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Mykonos….island of relaxation?

The boat, the boat, the boat. I remember why I HATE boats. The first stint from Santorini to Naxos was horrendous. I felt so sick. I cried. I wanted OFF. Once we reached Naxos and it became a nearly full boat we had to move to our allocated seats. I tried sleeping on Chris’ lap and luckily that help ease the motion for our next leg to Mykonos. I wanted to kiss the asphalt when we docked. Mwa mwa mwa. Land. Mwa mwa mwa.

We were starving so grabbed lunch at the little café next to the port and as we were about to set off, the owner, a nice little Greek lady asked where we were staying. She said she knew the family and would call them as they normally will pick up their guests. Hallelujah reigned as we did not want to get ripped off again from the monopoly that is island taxis.

I knew the hotel was on the hills overlooking the water, but I had not imagined something so beautiful.

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We dropped out bags, turned on the air con so that our room would be nice and cool upon our return form a leisurely stroll into town. The roads are not wide so the pedestrians are sharing with the lunatic drivers and scooter riders. Although I did not get hit, there was one lucky call. Crazy hooligans.

Once we got into town I did not remember the streets from my trip 9 years earlier, so we began exploring. What we found was breathtaking.

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A lot of the small shops sold tourist items, beach wear and little nick knacks, none of which we were interested in. I did however find some designer stores none of which I could fathom dropping the amounts displayed on the items shown. Ridiculous. Probably because it is an island and there is nowhere else to shop.

Back to the hotel to get ready for a nice dinner for two. I think I do a good Alfalfa impersonation (first attempt at curling my newly short hair).

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The dinner was fine dining which we had not had for a while, and what better way to enjoy such a meal then with a short walk, past a beautiful view of Mykonos by night, to our room. A very impressive table setting instantly make you feel excited for a meal. Look at this unique wood place mat with delicate cutlery and abstract plate. I love every inch of it and want to steel it all, including the light. It may be ugly but it is such a great idea for menu’s and actually give people a chance to read in dimly lit restaurants.

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Entrée was saganaki mussels. After a few failed attempts of having saganaki in Santorini I think we have hit the jackpot here. Cheesy + tomatoey + slurpy make for a lot fun, I don’t mind getting in with my hands too. Not the normal saganaki but captures the essence of the dish and makes it even better with the local seafood.

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Mains were just as impressive. I had risotto with speck and Chris had the surf and turf. The risotto was nice, very earthy and much richer than all the seafood ones I have had to date on the trip, so it was unfortunate I actually could not finish the plate, not even close. Chris very much so enjoyed his steak, but when you have a well cooked steak who wouldn’t?

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Yep no room for dessert, plus the game was starting. Brazil vs Germany. We were excited to watch it in the bar area with at least 20 others. There were a group of girls sitting next to us wearing Brazil bandanas. Germany score One. Two. Three. I cannot believe it, everyone is so stunned, the girls even take all Brazil merchandise off. Four. Five. Half time. Ok I am not staying to watch more, so I left Chris to go to bed, there is no point watching it. I did actually get the tv working in the room, Chris shortly came back after another goal went in, and he watched the rest from the room. We were shocked.

DAY 2

Today we did not really feel like doing anything, our only objective in Mykonos was to go to Paradise Beach, which we decided to do the following day. Plus did I mention that it was State of Origin night, well afternoon? Even if we did want to go somewhere Chris refused to go out before 3pm once the game would be finished. He spent all morning trying to find a website to stream off and finally streamed from the NRL website. I was not going to sit in a room to watch or even listen so off to the pool I went.

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I got a cocktail and enjoyed the sun on my chair. I did go into the pool a handful of times to cool off but not for long as I could tell the chlorine was very strong and not something I like to breath in. So the game started at 1pm our time, Chris did not join me until 3:30pm. Little did I know that those 2 hours would be like years in Sun years. We enjoyed a nice lunch together overlooking the pool. I had a deconstructed gyro while Chris had a terrible pizza that tasted like it was frozen and came out of a box.

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After lunch I was not interested in more pool so left Chris, showered and went into the town for some window shopping. I was quite pleased when I caught a glimpse of how brown I was getting :D happy Trish.

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Going for a walk by myself also gave me time to photograph and take my time with them.

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The town was fairly busy as it was getting to the end of the week, not that there is much space in the small cobblestone roads anyways.

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I also made it my mission to find the infamous Jimmy’s Gyros. I remember eating delicious gyros here at 3am after hitting up the clubs last time I was here. The situation was a bit different to this trip so we may not get a chance for gyros, but at least I can say “I was here 2014”.

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I went back to find Chris in the room but suddenly was not feeling well. I led Chris back into town to a little restaurant I found (the picture with the tables next to the water). We walked in and there was plenty of space but as soon as we were told that their eftpos machine was down we also walked right back out only having credit cards with us to pay. So we found another small restaurant along the same strip which overlooked the water and the large Mykonos windmills. Our food was not great, but I also had lost my appetite and was extremely tired…….I think we have a case of heat stroke, and all because of a silly NRL game. We left and I slept as soon as we reached our room. Not a nice feeling that was!

DAY 3 paradise

Our final day in Mykonos and we had to experience Paradise.

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We found an umbrella fairly close to the water (less hot sand to walk on until you reach water) and set up shop. I was peckish so ordered a baguette, 4 euros thank you very much for not being over priced!

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A couple of hours and drinks later, we had swam in the bluest, clearest waters, laid on the nicest beach lounges and walked on the softest sand (possible in Greece). This was paradise, and not a cloud in the sky!

How are we going to finish such a nice day off? Eat what we like best, fresh pasta. I stumbled on this restaurant on my explorations and looked it up after paradise. It had may alterations on seafood pasta so it was worth a try in both our eyes.

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I was not game enough to have the pasta with clams and instead opted for a linguine with crab in a white wine sauce.

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Chris had to try it, the clams that was, but it just would never be as good as Da Adolfo. Still, it was the best food we had outside the fine dining in our restaurant so that was a good night for us.

DAY 4

Our last morning we slept in and got ready for our boat to Athens. Hopefully it would not be as choppy as the boat to Mykonos. Well it shouldn’t as we have a huge almost cruise liner that is quite slow, 5 hours in fact, so I don’t anticipate that to sway much at all.

The final view from our hotel is just as spectacular as when we arrived. To have experienced Mykonos both crazily and this time relaxed has been good. I have seen different sides to the island, both good and bad. I think the food generally isn’t as good and perhaps more touristy. I think the view is just as, if not more beautiful than Santorini, and on that point the sunsets are great too, there is just no volcano, who cares! The beaches are and will forever be far superior in Mykonos to Santorini. Maybe this is because I am an Aussie and love sand but the rocks just don’t do it for me and if anything hinder my experience of the beach.

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We have enjoyed it though, well we have to, the honeymoon is coming to a fast end!

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Sunsets and Santorini

Flying to Santorini was quite the trek. Rome to Athens, stopover, then Athens to Santorini. I did find it amusing during our stopover to listen to Americans trying to say ‘efharisto’, but instead saying ‘f-haaristooo’. I cringed and wanted to correct them but I was outnumbered, there were too many of them, not worth the effort.

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Our overpriced taxi drive did not even take us to the door, but I suppose it serves us right for getting a hotel in the little cobblestone alleys of central Fira rather than in a smaller town like Imerovigli. Nothing mattered once we got to our room and patio.

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The view makes everything better.

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It was already 6pm and we were hungry, but Argentina were about to play Belgium in the quarter finals, a game we did want to watch, Argentina had to win! So we found a nice restaurant which had tv’s and sat down, after a detour to look at the view again.

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Dinner was great, lots of tzatziki, greek salad, lamb and octopus. You can’t get much more Greek than that. I was exhausted after the game. Argentina won of course then we headed back to the hotel. Chris returned to the bar to watch game 2 that night while I tried to sleep. I don’t remember so much noise last time I was in Santorini, but then again I did not stay in Fira. We were in the thick of it, but so were the clubs, and what comes with clubs is their blaring music which we could hear all night and morning long. Needless to say we did not sleep that much all night.

DAY 2

Breakfast was served on our rooftop overlooking the glistening blue sea. I was ecstatic to see a plunger of coffee as it had been a good 2 months since I had had some, our Wedding day, I made a huge pot for all the people at my house getting ready. Good thing was that it was made well, and not burnt (as I found out later on a flight serving terrible plunger coffee). We paired fresh coffee with yogurt and honey, watermelon (sooo greek), boiled eggs, bread, orange juice and apple french toast. Healthier than the big buffet breakfasts we had enjoyed up until this point which was a nice change.

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We spent the morning looking up our good friend trip advisor to decide on a restaurant for the evening, but in the end just took a recommendation from the hostess at the hotel. So we walked down, along the cliff face to book it in and tried to do the ‘selfie’ with the nice white buildings. FAIL. All we got is my hat and hair in the way.

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Our light breakkie was also convenient as it left room for a Gyro lunch. We tested both the pork and chicken gyro. YUM. Fresh meat, salad and crispy chips smothered in tzatziki and wrapped in fluffy soft pita bread. The perfect snack before an afternoon at the beach.

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Black beach in Kamari, famous for its black gravel that spans the whole coast.

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We set ourselves up under a nice umbrella and it only set us back 6 euros. Compare this to the 15-25 euros they were charged in Italy and this is a steal. After we settled in we wanted a refreshing beverage, so I got us us frappes. Now Chris had become accustomed to this traditional Greek drink, even bordering on the point of liking it.

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OF course to make them last longer we topped them up with cold water once we got to the halfway point. It would be blasphemy to finish a frappe in under an hour!

The water was surprisingly freezing and the wifi was not working at the beach so after a few hours we had had enough and went back to the hotel to rest before dinner.

I was able to capture the beginning of the sunset as there are ledges all around our hotel, perfect for setting up a camera on timer. I do love this photo.

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Back to the cliff face and we were able to find someone happy to take a photo for us. The result, much better than my efforts.

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Lucky we booked as we were given the best table in the house. Well sort of. It did have the best view, right on the edge, but at 7:30pm when we arrived the sun was still beaming strong and there was no shade cover. I suspect other tables opted to be further back so they weren’t as hot as we were for that first hour. Almost too much sun for even me, but we held out and the results were well worth it.

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We also had a good view right along the coast and got to see packs of donkeys walking up and down the stairs. I do feel sorry for them having to carry so much so I was glad to photograph these donkeys not carrying anything at all.

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Right everyone get your cameras and phones out as it is starting. The famous Santorini Sunset.

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People at every restaurant along the cost were watching and celebrating.

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Boats were out in packs too.

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Once the sun did finally go down everyone clapped and cheered.

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A nice romantic dinner, food wasn’t great but it was about the experience. It certainly made us want to sit side by side and cuddle up while we watched the changing colours of the sky.

DAY 3

I don’t think I could get sick of this view. Today many more cruise liners were out and it got me thinking. What a nice way to do the islands as it is calm, you don’t need to worry about choppy high speed boats or turbulent small planes. You don’t need to wheel your luggage up the cobblestone streets and you will always have a beautiful view…..maybe one day, but not today, we still have much more land to cover.

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Today’s outing was to more famous beaches in Santorini, Red and White beach in Akrotiri. Incredibly they are just around the corner from each other yet they are so starkly different that you cannot believe they are from the same small bit of coast line.

We caught a boat out to see the three beach options for the afternoon then could dock at whichever one we wanted. First was Red beach. I had visited before but it is always so busy and there are not many umbrellas available, let alone empty beach space. So we gave this one a miss and went onto the next beach.

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White beach. Such a view and like nothing we had seen before. So secluded there is no road nearby let alone any amenities. The next beach was Black beach but we had already been to a Black beach so opted for White.

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Plenty of umbrellas available, and because it is so secluded it is surely a monopoly, 15 euros for the both of us. Well we coughed it up as we did not want to attempt lying on the hard white pebbles. We experienced them enough getting off the boat. Since the water is shallow closer to shore the boat docked about 15m out from shore. We had to get off the boat in our cozzies and thongs and walk to shore in waist high water, with out bags on our heads and trying not to trip on the pebbles. I did save my bag, but I did trip too, it is so hard to walk on those pebbles.

Once we were relaxing on the beach, and in the warm water, it was bliss – a quiet, calm beach with crystal clear water. Yes please!

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All good things must come to an end, and our last day in Santorini had so far been paradise. Back at the hotel we got the good news from the hostess that she got us a booking at her favourite traditional restaurant there, Naoussa. We again got the best table in the house which we felt had an even better view than what we had seen before.

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We were hungry so ordered big. Entrée consisted of Greek salad, tzatziki and cheese croquets (which were basically just fried melted cheese). All so delicious and as I am writing this I am salivating over this meal. We washed this down with a small jug of house white wine.

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Mains were just as impressive. Moussaka, which I was so glad that they served in a terracotta pot. The waiter told me this was the best moussaka in Santorini and he was not lying. It was delectable. The béchamel was smooth as silk, creamy and the hint of nutmeg gives it that proper greek flavour. The meat, potato and eggplant all rich in flavour and as a whole dish YUM. Chris had slow roasted lamb with lemon potatoes which tasted good but was a tad dry, so disappointing for something that looked so impressive. The potatoes on the other hand were ‘just a-like-a home’ although would never be better than my Grandmothers, ever. But beyond my Grandmothers they were the next best.

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Our view. The best ending to a fantastic time in Santorini. We have seen a lot of sunsets on our trip. This would be number one, Biarritz number two, everything else does not matter.

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Santorini is just as beautiful when the night sky is out and the lights are on.

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Our time has been full of much needed relaxation and tanning. If we are coming back to Australia after 9 weeks we most certainly need a tan, what else would people come to Europe in Summer for?

 

 

The Amalfi Coast

We left Rome with a quick 1hr train ride to Naples where we had a transfer ready to take us down the zig zag path to Amalfi. It was a busy Sunday afternoon so instead of the freeway we took the route through Sorrento, Positano, Priano and then Amalfi. Once we arrived at our hotel, after this two hour road trip, we were exhausted and so happy to finally be at a hotel and not still going left, right, left, right. Lucky our hotel was directly on the port so we did not have to walk far to find it. Our suite had the best view as you can see, not to mention 4m ceilings and an extra two single beds just in case we wanted a break from each other, I suppose!

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We did not waste time taking a look around the main square and sussing out the restaurants for lunch. We noticed immediately that masses of people were lining up to drink and wash their hands from these small spouts of water. We did not try it straight away until we asked around that it was yes drinkable and extremely cold, most probably spring water, good on the hot days.

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The town was extra busy on this Sunday, more than expected on a weekend due to it being St Peter’s day and therefore tourists and locals had come to see the grand church overlooking the town. It is unlike other churches we have seen in Italy but reminds me of churches in Marseille with a slightly Marrakesh influence in the detailing and design. It is no wonder so many people come to take photos in front, it is incredible.

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We chose one of the many restaurants off the main square overlooking the ‘fountain’ and church and did not hesitate to order pizza and pasta. Chris got a simple napolitana pizza with salami which was again delicious with its soft and thin base.

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From my last trip to the Amalfi Coast, which I learnt how good simple pasta was, I have since become obsessed with aglio olio, so that is just what I had. The WHOLE plate. In my defence I did stop half way…..but then I had a strand here and a strand there and then it was all gone. Wooops. Well at least I enjoyed every, single, bite.

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Although we were full there is always room for gelato. Plus with gelaterias every two shops it is basically calling you “eat me, eat me, eat me”. Okay! I got blood orange sorbet and Chris had lemon sorbet.

Well a tad disappointing as these sorbets were so sweet we could barely eat them, and we left them to melt on our balcony.

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We went for a stroll before dinner to look at the town, from a different angle. It is so beautiful and peaceful along the coast at night, which is the opposite to the roads that go inland.

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These roads are blossoming with people, restaurants, singers trying to make a few dollars and of course the tourist shop with lemon merchandise everywhere.

We just picked a restaurant for dinner but it was not fantastic, or worth mentioning, not because it was bad, but because overall we had unforgettable food in the Amalfi and there is no point mentioning ‘okay’ food to you guys. But for the record I had Antipasti di mare, ‘seafood salad’ and Chris had Bolognaise.

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DAY2

Monday morning I was up bright an early ready to claim my stake on the beach. The day before it was St Peter’s day so Amalfi was PACKED. There was no space on the beach whatsoever and because it was now school holidays I had no idea what to expect on the Monday. So I went down bright an early, at 9am, pastry in hand, ready to get a good spot…..well no fear, it was a quiet day in Amalfi and the beach did not even get half full.

As I left early I enjoyed breakfast on the beach with my favourite Italian pastry, sfogliatelle. It is very crisp pastry in the shape of a shell with ricotta and orange peel piped inside. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS. After half the pastry I was getting full and I realised I should not have gotten the biggest one I could find, but I would not let this beauty go to waste, so I finished it. I’m on holidays, I’ll burn it off when I get back to Sydney, our motto for the whole trip.

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By 1pm we were getting hot and hungry so we left the beach to get some lunch. Again we tried a different restaurant off the main square as it was convenient and quite busy. Chris had a delicious pasta with fresh tomato and parmesan. Simple and delicious.

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I ordered smoked mozzarella baked in lemon leaves and a salad. The salad was so small it was a joke and the ‘baked mozzarella’ was cold. I could not believe it. I sent it back but they did not accept it. Then they came out with a plate of overdone melted mozzarella, even though all my utensils had been removed. It was still terrible and a pathetic attempt to rectify this. Correct me if I am wrong but if you read ‘baked’ would you not expect baked?

After lunch we did not feel like more sun and beach, as it gets quite hot, even with the crystal blue water to cool you off. Maybe it is also the lack of sand and plethora of hot stones that slightly hinders the experience, a truly European beach! Well I am Aussie and do very much like my soft, non feet hurting sand. So we went back to the hotel to rest before more world cup games.

We had been doing the cheap thing and watching a television outside restaurant Pizza Duomo with many others, but tonight we did not want to wait 2 hours for the game to end to eat so we nabbed one of the last tables outside and enjoyed dinner while watching the game. GOOD MOVE. Dinner was so much better than any meal we had had so far in Amalfi. I had sole cooked in a lemon butter sauce with mash and Chris had an Argentinian steak. No pizza and pasta here tonight!

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‘A’ happy couple.

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They also passed around some Amalfi lemons which permeate the strongest, most refreshing fragrance. It is obvious why lemons are so famous in the Amalfi, they are ‘real’ lemons.

DAY 3

Our  day trip to Positano, one of my favourite places in the whole wide world. It is a beautiful town with excellent food and a less touristy feel than Amalfi. We slept in so caught the ferry at 10:30. Once we got there we had a coffee while we caught up on skype with the family, did I mention our hotel in amalfi did NOT have wifi, how ridiculous is that in this day in age.

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When you see these houses you think to yourself what an amazing place it would be to live. Yes I would agree, absolutely a beautiful view with tranquil surroundings, not to mention the nicest people.

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This is what I have been looking forward to. This view, exactly like this. After standing, staring and admiring, we enjoyed free wifi at a coffee shop, skyped the family then headed to the port to find the boat with the red fish.

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Not just any red fish, but the Da Adolfo red fish, full determination of getting a table without a reservation.

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If you know me you will know that I HATE boats. Despise, shiver with fear. Yes I did catch the ferry service, but they are large and not catamarans, which I find much worse. So the little boat to Da Adolfo was at first scary but the water is calm and the boat does not go too fast so I will admit it, I enjoyed the boat ride. I enjoyed the fresh air, I enjoyed watching the houses on the cliff face as we moved along, but most of all I enjoyed seeing that little restaurant in the distance which made me smile, cheek to cheek.

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As this was one of my favourite meals last time I was in this neck of the woods it would be rude of me not to share such an incredible experience with Chris. I love it so much I have a picture blown up on the wall of my kitchen, reminding me of this place.

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What more could you ask for, a simple blackboard menu sitting on the rocks, chairs and tables on the gravel floor overlooking the beach. You are eating incredible food in what is almost your own private beach, no cars here, only a boat service on the hour.

Our luck is unbelievable, we got the last free table, again. I ran to the board to see if items I had last time were still here. YES. We will be having prawns for entrée, sautéed in chilli, salt and pepper. I will have the lobster spaghetti and Chris the spaghetti with pippies for main and all washed down with a bottle of Greco di tufo wine.

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What doesn’t look good about these dishes.

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Impressive much? Once I took all the meat out and mixed it around the flavours of cherry tomato, garlic, oil, lobster were having a party in my mouth, literally. Perfection…..so Trish says

Chris on the other hand thinks his pipis in aglio olio with a touch of parley is the clear winner…..well maybe. It is all so good.

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This is it. The best restaurant in Positano/Amalfi/Italy. This may be because we did not stop talking about THAT lunch all night, and all the next day too. You could not fault an experience like that.

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We found it back to Amalfi, sadly, and watched some more World cup on the TV’s at Pizza Duomo. It was already full so we decided to get dinner after instead and to try one of the restaurants overlooking the Amalfi beach.

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It was a beautiful view, I will not deny it. It is more peaceful than Positano as a lot of the town is set back behind the port rather than Positano where it is all on the water. This restaurant was called Silver Moon.

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Yes we did have more wine that night, we are on holidays, we are allowed.

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Dinner was more spaghetti, bolognaise this time, for Chris and I had a seafood risotto. Chris’ dish was nice, but we are still comparing back to that first pasta in Rome, the ragu which was on another level. My risotto again okay, but really its no lobster paella in Valencia, which still reins as the best rice dish I have had on the trip. Enjoyable and fresh but I felt it needed lemon and chilli as it was a little flat.

No dessert, just finishing our wine before a relaxing sleep.

DAY 4

Beach again, if we were going to get a tan at all on this trip this is the place to start it, and who can complain, our hotel is just across the road. Convenient much?

We decided today to try one of the private beach areas where deck chairs and an umbrella may be a little more expensive but there is food and drink service too. We actually went back to Silver moon ‘beach area’. I think the red is much nicer than the other blue umbrellas.

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We ordered pizza for lunch, but unfortunately it was not that great. The base was too hard and crusty and the flavours, not pow. We did spend the rest of the day relaxing here, I wrote, Chris enjoyed the free wifi and read, read, read.

Whilst using wifi we did look up good restaurants in Amalfi. There were a few options but some looked like they needed reservations. Our luck stikes again with Da Gemma where we got an early table, an in by out by. Usually I am not a big fan of these but we have not been having dessert recently so timing should be ok.

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The restaurant was situated behind the port in one of the main streets leading away from the beach, but on the first floor. It was so nice to overlook the street, people watch and see the sun set slowly over the town.

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Although we have been dining out every night not every night is at a fine dining restaurant. In Italy it has been mainly simple trattorias but every now and then it is a nice change.

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We decided to share an entrée and since we had not yet had a caprese salad we chose the trio plate. Tick. First was crumbed and fried mozzarella with tomato and basil. I was the impatient child and jumped right in, burning the roof of my mouth with the hot fillings…obviously all those cheese and tomato jaffles as a kid did not teach me to wait. Next, at the end was a gazpacho like cold soup with aerated mozzarella cream. Nice, an unexpected style but captured the flavours well. Lastly the true Caprese with bright red, juicy tomatoes and delicious mozzarella. mmmmmmm

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I decided to try the seafood risotto again, well crab risotto since it was made with a lemon base. BEST MOVE. It was so delicious, so aromatic, fresh, rich, al dente and way too much food but who cares, it was too good to leave so I had to finish it. That good! gemma5

Chris was also extremely satisfied with his ragu. As you can see, true ragu style, cooked for hours, decadent and flavoursome. It even came with a nest of parmesan, which impressed us.

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We enjoyed our dinner very much and were happy to leave by 8:30 as we could not eat anymore, not even with a second stomach for dessert, nor would we want to ruin the flavours in our mouths at that moment.

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DAY 5

You just cannot keep us away. We did it again. Positano and Da Adoldo although this time we booked, it was a Thursday so we thought it may get a tad busy closer to the weekend.

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We were correct. We missed the first boat as people scrambled to claim the limited seats. I was not going to fight with some of these enthusiastic people, so we patiently waited for the next one. We all arrived at nearly the same time anyways as our boat was faster. It was incredibly busy. So many people being turned away and I thanked my lucky starts we thought to book. People without a table could go back to Positano or wait at this little beach until one became available. Not a good position to be in if you were hungry, as we were.

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We decided on two entrees this time. The prawns of course and baked mozzarella in lemon leaves, proper baked mozzarella, not cold mozzarella like that stupid restaurant in Amalfi, this place is the real deal here.

The mozzarella leaves some of its oils on the leaves, with juice that are perfect to be soaked up with bread. It is like a creamy, lemony, smokey flavour that just reminds me of Positano.

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I will agree with Chris now, and say it publicly, the spaghetti with pipis was the better spaghetti. We enjoyed it so much we actually did consider getting one more plate to share, just so they would not think badly of us, being pigs you know. We contemplated and did wait to see if we actually could. In the end our stomachs caught up with our eyes and we could not eat any more.

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Thank you very much Da Adolfo, it has been sooooo great. We will be back for sure in the near future. As this was our last day before heading back to Rome we knew we this was our last supper for this trip. We sailed away knowing we had eaten the best dish, at the best restaurant in all of the Amalfi Coast and without a doubt the best meal on our whole trip. This is an easy question to answer as every day around meal time we kept saying to each other “Just take me to Da Adolfo for lunch” “Let’s just fly back to Da Adolfo”. I do not think a day went by that we did not want to go back just once more for that amazing dish.

I do make a lot of fresh pasta at home and always do an aglio olio base so once this trip is over I am experimenting with pipis. Watch out Da Afolfo!

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The small cobbled streets of Positano get more colourful and picturesque as you walk around. There is never a dull corner, even the most simple of walls, in its context, is lovely.

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Bye bye Positano, until next time.

It was like Groundhog day as we ended up at Silver Moon for dinner. The beach was not so silent but amusing none the less. There were a group of boys sitting, eating pizza then spent at least 20 minutes throwing stones trying to hit signs in the water.

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Last time we were here we saw a girl having the salt and pepper squid and thought we must try that next time, so entrée was decided.

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I was not as hungry as I was last time so only had a simple fish fillet with green vegies while Chris yet again had the bolognaise.

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Our final day in the Amalfi was a perfect day in our eyes. This part of the trip has been the first spot we could just relax, do absolutely nothing. We would not be missing out on something, fighting cues or catching bus and train to get to one location. Life here was simple, easy, carefree.

Although I do love it here I do also love city life. I miss walking streets full of people, I do love shopping and aimlessly walking around taking in the city. So it wasn’t all sad when we got the transfer to Naples. I was nearly sick as it was without a doubt the windiest road possible, but arriving back in Rome made me feel reenergized and ready for the more.

Rome – ‘gluten’ville

Rome has been such a different experience for me. I have gone from hating the city to loving it’s vibe, it’s chaos and wanting to come back and explore. In our 3 days all we saw was a check list of monuments and the restaurant outside our hotel, as it had the best pizza and pasta.

If I was doing a list of awards for this holiday, the award for the city I wish I could have spent more time in would be Rome.

We arrive on a Friday afternoon and luckily our hotel was very central located just up from the Spanish steps. We were starving so we had to decide whether to go and find a good restaurant or should we just chance the restaurant outside our hotel, which we got 10% off at. It was busy so that was a good sign, plus we were so hungry that anything probably would have tasted good.
The menu was simple so we settled on fettuccine ragu and pizza with sausage, mushrooms and mozzarella. I had hoped that my small amounts of daily of gluten consumption in France had warned my stomach of what was to come in Italy, I was not going to go without here. We were so excited for this meal and had been looking forward to pizza and pasta everyday for basically the whole of France.

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Well let me tell you, we had been there one hour and I knew this pizza and pasta would be hard to beat, this is the evidence.

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We debated whether to get another plate of either as we thought we were hungry still, but opted out and set off in the direction of the Trevi Fountain. On the way there we did go past the Spanish steps and decided to sit and relax there on the way back to the hotel. Also on the way to the Trevi Fountain were 2 major shopping streets, the first Prada, Bulgari, Dior, Cartier, Fendi etc etc. Chris was pulling me along and probably wishes he had a leash he could keep me close with so I would not run to each window and admire. Ok I was a good girl and did not go in, we continues on. Then next street Zara 1, Zara 2, Mango (my favourite shops) plus many many more. Again Chris pulled me along reminding me of the prize, ice cream at the fountain. Ok Ok. We got there. Excitement, gone. Disappointment, boiling. Scaffolding, everywhere. Water, vanished.

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Chris was so upset, he was saving his two 1c coins for us to throw, he did not want a photo.

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There were many coins thrown over the barriers and onto the concrete that once was a pond. No wishes would be happening here! Later we looked up how long the works were taking place as we were returning to Rome a week later for a day, but nope they were to be ongoing until 2015. A multi million euro restoration of the Trevi Fountain sponsored by Fendi. Well thanks a lot Fendi, ruin our night. Next disappointment was returning back to the once excellent gelataria only for it to look sloppy and no Italians ready to serve. Right back out we walked, authenticity lost. We then walked, shoulders dropped, back to the Spanish Steps on the look out for some good gelato. We would have walked into at least 5 places and none looked good, “what is it in these major cities, it was hard to find a good patisserie in Paris and now we cannot find gelato in rome?” we said to one another. It is as if cities have become so touristy that the chance that you will stumble upon a good little find is dwindling. LOOK those people are holding what looks like proper gelato, head in that direction. BAH BAH, success. Actually just across from the Spanish Steps too…..well at least the Spaniards are still guiding us well.

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Double scoops were a must which we enjoyed on the steps looking out at the stupid tourists dumb enough to take roses from the man who wait for it, wait for it, there it is, will ask for money. Surely people are aware of these ploys, these men don’t just want to give you a rose, nor do the men in Paris just want to give you a bracelet, all they want is money. We sat for at least 40 minutes watching this occur over and over, still humoured every single time.

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Not a bad way to spend a Friday afternoon with my husband, great food, smooth cheap wine and a two scoop of my favourite flavours.

The next morning we tried to leave reasonably early for St Peter’s Basilica as it was a Saturday, and the lines are always long. On the walk up to the Basilica we were asked in at least 5 different languages if we needed a guide as we can ‘skip the queues’. No thank you. Well the line was long but it was moving reasonably fast.

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Yes is did stretch the whole way round but was only an hour and quite a bit was under shade. So it was not until we saw scaffolding in the square then ask a staff member why there was all this construction here that we were told tomorrow, Sunday, was St Peter’s Day and not only will the museum and basilica be closing early today but tomorrow would be closed. We are extremely lucky we came TODAY.

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So we came, we saw, and we left. It is another extravagant church. Nice but once you have been to Sagrada Familia, no churches are anywhere near impressive, and that one is not even finished.

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As we were walking out of the basilica we saw a sign for pre purchasing tickets to the Vatican Museum. It was a bit more expensive, but by now it was midday and getting hot outside. Yes thank you very much we are more than happy to pay tourist prices to skip the lines, please take our euros. I think if you go in with this attitude you will have a happier experience and not think back to all the lines you stood in, but how well spent your money was.

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….and lines there were. We relaxed for a little in a café across from the entrance to enjoy our overpriced coffee, gelato and water in full air conditioning before we were ready to start. I did warn Chris before we entered that it is like a maze which if you power walk through the whole thing, and not even look at the art, will take you at least an hour to reach the Sistene Chapel. We did look, but quickly, or as quick as we could with the large groups blocking passage ways.

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Just over an hour and we made it. This time more people were talking and not so stealthily taking photos but every few minutes the police would say “SILENCIO”. Without glasses I did find it very difficult to look up and examine all the little scenes so I got over it very quickly as my eyes were burning, but if you have the time there is so much to take in, so many stories told.

[insert photo downloaded from the internet of the sistene chapel]

It is interesting that even the exit has some ‘creativeness’ to it. As you walk down the very steep ramp that has no grip you slowly meet short steps and slowly slowly reach stability and the feeling that you will not fall over somewhere towards the bottom, the only place with yellow strips along the edge alerting people that ‘this is a step’. Odd and definitely would not be allowed in Australia. If this was in Australia there would be a second ugly handrail which is the correct height above the original one, large yellow strips on the edge of every step as the light grey is not different enough to the dark grey of the step and where the ramp is too steep there would probably be perpex steps built over the top to ensure that noone would sue the building for ‘falling over’. I am so glad we are not in Australia right now.

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We were met with the same situation as I was when I left the Vatican Museum 5 years earlier, severe hunger. A whole morning of waiting and looking around the smallest country in the world is draining, so we walked through the little alleys hoping to find anything and then tada we hit the Piazza Nuova.

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It normally has a plethora of different artists from musicians, jewellers and painters but today seemed rather quiet. We enjoyed people watching from one of the cafes around the edge of the piazza, ours even squirted cold water mist over you to cool you down. This definiely heightened our experience of bruscuetta, salad and Chris’ bolognaise.

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Another big attraction is the large fountain with obelix in the centre.

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Our last stop for the day was the Pantheon. Walking there I noticed a key difference between Rome and other european cities, well cities we have thus far visited. The combination of sunlight and the colours of the buildings add warmth to the city rather than glimpses of light and cold colours of grey or white concrete. Also the fact that every road is treated like a plaza with masses of people walking along and only moving if a car is on its way, oddly, adds a relaxed nature, people are not running around frantically to move almost as if pedestrians rule.

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Well frantic does pick up closer towards the Pantheon. More guides offering there services but for us we thought the information signs around were enough. It is without a doubt my favourite building in Rome. Every time I come here it takes my breath away, maybe this is because every time I visit there is a children’s choir chanting which makes this space just mesmerizing. The light, the shadows on the ceiling, the detail of the interiors and the scale are all so beautiful. No need for our dodgy ‘selfies’ here, it can speak for itself.

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A great way to end our Saturday, well almost. On the way back to the hotel I lost Chris to the Brazil v Chile game so I decided to relax with some shopping but made sure I was back by 8, which I did, Chris was not. I got ready for dinner and went to find him, in the bar, not dressed, watching the game. Thanks very much guys why did it have to go to extra time, then penalties, I wanted to eat. Everyone was glued to the screen (this was back when people liked Brazil). They won yay, can we eat now?

We had decided to try the rooftop restaurant in our hotel, little did we know that a lot of Rome had that same idea. It was packed and we did not have a reservation. We were yet to stay in a hotel where people actively seek out the restaurant so it was a shock to us. We had our cocktails and waited. Finally we were seated and ordered as quickly as possible. Entrée was delicious, beef carpaccio with quail eggs, pecans on a rocket salad.

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Happy Trish and Chris, but not for long. Mains were a complete disaster. The pasta was so horrible, thick, undercooked and gluggy that they were hardely edible. The things we do when we are hungry, hoping every bite will get better. In hindsight we should have sent them back but hunger does funny things to people. (definitely not photo worthy).

We finishes our wine as quick as we could to get out of that terrible place wishing we had pizza and pasta again. So we decided to at least get some enjoyment out of a few more wines and some live music at the piani bar. It started to get quite busy and before we knew it some americans were up and dancing. It was a funny sight as the girl knew how to salsa but the guy truly did not. After a few wines Chris gets quite proud and wanted to show them how it was done so grabbed me and spin, spin, spin, spin. I am not a good dancer but I would say that I gave a better effort than that guy. Chris was satisfied and sat down for the rest of the night. Before we knew it it was 2am and we had an early train down to the Amalfi. We must have lost time after another bottle or was it the haze of smoke as that everyone was puffing that did it????

Amalfi story will come shortly.

We headed back to Rome for one more night after our fantastic trip to Amalfi as it did take a good 4 hours to travel between them and we needed to rest before another half day of travel to the Greek Islands. So we got back to Rome around 4 in the afternoon dropped our bags and set of for the last item on our checklist, the Colloseum. We looked online and there was a tour which included the space under the colloseum at 4:30. Metro was not going to work so we jumped in a cab and power walked making it just in time. We asked the staff but were informed that the tour we wanted is booked out months in advance and we would not be able to get in this summer. Well ok, that did not go according to plan. This is when anoying people asking if you want to join their tour are welcome. So we joined a group, got straight in and heard this eccentric man go off on tangents and talk about the colloseum, that was until we were told we only had 20 minutes free time in the colloseum before our next tour of the Roman Forum was about to start. Tour suddenly did not seem like a good idea. Who actually liked being rushed? We had paid so we decided to just see what we could then get on with it.

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Thankfully the second tour was with a different guide, this guide was an overenthusiastic British ex teacher who was in love with Roman history. Although we were hot and bothered it was a great tour and really informative.

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We learnt that the Arch of Constantine here outside the Colosseum was the first arch, built in the 4th century, and apparently the one that the French Arc De Triomph was based around. We also got a great view of the Colosseum without all of its scaffolding. Then saw what would have been the original and grandest basilica (the large building with domed ceilings behind us), which is much much larger than St Peter’s is and what St Peter’s is based on. The Basilica of Maxentius. The only difference between what this would have been and what St Peter’s is is the dome on the top, which the architect added and Michelangelo advised to raise to make it very tall.

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So the architect really did not do much except copy a design and add a dome, not dictate the final product.

The Roman Forum used to be under a lot of silt and has taken many years of excavation to discover the remains. What is truly incredible is how old some of these buildings are. The most spectacular I think is the Temple of Divus Romulus church which still has the original bronze doors, lock and key and dates back to the 4th Century.

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Tick tick and tick. We were done. Now to get back to the hotel to enjoy some more pizza and pasta. This time we were not willing to share so we got an entrée pizza, potato, rosemary and mozzarella. To be honest I was so excited but I have had sooo much better in Sydney with thin slices of potato, rock salt, even rosemary spread across. Oh well I ate most of it anyways. Our mains were delicious. I had spaghetti with pepato pecorino and zucchini flowers. It was definitely a flavour punch with the cheesiest sauce I have ever had, but I enjoyed it as I do LOVE cheese. Chris got his favourite fettuccine with ragu. It was a good end to a lovely adventure in Rome.

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Paris and a birthday

I’m tired just thinking about it. When you go to Paris there is a list of things you need to do, in no particular order.

Louvre (closed on Tuesdays)

Musee d’Orsay (closed on Mondays)

Eiffel Tower

Sacre Coeur + Montmartre

Champs Elysees

Arc de Triomphe

Bridge of locks

Notre Dame

Four days really ‘is’ enough to do them all, but what is not on that list is rest or taking time to enjoy the holiday. We also need to factor in watching world cup games at night and the early mornings and late nights make for tired people.

We arrived in Paris and already had trouble with the French as we tried to drop off our hire car. What a great experience it was to drive from Barcelona over the border and all the way up to Paris. Yes there were A LOT of tolls, so people in Australia do not complain; we are talking some tolls that were 30 euros each. We also need to mention the 500 euro fee to drive a car over the border and not return it, but when you find out that trains are on strike through France, any amount of money to not have to worry, jump in and go is worth it. When we found the Hertz office we were told that we needed to go to a different one as it was closed. Trying to navigate in the centre of Paris is not easy, especially finding a small ramp with a even smaller Hertz sign on it.

Once done we had to walk with our bags to the hotel, cab would have taken a long time, but in the end, and a few wrong turns, maybe it would have been worth it.

The hotel was in Saint Germain on the South Bank of the Seine. Very central and close to many different monuments. So we dropped our bags then walked down towards the Musee d Orsay along Rue de Rennes, a large shopping street that also had quite a good little bakery on it. Lunch was baguette and nicoise salad. Better than all that we have had so far in France so this is a good sign. We walked walked waked in the heat to the Museum. The lines were not long at all so we were excited that waiting time would be limited. We took a few happy snaps, it was my birthday after all, then walked round to the entrance only to be told that on Monday’s the museum is closed. Shattered as I do prefer this museum to the Louvre we decided we might as well keep walking to the Eiffel Tower. More walking in the heat but once we made it there it was definitely worth it, plus who would complain about a sunny day in Paris where it is normally grey.

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We waited in another line to walk up the stairs, for a lot less than we would have had we chosen to go up the lift. 700ish stairs. Our glutes were definitely feeling it.

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The view was great but we were hit with another line, the line to take the lift to the 3rd platform. We considered it but were done with lines for today and would give it a miss, perhaps go back another day. So we exited, took a few more shots on the first platform as there is a viewing area made of glass right that looks over the ground and all the little people below. It is a tad scary.

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We walked back to the hotel to watch Australia vs Spain (which ended up not being shown anywhere) then go for my birthday dinner, but just before we left Chris kissed me.

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This is how I felt!

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I found a little bistro nearby with quite good reviews called La Gauloise. It was on such a pleasant street full of bistros, ours however had nice white tablecloths. Finally able to relax and enjoy some wine.

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Entrees came out and we were excited as they looked very impressive. I had the octopus and fennel salad, nice and fresh. My octopus was so soft, citrusy and the fennel was done two ways, fresh and sautéed down.

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Chris had what I wanted but sigh, I cannot have asparagus and little did we know there was a layer of peas underneath the thick broth, another no no. The theatre of cutting open the egg with a large steak knife makes this dish even better as the creamy orangey yolk streams out and through the dish. Ok I did have food envy!

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Mains were even better, if possible. I had the steamed cod served in a copper pan with pippies and potatoes in a white wine sauce. The fish fell apart at the slightest touch, almost as if it was confit. It was the most flavoursome, delicious fish I have ever had, and how much better can it get for my birthday dinner.

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Chris had, surprise surprise, a steak, excuse moi, fillet of beef with pepper sauce. We finished the lot, how could we not, it would be a sin to leave such great food on the plate.

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Dessert was a must, no candle though. I had the millefeuille with raspberries. The cream was not like boring whipped cream, it was thicker, more custardy and actually had its own flavour. Yippee. OK call me a pig but I did finish the whole thing. I’m allowed, it’s my birthday. I had told Chris we could share the dessert but he was determined to try the Chocolate pudding. Probably not a good idea. It was huge and I don’t know why something so rich would be served with salted caramel ice cream but it was, which made it even richer. Chris did not finish it.

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Seriously satisfied we walked back to the hotel via the Eiffel Tower and just in time to see the light show. Very pretty, maybe not the most impressive thing I’ve seen, but a nice change of location for my birthday.

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So Tuesday we DID go back to Musee d’Orsay. On the way we were certain we could find a nice boulangerie for breakfast. Wrong. We walked, and walked, and walked. I’m certain we walked along every single street without a boulangerie in St Germain. By now we were hungry, tired and hot and ended up at a café that we paid the tourist tax in as it was just across from the museum. We did not care. After sustenance we stood in line for 1 hour for the museum. It would not have made that much difference if we booked online as that line was long too, probably half an hour wait. You can see how thrilled we were with the lines.musee1

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Inside was so cool and air conditioned ahhhhhhhhh. Floor by floor we went, seeing impressionist after impressionists. Fabulous artwork. We got to the Van Gogh section and it was under renovation so all of his works plus more had been moved to a temporary exhibition downstairs which had another line.

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We were sick of lines and decided to do that last after we had had lunch upstairs. The upstairs wing is my favourite with the likes of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renior, Cezanne and there should have been some Van Gogh too, but what I also like is the café in one of the clocks of the façade. I was so excited when we got the table next to the clock, the same table I had 5 years earlier when I visited, and I think the best table there as you can get photos with the clock, which actually turned out more like silhouettes.

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We had energy now to wait in line. The estimate was 20 minutes but it ended up being 25. Totally worth it. The exhibition was from the point of view of another artist who wrote an essay about Van Gogh and how he could not have been insane like many thought. It gave an artists point of view on how people at the time should have been praising his work but instead just did not understand it. I think everyone would learn a lot from this exhibition, we were so glad we saw it.

So four hours later we were all arted out and walked back to the hotel, past the shops. Chris actually gave me free time to go shopping. YAY. The only problem was that the sales were starting the day after so I did not buy anything, what was the point, it was all full price still, I returned empty handed.

We rested before the dinner I have been looking forward to for a long time. Chez l’ami Jean. I wished we could have had this for my birthday but it was closed on Mondays. My stomach was playing up a bit from a quiche I had for breakfast so I was not terribly hungry, a point I would overlook for dinner as I knew the food would be great.

We arrived, the most dressed up two people there, me in a short black dress, and Chris suited up. Other diners were in t-shirts and shorts as it is a simple bistro. From looking at it yes, but the food is anything but simple. As it is so popular tables of two are not common so we were seated in a long row of tables along a wall which were moved around like tetris to let the diners sitting along the banquette out. Not quite the experience I was looking for sitting right up next to different group, but it is what it is.

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So the menu was all in French and we were told we would get help to understand it. Nope, it was so busy that that wasn’t the case so we just decided to do the ‘Trust the chef” menu which means that the chef would just bring out whatever he felt like. We were then asked if there were any intolerances. All I said was onions, not gluten as I can handle that when absolutely necessary. The waiter looked worried. He went to ask the chef and came back saying it was not possible. I then pleaded and said if it was only small bits in stock its ok, but not fresh onion or chunks in dishes. He went back and again said that the chef refused to give me this menu as there would be onion and basically it was just no. I was deflated. The menu I had had 5 years ago, by myself, that was the highlight of France and something embedded in my mind was suddenly taken away from me. I even thought what was the point then? The waiter said that Chris was welcome to have this menu and I was to choose off the a la carte, which was still in French. So after very brief descriptions I ordered an entrée and main reluctantly.

I think they felt sorry for me as they brought out two bowls both with little ‘croutons’ of peas, bacon, parmesan ready for the holy grail of soups, their Parmesan soup. It was poured and I couldn’t wait but started slurping that up straight away. It is the best soup you will try, Chris agreed and he is not a soup person.

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Next my entrée came out. Tuna tartare with strawberry, foie gras, beetroot and white truffle. I have seen the combination of foie gras and berries at a few places now and it is always fabulous, this did not disappoint. The creamy soft foie gras was balanced with the fresh tuna and sweet fruit. Perfect. I gulped that up although I was admittedly getting full, my stomach was still recovering from the morning and giving me a hard time about it over dinner.

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As I ate two different tables came in all ordering the “trust the chef”. Chris’ next dish was taking a long time so we thought that the chef was waiting for them to catch up so he could serve 6 at one, makes sense. As my dish was being cleared his was being served. Squid with cucumber and radish in a soy sauce. Fresh and nice he commented.

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I was then served main. Roast chicken with olive, green beans and you guessed it, more foie gras. I don’t think I could handle more. The chicken was so moist and soft and with the foie gras did taste divine, not like any chicken I could ever cook.

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Next Chris and the other 5 next to us were all served crispy skin salmon with more Asian cucumber;

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followed by poached tuna with miso and sesame;

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next was sole (I think) with rosemary and orange burnt/infused on top and roasted pepper puree;

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another fish we cannot remember with the parmesan soup ‘foam’;

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and then finally some meat.

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The problem was Chris was struggling by this stage to eat more, forcing more and more and more. The duck was roasted with crispy skin and served with shrooms and mash. It was rich, it was decadent, it was a memorable duck, what was consumed anyways. Toilet breaks were becoming more frequent as we tried to finish, knowing that dessert is still to come, and yes dessert was coming. We were given the option to have the cheese course first, which we opted out of, but looked on in disbelief as others nodded away. It was a hard cheese sliced thin served with fruit compote. I think we were cheesed out after Biarritz. Dessert was then served but was really two desserts in one. The famous rice pudding with salted caramel cream and praline of nuts, but also shot glasses of vanilla and chocolate milkshake and then a fruit and custard bowl.

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A few spoonfuls and that was it. The towels were thrown in. Officially cannot consume anymore. We left and I was glad that Chris was overwhelmed thinking about the meal he just had, the experience I wanted to give him. They tried their hardest to give me the same but this time round things were different, that is what intolerances do to you, you have to adapt and sometimes are left without, but it is better than being sick so at least I had what I could.

It was probably a good thing that Day 3 we booked a walking tour, we definitely needed to burn off some of that dinner. Eeeek run run run we were late. We tried to catch the metro only a few stops to St Micheal but we could not even buy a ticket. Stupid French ticket machines, so we ran there and arrived 10 minutes late and worried we would miss out. PHEW they were still there taking group shots, probably getting all the housekeeping. We were allocated a group and off we went. First past the police headquarters on the small island in the middle of the Seine where Paris originated then past the ‘New Bridge’ with funny faces carved in stone displayed along it which the story goes the King at the time got his artist to sketch guests’ faces at the end of a huge party he threw and then they started popping up on the bridge.

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We then crossed over the bridge of love/locks which interestingly had a panel of the bridge fall off the week before as the locks are so heavy the handrails cannot cope, hence they are continually being cut off.

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The Louvre forecourt was the last stop before lunch which Chris and I were hanging for since we did not have time to grab breakfast that morning in the state of rush we were.

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Fed and coffee’d we then walked through the Tuileries Gardens and up to the bottom of the Champs Elysees where the Obelisk from Egypt was, one of Napoleon’s accomplishments. The gold pyramid at the top however is not original and was the finishing touch by Yves Saint Laurent.

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The tour was over but we were just getting started. I could see a street of shops, on sale I might add, but what Chris saw was the Arc de Triomphe to visit. As we walked up the Champs Elysees I kept having to remind myself, as we passed shop by shop, that I am on a honeymoon, more commonly known as time to spend with new husband, not time to run away from husband and spend all his money. So walk we did, t o the top, under and up onto the ‘round a bout’ where the Arc de Triomphe stands.

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We saw the Unknown Solider grave and the Eternal flame. We did not wait to get up on top of the Arc, it also was another 9 euro entry fee and a view we felt we did not need after being up the Eiffel Tower just days before.

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Back on the other side we just watched. Apparently there is a car accident every 15 minutes here as there are no lanes its each for themselves. We would definitely not drive in Paris after watching this.

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Our walk back down the Champ Elysees was halted when Chris said he was hungry, a quick stop at Maccas for a “Royal with Cheese” or in Aussie talk “a quarter pounder”. The problem was that this must be the busiest McDonalds in Paris. Chris waited in line for 30 minutes just to order! He consumed in 5 minutes and then we left. Although there was some ‘free time’ I ended up with one jumper and Chris waked out of GAP with bags galore. Good for him I thought, the more he buys the more I am allowed to buy later :P

We walked back quickly to get ready as we had tickets to the Moulin Rouge that night. What to do for dinner, time was running out? We ended up stopping at the corner bar/café for a meal. I ordered salmon in a butter sauce with sautéed potatoes and Chris had a steak. They were terrible! My sautéed potatoes were just fries and Chris’ steak was overcooked and dry. No time to find a better meal, we ate what we could and got ready. By now we were running a tad late so caught a cab and thankfully made it in time with 5 minutes to spare.

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Unfortunately we don’t have photos from inside as they are not allowed but it was spectacular. So much glitz, glamour and variety of dances and scenes. It’s almost unbelievable so much can take place in two hours.

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After the show we considered watching more world cup at a local bar but realised it was on a free to air channel and could watch it in comfort from our hotel room. Yippee (I could fall asleep before the end).

 

Day 4 we were up early to visit the Louvre. Our tour guide the day before had told us about a secret entrance. We were so happy just thinking about the lines we did not have to stand in. So we casually had our breakfast, no rush as we are skipping the lines, then walked to the secret entrance. Yes we did find it, yes it was another was in but no we did not pre buy our tickets. Back in line for us. Angry and not looking forward to lines in the heat we walked back to the pyramid to stand in the security check line.

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Someone was watching over us as it was moving very quickly and it only took up 20 minutes to get down and the ticket line was minimal. I would liken our entrance into the Louvre, along with many others, like the scene in Rat Race where the race starts and Mr Bean says “It’s a race!”. Who can walk to Mona Lisa the fastest, dodging oncoming traffic. Do not get distracted walk walk walk. Everyone was heading in that direction so it was no surprise that when we got to Mona the crown around the barrier was large. Chris did eventually get to the front to view ‘him’, I waited from the side which was actually a better view. After Mona we saw Venus de Milo then spent a few hours in the Ancient Egyptian wing. I was desperately needed to sit down and consume some coffee by this stage, it was midday. We walked through a few more areas on our way to one of the café’s inside. I was done with Louvre art, it is not my style so I decided to stay at the café then visit the gift shops while Chris saw some more.

Lunch at our favourite chain of bakeries, Erik Kayser, then more walking to Notre Dame then Sacre Coeur. Notre Dame was free to visit but by this stage we are just over lines and waiting in the sun. I had such a different experience 5 years ago as it was raining every day and lines were very short.

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So we saw the front but for me I think the back of Notre Dame is much more interesting and beautiful with the gargoyles and huge buttresses holding the church up.

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It also has a nice park at the back with my favourite French tree. I don’t know what it is but I love how full they are, the colours of the leaves and the contrast to the white sand they always stand on. The only thing that would make this photo more beautiful would be if it was raining.

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Tick tick. Only one more thing on our list and with only 6 hours left in our last day we made it with time to spare. A metro ride to Sacre Coeur however we got on the metro at the largest station, Chatelet – Les Halles, and had to walk through what felt like never ending tunnels, probably all the way there, well close. We did make it to Montmartre the suburb that Sacre Coeur is in and walked all the way up those stairs to see the view.

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Many people were relaxing on the stairs or grass taking in all in and yes those men at the bottom were still tying string around girls wrists, why you would fall for that I do not know. I should mention that we also had a crepe up here but it was mediocre so that is all I will say. Tick though.

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Tired and in need of rest we made our way back to St Germain for our last night. I looked up good bistros in walking distance and we set off, determined not to end up at the corner bar for terrible food again. We found the bistro and the owner came out, shook our hand then said he was full. If you could hear disappointment then as we walked off it your ears would be ringing. It looked so cute, so promising and now we had to find a plan b. Walking the streets when you are hungry is not a good situation to be in as you need to remember what you want, good food, not cheap bar food. We ended up a block away from our hotel and had a look at a restaurant we did notice on the walk up to disappointmentville. It was Russian, a first for both of us, and the menu looked good so we sat down. Chris ordered Chicken Kiev which came with rice and mushrooms and I had tuna and scallop tartare on blinis.

Both were fantastic and very tasty, just what we needed. It might not have been the perfect send off from Paris but it did us just fine.

To sum up Paris I think the past 4 days were full of tourist lists, sight seeing and must do’s. At least now I can say I had my birthday in Paris where my new husband and I kissed in front of the Eiffel Tower after a beautiful dinner (a bit corny I know). I can also say that we did a road trip across Europe. From Barcelona up the west coast of France, to Nantes to visit our friend Francine and into Paris. 1760km later and many funny memories had. I probably would not rush back to Paris or France for that matter. Beautiful and lovely as it is I don’t feel drawn there as much as I do to Italy which I am in love with……with that said, Bon Voyage and take me to Rome!

Biarritz Biarritz Biarritz

 

Our drive from San Sebastian was easy, not toll free unfortunately but beautiful. the one thing we noticed was how quickly the scenery changes to ‘typical French countryside’ or what I would expect in French movies.. As we drove towards the boast there is no way you could miss the hotel. It has large black gates surrounding its grounds, embellished facades and multiple entrances of the tiniest streets imaginable.

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The Hotel du Palais is an old palace/summer house built in 1855 by Emperor Napolean III for his wife Empress Eugenie who loved to visit Biarritz. Today it is just as large, just as grand and makes every guest feel what it might be like to be a royal, in our case two days worth.

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We parked our ‘grand’ Peugeot and walked to reception passing Aston Martins, Mercedes, Audis and Maseratis. The bell boys quickly ran to us to take our bags. The receptionist who took care of us then escorted us to our room advising us that there were fresh strawberries, mineral water and a small gift for us.

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WOW. The view out of our bedroom was spectacular, blue blue blue as far as the eye can see. 180 degrees worth of ocean. Next door our own ‘walk in robe’ had another view of the sea. The bathroom had so many toiletries including mini Hermes colognes. Spoilt much? Wait there is more. The strawberries sitting on a little table were as red as you could ever wish and tasted like none I have ever had. You cannot get flavour like this in Sydney, no way. We had a personalised note wishing us a great stay and the gift was another Hermes cologne for us. I was in another world for a moment until Chris said to look at the TV. It had on the screen “Welcome Patricia and Chris”. Everything is so personalised, so perfect, so luxurious. room3

Well we knew there was an indoor pool and spa but the weather was fantastic so we quickly changed and hit the outdoor pool overlooking the ocean. We sat down at two deck chairs but were asked to get up for a moment while the pool attendant fitted them with cushions and clean towels for us. Sure, why not! We relaxed and soaked up the suns rays with some drinks in tow. This would have to be one of the most relaxing afternoons we have had. Chris was getting peckish so ordered a Club sandwich. Well we knew this was a very exclusive hotel but as we had pre paid everything we forgot about the prices. So at the Hotel du Palais a club sandwich will set you back 39euros….but then it was served. So we should not have expected anything less. More than enough for two people it was a very tasty club sandwich if I do say so myself after sealing a quarter (to taste).

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A few hours in the sun was enough today. We retired in the room before our Michelin starred dinner at 8:30pm. The dinner was served in the main dining room which was a much better view than the side Michelin dining room. We were happy with this and thought as a weeknight that there may not be enough people to open up that dining room.

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The Menu for the evening was already placed on our table, it looked good. Bread was served and I was happy when two large and warm gluten free bread rolls were placed by my side. Two butters accompanied – salted and carrot (an odd flavour). An appetizer was served for Chris parmesan pastry with jamon wrapped around, I received a plate of jamon, but French jamon which was cut thick and did not have the oiliness that the Spanish style required. We then were both served another appetiser of Ratatouille with bacon cream which we looked at in disbelief as it was white, then we tried it. Spectacular. What a great mix of flavours and light at the same time. Our excitement was growing!

Entrée – Duck foie gras terrine with sangria jelly and poached peaches. Rich, creamy, delectable especially when paired with the jelly. A very large portion however so we tried but had to hold off finishing this one as there were many more courses to come.

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Main – Calf sweetbread fried in half salted butter coated in ginger and coriander and served with vegetables and sesame. An Asian flavour which everyone knows I am not normally a fan of, and sweetbreads, who isn’t scared when that word is on the menu. Surprisingly they were soft and the fat had a sweet creamy flavour which was cut back with the herbs and strong flavours in the sauce. A very enjoyable dish and something I would expect only the best chefs to be able to cook perfectly.

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Now for the cheese trolley. The waiter was explaining the cheeses to us, some I were familiar with, a lot not though, but I did tell him I was adventurous and not scared of smelly. He went for gold and put the most smelly cheeses they had. Chris on the other hand described himself as ‘not as adventurous as her’. So he had some local hard cheeses and a creamy soft style. Well when I said I like smelly what I mean is that I like smelly in Australia, pasteurised, probably flavoursome smelly. Smelly in France is really like “I need to go to the other side of the room” smelly and not just in smell the flavours were unimaginably strong in a not so good way. I was not prepared for that and knew I had to ask more carefully tomorrow.

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To say we had room for dessert would be correct but the dessert was not a flavour we normally like. Apricot.

Dessert – Whole roasted apricot, Madagascar vanilla and almond

Like the strawberries in our room these apricots were like apricot concentrate if there was ever a pure one made. I think our taste buds were done for the night. Strong after strong, rich after rich. I think a plain piece of bread would have cut it for dessert at that point as we just could not handle this much in one go.

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Oh wow look at the time. 11pm and we are the last ones in the restaurant, everyone is now in the bar listening to the live pianist.

We decided to have some tea to help digest and were moved into the bar. Food was not over yet as we still had petit fours to go. How silly of me, missing a course in a French dinner, and before you ask, yes we did have sorbet to cleanse our palettes after cheese.

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I was extremely tired as we had one glass for each course, plus another for some of the appetizers, add that to food coma and my body was telling me I just needed to sleep. The pianist was fantastic buy my body was giving in and I nearly fell asleep at our table. Up to bed we went ready for a nice sleep in tomorrow.

Day 2.

Well sleep in is exactly what we did. We closed the double windows so there would not be any light but still a little sound of the water crashing. It was such a relaxing sound and perfect to wake up to. Breakfast was the largest buffet we had ever seen. I’m talking cereals, pastries, breads, cheese trolley, small goods, salad, salmon, fresh fruits, eggs, bacon. Too much to enjoy especially after the dinner we had the night before.

After breakfast the sun was not out so we decided to give the indoor pool a try, it would be a sin not to. Empty was a good start, Jacuzzi at the end even better. Isn’t it funny that even though an indoor pool is heated and quite warm you still get cold as the air is normally even warmer. I had to spend most of my time in the Jacuzzi. We then gave the saunas and steam rooms a go. Boys in the Boys rooms but only of an afternoon between 4-6 are woman allowed to mix in that room. Shame it was only the morning.

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Hot and steamy and nice and chloriney we went up to shower and I could not believe that I was hungry. Woot woot we can enjoy lunch outside at the restaurant, why not.

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I had to try the steak tartare, surely at a place like this it should be one of the best. Chris ordered steak as always which was served with béarnaise sauce. Mmmmmmm both were fantastic and we weren’t shy to show it, finishing both plates and most of the chips. I thought I vowed after south America not to eat as much fried food? It’s not my fault everywhere in Spain and France add chips with meals. Chris was certain I wanted dessert and made sure he told the waiter that. This is his favourite trick you see, make the waiter believe I am a fatty and the only one who really wants to order dessert. Well he is the one who enjoyed most of our ice cream bowl. Vanilla, chocolate and coffee with mini meringues.

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Why did we order dessert I am so full, and we have another big dinner in 6 hours. We need a walk! So we walked to the end of the public beach and back, not far but enough to make ourselves feel better then laid by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.

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I was not hungry by the time dinner came round, but knew I had to soldier on and put that little note aside. Well once we saw the menu it was definitely not important. The menu looked incredible and so much better than the previous nights, well once our waiter told us what it said as they forgot to translate into English for us.

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Again Chris had the parmesan pastry with jamon, I got a plate of jamon and rockmelon. Nice but I am not the biggest fan of rockmelon. We were also served the Ratatouille with bacon cream. Ok we finished that but only because it was so good.

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Entrée – Blue Crab with gazpacho of confit tomato and citrus with tomato sorbet and olive oil.

Wow. The. Colours. Speak. For. Themselves. If you got this would you not be impressed? It was one of the most impressive seafood dishes we have had and refreshing was the best way to start the meal as you know you can eat and enjoy more. At this stage I am feeling good!

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Main – Roasted pigeon with eggplant, foie gras pate, reduction of port, oranges and carrots.

I have only ever had pigeon once in a dish like this and it was terrible. What better place to try it than this. Succulent meat, soft and gamey almost with the slightly sticky port sauce. I suppose they have treated the meat almost like venison. I did not have the foie gras pate on my eggplant as it had onions in it so my dish was great and not as rich as what Chris got. Perhaps the one time my intolerance has benefitted me. Luckily the meals were coming out a lot faster this evening so we had less time to get full in between courses, plus we had a lovely sunset beaming into our window. It was like the perfect last night for us.

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So cheesewise I stuck with what I know, goats cheese and my favourite French hard Ossau Iraty. Chris also got more hards and Camembert which we ordered another piece of as it was that good. Being full is for wimps we kept telling ourselves and we battles on.

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Sorbet to cleanse the palate before dessert, of course.

Dessert – Chris had a raspberry cream tart and strawberries while I had the most beautiful dessert of fresh fruits and strawberry sorbet. Again mine was better if only for the sorbet which was out of this world. Lemon juice just adds so much to food.

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So it was only 10:30pm at this stage after we spent time enjoying some more chit chat then we went to the bar, which was deserted, to enjoy the pianist. We requested many songs including Let it Be, Love me Tender and Over the Rainbow to name a few, which the pianist played at the drop of a hat, no prep, it was mesmerizing and a nice relaxing end to a night of extravagance, and with a view.

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As I said to Chris the next morning as I struggled to eat anything at breakfast, “It is so beautiful here and I love it but I could not survive another night of food.” And with that we said goodbye to the Hotel du Palais. Next time we might enjoy the hotel without the gastronomic package and order a la carte, but there will be a next time.

 

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San Sebastian – last city in Spain

We left bright and early from dodgy Granollers to set of on our way across Spain to San Sebastian. For all of you who are thinking “why would you drive across Spain instead of catch fast trains?” it is because all trains go through Madrid and not from Barcelona to San Sebastian. We would actually be adding time if we did it that way rather than attempt to drive the 550+km ourselves. Plus who doesn’t love a road trip?

Well our car which we have names Rufus, a large Peugeot, which is not manual but automatic with tiptronic, took a while to get used to. It also took a while to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road as we were forever veering into the next lane, but also speeds of at least 130km/hr for hour long stretches of straight road. I would say after 3 hours between us as we were both used to the car and the drive. We pushed ahead only stopping an hour out of San Sebastian for lunch in Pamplona. We did not explore the city as we were keen to get to our destination, but it we did enjoy a good burger (not a hamburgesa).

We arrived at our hotel early afternoon and luckily found street parking before we parked in the hotel car park. Our hotel, Astoria7 has a movie theme throughout and each room is assigned a movie star. We had Richard Perkins, the bad guy from Psycho.

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After we dropped our bags then went for a stroll down to the water and through the bustling streets full of bars. Our hotel was a 20 minutes walk from the water, a good thing since we had been enjoying a lot of food and wine each day. The sunset was beautiful and makes me believe all the good things that are said about this town.

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I again looked up our second best friend, Trip Advisor for some restaurant recommendations and found a small place called La Cepa. Every restaurant we passed looked fantastic but we held out and looked for the prized one. We found it and again nabbed the last free table. What is it with us and free tables? After 20 minutes we could not see the bar that is how many people had filled in standing at the bar.

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Our table was odd, like an showcase of nuts and seeds as the table was made of perspex or glass with little pockets full of different varieties.

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Ordering was easy. I wanted something fresh so the crab salad was right up my alley, especially after my stomach rejected the slow roasted lamb the night before. Chris ordered steak again. It turned out to be cooked extremely well, a blessing since the Granollers version of medium was 100% rare.

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We gobbled up everything on our plates then contemplated the mandarin sorbet. Yes. No. Yes. Maybe? No. We gave it a miss and went on to explore the town more. On the way back though I had to stop in for a cone of choc mint.

Day 2 was cool in the morning so we decided not to hit up the beach. If we have learnt anything about Europe so far is that whatever the morning is, forget about it, by midday it will be hot. It was soo hot. That was ok for me as I just took cover in the air-conditioned 4 level Zara, and I might have bought a few things too. It is not my fault Chris that you wanted to wait outside. We then decided to split so Chris could go off and be cool somewhere else, a bar probably. I went back to Zara as there were more floors to hit up. By the time we met back up at 4pm it was sweltering. We considered walking 20 minutes back to our hotel and then back with swimming costumes, but by then it the wind, which has started, would have picked up, so we gave it a miss.

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On the way home we stopped at a grocery store and bought some cheese, jamon iberico, bread and wine and had a picnic whilst watching more world cup (Brazil was playing). As the hotel had a movie theme they did in fact have a movie screen in the dining room which they were projecting games onto. What could be better?

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Up early the next day to drive to Biarritz.

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