Moving on – Barcelona to Lucca

You know what? Traveling can be more exciting than your expectations. That is why we suggest good planning, good guide information, patience and a constant heads up!

Due to inconvenience strikes by the French railway system, our train to France was canceled. Due to our planning we were able to figure this out in advance, go over to the train station the day prior to departure and change our ticket to a train that was not being inconvenienced!

We planned to rent our car in France to avoid drop off fees and this all came together very well, I must say.

The first day of the road we traveled to Arles. Arles has a rich Roman history; it sided with Julius Caesar against Pompei. When Caesar emerged victorious Arles became a hot spot rewarded with substantial Roman architecture. Everyone knows now, Caesar was the winning team until Brutus came a long. (“Et tu, Brute?” from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.)

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The painter Van Gogh also fortified the fame of this town arriving in Arles in F8E14697-D407-4054-A9A2-32B88CA71316February 1888. He was fascinated by the Provençal landscapes, producing over 300 paintings and drawings during his time in Arles. Most are familiar with the “Yellow Cafe” reflective of his bright colors and creative interpretations.

 

 

For us weary travelers, we had a pleasant dinner near the Arles amphitheater and we called it a night.

The next day we headed for the French Riviera; little did we know we landed right in566BE12A-B08B-4F6D-989A-7ACE609EAAD9 the middle of the Cannes Film Festival. Huge yachts, massive crowds and the glorious sunshine of the Côte d’Azur. We did not see anyone more famous than our traveling companion, Bill Fuller. No Kardashian’s or notable celebrities as yet. But they were ready; long processions of police vehicles and red carpet!

Moving on down the coast, we found a fabulous spot in Cagnes-sur-Mer. This might be a good time to explain the “we” in our trip. We are traveling with Gerry and Anita Simpson. I went Junior High School with Gerry and High School with Anita. Great traveling partners and it was Anita who found the sweet place in Cagnes-sur-Mer.

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The next morning I found myself in dire straights with a cough I had been fighting for quite a while. This is the moment folks; try to imagine explaining how you feel to medical personnel who do not speak English. It can happen!

They took good care of me and put me quickly on the road to recovery. The hospital is never a planned stop but when you need it, do it!

On to Italy.

Ciao

Connie

Bare Necessities

22523AEA-49A2-43D5-A29E-158E7EFA0C91I love planning a trip, packing for a trip and heading out the door on my next adventure. Mind you I am not talking about safaris, National Geographic excursions or back packing along the Appalachian trail. No, my travel involves trips to France, Italy, and the occasional cruise. Tame by some standards but challenging as well.

For the most part, my travels do not present imminent danger, but they do require some bare necessities. There can be obstacles to face, decisions on logistics, where to go, how to get there and where to stay are critical.

Often my solution is to delegate: I let my husband sort through the multitude of travel guides and on-line resources to narrow options down to a reasonable list. It gives him purpose to his retired life style and he loves doing it. We don’t require fancy accommodations; a good location that is clean and safe can suit our needs. Yet, when traveling internationally, there can still be unplanned situations calling for forward-thinking travel savvy.

I am only fluent in my native English language but have made a good effort in learning the basics in French, Italian and German to maintain proper greetings and ask for directions. Two suggestions for those planning your first trip to anywhere.

Learn the words for foods you do not like to eat. This will save you uncomfortable gastronomic experiences when served a meatloaf in a pig’s belly vs the pork chop you expected.

Learn how to ask for directions.

Où sont les toilettes s’il vous plaît?
Per favore, puoi dirmi dove è il gabinetto?
Bitte, wo ist die Toilette?

Yes, simple little phases that can make your life much more comfortable no matter where you are! Keep in mind, once you have mastered these phases, your challenge is far from over. You will need to take careful note of the hand signal directions and quick words returned in answer to your question. Often, I would recommend a repeat of the hand signals just to confirm you got it. If the moment is urgent you do not want to head off in the wrong direction.

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In a small (or huge) town, using the WC of a restaurant should not be a problem. It is recommended that you become a patron of the establishment before you embark on your search for the restroom. We think it is worth the price of a café, a glass of wine or beer to avoid using the public toilets or a big tree.

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Once you have located your destination, you will need to figure out the facilities which can have varying degrees of complexity, cleanliness or lack thereof. All obstacles that can make or break the moment. For example, there is one style of toilet where you push a button and the seat cover automatically advances to a clean spot. To avoid injury, don’t sit down until it stops.

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One of the more interesting facilities has two places for your feet with a hole in the middle. This unit is great for practicing your aim while attempting to keep your clothes out of the target area. It may take some getting used to but you have no worries of a dirty seat cover! My advice, ladies, do not travel in a jumpsuit. You will never get out of it in time to use this type of toilet!

 

 

Beyond these standards, there are facilities with no toilet seat, I suggest hovering on this one. Occasionally there may be pay toilets, have your change ready.

On my recent trip to Germany, my friend Christl gave me a handful of change. It came in handy more than I expected to gain access to the WC or to pay a hovering attendant for a scrap of toilet tissue.

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You might run into public facilities where the men and women’s restrooms are very close together. I say, get in, do your business and get out.

Last but not to be overlooked, are the hotels with the bathroom down the hall, I avoid these accommodations.

 

One final complication to moments of urgency are the roadside conveniences. It is more common all the time to find large, clean facilities on major highways. But if you are traveling what we call the scenic goat roads, you may go miles beyond your capacity to hold it. During one experience, my husband was set on showing me a most interesting cemetery. I mean no disrespect to the dead but I did find a quiet, clean little spot beyond the cemetery stonewall to make my peace.

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Traveling anywhere can be an adventure. Before the call of nature becomes the call of the wild, remember there is relief on the road ahead. Just be prepared with realistic expectations to meet the challenges of your “bare necessities”.

 

Route du Vin

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I have to admit, on our trips we may be on a Route de la Chèvre, but we are ALWAYS on the Route du Vin. Traveling with Bill, a seasoned traveler and  knowledgeable winemaker, he often guides our travels into food and wine decadence.

 

 

 

Bill, Nancy and most of our wine drinking friends prefer a dry wine experience. As a lesson in wine selection, the label or your server should provide you with some basic information: vintage, grape variety, origin and whether the product is dry or off dry. Here are some clues for searching for a dry wine.

France – Vin sec
Germany – Trocken wine
Italy – Vino secco
USA – Dry

From there you can match your choices to your varietal tastes and budget. For myself, I put down my menu and ask Bill to select something I will like. He is seldom wrong on this.

Beginning our trip in Bavaria, Bill spent an afternoon chatting with a charming Winzer or wine grower. The topics are all similar wherever we go, climate, soil conditions and environmental threats to the grapes.

German Wine Law requires 6 items to be included on the label. Unfortunately vintage and grape variety are not required. The best option is to decide white or red and the level of “Trocken” you desire.

We came home with two bottles of German wine, a Riesling and a Merlot from Gehrig in Weisenheim am Sand and the labels were clear that the Riesling was “Trocken” or dry and the Merlot is a Blanc (White) de Noir.

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We are both looking forward to tasting the Merlot. The Riesling we might save for a warm summer afternoon.

 

 

 

Alsatian wines are unique and some of “Bill’s favorites”. We visited the Wolfberger Winery in Eguisheim which has a beautiful tasting room, Sipp Mack in Hunawihr and a few others along the way. From Alsace we brought home a Riesling and several bottles of Gewürztraminer. The Gewürztraminer with a little creme d’ cassis makes a fabulous Kir, a popular aperitif at our house.

Incidentally, on the back label of the Alsatian wines, there is a chart which helps you identify the level of “vin sec”. Very helpful.

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The Burgundian wines, mainly chardonnay and Pinot Noir are typically sorted out by the area the grapes are sourced from. A single winery can produce Grand Cru, Premier Cru and a Village wine. We were able to taste all levels of wine on our visit to Imaginarium in Nuits-Saint-Georges, where they had a cruvinet that allowed us to taste some higher end wines.

 

It is possible to also look for opportunities in restaurants that might be serving some better wines by the glass. We like to confirm the bottles are stored correctly, optimally in a machine that will protect the open wine from oxidation. The O’Chateau wine bar in Paris offers a great selection of wines by the glass at all price levels and a knowledgeable server to explain the source and characteristics of the wine.

IMG_0158As far as what we like, our go to wine of choice is a Cotes du Rhone. It is reasonably priced and most of the time proves to be a good pairing to the food we enjoy. Our white wine selections are typically a higher priced variety and a special treat for us. Sancere is a particular favorite from the western part of the Loire Valley, primarily associated with Sauvignon blanc.

While considering your wine palate, think of your preferences of dry or sweet, red or white, grape variety and when you have the bottle in hand, be sure the read the label, front and back. There is always something to learn.

A couple of other beverages I also enjoyed along the way.

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The “Tango” or “Monaco” – Beer with a splash of grenadine or in this case a BIG beer. Some also have French Lemonade added to them.

 

 

 

 

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The Aperol Spritz – Aperol with prosecco or sparkling water and an orange slice. Yum!

 

 

 

 

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The very popular double espresso

 

 

 

 

And when you just are not sure of what you want, there is always this fall-back from home available down the street with free WIFI.

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Cheers!

My Favorite Things

It is the end of the trip but not the journey. We arrived home with two full bags of dirty laundry, seven bottles of wine and two bad colds. This was a memorable trip where we saw new places and revisited places we love. My Favorite Things fall into two categories.

  1. Sites
  2. Food and Beverage (Stay tuned for our favorite foods, wines and the places that serve them)

In this blog I will cover sites as apparently, according to our traveling partner Larry, the food and drink choices would be too big to cover in one blog along with the sites. I am sure he is kidding, isn’t he?

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The Bavarian Experience: Just to recap, on September 6th we landed in Munich, Germany to be greeted by our Bavarian friends, Herbert and Christl. This was a special time we will long remember.

 

 

 

Beaufiful, historic Regensburg, the Danube River and Weltenburg Abby

 

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The search for an old friend: We drove our rented car to Weisenheim am Sand, Germany. This was a visit that rewarded us with meeting Gerhard Friedemann and locating Arnd.  Truly a bit of magic in this trip.

 

 

Visiting the picturesque Alsace region, France: Degustation (wine tasting), photo ops and unique cuisine abound in this region.

 

Getting high in the French Alps: The Chamonix valley is located in the French Alps and has striking views of Mont Blanc. There is a exciting set of 2 funicular cable cars that whisk you up the mountain. The station of the Aiguille du Midi has several terraces where visitors can take in the spectacular views of the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. This was a thrill at 12,600 feet.

 

Cruising in Annecy: Next we traveled to the pre-alps lake town of Annecy. This is a big-little town with a great, historical old town and a beautiful lake.

 

Burgundy, an area that brings tears to the eyes of all wine lovers: The  slopes of the Côte d’Or produce the world’s finest and most expensive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wine. The tears must come from not owning a couple of acres of this land or viewing the cost of the Grand Cru wines. We have had the opportunity to visit this area in the past, and always enjoy Beaune and the country side in the heart of Burgundy.

 

The Paris Experience: From Beaune we moved on to our final destination, Paris. We met the rest of our traveling crew, Larry, Lynn and Kathy and headed for our rented apartment near the Eiffel Tower and close to the pedestrian area of Rue Cler.

One of our favorite things is visiting the markets. It is a meandering trip through fresh produce, meats, cheese and seafood, displayed in typical Parisian art form.

 

1EDFE6BA-E79A-4664-BEAD-816549E0B031Something’s are ready to eat, many things you would like to take home and a few things I would never eat.  C’est la vie 

 

An hour train ride to Medival times: We made a field trip from Paris to Provins where we enjoyed a fabulous Birds of Prey show and the well preserved medival sites of this city.

 

 

Navigating the Paris Canals: Back in Paris, we took the Paris Canal boat through the canal St. Martin which terminated at the Musee d’ Orsay.

 

 

So Many Museums and so little time:

 

The Musee d’Orsay, converted from a train station is a must see in Paris where one can visit all the favorite impressionists, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Van Gough and more.

Small and stately, the Jacquemart-Andre museum, housed in a lavish mansion is an enjoyable way to visit the art we love. This site has permanent and temporary exhibits and a very nice cafe making a visit a special experience.

 

Marmottan-Monet museum is largely dedicated to the art of Monet and his impressionist friends. Located on the outskirts of Paris, it has a fabulous collection of the father of Impressionism, Claude Monet and a good collection of Monet’s impressionists friends.

 

My traveling crew:  My very favorite, Bill, our neighbors, Larry and Lynn and our very good friend, Kathy. Where you go and what you do in greatly enhanced by who you share it with!

 

 

If you have reached the end of this post, I just want to say there were many more sites and experiences we enjoyed. These stand out as sites I would recommend to all my traveling friends.

Paris is a city that kind of attacks you and I doubt one can ever see it all. As we travel home we are already contemplating our next trip! Where shall we go and what will we see?

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Paris by Canal to the Impressionist

 

Bus, Metro, train and. . . . . Boat

Yes, lots of ways to visit Paris. Today we traveled by boat.

We are all familiar with the River Seine that winds through the city. There are also several canals intersecting Paris.

To prepare for this trip today we started with a very fancy Kir Royal. This is sparkling wine with Creme De Cassis and French Griottissimo cherries. YUM!

Fortified and ready to go, we traveled to Parc De La Villette and boarded our Paris-Canal boat with along with a pretty large friendly group of French tourists.

 

The quiet canal Saint Martin has 2 swing bridges and is crossed by 4 foot bridges. Through a series of 9 locks, we were lowered approximately 85 feet to the level of the Seine.

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At the Récollets lock, we can see the Hotel du Nord. There is a famous French movie about this hotel; we ordered the DVD about six years ago after our first Canal St. Martin tour. Maybe we will watch it now.

 

The most unique aspect of the canal is a 1.2 mile long underground vault or tunnel. This tunnel was built by order of Napoleon when boats were vital to industrial transport. It is topped by holes that allow natural light in from above. At the location of the Opera Bastille we pass directly under the July column, commemorating the spirit of the 1789 revolution.

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At the Ecluse de l’Arsenal we entered the Seine River with a fabulous view of Notre-Dame cathedral and headed toward our final destination, Musee d’Orsay.

Orsay Museum houses French art from 1848 to 1914. This includes the furniture, sculpture and the Impressionism artists, Manet, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne and many others. On Thursdays, this museum is open late and gave us a quiet, uncrowded opportunity to visit our favorites.

The Impressionist artists really impacted the world of art with light, color and everyday subject matter. They tell stories of life of the day, weather, emotions and relationships without words. I had a vision last night of rearranging these pictures. I think I could create a complete novel without one written word.

“We traveled by train, to the Opera Garnier, to see the Ballet!

Au Revior

A Medieval Experience

Whisked away from Paris by a speedy SNCF Transilien train, we are transported to the Middle Ages in the Medieval village of Provins.

We were able to enhance the Medieval experience by getting lost walking to the upper town and again attempting to return to the train station in the lower town. Just part of the adventure!

The town is divided into an Upper Town and a Lower Town, called the Châtel (Castel) and the Val (Valley). The village maps, not so clear! We are here to see the THE EAGLES OF THE RAMPARTS.

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The hunting art dates from the Middle Ages and was passed on from generation to generation. This tradition of the nature and the environment is registered on the cultural heritage of the UNESCO.

In the Theatre of the Ramparts, we sat on a bench beneath the ramparts to watch an exhibition of Falconry with a team of people representing the lords of the medieval past, Arab nomads in the Middle East, the Kazakh hunters with eagles in Central Asia.


The cast includes a horse, a camel with accompanying Bedouins, and an impressive succession of birds of prey, from owls to eagles, hawks to vultures.

Their flights from the ramparts skimmed our heads; close enough to feel the breeze of their wings. That was thrilling!

 

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After the show we visited the aviary with about a hundred birds from 30 different species available to see.

 

 

The dialog of the cast was in French but we felt our lack of understanding the verbal part of the show did not detract from our experience. Just watching the flight of these birds and the clever handling of their flights by the crew was amazing.

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Au Revior

 

 

 

Scenes of Paris

I woke up to a light rain this morning so I decided to take some time to look at my Paris vacation pictures. Paris is a very photogenic city and it would be wrong to say I have been able to take a unique picture.

Instead I spent my morning converting some of my pictures to artwork. I am the architect of this collection, not the artist. I used an app called Lucid and had a lot of fun doing it. I hope you enjoy this artsy view of Paris.

Tour Eiffel

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Hotel des Invalides – Napoleon’s tomb is under the dome

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Gare du Nord – Gateway to day trips

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Vaux-le-vicomte

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Champs-Elysees-A glass of red and a glass of white

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Arc de Triomphe

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Le Dome- a favorite late night stop

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Center Pompidou and Georges (restaurant from the movie 100 Foot Journey)

The Metro

Pace de la Bastille

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My Favorite [airport],  the Charles de Gaulle Airport

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Fondation Louis Vuitton – This was a new location for us to visit. A remarkable architectural accomplishment. 

And the fun stuff, Pizza Delivery, Paris Style

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Beaune – The Heart of Burgundy

We have traveled from Annecy to Beaune, located in the heart of Burgundy. Burgundy is rich in history, traditions and wine culture. Some of the most expensive vineyard land in the world is located in this area.

C39016E2-0981-4B8D-B130-315CF52B8AEAThe grape varieties here are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which is widely produced in the Oregon Willamette Valley. But there is much to learn about the wines of Burgundy. I happen to be lucky to be traveling with Bill Fuller, Consulting Winemaker for Willamette Valley Vineyards. He is the perfect guide to help me sort through Grand Cru, Premier Cru and Village wines.  E277A651-892D-4F84-85E0-0E455E20F1A4

 

 

 

Beaune and the surrounding villages are wonderful to visit. One village we visited is Santenay and the winery “Prosper Maufoux”. We were greeted by Joanne, from Great Britain. We enjoyed her discussions of the wines we tasted and some current history on the winery. They have a really nice tasting facility and also have beautiful rooms to rent.

There are many options for staying at a vineyard vs a hotel room in Beaune. We chose to stay in the Beaune Hotel and were happy with the friendly staff, clean rooms and proximity to the sites of Beaune.

 

Make sure you have a good travel guide to help you through the burgundy area. The roads are narrow and the choices are many.

In the small village of Nuits-Saint George we found an interesting opportunity to improve my wine knowledge called L’Imaginarium. There was a excellent display of how vines are worked and historically, the many threats hanging over them. At end  is an great opportunity to taste local Grand Cru and Premier Cru wines. The total experience was well worth our time.

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Then almost across the street we found a Cassissium. This tour lead us through the world of black current (Cassis) with an interactive museum and a tour of their production facility. They offered a taste of everything they made! Yum.

Sadly, we bid au revior to burgundy as we head off to Paris to meet our good friends, Larry, Lynn and Kathy.

Route de la Chèvre-Pacific Girl travels tips

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There are many choices to make when traveling. It has been our experience, when going by car, to avoid the busy truck filled freeways; where the traffic moves at a minimum of 72 mph (120 mph) mostly with a Mercedes so close you can only see a hood ornament in your rear view mirror.

On the small, national or local roads you will pass through villages and round-abouts, winding you way to your destination.

 

IMG_0367I affectionately refer to this as the “route de la chèvre” (road of the goat). And just once, we actually found the goats. In the south of France, driving above the Ardech river about 15 wild goats came bounding onto the roadside. We knew then we had selected the right route!

The Goat road and map from here to there.

And so we continue on our trip, on some very crazy roads from Chamonix to Anncey and then on to Beaune.

To follow these very rural routes you should plan to have a very good map, an off line map program or GPS. Even with these aids, the trip can be a challenge. It is just part of the adventure unless you let the anxious driver behind you intimidate you. Be cool.

Of course a good navigator in the passenger seat will keep the trip moving forward.

We don’t always make hotel reservations but when traveling into a busy town you are unfamiliar with such as we are today, a confirmed room can be a good thing.

DAFA0CF9-BDC4-4EDC-B33D-0705097E6BA1Other things to remember:
Electric plug adapters
Hair dryer with 220v option – we burned up a couple of dryers not using the appropriate voltage
A good travel guide for the areas you are visiting. We use Rick Steves. Be sure to read it before you leave home, it will enhance your experience.
Flash light – we were in Sorrento, Italy when a lightening storm took out the lights and power of the entire town. Yes, a flashlight would have been handy that night!!

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And if you really want to blend in as a local in France, wear a scarf and get a dog.

 

Annecy – A Day by the Lake

We continue our journey from Chamonix in the French Alps to Annecy, the largest city of the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhine-Alpes region. It lies on a beautiful lake approximately 22 miles south of Geneva, in France.

The town is split by the Thiou River and the old town is filled with canals bordered with flowers, old cobblestone streets, and distant peaks in this lakefront setting.

Most of the old town is traffic-free and due to the Annecy Marathon, there were even fewer cars and lots going on in the city lakeside park.

The lake is one of Europe’s cleanest, clearest lakes. We enjoyed a 2 hour boat trip around the lake, Circuit Omnibus, with several stops at small villages. There are additional options for bicycle rentals to ride along the lake. Today we had a light rain and opted for the boat.

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The local cuisine consists of fondue, raclette and anything cheese. There are many options for sitting on the narrow, cobblestone streets to enjoy for favorite beverage or a full meal.

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It will long remain in my memory as the place where I first tasted Aperol, one of my new favorite beverages, give it a try!