Arrivederci Lucca

It is time to say good bye to Lucca which has been our home base for the week. But before we go, I would like to share a few more points of interest.

Lucca is very centrally located to take in many other sites in Tuscany. Notably we are just one hour from Florence. Since we had visited Florence on a prior trip, we opted for these other memorable sites.

San Gimignano is a beautiful, medieval hilltop village most recognized for it’s 14 tower houses. The town is home to approximately 7800 and many tourists.

While filled with interesting sites and shops, it really is best viewed from a distance where one can take in the tower filled skyline.

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Volterra is a well preserved, walled, hilltop town, widely know for its Alabaster artistic handcrafts mined in the surrounding area.

 

Additionally, we were rewarded with great views ruins of a Roman Theatre from the first century B.C. This site was only excavated in the 1950’s.

Incidentally, Volterra was the location of the home to the Volturi in the Twilight series although I did not see any vampires on our visit.

Pisa gave us quite a treat as we rounded the corner to the field of Miracles and there was the Leaning Tower of Pisa amidst its companion structures, the baptistery and the Duomo (Cathedral).

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The Campanile or bell tower is widely know for it’s unintended tilt. While efforts to improve it’s posture were done in 1990 and 2001, the tower still retain’s a jaunty tilt since the beginning of it’s construction in the 12th century.

 

 

 

 

The Cinque Terre or 5 lands are a group of villages along a rugged coast line. Few roads still serve this area. We elected to use the train from La Spezia, traveling mainly through tunnels carved into the hillsides separatig the villages.

Each of the five villages have there own uniqueness, some with spectacular coast line views and others with small sandy beaches.

All five villages can be reached by train, ferry boat or a walking trail know as the Azure Trail.

 

Back in Lucca, we spent our last evening watching the 1,000 Miglia.

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The Mille Miglia (Thousand Miles) was an open-road endurance race which took place in Italy twenty-four times from 1927 to 1957 (thirteen before the war, eleven from 1947). It was discontinued in 1957 due to 2 fatal car crashes.

Since 1977, the “Mille Miglia” has been reborn for classic and vintage cars. Participation is limited to cars, produced no later than 1957, which had attended (or were registered) to the original race. The route (Brescia-Rome round trip) passed through Lucca Friday night and we were just in the right place at the right time to see this memorable event.

The cars passed along the Lucca city wall and then through the Piazza Anfiteatro where we watched from our favorite restaurant, Parlascio.

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The experience of staying in one place for a week is getting to know the locals. the friendly staff here as well as our local grocer across the way really made us feel at home.

Belissimo Lucca, ti vogliamo bene

2018 – The Big Trip

Yes, this is the year of the Big Trip, or “Bigger Trip” depending how well we are acquainted. Six weeks, 4 days visiting my good friends in South Florida, 14 days on the Norwegian Star crossing the Atlantic Ocean and about 24 days traveling in France and Italy. But more about that later. This is about the cruise!


“Crusin’- on a Sunday afternoon” plus 13 additional days. Yes, 14 days, with 4 good friends, 2,000 strangers, often sailing though what was referred to as moderate to rough seas.

What a marvelous experience. We possibly traced the return trade and exploration trips of Christopher Columbus and the others who came before us. Over the last two weeks, I have often imagined how brave, exciting and terrible those cruises must have been.

For us, this has been a rather luxurious experience filled with good entertainment, pleasant service and of course, an abundance of food (and beverages).

Some think 14 days is too long and others would never even consider a cruise. For me, cruising becomes a floating home away from home. We quickly fall into our regular routines of morning coffee and toast, reading, walking, visiting with friends. Evenings we can enjoy pleasant dinners with out having to do the dishes and a bonus known as the “unlimited beverage package”

I was able to read three complete novels, enjoy long soaks in the spa and most days, log miles on the promenade deck. And did I mention the Unlimited Beverage Package!

At night I was rocked to sleep by the “moderate” roll of the ocean. I wonder if a regular bed will ever be enough going forward. We all should be so gently rocked to sleep.

Ports of Call:

Azores- Ponta Delgado
If you saw the movie Jumanji, Welcome to the Jungle, you can imagine the vast poly-volcanic craters that exist on these islands which form an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean; green, lush, warm and proudly Portuguese. As I understand it, the tourists and milk cows vie for the top economic contributions of this island.

This is truly a beautiful place with dramatic landscapes and friendly people.

Lisbon
Long on my bucket list, we opted for a bus tour to see as much as possible in our limited time. Now I have learned I was actually wanting a trip through Portugal, small seaside villages and tastings port in Porto. What do we have if not constant additions and corrections to that bucket list.

 

Cadiz, Spain
This is the oldest continually inhabited city in Western Europe and home port to the Spanish Navy. We opted for visiting the nearby resort town of Sanlucar which is a summer tourist destination famous for Manzanilla (Fino Sherry) and prawns. Bill’s professor at UC Davis visited the fine restaurant of Casa Bigote 56 years ago and Bill has had this on his bucket list ever since. Fresh Seafood and local wines. Truly a memorable experience.

Malaga, Spain
With a population of over 500,00, this coastal town has much to offer. Along the coast you will find hillsides of beautiful, whitewash homes, picturesque ocean views and not far from Malaga we found some amazing caves to tour.

Alicante, Spain
This town, located on the Costa Blanca, is uniquely remarkable with the most notable feature of the city, the Castle of Santa Bárbara, siting high above the city, and the port of Alicante. This could be a city worth a second and third visit!

And finally, the Norwegian Star bring us to our final port, Barcelona. But that, my friends, will be another story. It is late andthis internet connection is painfully slow. I hope you enjoyed these ports of call.

Happy Trails
Connie

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!

Old Vines

My traveling partner, husband and best friend recently received the following comments from Willamette Valley Vineyards. I am very proud of Bill and hope you enjoy the following article about Bill’s past and recent winemaking accomplishments from Jim Bernau, founder/Willamette Valley Vineyards.

 

Willamette Valley Vineyards

“Old-vine wines often have extra dimensions in aroma, texture, overall length and a wealth of subtle details” according to Wine Enthusiast editor, Paul Gregutt. His recent article, The Old Vines of Oregon Wine, featured our Vintage 42 Chardonnay which he awarded with 92 points.

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Vintage 42 Chardonnay is sourced from Draper clone vines planted at our Tualatin Estate Vineyard in 1973 by Oregon wine pioneer Bill Fuller.

 

Tualatin Estate Vineyard and Bill Fuller

Bill was recognized for many firsts in our industry. His Chardonnay and Pinot Noir took home Best of Show for Red and White in the same year at the London International Wine Fair. In 1997, Willamette Valley Vineyards merged with Tualatin Estate Vineyard and Bill retired. Bill has rejoined our winemaking team to make small lots of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from his favorite blocks using his traditional techniques for Vintage 42.

Click the link below to see the complete article from Wine Enthusiast 

http://www.winemag.com/2017/08/07/the-old-vines-of-oregon-wine/

 

 

 

 

 

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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Charles de Gaulle Airport – Flying Low

IMG_0440In 2016, 65,933,145 passengers traveled through Charles de Gaulle Airport. This is pretty amazing to me as we had a pretty difficult time maneuvering through this airport.

 

After leaving Beaune we made a stop at Guelelon Castle.

IMG_0441In northern Burgundy, a team of fifty master-builders are building a castle using medieval techniques and materials. It is unfortunate that we did not have adequate time to do the tour but we plan to return when we have an opportunity to do so.

So, on to Paris on the A77 to A6. Both toll roads, moving at very fast speeds until nearing Paris, where things slowed down. This is when Google Maps really comes in handy; she alerted us to a alternate route with less traffic. The whole trip went well until entering the Charles de Gaulle Airport, where we had a hotel reservation and it was time to return our little Fiat.

IMG_3687There are three main terminals, a train depot and a pretty large bus station. And overpasses, underpasses, round-abouts and very little signage. Which way do we go?

We asked our Google maps lady to find the hotel. We only had to go completely around the airport three times to find our Ibis Hotel.

At the same time, many speedy Parisians in a hurry to get somewhere were flashing their lights and giving us their impatient, frustrated, dirty looks. Not to be intimidated, Bill proceeded on to the hotel, entering the parking lot against the traffic! We parked. Success.

0C594B65-BD4F-4A10-8F31-8C53147E007BThen we unloaded the 20 plus bottles of wine we had purchased along the way and our baggage.

Next it is back in the car, to find the rental return Fortunately, due to our vast experience finding the hotel, the rental return seemed pretty straight forward after we did a u-turn at the cargo terminal.

A hotel bar never looked so good. Hello Aperol Spritzer.

IMG_3693Our next challenge, bomb threat. We are waiting for our neighbors in arrivals; at the moment they exited the international area, the police closed off all arriving passengers from all of us waiting for them. A nice young man explained that there was an abandoned bag in the terminal of grave concern to the police. We are told, “they will bring in a robot and possibly destroy the bag.”

Meanwhile, our friends have been sent one way and us the other. After a bit of confusion, we were reunited. Threat avoided.

EFDD09EA-FD37-4E43-9426-7EFBD32BBDF1We happily departed the Charles de Gaulle Airport and headed to Paris for lunch and red wine on the RER train. Later, returning to the Ibis Hotel by train, guess what?

We missed our stop and ended back at Charles de Gaulle Airport!

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

The Real Top of Europe

Alsace is always a very special area to visit. The area of France has such a rich history, a fabulous wine AOC and amazing foods of the region.
Briefly to mention a few things:
Eguisheim – beautiful village and one of our favorites for wine tasting-Wolfberger
Hunawihr-visit Sipp Mac for wonderful, well make wines of the region and very nice rooms for rent on your visit.
Kinzhiem – a fabulous birds of prey show and just below the Konigsburg castle.

Leaving Alsace we decided to only travel the lesser roads when possible, avoiding the fast, truck filled toll freeways. We were rewarded with a scenic trip through mountains, canyons and valleys. It is my suggestion whether you are close to home or traveling, find the lesser road and be surprised with the bigger picture.

Chamonix – Mont-Blanc “The real top of Europe”
What a thrill! We ascended 12,000 feet to the Aiguille du Midi. The stunning panorama opens before you, the crisp, cool air and views of the Alps can take your breath away. My knees shook and my heart beat fast to near the edge to capture these photos, a memory of an unforgettable day.

Until we meet again, Gerhard

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Traveling is a great opportunity to meet new friends. I found there are three different types.

There are the folks you meet for 20 minutes or so, trade travel tips and stories, then go on along your way, unlikely to cross paths again.

Occasionally you can meet someone you know will become a life long friend such as Herbert and Christl, the Bavarian couple we met on a Panama cruise last year.

The last type of encounter is meeting someone you can only hope to meet again. This is Gerhard; the charming man we met in Weisenheim am Sand. He was sitting near our table in a coffee shop and Bill asked him if he might know what happened to the Neckerauer Winery and our friend Arnd. Gerhard proceeded to call a local winery, get the phone number and contact Arnd to create a magic reunion for us.

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During our conversation, Gerhard shared a little about his life and asked us to do the same. He was fiercely proud of the local wine industry and nearing the end of our visit he jumped up, told us to stay put and walked around the corner to his friend’s winery, returning with two bottles of wine. The kindness he shared with us will long be remembered. Until we meet again, Gerhard.

 

image1As you travel far and near, look around; is there a Gerhard waiting to chat with you?

Auf Wiedersehen