Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Radda in Chianti is one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany. It is one that perched the highest on the Tuscan hill. The highest point I noted on the GPS was at least 700m asl! It’s ca 15km away from San Sano, our Summer hols based location in August this year.

My memory of Radda was not as positive as the rest of the Chianti towns, at least on the gastronomical aspect at the material time and day. Well, unforgettable memories can be either good or bad, right?

We had originally wanted to dine out at Osteria Le Panzanelle in Radda but could not find the restaurant. Instead we ended up at Ristorante Vignale. It had a lovely patio overlooking the most beautiful view of acres and acres of vineyard!

After having one of the most memorable dinners in San Sano the other evening, we assumed every Tuscan restos offered similar quality of amazing foods. Unfortunately, not at Ristorante Vignale. The menu card looked ambitious and sadly, we were sold by the artistic descriptions of the items on the list.

The plates that were brought out to us were stylishly presented, but the execution was very poor.

On paper, the starter I ordered sounded too good to be true: summery and almost music to my ear. In reality, the actual presentation was quite disappointing. There were way too many goat’s cheese on my starter plate that I hardly tasted or saw any truffle-flavoured bread crumbs! The summer salad was just simple iceberg salad. My verdict? A boring ensemble of the so called, The Vignale Summer Salad with pine nuts, walnuts, goats’ cheese and truffle-flavoured bread crumbs

You bet I was looking forward to my main course that sounded pretty alluring; Medieval style spiced young pork stuffed with prunes and apricots. Too bad, the glamorous sounding Medieval porky were merely thinly sliced, hard pieces of rather salty and dry meat smothered with some sauce with a bit of green salad and 4 wedges of very small potatoes.

And finally, I left the verdict of the pannacotta to my older son. He had the pannacotta at Trattoria Grotta della Rana in San Sano the other evening. By comparing with the one at Vignale, his first bite and comment in one word was “Bubblegum!”

Yup, that’s his honest verdict of the oodles of gelatine used in the pannacotta at Ristorante Vignale! What a shame, it looked nice but the taste was something else. What can I say, looks can be deceiving…

Oh by the way, to add salt to injury, my younger son’s dessert of Cheese Cake with fruit coulis and handmade ice-cream missed out the most crucial item. The handmade ice-cream was missing!!

By not crucifying too much of Radda, I’d like to mention that the best part of Radda that remains mesmeric in my mind’s eye was the view.

Night fell and we left Radda without turning back.

We walked the lighted pathway looking forward to a new tomorrow …

Have a great week!

Ciao!

There are actually 5 Chianti towns perched on the hillside of Tuscany, in Italy. We have explored 4 of the 5 Chianti towns. The one we did not go to was Lecchi in Chianti. It was less than 3 km from the holiday home we stayed in San Sano. It’s the smallest of the 5 Chianti towns, quite similar to San Sano, hence we gave it a miss.

To give you an idea where Chianti is on the map, here’s a scratchy but ‘magnetic’ image of the map of Tuscany 😉

Gaiole in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti is one of the five main Chianti towns in Tuscany. We stayed in San Sano in the summer of Aug 2018. Gaiole was about 9 km away. By the way, San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole.

All Chianti towns are best remembered by the iconic rooster standing resplendently before entering the centre.

That’s the very reason why we see the distinctive insignia on all Chianti Classico bottles, the silhouette of a black rooster on a white background, surrounded by a burgundy ring. Chianti Classico is considered the most traditional wine made within the original production zone of the 5 Chianti towns. Chianti wine produced outside the geographical area is simply called, “Chianti”.

With only one tiny and crammed grocery shop in San Sano, we did most of our groceries at our favourite Coop supermarket in Gaiole.

And here were what I have prepared in the most challenging kitchen with no chopping board, blunt knives, broken pair of kitchen scissors, insufficient pots, pans and serving plates with ingredients bought at the Coop supermarket in Gaiole in Chianti.

But, hey! I got by, hopefully? 😉

Market Day in Gaiole

If you have read my posts of our summer hols in the Provence, I mentioned my love of the outdoor markets. It’s all part of the fun, the sun and the local ambience, the colours and smells and strolling and exploring the unending quaint streets.

Market day in Gaiole is the second Monday of every month. I was excited at the thought of going to one up on the Tuscan hills. But alas! Poor Gaiole only boasts of one stretch of road with only a few stalls.

However, it wasn’t the market that enchanted us that day, it was a shop, called L’Eroica. Gaiole in Chianti is perhaps the best known town as the starting point and birthplace of the cycling route of L’Eroica.

No wonder we saw serious bikers taking the route every time we drove past Gaiole in Chianti. The L’Eroica shop tells all with curious passers-by popping in 😀

We had wanted to spend the entire day at Gaiole but it was not meant to be. We headed for the unplanned trip to Siena, instead. Ha ha …

Next up: Radda in Chianti

See you there!

Ciao!

Tschüss Tirol! Ciao Tuscany!

We left Gästehaus Maria in Nassereith after having a humble breakfast of buns with cold cuts and cheeses. We needed that because of our impending journey to Tuscany which was a long and winding 615km away.

Nassereith is 845m above sea level. It’s a mountainous region in Tirol.

We bade farewell to the colossal mountains and the cool air of Tirol while heading for North East Italy.

While on the highway to Italy, I suddenly felt like a Chipmunk or a Badger or a Mole burrowing through tunnels.

By the way, that’s exactly what happened; the highway crosses the heart of the mountains, passing through countless tunnels, viaducts and bridges.

After 9 gruelling hours on the road, we finally reached our holiday home, situated in a medieval hamlet, nestled in the Tuscan hills. While in Tirol, our B&B overlooked the mountains from our balcony; it was at San Sano that we had the extensive views of billowing vineyards acres after acres.

I had a quick inspection of the facades and knew that I could appreciate my stay there. I could see myself curling up on a chair tapping away on my iPhone and sharing with you my moblogs.

It was hot and humid up in the mountains of Tuscany, so unlike Tirol. One thing’s for sure, I don’t need my pashmina 🙂

What’s up next was a mystery as much as San Sano is mysterious …

Ciao!

I have been away sporadically in hot and humid climes quite a bit this summer. When I got back to Belgium in early July I felt the emergence of the European summer heat in the air. I was again away for 2 weeks in mid July to Saigon and Penang. I think I have gotten used to the sweltering heat. Before I flew back to Belgium, hubs told me that there were heat waves all over Europe. Belgium was not spared, with the mercury level soaring to as high as 39 deg C some days. The prolonged periods of warm and dry weather were the intrinsic theme of the summer across Europe anno 2018.

Wednesday 8th August was my last day at work. Although it was nice to work in a fully air-conditioned office, I was more looking forward to our family trip ~ our annual summer hols.

It’s completely different this summer, because we have entirely excluded the predictable definition of ‘Provence‘ in any shape and form. You will understand this statement if you have read several of my previous posts about our annual summer hols ~ yup, always to that predictable location called the Provence! 🙂

Last summer, we included both the Provence and Spain in our holiday plan. We wanted something different, but obviously, we did not let go off the South of France part that easily. Ha ha …

So this summer, we’ve gone 180 degrees. We chose Austria and Italy (yup, no Provence) as our holiday destinations. That’s why I was excited and was looking forward to these different itineraries. It has been a while since we did something different now that the boys are no longer little …

A fluky Journey

The road trip to Tirol, Austria was 790km with the ETA time of 15:44. The BIG question was, would a quarter to four remain our ETA more or less??

Hmm… let’s see …

We left on a weekday for the obvious reason to avoid reaching gridlocks.

But ….

Just 20 minutes of driving, we were trapped in a 45-minute long of traffic congestions due to an accident and roadworks on the Brussels-Luxembourg highway!

Not long after we left Luxembourg enroute Germany, the skies turned immensely dark and gloomy with the most unwelcoming thunderstorm. Visions were blurred and signposts were literally illegible.

With all these obstructions, our ETA was stretched further. Hmmmmph…!!

We tried not to stop or rest too long lest our ETA would be too late.

We did, however, stop briefly for the last 97km to stretch our legs.

We continued on with the journey until we saw the majestic mountainous landscape before us. It was a welcoming sight. We knew we would be reaching our ultimate destination soon.

A Frigid ETA

With the heat waves across Europe, I expected the same for Austria, but I have miscalculated. We arrived in Tirol with grey skies cascading above us. It was cold at 14C after leaving Belgium at 32C! And guess what? I did not pack any warm clothing. Ouch!

But the lovely B&B looked so cosy with the breathtaking mountains just in front of our balcony! That took the cold temps off my mind a bit.

With the long journey we had gone through, we hit the sack and went down slumberland as soon as our heads hit the pillow.

Quest for Warmth

The following morning was equally numbing and frigid.

We had wanted to walk to the centre of Nassereith, but with the unforeseen cold summer temperature, we drove to the centre, instead. Nassereith is a very tiny village which is self-contained. My intention of getting a warm shawl was dashed. There were none in sight, hence, we took to the road and headed for Innsbruck.

There was a traffic jam on the road to Innsbruck. If you noticed, Austrians would drive on extreme ends of both wings of the lanes, right and left. That, to give way to motorbikes to slide through the parted traffic and as well, for emergency vehicles to pass through. I give the Austrians 10/10 for road traffic etiquette 🙂

Secluded Nassereith is just the opposite of crowded Innsbruck.

Innsbruck is a very touristic city. Lots of shopping galleries and eateries. Well, that’s where we had our lunch. It was cheap with enormous servings. We were famished and ate all up. Mind you, that was our first proper meal after binging on unhealthy snacks during our 11-hour drive the day before.

Oh by the way, I found a pashmina to keep the cold away 😀

A Jinx?

The day we left Tirol, the temperature went up to a lovely 24C.

I’m sure we jinxed our way to Austria. Lol!

We shall miss the fresh mountain air of Tirol.

Tschüss! Auf Wiedersehen!

By the way, I think it is appropriate that I end my post here, in the famous catchphrase of an American Austrian-born actor and politician, Arnold SchwarzeneggerHasta la vista, baby! I’ll be back!

Off to Italy next!

Stay tuned 😉

Ciao!

I wish you a Blessed Assumption Day!

Cheers!

My 2 sons were bored with the same holiday destination year after year each Summer. “It has become too predictable“, they said.

My younger son whinged, “Why are we always spending our summer hols in the Provence? We’re becoming the real experts of South France and Van Gogh!” *chuckle*

Hmmm… true!

So, early this year, while planning our annual family summer getaway, hubby and I rethought our summer destination.

Hubby prefers to drive and rents a holiday cottage rather than flying and staying in hotels if the stay is a week or more. By excluding France in the picture, we went for the elimination theory. Germany is too near and the summer weather sucks! Just like Belgium and the UK! Luxembourg is too small. We have been to the Netherlands and they speak pretty much the same language (as Flemish), hence nothing new.

The weather played an important role in the choice of our holiday destination, too. It’s got to be warmer than Belgium!

Oh-kay! Got it!

Spain!

Si Señor(a)! España, por favor!

Mind you, it’s almost 1.5k km away! I told hubby to split our summer hols by staying a night or two half way through the journey somewhere in mid or South France and then to resume with the rest of the journey to Spain. Instead, hubby opted to rent La Maison Blanche at St-Rémy-de-Provence for the entire week and 2 weeks in Spain! So yes, we were back in the Provence … again! 🙂

Well, anyway we were super excited and my younger son was especially thrilled to learn about our NEW summer destination… finally! 🙂

We’re headed to Caldes de Malavella in the province of Girona, North East Spain. Very little is known of Caldes de Malavella. It’s a sleepy town, by the way. However, we found out that the place was formerly renowned for its thermal baths or spas!

The remains of the Ancient Roman Bath in Caldes, for instance. Photo credit to Josep Renalias (Wikipedia).

We have never got any closer to the city because the summer residence we’re headed for was self-contained, and very well connected to other cities in Spain. That’s a plus point for us.

By the way, our knowledge of Spain as a holiday destination was nil. Zero! Being first timers to Catalonia, our summer hols this year became more challenging. We have only heard and read about the popular coastal region of Costa Brava and of course Barcelona, so Barca’s definitely on our itinerary! Other than that, we knew the eccentric Spanish artist and surrealist icon, Salvador Dali came from that region.

From La Maison Blanche to Can Fonzo

After one nostalgic week in South France, we left La Maison Blanche en route to Girona. The GPS flashed a distance of ca 370 km, and ETA at around 2 pm.

It was late morning on a Saturday and with a heavy traffic from Béziers all the way to Costa Brava, our ETA stretched to almost 6 pm when we arrived at Villa Can Fonzo in Caldes de Malavella.

OMG! The house was huge! I did not expect that at all. It’s located on a hill slope.

According to Barcelona Life, “Caldes became a prosperous place and today around the outskirts of the town you’ll find plenty of attractive private mansions and summer residences, built in the Modernista – ie. Catalan art nouveau – style.”

So true!

When I entered the house, I exclaimed, “oh oh, I will have to remember where I place my handphone or cable or the charger or just about anything… ” Lol!

South East Asian Connections

The house is owned by a Dutch couple. It’s interesting to see their connections with Asia within the house.

I was looking for coffee mugs in the kitchen cabinet, and found these mugs. Singaporeans may know this pottery factory 😉

And of course several memorabilia of Indonesia, being once a Dutch colony.

There’re many books of Japan, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on the many book shelves in the house, too.

We have never met the owners, but they left a strong message behind 😉

First Meal in Spain

After exploring the house, I decided to cook us a simple meal of Fusilli all’Arrabbiata, with the fresh chillies, garlic and fusilli I brought from Belgium and red peppers, dried herbs, smoked bacon and tomatoes from the Provence in the kitchen at Can Fonzo.

A simple yet satisfying meal 😉

While enjoying my plate of Fusilli and a glass of rosé on the patio, I gazed ahead of me a vision of a new and exciting tomorrow 😉

Ah …. what Peace and Serenity …. until I heard the buzzing sound of mosquitoes flapping their wings!

Arghhhh!!!!

Have a Blessed week!

Cheers!

Our holidays in the Provence were coming to an end…

Arles

We returned to Arles, but again and again, what a surprise… we discovered a new location that we had not been to in our previous sojourns in the Provence! It’s a drawbridge which was a subject of several paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. It was the replica of the original Langlois Bridge (Pont de Langlois) or better known as Pont Van Gogh.

Walk

Nearby the Pont Van Gogh was a lovely walking trail that seemed to run to infinity. The surrounding flora were very simple; dried thistles, wild berries, shrubs and bushes, fathomless stream and dusty trails.

We seemed to be walking for ages until thirst and hunger got the better of us 🙂

We returned to the car and drove back to the centre of Arles. We found a good spot under a shady tree but had to walk quite a distance passing deserted alleys and back lanes.

We finally stopped at the first resto we saw, Le Bistrot des Artistes. Surprisingly, the choice of dishes were fab, but the service was quite slow, despite the fact that we did not order a set lunch for once. From too much of walking, we did not feel like eating too much variety of dishes, but were definitely more parched. Or perhaps we wanted to save space in our tummy for the much talked about artisanal ice-creams in Arles!

Last year my friend and her family stayed in Arles and she recommended an ice-cream parlour that served only artisanal ice-creams.

We thought we found it. It’s located just outside Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles de Vincent Van Gogh (once upon a time a hospital). Whew! It’s a bit of a mouthful, innit?

It was there that Van Gogh was admitted after cutting his left earlobe. The Hospital of Arles is the subject of Van Gogh’s 2 paintings; one of them was the painting of the inner courtyard of the hospital called Le jardin de la Maison de Santé à Arles (Courtyard or Garden of the Hospital in Arles).

Oh by the way, the pink-coloured ice cream parlour we went to (Glacier Fraîcheur et Délices) was not the one my friend mentioned. She went to the yellow coloured ice cream shop called Soleileis. Anyway, there were several artisanal ice-cream makers in the vicinity of Arles. We just found one that succeeded to ‘cool’ us down on a hot day and both parlours were in close proximity to Place du Forum.

Unfortunately, the day was still young and there were no stars in the sky! Sorry, no starry night, Vincent 😉

Finally at Le Bistrot de La Galine!

It was Friday and our last day at La Maison Blanche. We were to check out the next morning.

Before wrapping up our stay at La Maison Blanche, we were looking forward to lunch at the nearby Le Bistrot de La Galine. We had missed that place just a week before because it was closed on a Sunday.

I had the Bistro menu of smoked duck salad and the local specialty of Camargue, Gardiane de Taureau à la Provençale served on a bed of tagliatelle. Both the starter and the main course were good until the house dessert came. The banana chocolate tart was an anticlimax, for me at least. It was just not my favourite, however, my younger son hit a home run with his choice of dishes; ravioli, burger and fries and tiramisu!

Back for the Muscat

Last year our trip to Beaumes-de-Venise was extraordinarily special with a hint of nostalgia. This year we only went to the wine tasting cave of Coyeaux. Yes, we came back for the muscat Beaume-de-Venise! After tasting 4 different Muscats, hubby bought the muscat Beaume de Venise rosé (2016). The 3 bottles followed us back some 1k km…

Knock! Knock! Who’s there?

We headed back to La Maison Blanche and guess who came to visit us?!!

Yay!!! Our friend came back! He may not have the friendliest of faces, but I guess for a dog’s expression that would probably be translated as his sensing our imminent departure from La Maison Blanche, hence the sad drooping look through the glass door of the back yard.

By the way (not in the photo), before the littlest hobo scampered away, he peed on the shrub bed, as if to tell us that he’d be back.

I’m sure he would or did, but with new tenants to pick up where we had left off…

Bonjour! Merci! Au revoir!

À bientôt!

Until we meet again!

From Bonjour to Hola!

We checked out La Maison Blanche at 10 am and left St-Rémy-de Provence in South France direction Girona, North East Spain!

Thus, ended our Provençal vacation, and the beginning of Catalonian summer escapades!

From Bonjour et Au revoir France to Hola España!

Spain, here we come !!

To be continued…

Enjoy the rest of the week. TGIF!

Cheers !

It’s Wednesday and it’s Market Day at St-Rémy-de-Provence!

Boy was it crowded that morning AND the searing heat of the sun did not do justice.

As usual, there were lots to see but we ended up buying a few Savon de Marseille 🙂

I wished I could buy everything, however, we had to be very selective with things we bought in order not to overload the car in our succeeding journey 😦

Feeling Nostalgic

We suddenly felt peckish and parched in the sweltering Provençal summer heat. What luck when we saw the same resto we went to last year! We knew immediately what Brasserie La Maison des Varietes at Boulevard Victor Hugo would offer… Sweet memory of a delectable dining.

Loved the Café gourmand!!! The mignardises or petit fours were exquisite!

Musée Estrine

After the satisfying meal, we needed a good stretch while walking down some quiet and almost deserted alleys that were obviously very welcoming after the maddening crowd earlier in the morning.

We stopped at Musée Estrine, the museum that features the history of the eccentric Dutch painter, Vincent Van Gogh. The Van Gogh exhibit, although a small one, features the chronology of his life and the hundreds of letters he wrote to his brother, Theo. The short video was well made aligning his paintings to the beauty of the Alpilles and the region.

Mas de la Dame

We left the museum and headed for Les-Baux-de-Provence.

By the way, hubby’s intention was to go to the winery of Mas de la Dame meaning ‘farm of the lady‘. What a proper name for a winery owned by 2 ladies, Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe 😉

Hubby bought 3 bottles of their white wine. And yes, there was wine-tasting 🙂

Save the Best for Last!

So true! We saved the best of our last few hours at Les-Baux-de-Provence by immersing in an impressive exposition of lights and sounds by the creative and imaginative renaissance painters, Bosch, Brueghel and Arcimboldo.

The moment we stepped inside the former quarry, now called Carrières de Lumières, we entered into a magical world of entrancing images and music.

Fantastique et merveilleux!

We enjoyed the different genres of music, while our eyes were transfixed on the immersive paintings of the trio on all the limestone walls and floors in the quarry.

One word? Spectacular !

The Carrières de Lumières is one of the most amazing things we have experienced during this Summer trip, thus far …

Could anything else top this up the next days?

I wonder …

Cheers!