Johanna 's Travel Blog

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August 09, 11:58 AM
paris, France

We left Bordeaux and found our way to the labyrinthine Paris metro station where we had to go up and then down and then left and then down and then up two flights and that was only to catch the first of 3 trains. For each transfer, we had to lug the bags up flights of stairs and around corners and thousands of turns smelling like urine. But, we are in Paris, city of beauty and romance, right? In good spirits, we spent our first night we walking through much of the city stating from our modern apartment in the 11th to the Bastille, stopping at a very nice bookshop and then, once were were oriented with the city (Thank you “I Witness Paris” guide) we made our way to the Notre Dame, and then to the Eiffel Tower exactly as they lit it up at 10:15pm. After about 5 hours of waling non-stop we were hungry and ready to sit down, but it took us about an hour to find a place that was still serving food. Finally we found tasty salads and then walked home. A very full first day!

This morning we awoke with the intention to going to the Louvre and then the Rodin museum that would not be open on Monday. Note to travlers: it is a marathon, pace yourself and break often. We got to the Louvre around 12:30 and stayed until after 3:30. There are so many other inspiring sections of the Louvre, not to mention the intricate details and austere interior of the building itself. More on my impressions and favorite works soon. When we realized that we needed to rush to the Rodin san lunch, it was already nearing 4. I was museumed-out at that point, but hey, we are only here for 3 days, and there is so much to see! For James, seeing The Thinker was marvelous and I agree quite a powerful work. Again with tired feet, we make our way home and unfortunately, our internet is still not working. We are across the street at a cafe/sports bar? with wireless and plan to make ourselves dinner soon with the provisions we could find at the only market open on Sunday. It reminds me of the restaurant owners in Bordeaux, who, when at midnight we walked in hungry for food replayed “this is France, what do you expect.”


August 07, 08:07 AM

We began our day with delicious chocolate pastries and tea at Couleurs Sucrees. This tiny shop is located at 12 Rue du Parlement Saint-Pierre and serves delicate treats. We found it while in search of City Cafe a location plotted on the gay map, but alas, they were still closed. Next, we set off to the contemporary art museum that we agreed was better in form than contents. Housed in a beautiful castle-like building, the contents were not awe inspired nor did they fill the generous space. However, we found our way to a lovely top floor library where we read old exhibition guides. I was drawn to Nan Goldin’s photos and James read something that had scientific drawings. We hung out there and then strolled by the tourist center where we learned there was an arts festival upon us. However, the events were dispersed enough that we needed a car to attend, so we abandon that plan and instead went looking for vegetarian food. In our pursuit, we came upon the Grand Clock Tower and impressed but famished continued on. We broke down and bought a pastry around 2pm and only moments later came to a very nice square with delicious smelling wood-oven pizzas where we promptly sat down to enjoy two glasses of wine (one dray and the other sweet and sparkling) and an enormous goat cheese salad as well as a flavorful vegi pizza.

The restaurant is called Simone Dell Arte
10 place Camille Jullian
3300 Bordeaux
tel: 05 56 52 65 32 and they are open form 11am to 1am and (thoguht we were unaware at the time) have free wifi.

Extremely full, we wondered back to our hotel and on the way thought we could find the antique book market that James remembered from years ago. We switched to a smaller room for tonight. We will do some work and then maybe go to a book store and find a light supper and inevitably see anther church facade. Maybe I can find the movie theater that my friend Kimberly mentioned is in a cave for some evening entertainment. Tomorrow, we are off to Paris!


August 06, 03:26 PM
Bordeaux France

Though we had intended to go to Nimes, we are now in Bordeaux. Apparently one of the two train stations, and of course, not the one we went to had the international trains to France. Already running late, we missed the connections and could not get to Nimes tonight. In the time we had to wait in the station between connections, not sure if we were in Spin or France, we read about this simple but sweet two star hotel very close to the main area. While waiting our passports were checked no fewer than 4 times. We got in around 6pm this evening as the shops were closing and we made note of the many chocolaterias near by. We saw 2 of the 3 noteworthy cathedrals and after some searching found a pretty good albeit in a touristy area Indian(isch) restaurant. There is a nice breeze from the water and the commercial streets of the old town are fun to traverse. I think this will be an lovely day or so in Bordeaux.


August 05, 10:13 AM
San Sebastain Spain

We boarded the train in Madrid and arrived to the cool sea breezes of San Sebastain around 10pm. Realizing that the tourist info would be closed, we made our way without a map to Ss Surf-camp hostel. It is located here:

Paseo Colon 17
San Sebastian

And we found a nice room for two. It lacks windows, but other than that, is in a great location. A bit hungry for the rumored tapas, we walked down the main streets where we were surprised to find most things closed.Sure it was a Tuesday night, but come on..a beach town, closed? We settled on a place that still about 10 plates called Rojo & Negro and enjoyed a few before heading back and catching up on sleep.

Today we awoke and went in search of vegetarian food and to take in the sights by the light of day. After much searching, we found out from a woman working a natural food store in the centro comercial that we were not far from a place with vegi choices called Tendone. She had forgotten the name and exact location, so again we were at the mercy of our map and inquires in worse-than-I-remembered-Spanish, We luckily found it around 3pm and ate a sumptuous feasts for 15 euros each including soup, salad, bread, two entrees, wine and dessert. The have a traditional menu written in the language unique to this Basque area.To make it easier for you:

Tendone
Jatetxea
begetarianoa eta tradizional
Corta 10
20001 donostai
tel: 943 273 561

We then found our way to the beach (what else in a beach town?) and enjoyed the great waves famous for surfing. It was surprisingly less crowded than in Italy, and we stayed until the tide came in a chased us away. Later we plan to do some tapas—Txiquiteo (chih-kee-TAY-oh)is the word for hopping from bar to bar, enjoying small sandwiches and tiny snacks and glasses of wine and take in some more of the old city.


August 05, 10:10 AM
madrid

Madrid

We had a few hours in Madrid before our train to San Sebastian and I thought, did a great job seeing the city. We debated the symbol of the bear which I maintained had a meaning, and James thought, to be an example to Hideiggerian
‘idle talk’.’ To set the record straight, see the explanations of origin of the symbol below:

Following a dispute in the 13th century over hunting rights on church owned land, an agreement was reached that the church owned the soil, but Madrilenos owned everything above the ground – namely game. Hence the symbol of Madrid was born – a Bear (the church’s emblem) sniffing a tree. This bear can be seen across the city today on everything belonging to “the city”.

Another claim is that the original name of the city was “Ursa” (“bear” in Latin), due to the high number of bears found in the adjacent forests, and together with the Madrone tree (“madroño” in Spanish), the name Madrid was created and the symbol born.

We walked around hoping for lunch and found a lovely vegetarian buffet and organic market called ’Viva la Vida." We took our fantastic food to the entrance of the botanical garden (near by) and upon learning that we had to pay to enter, we instead enjoyed our lunch on a bench outside entrance.

Viva la Vida
Huertas 57 913697254
Costanilla San Andres 16
(Plz. de la Paja) 913663349
www.vivalavida.org
Then have two locations, one a larger sit down restaurant open for 3 years now.

We continued to walk around impressed by the artistic shops and struck by the elaborate tiled street signs each bearing an image of the city’s original street function.

Avoiding touristy areas was our intention, but we were drawn to the historic Plaza Mayor and saw the incredible frescos. After, we went to the Cathedral de Nitra Sra de la Almudna at which point the sun seemed to bear down on us. Conscientious of the time, we wanted a quick snack before our train ride (that I originally thought to be 2 hours but was really 6, actually feeling like 2 since the train was silently moving at over 100-mph!) I recalled, only vaguely, a place known for its churros and we happened upon it after passing other less desirable options by. It is called Chocolateria San Gines established in 1894! and down a small cobble stone street. There is a book seller at the corner that might catch you eye, otherwise, I am sure people like Rick Steves sings its praise often enough that you would find it in a guide book. If not, I will share the secret with you here:

Chocolateria San Gines
Pasadizo de San Gines No 5
Tel: 91-365-65-46
2801 Madrid and it is open ‘toda la noche’


August 02, 10:00 AM
Sinio. Italy

Last night we had a 6 course dinner that left me too stuffed to type. The restaurants typical of this area have a set dinner where you don’t know the number of courses ahead of you or the food to expect. I suppose they do this because if you know how much you were supposed to consume, you would run the other way. We ate form 8pm-10:30, our plates heaped with specialties of the house. It was marvelous.

It is called Trattoria dell’Amicizia and serves “Cucina tipica Langarola” their telephone number is +39 0173 79131 and they are located in Roddino. Go hungry!

This morning we awoke, still full, but enjoyed the breakfast of our agrotourismo with homemade grape jam and hazelnuts. Shortly there after, we toured the production facilities and learned all about the wines from the Rivetto Family.

A short summery follows:

Since 1902 the Rivetto family has been growing grapes and producing Barbera, Barbaresco and Barolo wines. They recently began to do a white wine called Rivetto Languhe Bianco and like all of the wines here,each harvest is named affectionately for a family member.

All of their grapes are picked by hand and the only pesticide used is copper, sprayed on and gives the posts a blue hue. The wine is aged in cork, no sugar is added and the bottles are corked with natural cork form Spain or Portugal.

If you come across this make of wine, the best years to try are 1996-7, 2003 and 2007-8. Avoid 2002, apparently it was bust. We had a tasting and were very impressed! The owner, papa, gave me a tomato from his garden and wished me ‘salute’ or health.

Later, we also explored some hikes that went from town to town through vineyards. The trails are not marked too clearly (look for parallel red and white lines) but the views are worth it. We ate lunch (after walking one hour up hill, and then retracing our steps) at a nice place one of the very few still open at 4pm called Locanda della Posta di Baraolo e Enoteca in Camere—Cuena and they had delicious cantaloupe and tasty pasta.

James is coming tonight and we will sleep on cots outside, I am excited!


July 31, 02:38 PM
egione Panegai, 34 – 18100 - Imperia - imperia

I feel so far from the beaten path, which wouldn’t be so terrible but for us having to stay here for 4 days and well, there is very little to do.It is admittedly quiet and peaceful here, but also constricting in that it is a 20 minute drive to the nearest town. My brothers were happy to find that there is a basketball court here, thought they managed to loose the ball in the first hour of our arrival.

We ate a tasty dinner at the only open pizza place with multitudes of pizza that we couldn’t even finish! We ordered a dessert in Italian that looked like egg salad but tasted much better.

There are dogs and cats and a Polish family living here, but very little farm. Luckily, there is a faint wireless signal. Let the typing carry on.

Oh, this is also worth a mention, there are rows and rows of grapes. There will be races held at 0900 if you care to join in. The winner gets grapes!


July 29, 12:18 PM
Caseificio

Today we took a long van ride (about 1.5 hrs) on twisty turny roads and arrived at a small cheese producing facility. Guido, my family’s trusted Bethesda travel guide had some connection to the tiny place founded in 1991 and so, treated as the distinguished guests we were not, we embarked on a 1/2 hour tour. My brothers were most curious about the eating, and with an earnest tour guide who spoke Italian and made much appreciated efforts with English, I followed along ad learned about the process from cow to shrink wrap. The coop I learned was not accustomed to guests (the last ones visiting several years ago form Australia) and they were proud of there small organic production in a way that was humbling. I believe in supporting local and small scale productions, and this lovely cheese production facility is just that. Don’t forget to visit their shop on your way out for delicious and unique local flavors.


July 28, 03:28 AM
Cinque Terre Italy

I suppose this is a simple concept for most, one learned in elementary school, but I am astounded by perimeters. This came to my attention while hiking the Cinque Terra with my family. The rocky cost bends, turns and winds around the self and and psyche. All you can see is rock and sea. We hiked about 5 hours yesterday making our way form one coastal town to the next, some populated by no more than 150. The views are beautiful and the at the end of the dusty trails, it felt exhilarating to jump from rocks into the sea. The hike also made a case for me drinking a Gatorade (red flavor) and then sitting down to work through some area and perimeter problems in my GRE book.


July 23, 10:29 AM
Bellagio, Italy

Now in Italy on the stunning Lake Como. We are staying at the elegant Hotel Belvedere with a pool and jacuzzi that align with the horizon. There is also a steam room and sauna for free! Last night we ate at a delicious restaurant called Restorante Bilacus with garden fresh ingredients and perfect pasta al dente. We also caught up on laundry at the town’s self service laundromat. Today, we tried to sail the seas, but the wind was not strong enough for a sailboat. Compromising for 2 kayaks and a motor boat, my family glided around the lake as I swam a great distance and then, laid on the steps of a 13thc garden and caught the sun. Lucas, in charge of the boats and a descendant of the first man to profit from transporting people across the lake, had a deceitfully professional looking brochure,and in fact, my brothers and dad had to do the manual labor of moving three boats. In the end, we had to pay 100 Euro for about 2 hours of water-borne fun. Lesson: don’t go for the ‘deals’ suggested by the hotel.

Hopefully James will join me on Friday! Hotels here prove to be more expensive than other parts of Italy, but we are nowhere near Swiss prices. We hope to go on a tour of the villas on the surrounding islands and hike beyond the tourists of the main street area.

Ahh,the mosquito hour is upon me. More soon!