the gregarious manager, who is English and perfectly bilingual.

Finally, La Rampa, at the bottom of the Rampa Mignanelli just south of the Spanish Steps:

This is a huge place that is always full, both of tourists and Romans. The decor of the high main room is kinda kitsch -- fake balconies/ rooftops of Rome shtick. The more recenlty decorated room next door is prettier but less bustling.

The restaurant has a long, long menu -- usually a bad sign. But everything we ordered there was great.

Their most famous item is the antipasto buffet, which is huge, low-priced (10E for all you can squeeze on your plate) and excellent. Sample items from the antipasto table:

*seafood medley of mussels, squid, ocopus with grilled vegetables, pearl onions; guineafowl wrapped in smoked ham; marinated artichokes; batter-crusted eggplant; bufala mozzarella; mushrooms in a lemon marinade; anchovy fillets....

How, after that, did we proceed to our main courses: osso buco di vitella and "stracciate di manzo" (beef strips) with tomato and arugula? I can't quite believe it myself.

tedgale is offline  
Mar 31st, 2008, 07:14 PM
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Thanks for the great information.

I have the Capitoline Museums and their terrace cafe at the top of my list for our trip to Rome this summer. (3rd trip, but have never been!)

great restaurant reviews, too.

thanks again.

dina4 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2008, 03:09 AM
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Zerlina: I meant the restoration and renovation and the scrupulous maintenance of the premises.

Even from the outside, you can tell -- eg the immaculate gardens.

I recall too the glaze applied by hand to the walls in the monumental stairwell: I would not have wanted to pay the wage bill for that particular job....
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2008, 04:55 PM
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Here is the link for an album I made of photos of Rome and Tuscany -- it is called "Windows, walls and doors: Italy"

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...&id=1126123095

...And a link for the follow-up album, "Windows, walls and doors: France", from Normandy and Paris:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...&id=1126123095

Apparently you do not need to be a Facebook member to open this public link. Good luck, anyway.....
tedgale is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 02:18 PM
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I'm getting a little ahead of myself -- have not yet done the rest of my Rome and Tuscany commentary -- but I have created another album, which overlaps slightly with my French album. It is called Chapelle de Notre Dame du Repos (Our Lady of Rest) in Normandy:

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pi...&id=1126123095

This tiny and semi-derelict chapel was amazing -- as were many of the things (churches, castles, picturesque villages) we found in that most obscure and unvisited corner of the region.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Sorry error with the link. This should be the right one:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?ai...&id=1126123095
tedgale is offline  
Apr 3rd, 2008, 02:36 AM
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Great photos, tedgale.

Anselm
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