Paris exists to remind you that dreams are real..
It’s Sunday. The last day of June. The sun is high in a clear blue sky. After the oppressive 35 degree heat in Italy 2 days ago, 21 degrees had me pulling out a light jacket to wear when we stepped out for lunch. We’re home after a month-long journey that took us from Paris to Rome. I found myself many times this month wondering if I’d been highjacked somehow and placed inside a Woody Allen movie. We couldn’t have chosen more romantic settings to celebrate our Honeymoon.
We flew direct Vancouver – Paris. If you can afford the small luxury of updating your seats and purchasing the front row, I highly recommend it. With our complimentary blankets, eye masks and plenty of leg room, we slept as much as we could upon takeoff to get on Europe time as quickly as possible. We only had 2 nights in Paris so once checked into our cozy hotel in the neighbourhood of Montmartre the adventure began. We calculated that we walked over 200 kms on this trip and climbed almost double the amount of floors than the C.N Tower in Toronto! Our short stay in Paris was lovely. Strolling the hills of Montmartre we spotted a couple of the old windmills that made the area famous since the 17th century. We opted both nights on dinner on the open patios in Place du Tertre, a lively square near Sacre Coeur filled with artists stalls and painters sketching portraits of young couples, an accordionists music floating in the warm Paris night. Champagne and a traditional Bourguignon was my first meal of the trip.
Day 2 we walked over 16 kms. The Louvre was closed (seriously?) but we enjoyed the grandeur of the palace it is housed in, saw the Grand Palais (all I could think of was Karl Lagerfeld turning it into a beach, ocean waves an all for the Chanel Ready To Wear Collection 2019) and had lunch on a floating restaurant with a view of La Torre Eiffel from our table.
The coast from France to Spain was on a category Orange weather alert when we boarded our train to Hendaye and for the entire 6 hour trip the rain never let up. Whipping against the windows, grey skies and thunder as we sped past the vast farm lands of the Bordeaux region; a big storm to say the least. We arrived at our next destination: Donostia/ San Sebastian on the Atlantic coast of Northern Spain. San Sebastian is a foodie’s heaven and my husband being one, it had been on his bucket list to visit this town which hosts a large conglomerate of Michelin Star restaurants. The food scene in San Sebastian did not disappoint. We celebrated our 6 month wedding anniversary with dinner at Alameda (https://restaurantealameda.net/en/ ) after which we waddled home from our 12 course meal. Bodegon Alejandro (http://www.bodegonalejandro.com/en/home/ ) was yet another culinary affair; Cava, red wine and the simplest yet most delicious Uruguayan style asado (BBQ) we’ve ever tasted. We spent 5 days in San Sebastian . It was sunny every day but the storm seemed to have left a cool wind that blew most of the time. We spent one full day laying on the beach and the rest, walking from one end to the other, taking a scenic tour on the Hop on, Hop Off bus. We hiked to the top of Mount Urgull one morning for the most breath taking vistas and dined on the world famous Pintxos and sangria at Sirimiri Atari for the rest of our stay. https://sirimirigastroleku.com/en/
Next stop: Barcelona. A quick 45 minute flight, a cab ride, a hotel check-in and another cab ride and we were laying on the warm sand at La Barceloneta beach. We’d spend the next 7 days visiting the landmarks left by artist Gaudi like Casa Batllo, La Pedrera Casa Mila and Parc Guell, taking in the smells and colours of the Boqueria Market and experiencing a tradition middle eastern Hammam (bath house) on the only rainy afternoon we had during our visit https://www.rituelsdorient.com/ .
Paella dinner on the beach, La Sagrada Familia, walking the narrow cobble stoned alleys of the Gothic Quarter, La Plata: a traditional spanish bar recommended by Rick Steves (was amazing), La Rambla and a pit stop at the Born Street Food Festival. You get the idea, we didn’t stop.
2 weeks into our trip we landed in Florence Italy. Hello again Florence! We rented a cute apartment overlooking the Piazza di la Signoria where the famous David statue resides. From this perfect vantage point we were able to navigate this medieval city easily. Last year we’d discovered Signorvino https://www.signorvino.com/en/wine-shop/florence a wine store and restaurant tucked away in a corner on the other side of Ponte Vecchio. The patio has the most gorgeous view of the Arno river and the stone bridge and we were excited to score a table where we dined on our first pasta of many…many more to come.
I don’t know if Florence is more beautiful in the day or in the night. What I do know is that it’s very, VERY hot in June. It’s like the city’s old stone buildings act like a stove, slowly warming in the sun throughout the day and by mid afternoon it begins to release it’s fire. Best to walk in the morning, have siesta in the afternoon and head out again early evening. 3 showers a day are a must. We did a little (ok who am I kidding. We did a lot) of shopping, took the scenic tour bus up to the hill town of Fiesole and walked and walked some more.
One of our favourite experiences from last year was stumbling upon the Trattoria Dei 13 Gobbi, a traditional Tuscan style family restaurant serving the freshest buffalo mozzarella Caprese salad and to-die-for pasta dishes. As an amateur cook, one of my biggest pleasures is serving my meals in colourful serving bowls and platters. I’m in love with the plates at this place so I’ve decided to rent a storage facility in Florence and start to stock up on Tuscan kitchenware until we buy our little dream flat in nearby Siena. One must never stop dreaming. http://www.casatrattoria.com/en/trattoria-13-gobbi
At the table next to us there was a couple also on their honeymoon from Florida. They recommended we check out Locale which we did after dinner. It’s kind of an insult to call this place just a bar or a restaurant. On an unassuming street behind the Museum of Natural History stands The Concini Palace dating back to the 1200’s. This is where Locale lives. Don’t expect to have a quick drink and head out on your next venture because this place needs a night on it’s own. A beautiful glass enclosed courtyard holds the bar area, the walls drip with greenery and shelves reaching the ceiling are stocked with exotic liquors. Expect a steep bill as the drinks start at 20 Euro (and go up from there). We’re happy we went. From the menu to the colourful amuse bouche that kept coming (complimentary with the drinks) this place is an experience and we’ve vowed to visit again for dinner next time we’re in Florence. http://www.localefirenze.it/history/?lang=en
Arriving in Siena is like coming home. The main city in the Tuscany region, it’s less crowded than Florence and is famous for it’s “siena” coloured brick structures. We spent a week in Siena, it’s nice to go back to places that are familiar. Walking up the Duomo steps, enjoying a gelato at Piazza del Campo and the sparrows that swoop across the sky every evening at sunset singing their melodic tunes.
We rented a car the second day in Siena, see one of my ultimate favourite things to do is to visit the locations of my favourite books and movies. If you’ve watched Under the Tuscan Sun you know it takes place in Cortona. We rented a car a made the 1 hour drive up to the town. Enclosed inside a wall and high on a Tuscan hilltop Cortona is exactly as pictures in the film. The best part is that the house mentioned in the film – Bramasole is a real place. We hiked about 40 minutes from the main piazza to the home. Nestled in the hills among breathtaking gated homes and sweeping views, Bramasole is now a rental property which I will most definitely be staying at the next time I have 24,000 Euro a night to spend.
The next day we drove SouthWest of Siena to the 13th century town of San Gemingnano. We had made prior lunch reservations days before at Tenuta Torciano Winery https://www.torciano.com/en/ . We toured the town through the late morning than made our way to our lunch and wine tasting at 1pm where we were greeted with a glass of Prosecco, a tour of the property followed by a patio lunch of antipasto, lasagna, 12 kinds of wine, truffle oils and aged balsamic vinegar, all produced by the winery. We left full, content and with an order of wine and truffle oil on shipment back home to Canada.
Our last night in Siena we headed over to La Taverna Di San Giuseppe https://www.tavernasangiuseppe.it/ , a Michelin Rated restaurant (but not over priced). Originally a home that held a cellar dating back 200 BC, the city was later built around (and above) it. The ambiance is that of an old tavern. The food was home cooked and delicious and although the cellar remains under a closed gate, we asked the server if we could go down for a cheese tasting after dinner and he invited just the 2 of us down to the cool cellar for a slice of cheese with sweet pepper sauce and a brief history of the location. If you can’t decide on which pasta to try, ask for a 1/2 portion of 2 different kinds like my husband did. They were very accommodating.
We said our goodbye’s to Siena and headed on the last leg of our trip. 3 hours later and the train had pulled into Roma Termini station. It’s hot in Rome, hotter than anywhere else we visited. The energy of the big city is a bit of a shock on the system after the quaintness of Tuscany. We were flying home from Rome and our visit was so brief last year that we figured we’d spend an extra couple days which gave us room to visit the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and the pretty neighbourhood of Trastevere. I had the best carbonara of my life at Osteria Toscana Il Chianti http://www.chiantiosteriatoscana.it/en/
Our flight was delayed over 3 hours in Rome which in turn made us miss our connecting flight from Montreal to YVR. 25 hours later, we were home. Filled with memories and stories that will last a lifetime, I hope you enjoy this entry and thank you for coming along with me on this journey.