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Venice (Somewhere) and Trieste (Nowhere)—With a Bit of Slovenia In Between

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Jul 22nd, 2014, 05:56 AM
  #1
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Venice (Somewhere) and Trieste (Nowhere)—With a Bit of Slovenia In Between

We took another Backroads cycling trip, this time spending most of the time in Northern Italy and Slovenia, but we began our journey with two days in Venice, ended the cycling portion with two days in Trieste, and returned for another two days in Venice.

As I’ve been trying to do for my last few trip reports, I’ll give you the accommodations, and restaurants etc first so if you're searching for information quickly, you'll know if this report is pertinent to your needs:

In Venice :
Hotel
--Antiche Figurehttp://www.hotelantichefigure.it/en
Restaurants
--Osteria Bancogiro http://www.osteriabancogiro.it/
--La Zucca http://www.lazucca.it/en

Cycling trip accommodations and restaurants...
In Nothern Italy (Capriva del Friuli):
Hotel
--Castello di Spessa http://www.castellodispessa.it/
Restaurants
--La Subida http://www.lasubida.it/lasubida/en/index.php
--Agriturismo, Frascje Dai Spadons http://www.masarotti.com/index.htm
--Enoteca l'Enfante(lunch-Cividale) http://www.enotecaelefante.it/
--Pizzaria Al Sole (lunch-Tarcento)

In Bovec, Slovenia
Hotel
--Hotel Mangart http://www.hotel-mangart.com/
Restaurant
--Pristava Lepena http://www.pristava-lepena.com/

In Bled, Slovenia:
Hotel
--Villa Bled(bookings have to be done through 3rd party I think)
Restaurants
--Ostarija Peglez'nBled
--Villa Bled
--Gostilna Rupa (lunch-Bohinj) https://www.facebook.com/gostilna.rupa

On our own again in Trieste:
Hotel
--Starhotel Excelsior Palace http://savoiaexcelsiorpalace.starhot...m/en/home.aspx
Restaurant
--Al Bagatto http://www.albagatto.it/

Back to Venice
Hotel
Hotel Londra Palace http://www.londrapalace.com/en/
Restaurant
--Alfredo‘s - Fresh Pasta To Go https://www.facebook.com/pages/Alfre...91517640883533
--Il Ridotto http://www.ilridotto.com/02_homepage_ENG.htm
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 07:16 AM
  #2
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My husband and I were able to persuade our youngest adult daughter (making a living but still just new to the work world) to join us (not hard to do) on this cycling trip.

Since we had to make an early a.m. train from the Santa Lucia stop to get to the Mestre Station the second day in Venice, I booked rooms for us at the Antiche Figure, which is on the Piazzale Roma side of the canal and across from the train station.

Comment: I would do our location again if the same transport needs arose because the hotel was fine; I would not spend one cent on a canal view again because that end of the canal is pretty darn ugly.

Since the hotel was a spit from the Piazzale Rome, it was perfectly sensible to get the airport bus to the bus depot there and just walk over the two small bridges. To make the most of our time, I pre-ordered online the tickets for the bus and a 48-hour vaporetto pass (I should have done the 36 hr for all three of us.

Explanation: Unlike on our previous trip, there is no discount for booking online. But it still can save time. One merely punches in the PNR for the purchase at the machine right by the bus and off one goes. Except...

...the machine was broken when we arrived. No problem--we hopped on the bus with our receipt in hand and stopped at the Hellovenezia ticket in Piazzale Roma.

Online purchases for what you need are here: http://www.veneziaunica.it/en/ecommerce/composer


Since the youngest daughter and I had "done" Venice five years ago (and I do mean "done"--she's a touring monster), I bought no museum passes (plus I still had toilet cards from our last visit )...our goals the first day were to:

--Buy our SIM cards for our tiny GSM phones we use on a bike
--Find a "bio" store for me since I had been having tummy troubles
--Get over jet lag

To meet the first two of those goals, we headed into the Cannaregio district to find our TIM store and the bio store, Cibele. Luckily, they were caddy-corner to each other in the Capmpiello de l'Anconeta.

We made it just in time to both before siesta. We then had to wait an hour for our SIM cards to be activated--we wanted to stay in the area if one did not--and so we had drinks and snacks at one of the cafes along there.

Notes:
--My husband's and daughter's SIMs activated within the hour; my SIM took an extra 1/2 hour.

--My daughter's old GSM phone died. So we bought a new one for 30 Euro, which was basically the cost of our SIM cards. As we've often stated, it costs very little to pop into a phone store and just get a phone instead of trying to pre-order a SIM from the US.

--As another poster predicted, the TIM store rep tried to sell us on more time because we would be using the phones for part of the time in Slovenia. We knew the phones would work just fine there, and all we would be doing is using SMS with each other anyway on our bikes. We shook our heads "no".


We walked back to the room and hit the hay. We wanted to be rested for our dinner.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 07:27 AM
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Last time the daughter and I visited Venice, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where to eat. One of the places we wanted to eat at was Osteria Bancogiro, which is so close to the Rialto market. It has a great view of the canal but is not one of the touristy places lining the walks near the Rialto bridge.

There was no room at that time. For this visit, I emailed them for a reservation for a canal-side table at 7 pm. Why so early? As much as I would have loved to have eaten a bit later, I knew we'd be dragging by the secondo with any later sitting.

So what was it like? The service is somehow both attentive and unattentive, kind and surly--all at the same time. But we had success in saying and getting what we wanted: we preferred beer--and did they have anything "hoppy"? (they did--Reale--and the bottle was SO cute). We also wanted to try Venetian appetizers (there was an antipasto seafood platter we could share). I wanted to taste local cheese (cheese plate offered). Which fish was best today (the sea bass). Done.

Would I go back? Maybe. But what I'd really like to do is buy a six-pack of beer and sit on the dock in front of the place and wave to the people on vaporettos in the late evening as we saw others doing later

I had the perfect scenic nightcap for "later." When my daughter and I visited Venice years ago, we were making use of "new" technology. We had downloaded the free Rick Steve's mp3 podcasts to her iphone, used a splitter, and did many tours throughout Venice that way.

For this trip, I had loaded the files onto all our phones again so that my husband could enjoy our favorite RS tour: The vaporetto Grand Canal tour. We headed up via vaporetto from Rialto to get a #1 line at Piazzalle Rome, and away we went, touring all the way to San Marco and back enjoying the magical nights that are Venice.

My husband was totally impressed.

Our beds beckoned.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 09:37 AM
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Excellent - looking forward to more! Can't wait to hear about your experience at La Subida!!
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 12:23 PM
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Trip Report Continued:
Refreshed by a good night's sleep, on our second day we trekked over the bridge to the railroad station to get our tickets for our next day's travel to Mestre. Done! Onwards...

Determined to find GOOD food in Venice this time, I had booked us for a food tour. I book food tours everywhere now because it's one of the best ways to learn local history and find out where to eat after the tour is over.

The tour I booked was the Rialto Markets and Cicchetti/Wine tasting tour through Walks of Italy http://www.walksofitaly.com/tour_boo..._listing/4/163

Our tour guide was lovely, the weather was perfect, the stops were interesting, but...this was not a great value tour. Let me compare: Eating Italy Rome's Testaccio tour was FANTASTIC; our tour with Istanbul Eats was OUT OF THIS WORLD; this one was just...nice. It cost around $200 for the three of us.

Basically, one taste tests at three local bars, enjoying a selection of cicchetti--ranging from crostini (bread with delicious toppings), fritti (fried fish and vegetables) to Venetian panini (sandwiches)--and washing it down with some prosecco,plus local red and white wines. One finishes with an expresso and a grappa.

Our really sweet guide loved showing us every fish and vegetable in the market and telling us how to cook everything. She told us the history of all of the street names around the market, and explained that these empty back alleys were once bustling and are now mostly abandoned because of the declining local population.

All in all...
--we loved the back alleys of Santa Croce, and at least with the guide with us, we were never lost
--I have never had grappa before so that was new (it took me two hours to recover)
--I found out about the two types of wine spritz (campari or aperol)
--the guide confirmed that my upcoming reservations for dinner were quite good and recommended another
...so I think it was probably a win-win for us.
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Jul 22nd, 2014, 02:37 PM
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After the tour, we headed via vaporetto up to the larger supermarket COOP in Piazzale Roma (as you face the water's edge where the vaporetto docks are there, turn left and keep walking). We stocked up on some needed items and headed back down toward our hotel. As we passed the Hotel Carlton, we spotted "rooftop terrace bar" on its sidewalk sign and said, "Why the heck not?" On the terrace, we found a spot of shade with a view of the canal, and we quickly ordered the wine spritz in both campari and aperol versions so we could taste test.

Beds beckoned again for a nap. We again wanted to be "fresh" for our next meal.

I had inched up our dinner reservation a tiny bit--to the big late hour of 7:30. Our reservation? La Zucca. This was excellent, not only for Venice but for anywhere. Perfect for vegetarians, it also has meat offerings, too. Lasagne, pumpkin flan, gorganzola pistachio pasta, rabbit...I could go on and on. They even had decent beer.

The place is tiny, with two small rooms and a very small outdoor eating area. We sat on the inside, but we had a view of the outside where gondolas passed and the restaurant diners opposite us watched us and we watched them. Service was a little testy (funny how that is, right?), but if I ever return to Venice, I'd make sure I was extra hungry and order EVERYTHING on this menu.

We zigzagged out to catch a vaporetto (lost for a wee bit), and headed down the canal to St Mark's Square. When my daughter and I stayed here last, we stayed at the Palace Bonvecchiati, which was between Rialto and St. Marks, so we would spend every evening saying goodnight to Venice on the square. My husband last visited Venice in the 60's and barely remembered an evening, so he was totally enchanted by all the competing orchestras.

One vaporetto ride took us back to the hotel for our beds. Time to pack, time to organize, because cycling would come next.
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Jul 23rd, 2014, 10:58 AM
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Our stay at the Antiche Figure had been pleasant. Our check-in process had been very friendly and efficient, and the breakfast staff were friendly and efficient, too. Checking out, though, seemed to be a problem.

We checked out of the Antiche Figure the night before our departure, explaining to the desk clerk that we had to catch an early train. He said we were smart to do so because people become very impatient in the morning with the process. We could see why. The check-out process took no less than 1/2 hour of endless paperwork plus discussion about mini-bar charges for items we certainly never touched.

Near the very end of the process, my credit card was refused. I had plenty of back-ups, and the next one in my wallet worked, but I was worried about some possible fraud.

Back in the room, after using my new TIM-SIM phone time on a call collect to my cc company, where the associate required me to go through every darn charge of the day, it turns out the refusal was due to the guy at the hotel's front desk entering the wrong CCV.

We were packed up ready to go out the door first thing. After a quickie cappuccino the following morning, I attempted to tell the a.m. desk clerk that we had checked out the night before and and that our rooms were now open. The desk clerk refused to look at me and said abruptly "I am waiting on this gentleman." Since I now knew from experience that the gentlemen's check-out would take no less than 1/2 hour (and that's if his CCV was entered correctly), I was in deep doo-doo.

Instead of missing our train to suit the hotel staff's needs, I scribbled a note on top of the room keys(I carry mini Post-Its on me everywhere)and left. As we had lugged our luggage to the top of the Ferrovia bridge, the desk clerk ran up and said, "You have to check out." "As I told you inside the hotel, madame, we DID last night." "But what rooms are checking out?", she exclaimed. I told her and said that I had put a sticky note on the keys, too, and she finally seemed satisfied.

So I do not know the solution to this problem for anyone attempting the same thing; you must admit we did everything on our end we could do. And as you will see by the end of this report, even if the evening and morning clerks are the same, that does not always work.
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Jul 25th, 2014, 04:14 AM
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Onwards to Udine in the North of Italy.

Making our way across the Ferrovia bridge to the Santa Lucia train station, we caught our train to Venezia Mestre and only had to walk across the platform for our train to Udine. The only problem we had was finding out if we had to validate our online eticket for the Udine train (answer: no).

We had booked second class, and since we were doing the early train on a Sunday, that was a good choice. We had the train to ourselves.

We arrived with an hour to spare before we met up with our cycling group, so we took advantage of the restrooms and the snack bar at the train station. We'd have an hour shuttle south to our biking starting place, Aquileia.
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Jul 28th, 2014, 07:46 AM
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For our routing from this point on, I'd prefer to direct you to the Backroads Slovenia Trip URL, and those folks will certainly be willing to send you a detailed itinerary, which can change quickly. Here's the link: http://www.backroads.com/trips/BSVI/...ia-biking-tour

At this point, and I will add again at another point, here is my master thread discussing cycing trips (I do like Backroads, but I have respect for other tour companies, too) http://www.fodors.com/community/trav...neral-tips.cfm
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Jul 28th, 2014, 08:12 AM
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Aquileia, founded around 181 B. C. still has Roman villas, a Forum, funeral casks, Roman roads, port ruins, oratories, and a Roman bridge. It was near the seaside when it was founded; it's now miles away and landlocked.

We toured the basilica built in the third century B.C., destroyed by Attila, and reconstructed in 1031.

The basilica, still operating, represents history of the town because along the way everyone added to or subtracted from it. You walk in to see a floor of mosaics from the original church uncovered in the early twentieth century. And these are good mosaics, not haphazard one, covered with symbols, portraits, all kinds of flora and fauna. There are narratives. In the crypts are eleventh-century frescoes and more mosaics.
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Jul 28th, 2014, 09:17 AM
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After our day's ride, we ended up at the Castello di Spessa http://www.castellodispessa.it/ We stayed here 2 nights in this gorgeous setting overlooking all the surrounding hills.

Our room was large and comfortable, but the bathroom was rather tiny in comparison: one sink and a shower stall. Our shower stall and toilet were on a ledge, and the stall was rather slippy-slidy. The decor was rich Italian grandma's house, if that makes sense.

Breakfasts were served in a very large Italian-style kitchen, and included scrambled eggs plus the traditional offerings of bread, cheese, meat and fruit.

Our daughter loved the setting enough to ask about wedding prices. Hmmm.

All in all, I'd come back.
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Jul 28th, 2014, 09:21 AM
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Both nights of our stay here we were shuttled to restaurants.

Our first shuttle was to
La Subida http://www.lasubida.it/lasubida/en/index.php .

This is a "family-run restaurant", but more in line with a "family-with-all-chefs" kind of thing. Their emphasis: seasonal and local. So we had good frico lollipops (fried Montasio cheese on a stick) and delicious local prosciutto with melon on bread outside on the lovely grounds as our starter. Inside the very eclecticly decorated restaurant, we ate stuffed zucchini blossoms and mushrooms. For my entree, I had luscious lamp chops.

An off note was the sorbet: a sorbetto from Sirk vinegar. While I appreciated the effort, my teeth and tongue did not appreciate the taste. You can skip this and feel just fine.

Desserts came as sort of a mixed offering, one without our choosing, throughout the table. One could share or exchange. This worked well for us since we were a family of three who try not to eat an entire dessert. We had two "wins" and one "loss."
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Aug 1st, 2014, 07:11 AM
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The second night of our cycling segment, we visted theAgriturismo, Frascje Dai Spadons http://www.masarotti.com/index.htm for dinner.

As agriturismos go, by law there are only certain seasons/so many days when these are allowed to be open, and the Frascje Dai Spadons used kindly used one of their out-of-season allotment days for our group.

While the meal was not on the culinary standard of the previous evening's La Subida, the freshness of the ingredients and the love put into the cooking more than compensated. Guiliano and his wife treated us like family, and all of us in the group had a great time.

Of the wines we were served, Guiliano's Pinot Grigio was a standout.
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Aug 1st, 2014, 08:28 AM
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Ah, the frico lollipops!
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Aug 1st, 2014, 01:06 PM
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The weather, hotel and dinner the next day was probably the low point of the trip. As we crossed throughout the day into Slovenia, thunderstorms accented uphill climbs. The bright spot of the day was lunch in Tarcento at Pizzeria Ristorante Al Sole, otherwise to be known by everyone who has ever stopped there as "Michele's Pizza Shop".

The owner Michele was born in Italy, moved to New York as a young girl, visted Italy as a teenager, and decided to stay. She is therefore a fabulous combination of warm Italian and hardcore, no-nonsense New Yorker. We all adored her. The pizza was good--perfect after cycling for two hours in the rain--but the hospitality was even better.
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Aug 2nd, 2014, 06:34 AM
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After lunch, the weather made the cycling over the pass into Slovenia treacherous at times, but eventually we ended up cycling with clearer skies along the Soca River in the Slovenian alpine town of Bovec.

Our night's stay was at the Hotel Mangart http://www.hotel-mangart.com/ . Our tour company had listed the place as "casual", and it was.

We were in rear-facing room with an immediate not-so-attractive view of the parking lot but in the distance an attractive view of the mountains. The bedroom was a sort of cubicle, but it was quite functional. The bathroom was also very functional. It was large for the size of the room, and was sparkling clean with a really good shower.

However, our room (not the bathroom) smelled faintly like mildew.

Breakfast in the basement was OK.

The hotel clientele was cute--lots of geriatric birdwatchers and botonists.
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Aug 5th, 2014, 06:54 AM
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During our one-night stay at the Hotel Mangart,our dinner was at Pristava Lepena http://www.pristava-lepena.com/.

Located in Triglav National Park, Pritava Lepena is sort of a hotel village/camp . The setting would have been beautiful in sunlight; the continuing rain dampened all views and made driving a tad hazardous. I was so happy I didn't have to do it!

High expectations can lead to dissatisfaction, and I think that was part of my problem with this place. It was our first evening in Slovenia. Having been in this lovely country the year before, I had enjoyed really good local food--especially lamb--and excellent wines. My lamb here seemed as though it had been in a chafing pan for hours. The meal was supposed to be a wine tasting, but we were unsure of what we were tasting because no one told us (plus there were no refills on any glasses).

I would hate to have someone judge the place, though, on our group's experience, because part of the problem was serving our large group. With 17 or 18 people, we were jammed at one end of the room lengthwise against a wall and into a corner, and therefore, all of us had to assist the servers to get dishes to people against the wall.

Making matters worse was the fact that some guests, including myself, were sick afterwards, and we had different theories as to what ingredient it was that put us under.
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Aug 11th, 2014, 04:21 PM
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The next day's ride was the one I was looking forward to: riding along the Soca River. The water is river's water is turquoise, and the air smells like pine.

Since I knew my riding time would be limited, I was so happy I was able to do the 19 km before the day turned into climbs, one that would include the Vrasic Pass. I hopped into the shuttle with a bunch of other people who were finally not ashamed to ride in the "wimp wagon", and we cheered others on as we headed for the coffee/lunch spot at the tippy-top of the pass. My husband and I had stopped here the year before, and we enjoyed seeing it just as much this year.

Lunch was of our own choosing at the ski resort town of Kranjska Gora at some place whose name I cannot remember. The food was totally forgettable anyway. I got to visit the post office here and had a joyful experience of choosing some lovely alpine flower stamps for postcards. Nice people there, too.

Our hotel for the next two nights was Villa Bled, Tito's former summer residence, and our room/suite (one without a balcony) was sumptuous--sort of. On the one hand, the hotel's situation on Lake Bled offers a perfect view of the famous Church on the Island and adjoins the lake's walking path, plus the staff is just wonderful. On the other hand, the place--both the rooms and the common areas--feels so sterile. There's not a "homey" corner in it. If I were to come back to Bled (and I just might--I adore Slovenia), I think I'd try to find somewhere else.

We were so pleased with our choice of dinner for the evening: Ostarija Peglez'n. Situated near the lake path, this restaurant prides itself on simple, fresh offerings. The waiter was really outgoing, and so we decided to put him in charge of our happiness and make the recommendations. Great decision. We shared seafood starters, some really good pasta, and a whole grilled fish with roasted vegetables and potatoes. We slurped it all down with our favorite Slovenian beer, Lasko (we don't like Union). We shared a fresh apple strudel with whipped cream and ice cream for dessert, and it was simply wonderful.
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Aug 17th, 2014, 02:02 PM
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Anxiously awaiting the next installment! Please don't leave us hanging
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Aug 19th, 2014, 11:46 AM
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wikoffclan--Thank you for letting me know that at least two people are reading this. I was ready to give up, and then I remembered I sort of count on these posts for myself to force me to keep my trip records. You and ekc are keeping me motivated for sure.

Trip Report continued:

The next day was rainy, and more people were willing to join me in the Wimp Wagon for at least the morning part of the day. I have no clue where it was where we hit a local coffee shop in the absolute middle of nowhere Slovenia, but I loved it.

--First, our cappuccinos were first rate.
--Second, at 9:30 a.m., two friendly local toothless guys were knocking back Laskos with shots (even that was too early for me--and I can sure do early). We enjoyed their company even though we did not speak Slovenian and they didn't speak much English.
--Third, a men's hiking group--ages ranging from around 25 to 65, dropped in to get out of the rain for a bit. Lots of hearty toasts and a song or two.

I didn't want to leave.

But it was good we did, for the upcoming lunch spot was even better: Gostilna Rupa in Bohinj https://www.facebook.com/gostilna.rupa

In a postcard-cute facility with an outside terrace and a cozy inside area, this restaurant offers super fresh rustic food that certainly hit the spot on a dreary day. We're talking fresh-baked, right-out-of-the-outside-oven bread. We're talking fresh suckling pig and gorgeous grilled trout and roasted vegetables with this amazing red pepper sauce (I wanted to drink it). And we're talking warm berry strudel.

I would be willing to fly back to Slovenia just to eat there again.

Well, on second thought, I would as long as I could eat here, at the Ostarija Peglez'n in Bled, and at Hisa Franko (Ana Ros!) in Kobarid**.
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