Tuesday, October 13, 2015

we did not go to Venice

I am so, so disappointed and so is Alex, but I was sick on Sunday night/Monday morning so I begged off.  We had already bought our tickets so we are out about €80 but I simply couldn't do it.  I ended up spending the day napping, dozing, sipping tea and generally recovering from a terrible night.  I did get one thing done; laundry.

Clean clothes!  What a treat.  Of course it was too chilly to dry outside so we moved this handy rack into the foyer and, by Jove, it was all dry this morning. 

I slept very well last night and  I am back on track. We didn't go to Venice today, either,  because it's raining everywhere and more was forecast for there than here.    We did the usual market runs to stock up on food and drink.  I did buy a whole porcini mushroom which I will cut in a zillion tiny pieces, saute and toss with some fresh pasta for our dinner, along with some ratatouille, a salad and any other tidbits I can find in the fridge and larder.  We only have another day to get it all cleared out.

We went on a lovely long walk through the drizzle early this afternoon heading for our luncheon date.   Only a few people riding in the rain.

Carousel in the Piazza Della Repubblica
 I am so grateful for all of Alex's help on this trip, mainly as my seeing-eye guide so I invited her to be my guest at La Spada, Mr. C's favorite Florentine spots.

It's very much a neighborhood spot; 99% of the diners were speaking Italian.  We both had veal and then Alex led me into temptation BIG time with an order of panna cotta with the most beautiful, silky chocolate sauce.

panna cotta with a couple of bites gone!
It was so delicious; smooth and creamy and not too sweet.  It was perfect!

Another leisurely stroll in the rain ~ a bit heavier by this time ~ through some beautiful areas of the Citiá Centrale, ogling the magnificent old buildings, the glitzy shops filled with outrageously expensive goods, and the more interesting tiny boutiques that crowd along narrow streets.   This is a rare quiet spot in this busy place.  (I actually took this on Sunday which makes it even more rare!)

Bad weather will keep one close to home so we haven't gotten down to the Ponte Vecchio or Ponte Santa Trinita but we're not  that far and it's our plan to walk down tomorrow.  Rain or not!  I really don't want either of us to get a cold; we still have Paris ahead, don't forget.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

a beautiful Sunday in Florence

As we had hoped, the day dawned bright and clear, perfect weather for strolling and sight seeing.  Our ultimate destination was Santa Maria Novella train station to but tickets for our trip to Venice tomorrow.  But to get there we took several detours and side streets.  Even though it is Sunday and a busy tourist day, our neighborhood, off that track, was quiet and peaceful.  First we walked up to the Duoma to give it another good look.

Even though I've seen it several times it never fails to astonish.  It is so enormous and yet so delicate.  And Brunolleschi's dome is magical and mysterious every time.

Then it was over to the big indoor market (closed) but browsed all the stalls looking at scarves, leather good ~ belts, purses, wallets, jackets ~ and a variety of other goods.  Unknown to me in the past, the indoor market has a big restaurant upstairs and it was jammed with mid-day diners.  There is also a cooking school up there and we could look through big glass walls and watch them in their gourmet efforts.  Great looking cooking stations with bright chrome fixings and gorgeous pots and pans.

Next destination was the train station for our Venice tickets.

The closer we got the more recognizable was the neighborhood.  We completed our task and headed home.  We passed by the Santa Maria Novella cathedral, another beautiful edifice in a pretty piazza.

Then down the street with a quick stop in front of the Pensione Feretti, the place where Mr. C and I spent a few nights on our first trip to Italy.  It was recommended by my sand box pal, Marie.   A very good place to use as base camp for your stay in Florence.

We were timing ourselves from the train station to the house to figure out how early we might have to leave the house to get to the train station in time to catch a 9 o'clock departure.  Then we decided to heck with that, we'll take the bus so we slowed down, found a little trattoria and settled in for a nice late lunch.  Alex was hungry for something in porcini mushrooms and found the perfect dish.  I ordered mussels and was NOT disappointed by what came out of the kitchen.

These were so, so delicious in a fragrant citrus sauce.  They were plump and tender and very tasty.

This is what was left of our delicious lunch.  Clean plates all around.

We stopped at the super so I could get some batteries, then headed home.  On our way I saw this absolutely adorable little Fiat.  About the size of Dorothy but Italian, not German!

This is one of the old Fiat 500's that are more and more rare on the road.  I would LOVE to have one at home!  The laundry is done 2 hours later ~ and everything has NOT turned purple.  It's time to close up and sleep since we have to be up and out on the curb around 8 AM.  Venice tomorrow.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

sta piovendo today in Florence

Yep, it's raining here today so it's more of an "in" day for us.  I thought this would be a good time to take you on an architectural tour of the apartment.

Alex did go out earlier and garnered some goodies at the open market around the corner.  She came back with cheese and olives, more fruit, more veggies, various small pieces of bread.  We decided to stay in for lunch and made up a very delicious menu.  I cooked a frittata with a delicious sauce of tomatoes, onions, spinach, basil and cheese.  We had bread, a lovely salad of many different types of lettuce, and some yummy Prosecco to wash it all down.

This apartment is so well located to take advantage of both indoor and outdoor markets.  It's just too bad the kitchen is so poorly equipped.  One small saute pan, one very large pasta pot.  No sauce pans.  A strainer for the pasta you've just cooked in the gigantic pot.  A cheese grater that's highly ineffective.  Two knives you could use to butcher a pig but no chef's knife or paring knife.  The stove is very good and new; likewise the fridge is roomy with a separate cabinet for the freezer.  No microwave, not essential but handy for warming up the meatballs you've bought at the market and are going to have for dinner.  No toaster; either put it under the broiler or saute it.  One tiny chopping board.  The reason I'm listing all these things is that I think the owners of this place are really missing the boat on marketing this apartment as a marvelous place to stay for those who love to cook.  I know, I know.  People come to Italy to eat all the good food in restaurants so they don't have to shop, cook, clean up.  But not everyone wants to do that.  I love going to the markets and bringing home bags of beautiful produce and having at it in a good kitchen.  Even if you intend to eat all your meals out, a good knife is never a bad thing.

Here's the tour.


 the living room from the entry.  Big TV on wall opposite sofa.
the dining table, door out to terrace on left, Alex's bedroom on right
looking from the dining area into the living room
the kitchen
bedroom 1 where I have moved in.  very comfortable bed.

bedroom 2 where Alex lays her sleepy head

the bathroom, about twice as big as our Paris hotel bath.  And the shower actually has walls!
this is the little terrace off the dining room and Alex's bedroom.  Washing machine out here, too!
from the terrace looking into my bedroom; dining area to the left.
windows to Alex's bedroom from terrace
The apartment has only two windows; one in the dining room, one in Alex's bedroom.  But the artificial light is plenty, especially in the dining room which has become our "everything" room.  There is a big TV on the living room wall but there is only one English language channel and it's not news; it's reruns of Law and Order as far as I can tell.

It's now 4 PM Saturday afternoon and it's still raining so, for me, there will be no sightseeing today.  Weather is supposed to be a bit better tomorrow; we'll see.  We are hoping to train up to Venice on Monday because both Florence and Venice are forecast to be dry.  It's about a two hour train ride through some very beautiful landscape.  More tomorrow.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Venerdì in Firenza

Air France did a fine job of getting us from Paris to Florence.

Well, it's French you know, and a nice little snack of bread, cheese, salami and wine is not out of place, even at 35,000 feet.

We arrived only to find that there is a taxi strike BUT some rogue drivers are still working and so we queued up and sure enough, a steady stream of taxi's was picking up fares and heading into the city.   We arrived at the apartment's "sister" hotel and were walked the one block to the apartment.

It's on the first floor, has two bedrooms, one bath, salon, kitchen/dining room and, an extra treat, a little atrium with a washing machine.   BUT, let me kvetch for just one minute.  I have been a VRBO client for more than 10 years.  Mr. C and I have stayed in apartments all over the world, foreign and domestic.  We have always found some basics for our use; some kitchen staples, bathroom amenities, etc.  This place was ABSOLUTELY EMPTY except for toilet paper and automatic dishwasher soap.  Not a grain of salt, a sliver of bath soap, a drop of water, a paper napkin in the place.  Not a great start.  So off to the market we went to "furnish" this kitchen with things like olive oil, vinegar, coffee, etc.  plus to buy goodies for dinner.   Here's what it looked like:  roast chicken, salad, cheese, and a yummy whole wheat bread.  Oh, and a nice Italian white wine.

 We also needed another blanket ~ there was only one ~ but we'll get that tomorrow.

This morning we went off to the local street market held in an area just behind our apartment.  Fresh produce, cheese, baked things, flowers, plus clothing and leather goods.  The produce is absolutely beautiful, bountiful, inexpensive. 

There is also an indoor marked connected to it.  Here you will find meat and fish plus things like pasta, grains, packaged goods.

sacks of various grains

Beautiful porcini mushrooms selling for €160.00/kilo

Dried tomatoes in oil-so beautiful and fragrant 

Then we headed outside to get some other goodies.

beautiful, sweet, juicy clementines

striated eggplant about the size of a pear
I've never seen horse chestnuts and wouldn't know what to do with them . . .

 . . . and even if I did know what to do, I'm not sure I would!
After the big market we went to the post office to send off cards, back to Caron for more basic Florentine staples; water, wine, dry salami, bread, 2 little Prosecos for evening toasts, more fruit and veggies, and to the bank to get the cash to pay for it all.

 I am happy to report that Dorothy is taking a little Italian vacation, too, to visit her hundreds of cousins both here and in Paris.  She,too, is having a wonderful time!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

in Florence

Just to let you know we made it safely to Florence.  I will post some photos and some chit-chat tomorrow.    And I DO have much to say about leaving and arriving and staying.  Meanwhile, it's 9 PM and I'm off to bed.  Thanks for reading along.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

our last day in Paris

I hate playing catch-up when I'm traveling because it's almost impossible to remember everything I did on any one day.  But I have a batch of photos and perhaps I can put the event together with the picture and you can get some idea of what has transpired in the last couple of days.

Monday morning we set off to meet up with my friend Sheree who is staying over in the 5th.  We planned to either have a picnic in the Luxembourg gardens or, bad weather being the case, find a smart restaurant.  On our way we passed many, many cafés ready for business no matter what the weather.  It was already sprinkling but the tables and chairs were all set for customers.

Of course, nobody was there, but they were ready.

We walked by La Procope, the oldest restaurant in Paris.  It was Benjamin Franklin's favorite.  I was there many years ago, back in 1979 when I was living here for a few months.  First (and only) time I had pork stuffed with prunes.  A concept dish!

Across the Blvd. St. Germaine, through the school of medicine buildings and out on to Saint Michel, past the Sorbonne, up the hill toward the Panthéon to her little apartment.  We then showed her the wonderful outdoor market which was, hélas closed on Monday but at least she now knows where it is.  Back up the hill, past the apartment Mr. C and I have stayed in several times, and to the end of the street to a nice little restaurant I have walked by numerous times. 

 We sat outside but under cover of the awning and had a lovely lunch.  Alex and I each  feasted on a beautiful Salade Niçoise and Sheree had also a big vegetarian salad.  Then we walked back to her digs, I got a fabulous foot massage (and BOY did I need it).  Then we took her on a "how to ride the Metro" jaunt back to our little hotel.

She headed off toward the 7th to check out the Tour Eiffel and the d'Orsay, Alex went to shop for some cheese and crackers, I took a short nap.  When she got back it was raining so we stayed in the nabe for dinner just down the street.  Tomorrow, we decided, if it's not pouring rain, we're going up to Montmartre for lunch.

I was feeling a bit peckish in the morning, plus is was raining steadily, so we stayed in until around 2 o'clock and then decided to walk to Chartier.  We crossed the river on the Pont des Arts, the place where all the love locks are.  Unfortunately most of the locks are now gone; the weight was collapsing the bridge.  But the powers that be have salvaged part of the bridge and the locks are on terra firma at each end of the bridge.

From the Pont des Arts looking toward the Ile Saint- Louis
 After a brisk walk we arrived at Chartier, a well known restaurant that has tons of atmosphere and history but pretty lousy food.  But 'twas always thus.  I went there with my daughters 38 years ago and it's the same as it was.  It's clear you don't go there for the food but for the ambiance.  And there's lots of that.

Back to our hotel and an early bedtime for me.  I don't know exactly what the problem was today but a good night's sleep never hurts.

This morning I was up early and ready to go up to Montparnasse and the cemetery followed by lunch somewhere.  Alex I I walked over to meet Sheree, passing by these tempting goodies in the window of Carton's.

If we had a microwave we'd NEVER have to go out.  We met her down at the market and this time showed her how to find correspondence on the Metro.  Over to Blvd. Raspail and the big Cemeterie de Montparnasse.  All sorts of people have come to rest here; Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre (in the same  sarcophagus Mon Dieu!,
 Marguerite Duras, Guy de Maupassant,  Porfirio Diaz, president of Mexico, and plenty more, known and unknown.

Simone and Jean-Paul, a deux.  Hard to read, I know, but they're there!

Crypt of Porfirio Diaz (died  in Paris in 1915)
Marguerite Duras.  Pot in back is filled with pens left by admirers.   

 I don't know who Ricardo was but he was much beloved by the friends who erected this beautiful, playful memorial to a man they describe on the name stone as "beautiful and beloved friend".

This beautiful etched door and relief floral decorations leads into a tiny crypt.  Burials are above ground and the slabs over the graves can be  plain or very ornate.  There are lots of little crypts such as this one crowded into the cemetery.

After a couple of hours of wandering through this quiet and peaceful place we walked over to La Coupole, another oldie but goodie resto.  The last time I was there was in 2000; at that time it had the best creamed spinach I had ever tasted.  And it was a big, barny place, not exactly casual but not very chi chi.  Then it was bought by a Japanese company and has gone waaay up in the world.  White table cloths and napkins, lots of plates and crystal on the table, a much more gourmet menu without the good stuff they used to serve like creamed spinach, for example, and poulet frites, a fabulous Grand Marnier souffle for dessert, etc.  But there we were so there we stayed.  I would say, faut de mieux not very good food for quite a few euros.  One beautiful thing there, however, is the floor.  Gorgeous mosaic tiles.

We walked home through the Luxembourg Gardens, in amazing bloom this late in the season.  The gardens are a marvelous quiet, lush spot in the midst of a busy, noisy, bustling city.  These are the plantings in from of the Palais du Luxembourg, across from the sailing pond where the kiddies bring their toy boats.

Allée des arbes

We left the garden, took a look at the Panthéon,

said good-bye to Sheree and headed home.  We leave for Florence tomorrow and I have yet to pack up.  We have had a lovely stay here but I will be happy to be in my own kitchen cooking my own meals with an occasional "out" to break the monotony.  Next post will be from our apartment on Via Dell'Agnolo #34!