A wonderful week, Wednesday September 27 through departure

November 8, 2017

Wednesday, Anne and Jay headed southwest to Aigues Mortes, the old city that was built as a port on the Rhone Delta. It was the departure point for one of the Crusades, with ships tying up at the south wall, then sailing off to the Holy Land. Today, the Rhone has silted up the area, and the south wall of the city is about 100 yards from the water. The city is roughly square, with high walls running on all four sides. Inside, there are shops, cafés, and restaurants. The area was so unpleasant, with mosquitos the size of Buicks, that the French government paid people to live there.

Anne and Jay explored everything before heading to Dit A Vin, a restaurant off the main square where we had been with Anne and Darren a few years back. The menu was appealing, and the food excellent. They had an enjoyable time, then headed back to Eygalieres.

We went to Maussane to meet with Christine and Philippe for lunch at Franck and Flo’s restaurant. It was great to see them and catch up on everything. Like us, they are battling the effects of old age. Philippe has had surgery for bladder cancer and now is having regular treatments in Marseilles. He appears to be doing well, and we hope that all continues to be good. Christine is going through diagnosis to try to pin down some issues she is having. We tried to get all of the medical woes discussions out-of-the-way so we could talk about more pleasant topics, such as their move to Paradou, and plans for travel. The meal was excellent, with a table outside in the sun. Then it was off to St. Remy to get chocolates at Joel Durand to give to the dialysis center – my way of saying thanks for their support. We pulled up a table at 21 Chai, next to Joel Durand, and – after making our chocolate purchase, relaxed in the sun with some selections from their extensive selection. Then it was home to the mas to meet the kids, and a have a light snack for dinner.

Thursday was a dialysis day, so I lugged my chocolates to the center. David picked me up around 11, and we went to St. Remy for lunch. Anne and Jay headed for Cassis on the coast. and returned raving about their day – the views driving into the village, the cafes on the waterfront, the food and wine. We were glad that they had a terrific day. For dinner we headed back to Chez Paulette for another excellent meal.

Friday was another market day in Eygalieres. Jay and Anne perused all of the booths and stalls to find some treasures, while we pulled up some chairs at a table at Café du Centre. At around two, we headed over to Aubergine for lunch, with Jay and David opting for Alex’s towering burgers. We had a great time, as always, and bade farewell to Alex, promising to return in ’18. Dinner was mostly light snacks and wine at the mas. Anne and Jay leave early in the morning for Paris, so we didn’t want to stay out late.

Saturday, Anne and Jay headed off to Avignon to get the TGV for Paris, while we went to Salon for dialysis, then to the mas to pack and trudge to the Avignon TGV.

We arrived in Paris about 6pm, and found very little traffic, so got to the hotel without incident. We had some trouble finding a spot to eat, as most Parisian restaurants close on Saturday night, We ended up gong to Mollard, a classic brasserie near the Gare St. Lazare train station, just a few blocks from the hotel. The décor is classic, tile, gilt and mirrors, with bustling waiters and great seafood. Jay had skate, and the rest of us fresh line-caught turbot. Jay had oysters, which he said were the best he had ever eaten, and I went with a dozen praires (hard shell clams) which were excellent. All in all, the meal was excellent, and the service friendly.

Then it was time to walk back to the Le Lavoisier and turn in.

Sunday dawned grey and gloomy, and we got to the airport ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, American chose that day to have probably the worst check-in service we have ever had, well over an hour to check in business class, followed by a one hour wait while they rounded up the crew. David had some TSA type try to purloin his watch at security, but a helpful AA supervisor got it for him. Then it was up and away and back to Florida.

This may be our last visit to France. We’ll have to see what shape we’re in next year, and how we feel. We’ll be going to Rome with Anne and Darren in November, which we’re looking forward to. We won’t take the computer with us, so will post the blog when we get home.

 

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Monday and Tuesday, September 25 and 26, 2017. Avignon, Bandol, and more

September 27, 2017

Mondays tend to be quiet days in Provence, or France, for that matter. Most stores and businesses are closed. Nonetheless, both we, and Anne and Jay decided it was a good day to sightsee and visit places we wanted to go.

For us, it was a trip to Bandol, on the coast, about 90 minutes away. Bandol is a bustling port, with a small casino, lots of shopping, and a host of places to eat. We hopped in our trusty A4, made out way to the A7 Autoroute, and headed south. All went well until just after Aix-en-Provence, when David – despite several admonitions to ‘stay right and get on the route 52 exit’ – got himself boxed in and couldn’t make the exit. As is not uncommon on the major routes, the next exit was fairly distant, about 30 kilometers, so we had to cruise to it for 15-20 minutes, or so, then get back on the Autoroute heading west to get back to our exit.

Pretty soon we were at the exit for Cassis, then on to St. Cyr sur Mer, where Marc Refabert’s family has a house on the water. We cruised along the coast and then headed into Bandol proper. Parking was tight, but we found an open spot along the harbor, and David demonstrated his newly revived parallel parking skills. The harbor in Bandol is filled with boats of all sizes and descriptions – sailboats, fishing boats, and tiny dinghies. The waterfront is lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. A great place for just sitting and relaxing with wine or moules, or gelato.

We were hungry after our harrowing trip, so popped into Nautic bar for a glass of wine and a light snack. David recognized the spot as a place where we had come some years back with a traveling companion who had offended the server by ordering bouillabaisse with a plate of frites, ‘you do not eat frites with bouillabaisse,’ she was told. We got a laugh out of the memory and enjoyed glasses of Bandol rosé before moving on to an adjacent restaurant so I could have pizza and David steak tartare. The day was balmy and warm, the views of the harbor, idyllic, and the food passable.

At about 4 pm, we headed back to the voiture and drove along the waterfront, past modern high-rise apartments, shops, and the small casino on the water at the east end of the beach. Then, it was back to route 52 for the trek home, hoping that David was more careful about exits and routes. We got home in a little more than an hour, and stopped at the boulangerie at the Orgon round about for a couple of fresh baguettes to go with the cheeses in the fridge. Anne and Jay arrived just a bit after our return, with stories of their day in Avignon. They had a great time sightseeing, and grabbed a meal at one of the many so-so bistros in the main square.

We had decided to make dinner at home, so Jay and I got started. David had bought a Bresse chicken at the butcher in town. Bresse is the best chicken in France, and one of only a couple that has its own AOC, a designation that specifies the breed, where and how it is raised ,etc. I put it in a roasting pan, stuffed it with fresh thyme from our garden, lemons, onions, and shallots. We added potatoes, lardon (bacon chunks,) shallots, marvelous red onions, and  herbs to the pan, doused everything with local olive oil, and put it in the oven for an hour. I put a quick salad together with local greens, avocado, fresh tomato, and David’s homemade croutons which he makes from day-old baguettes and olive oil.

We gathered around the kitchen table and broke out a warm, fresh baguette, plus a hunk of Chez Emily’s wonderful Brie with truffles. It is a wonderful, creamy cheese, with black truffles laced throughout, and quickly vanished. David broke out a hunk of two-year old Comté which was equally good. We couldn’t resist adding a third cheese to the mix, a Papillion black label Roquefort, one of the best bleus you can have. We opened a bottle of Valdition rosé and enjoyed our time waiting for the chicken to be done.

When the aroma signaled that the chicken was done, Jay did the carving honors and we loaded up our plates. The chicken was wonderful, rich and flavorful, moist and tender. Another bottle of rosé was opened and disappeared, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal. It is so simple to have a good Provencal meal, as the ingredients are simple and always good.

Then, it was time to turn in, as I have dialysis in the morning, and we are going to Mas du Capoun in Molleges for lunch.

David dropped me off the next morning in Salon at the clinic, and made a quick stop at the boulangerie for some pastries – sacristain, beignets, croissant, and – of course – a fresh baguette. At about 1130 he returned to Salon to pick me up and he headed back to Molleges and Mas du Capoun.

Anne and Jay were already seated, having gotten the obligatory three-kiss greeting from Michelle. We joined them, ordered kirs, and perused the menu, which is always wonderful, and – at 19 Euros – always a bargain. Jay started with ris de veau (sweetbreads), Anne the pate, and David the farm egg, then it was on to the main courses. Anne and David both had tuna with milk-fed pork, which sounds like a strange combination, but is incredible. Jay and I had lotte (monkfish) with squid (which was unbelievably tender) We matched the meal with a bottle of Terres Blanches rosé and dug in. As usual, everything was wonderful, including the conversation with Michelle about her son, who is now going to college in Miami. She and her husband will be coming to the U.S. shortly to visit him, and we made plans to get together with them while they are there. We hope to see them.

After a couple of long nights, we opted to grab a short nap before figuring out what to do for dinner. Jay suggested we go to the new pizzeria in town, Prosecco. We entered into a tiny dining room, stuffed with tables with red check table cloths, and sat down next to the wood burning stove. After major meals for several days, it was great just to get a couple of pizzas and relax. The waitress was delightful, and the pizzas excellent. Jay ordered a bottle of Bandol rosé, and Anne had a Coke to settle her stomach. We spent the evening laughing and talking  about how soft drinks used to contain cocaine and heroin…the good old days.

Then, it was back to the Mas to turn in. Tomorrow Anne and Jay will be going to Aigues Mortes in the Camargue, so want to get an early start.


Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24, 2017 – The ‘Youts’ arrive

September 25, 2017

Anne and Jay boarded the American non-stop Friday afternoon to head over to Paris. This will be the their third visit to the mas and Eygalieres, and we think they are looking forward to their stay. After landing at CDG and taking a car to the Gare de Lyon, they will grab the TGV to Avignon and pick up a car for their stay. They should arrive at the mas around 4pm.

After dialysis, we went into town to get a few last minute items for the mas and decided to have lunch on the sidewalk at Chez Laurent, the somewhat chic spot that replaced the Michelin-starred Chez Bru a couple of years back.  After a shaky start, they seem to have found their niche. They still tend toward a clientele of ‘beautiful people,’ that used to flock to Bru, but the menu looks good, and the prices have dropped to a more reasonable level.

We both opted for the 19 Euro ‘menu’ of the day, starting with croustillant stuffed with local goat cheese, followed by a pork tenderloin with a mustard sauce, then handmade ice cream on a bed of vanilla custard. All were excellent, with the owner explaining that he gets the pork from a small farm just on the fringe of town.

We strolled up the street to get a few things at the Alimentaire (general store) when my phone rang – Anne and Jay were in early and at the mas. We scooped up our goodies and headed down the road. Anne and Jay were waiting out front with their nifty rental car, a virtually new Renault. I don’t think it had a mark on it, which is unusual for French cars which are usually dented and nicked, even when new. Next to our A4 wagon, which has a ding on every panel, their car is pristine.

After a shower and short nap, Anne and Jay joined us in the kitchen for some light snacks and a glass of rose. We caught up on all the details of their flight and talked about plans for exploring the area, then headed down for dinner at l’Aubergine. Alex and Christina were glad to see us all, and seated us on the patio. The food was – as always – terrific, and, despite being short handed, the service was prompt. Anne had a Pate campagne to start, while David had a risotto with mushrooms. Jay opted for veal kidneys in a mustard sauce, while David and Anne went for the tuna, and I had the risotto. We had a bottle of Terres Blanches rose to round out the meal, then headed home.

Sunday was a lazy day. The weather was nice, and Anne and Jay decided to head over to St. Remy to shop. Turned out that most the shops were closed, so they soldiered on to Fontvielle where they had a light lunch. Jay continued on with the organ meat theme by having a locally-made sausage that the server warned him was mostly for local tastes. He enjoyed it, and we all got a good laugh out of his being warned about it.

We did a bit of laundry, then slipped down the road to town to have lunch at Sous les Micocouloir, a serene dining spot with a large tree-shaded terrace. The day turned warmer and nicer, making our lunch even more enjoyable. David started with stuffed zucchini blossoms, then we both went with the medley of lobster and scallop raviolis with a bed of local veggies. Then, it was back to the mas for a nap before Anne and Jay returned from their adventures.

After relaxing in the kitchen for a bit and reviewing the day, we headed into Eygalieres for a dinner at the little restaurant, Chez Paulette that has gained a following with its good food and friendly, casual atmosphere. Jay started with a veloute of tomato, while David went with Bresaola made from France’s excellent Charolais beef. Anne had steak tartare to start, also from charolais. I had an excellent lotte (monkfish), while Jay went with moules and David the veal saltimbocca. We polished off the meal with a bottle of Estoublon rose, then a couple of scoops of homemade pistachio ice cream.

Tomorrow Anne and Jay plan to explore Avignon.


Thursday-Friday, September 21-22, 2017 — Market Day in Eygalieres

September 24, 2017

It’s getting a bit warmer, although the mornings are still pretty chilly. When we  left at 0645 for dialysis it was 6.5 C (about 44 F). By the time David came to pick me up, we were at 19 C, about 66 F.

We headed to St. Remy in hopes that we would finally find a parking spot. We needed to shop at the Intermarche for a few items: mouchoir (Kleenex), some good cheese for Anne & Jay (Comte, St. Marcellin, Roquefort), produce, Badoit (sparkling water), eggs, David’s beloved Sanginello (blood orange juice from Sicily), and a few other items. We also needed to get diesel for the car, as we have three sessions at the dialysis clinic under our belt, plus several excursions around the area.

First, however, we needed to see if we could find parking in St. Remy (we did), and then we wanted to get a table at Olivades, a tiny spot that is one of our favorite dining haunts (we did, as well.)

Olivades was featuring a specialty from near Nice, Pissaladiere, which is like a thin crust pizza topped with cooked onions, olives, and anchovies. We started with a kir, then moved to a Terres Blanches rose, until our dishes came. David had a wonderful salmon, which he always has here, and I went with the pissaladiere, which was terrific. We think we’ll make it when we get home. If you’re interested in trying it, let us know.

After lunch we headed to the Intermarche to shop, then drove to Orgon for fuel. Finally, we then wound our way up the back road to the mas to put everything away.

Friday is the Marché in Eygalieres – market day. Our little main street is closed to traffic and lined with booths with all manner of goods. With Jay and Anne arriving tomorrow, our list is short – good olive oil and vinegar, top drawer cheeses such as the brie with truffles that Chez Emily – the fromagerie on the main street – makes and sells, plus aged Comte, Emmenthal, and Parmigiano, maybe some tapenade or anchoiade (a tapenade made with anchovies). David can never resist the butcher who sells Jambon blanc, a special cooked ham. And I have to go with the friendly elderly gentleman who makes his own pastries such as sacristain. If they’re at the Marché, we also always buy some sausages, such as the pure pork sausage stuffed with Roquefort, and the wonderful faggot that looks like sticks. Finally, if we can ever get to the head of the line, there’s an artisan who smokes and sells fantastic salmon.

We finished our shopping and settled in at Café du Centre for a ½ carafe of rose. It’s always fun to watch the market, especially all the doggies that people bring. After relaxing a bit, we headed over to Bistro l’Aubergine for lunch, and a chance to chat with Alex and Christine. Alex sat with us and told us that during the 12 (successful) years of his restaurant, he had been supported by a local cadre of customers, who he was recognizing by putting plaques with their names on his banquettes. He will be putting our names up, which is a wonderful gesture and we were very touched.

After a nice lunch (moules for me, tuna for David), we headed home to relax a bit. David hooked up the Jambox for some music and we had a light snack with chicken and cheese before turning in.


Saturday-Wednesday, September 16-20, 2017 – At the Mas

September 20, 2017

Awoke bright and early on Saturday morning and headed to Salon de Provence for Bev’s dialysis. Traffic was light, so we got there right on time. Only hang up was that exit from Hospital wasn’t functional. No way to open security gate unless you have special card – which we don’t. Finally, an ambulance driver behind me hopped out and swiped his card.

Stopped at the Boulangerie in Orgon to get Bev some treat treats – almond sacristain, pain au chocolate, chocolate mini beignets, and a couple of baguettes. The smell from the bakery was wonderful. Out the door and back to the mas.

Picked up Bev around 11: 30 and headed home. We had a light lunch at the Mas and then headed out locally to do some sightseeing. For dinner, one of our favorite spots beckoned, Bistrot l’Aubergine, run by good friends Alex and Christine. Bev had moules and frites, while David followed the salmon sashimi with Alex’s ‘mile-high’ Provencal burger with truffles, multiple cheeses, poivron rouge, etc. Both were great. We downed a bottle of Estoublon Rose with no problem, then sat and chatted with Alex and Christina for a bit. We’ll go back next Saturday at the latest, when Anne and Jay arrive, as it is a favorite with them.

Sunday we slept in late, trying to shake off our jet lag. Breakfast was the remnants of David’s foray to the boulangerie. We went into town for a last minute shopping session, getting some Bresse chicken, Jambon a los, cheeses, and salad stuff. We drove to St. Remy for lunch, but found that the entire population of the EU was there eating and drinking. The closest parking spot was in Boston, via the air ferry. So, it was on to Maussane, one of our favorite small villages. The entire population of Spain had apparently made the trek there to dine and browse through the booths at market day, which is every Sunday, and there was nowhere to eat except for the Café du Centre, which doesn’t serve food, but refers you to the pizzeria next door for sandwiches and/or pizza. David got us a sandwich with ham, cheese, and butter, and we downed a carafe of rose. We always enjoy our time on the square in Maussane, next to the Church. For dinner, I cooked the chicken thighs together with potatoes and bacon. On the side, we had a salad of Bibb lettuce, Comte cheese, and incredible local mushrooms, with dressing made from local olive oil and vinegar. What more could you want?

Monday is a ‘dead’ day in Provence. Almost everything is closed. We went to Paulette, the delightful new bistrot on the main street, but they were full, so instead we ambled down to the Café Progress which is virtually always open. I had a plate of (excellent) frites for lunch, while David had a tomato salad with Buratta. After getting some ‘moving in’ chores done, we had a light snack, then turned in. Tomorrow is a dialysis day.

After dialysis, we decided to drop in at Mas du Capoun in nearby Molleges, one of our favorite lunch spots, run by friends who moved to Provence to Belgium. Although they were full (they always are), they found a table for two for us and we enjoyed catching up on local news, news of their family (their son is now studying at a University in Miami), and feasting on their wonderful food. David had a tuna carpaccio to start, and I had butternut ravioli, followed by a roast Daurade (Sea Bream) for both of us. We promised to come back with Anne and Jay when they arrive, and waddled down the road. For dinner, we decided to have the rest of the Bresse chicken we had bought on the weekend. David trimmed it, and I pounded it thin. I sautéed it in butter, olive oil, lemon and wine, then finished it in the oven. It was terrific, and, in due course, all of it was consumed.

Wednesday we decided to head to St. Remy to try our luck again at one of the bistrots. It was market day, so we couldn’t find a parking spot. We decided to continue on to Fontvielle and eat at Bistrot Mogador, which is at the Estoublon vineyard. David called ahead and got a table for two. The weather was gorgeous, not a cloud in sight, with light breezes. The countryside here is mostly olive groves and vines, with a few fruit orchards. Very pretty. We pulled into Estoublon and found that there were only two other diners, a sign of things to come. The vineyard is owned by the owner of Breitling, and his wife runs the dining establishment. She is hard to get along with, so that the culinary team generally lasts only a year or two at the most. For the past few change overs, the food has remained good, but not with the most recent switch. We sat for about 30 minutes while four servers meandered around with nobody to wait on. Finally, they took our order, and then it was a 45 minute wait while they prepared our food.  We didn’t mind too much, as it as a gorgeous day, and we enjoyed a chilled Estoublon rose. Finally, David’s starter of St. Marcellin cheese with hazelnuts appeared. Not bad, but not exceptional. Another 30 minutes passed until my Tomato Stuffed Aubergine showed up, along with David’s Cabillaud (cod). The Aubergine was bitter, and David’s cod was over seasoned and over cooked.  Really a shame, as this has always been a great spot – wonderful setting under the Plane (Sycamore) trees.

After lunch, we would wind our way back to St. Remy, which was now empty. One of the major draws of St. Remy is that they have multiple ATMs, allowing us to fill up with Euros. Eygalieres only has one. We got some Euros and then popped into Chai 21, a local wine bar that we enjoy. They have a great selection, along with sides of charcuterie and cheeses. We pulled up a table, and relaxed with two glasses of Terres Blanches, one of our favorite local wines from a vineyard that adjoins Eygalieres. After people and dog watching for an hour or so we hopped in our trusty Audi A4 wagon and drove to the Mas.

David put a few loads of laundry in the works while I tried to decide what to have for dinner. As all we had on hand was salad and sandwich stuff, that’s what we went with, which was perfect.

 


Thursday, September 14, 2017 – Goodbye Irma, hello France

September 17, 2017

Well, we made it through Irma, but not without a lot of anguish and damage. We lost some trees, and the yard is a mess, but no damage to the house.

After two smooth days on generator power, everything fell apart. The generator stopped, probably because we ran out of propane, but we’re not sure. Florida Public Utilities was a dismal failure in getting propane deliveries to customers, so we ended up with no power, and no Internet. The house was hot and muggy, as there was not a breath of air.

After two days we were off to France, leaving FP&L, FPUC, to get our power back on. Anne, Darren, and Suzanne did yeoman duty in getting things organized, and hopefully we can get everything repaired and running right when we return.

Our flight to Paris was delayed for two hours, but we picked up an hour head wind so only arrived an hour behind schedule. Limo took us to Gare de Lyon where we had a snack, then headed to Avignon on the TGV. Picked up our car, an Audi A4 wagon, and headed to St. Remy for a short shopping spree at the Intermarche.

Then it was off to the mas, with a brief detour at Café de Centre for a glass of rose and a visit with Crystelle.

Tomorrow our stay begins.

 


Sunday – April 30, 2017 – leaving, and final thoughts on Rome

May 4, 2017

We were up early and down to the lobby to check out. Our car was ready to  go, so we only had to wait for Darren and Misha to check out and join us.

Julio, the driver who had brought us to the Minerva when we arrived, was ready to take us to FCO, the airport, and gave us a nice, smooth ride. Darren and Misha took off in search of their Alitalia check in, and David and I headed for American. There were just a handful of people in our Biz Class check in line, so that went smoothly, until we hit the Customs area, which was a complete mess. We went through the first part pretty smoothly, with the agent basically waving me through with a minimal check of my artificial hip, which set off the alarms. David kept setting off the alarm at the walk-through – we have no idea why, but, fortunately, the agent just waved him through after the second try. We then got in a very long, slow moving line where they were checking passports on departure. Usually when you have an American Passport, it is fairly fast, but the agents were taking forever – typing in  info, staring at the screens of their computers, asking questions.

Finally, we were through and looking for our departure gate. Our flight was late, so the info on the screens just said “E” concourse, which is very long, and requires a shuttle ride to get to some. After walking for what seemed like miles, we sat at the shuttle waiting area to see what gate would be assigned, and finally headed off for another long walk to gate E33. We boarded about 45 minutes late, and then were on our way. As usual, the in-flight meal was atrocious, and the headwinds promised to make this a long flight. We each watched three movies and dozed a bit before we arrived in Charlotte. As my back – and David’s were aching from sitting for over 10 hours, I arranged a wheelchair to get to/through Customs and Immigration. It was well worth it, and we breezed through and went to the gate for our connecting flight.

David was relieved, as he had some meats in his suitcase that you’re not supposed to bring back – wonderful Bresaola and Gunaciale. We have no idea why FDA says you can’t bring these in if they are in original packaging and vacuum sealed. They are safe for everyone else in the world to eat, and are obviously for our consumption, so you would think it would be our decision, but good old FDA targets them while allowing lapses that cause massive recalls in US produced products…. Our contraband was vacuum sealed, but many folks find that the sniffer Beagles in the airport still find them. He had wrapped them in dirty laundry and some soaps from the hotel, hoping that the scents would mask the few molecules of smell from our meats. The Beagle paid us no attention, and our luggage was checked through. Another smuggling success. At 8 pm headed off for Ft. Lauderdale, and arrived a bit after 10. By 11 we were home and being greeted by Lucy whose tail was a blur, and filled the air with little squeaks and chortles – the sounds of a happy dog. We hopped into bed, as we have to be up at 4am for dialysis back in the US, which turned out to be another disaster, as the battery in the car had gone dead, so I had to call over to get Gary, one of my seat mates, to come and get me. David called Mercedes as soon as they opened to get the car fixed, and I called and arranged a Uber to the house. Quite an end to our trip.

Looking back at our 10 days in Rome, we can only remark at what a wonderful city it is. Churches, monuments, and history at every turn. We could have stayed a month and only begun to see a slice of all that is there. Darren made the trip more enjoyable with his knowledge of the history and sites. He also enjoys the wines and food, as do we. Roman cuisine is terrific with a lot of choices – Amatriciana, Bresaola, artichokes, lamb, Pecorino Romano, veal, Saltimbocca, fresh seafood of every description. You can even find dishes from other areas, notably beef from Florence, but we stayed with the local specialties.

Where to stay? We loved the Minerva, and would go back in a flash. It’s a tad expensive, but not for a five-star hotel, and – we thought – represented a great value. A great location just a minute from the Pantheon, and minutes from a host of other sights – Hadrian’s temple, Piazza Navonna, Campo di Fiori, the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, and Piazza di Popolo. The staff was wonderful, handling all of our transportation needs to and from dialysis, arranging trips, making dining reservations. We also like Sofitel Villa Borghese, where we had lunch on Sunday. Their rooms are very comfortable, the service excellent, and their rooftop terrace a great spot to relax and take in the view over all of Rome. Its location is not as convenient as the Minerva, but it is just a block from the Via Veneto which offers endless shopping and upscale bar and restaurants. It is just minutes from the Spanish Steps, and is within walking distance of many other sights, though not nearly as close as the Minerva.

Where to dine? Our list of “top”spots changed often, but the top two were unchanged throughout our visit. All Oro certainly earns its Michelin star rating. A stunning setting, friendly staff and chef-owner who spent a lot of time with us making sure all was okay. As is usual at a restaurant of this ilk, we were treated to a steady stream of “extras,” appetizers and mid-meal delights. The food was incredible, a combination of inventive and perfectly prepared dishes. The wine list was extensive and had some nice options at affordable prices, like the Roederer Blanc de Blanc we started off with. We all left raving about the meal. Al Moro has terrific food, a classic Roman menu, and a huge wine list. We started out with appetizers for the table – Caprese, Roman artichokes, and Bresaola, all done perfectly, so every morsel was consumed. Our main courses were spot on, and the wine excellent. Service was excellent. As Darren pointed out, it would be tough to eat at All Oro more than once every few months – it’s pretty intense. Al Moro, in contrast, is a place I could eat at several times a week. If you’re in Rome for a week, the choice is simple – go to both.

Sadly, something has happened to La Rosetta. The food and service have slipped tremendously from our fabulous meal there a couple of years back. The family-run does not appear to be family-run anymore. The wife of the chef no longer runs the dining room which is now slip shod and staffed with mediocre servers. The menu has shrunk, and the preparation is not top rate. We cannot recommend it anymore.

We can recommend Roscioli, which has an incredible menu, friendly service, and excellent food, all at reasonable prices. Our only fault is that the tiny place is carved up into several dining areas, including the basement dining room which entails negotiating a steep, narrow flight of stairs. The lady’s room is at the bottom of the stairs, and in due course there was a line blocking the stairs and backing up into the dining area. In more spacious quarters, this would be a knock out. David had a smoked salmon platter that we thought was an appetizer, but turned out to be enough to feed half our group. The salami is extensive and top rate, from Italy and Spain, all the best, but the menu goes far beyond just meats to fishes, pastas, and more. Can’t miss here.

Malafemenna on the Via Vittoria just a few blocks from the Spanish Steps off the Via del Corso was another winner. The settings, both  inside and on the street are attractive. A bed of crushed ice displays the fresh-from-the ocean catch, and the menu is varied. The preparation is top rate, and the service friendly. The lobster salad that Tom and Katherine shared was incredible, fresh and humongous. We ate there twice and would put it easily in our top five.

Rounding out our list of top spots would be Tom’s discovery of Osterio del Sostegno behnd the Pantheon square, and Harry’s Bar, just for the people watching and Bellinis. For causal dining and breakfasts, we lean to Osteria del Ingegno, Darren’s favorite facing Hadrian’s Temple.

For more info on wines, food, places to go and not go, feel free to get in touch.

Hope you have enjoyed our travel experience. If so, stay tuned, as we are heading to New England in June, and back to our “home” in Provence in September, with maybe a trip to Vegas to catch a show in late July or august.

Bev and David