Sunday – April 23, 2017 – The days starts with Bellinis

April 24, 2017

Sunday morning dawned with clear blue skies and gentle breezes. A perfect day to head to Harry’s Bar on the Via Veneto for Bellinis.

A Bellini is Prosecco and (in Harry’s case) freshly pureed peach juice. Refreshing, and not overly sweet.

We grabbed a cab and headed for the Via Veneto, the numero uno street in Rome, lined with luxury hotels, upscale shops, bars, and restaurants. At the top, next to the walls of Rome and Borghese Gardens is a Roman landmark, Harry’s Bar. Harry’s American Bar was once a landmark in the Piazza San Marco in Venice, and the reputed birthplace of the Bellini. A branch was opened in Rome, but after decades it evolved simply to Harry’s. Home to celebs and the rich and famous, the interior is paneled with rich woods, the bar always featuring multiple bottles of Champagne on ice in a silver tub.

We pulled in and got a table outside, next to the street. We ordered four Bellinis, which came with a generous assortment of snacks – potato chips, peanuts, olives, and small sandwiches. The sun was out and an endless stream of characters strolled by, allowing us to comment on their dress, hair, etc. Ah, it is good to be so judgmental.

After a second round of Bellinis, we strolled down the road next to the old Roman walls to the Sofitel Hotel, where David and I stayed on our last trip. We grabbed the elevator to the seventh floor and got a table on the dining terrace with fabulous views over the city of Rome and surrounding countryside. David and I got flutes of Prosecco, while Tom and Katherine opted for glasses of Gavi di Gavi. The waiter helped us identify the many buildings that can be seen from the terrace – St. Peter’s, the Vatican, and on and on. The weather cooperated by giving us warm sunshine with occasional light breezes.

David ordered a plate of artichokes done multiple ways – stuffed with a foam of Pecorino cheese, tempura, and in a mousse. The three of us had a serving of bigoli Amatriciana – fat spaghetti with a sauce of tomato, onion, and guanciale. We spent an hour or so taking in the views and enjoying our lunch, then headed back to the Minerva to meet Darren and Misha,  who  had just arrived from Venice on the train.

Darren and Misha have been having a great time and regaled us with tales of their trip – the places they visited and saw, and the wines and food they enjoyed. It is wonderful to see them smiling, happy, and enjoying life. David was thrilled that they are having such a great time.

We headed off to a restaurant that Darren and Misha like near the Pantheon – Osteria dell Ingegno – just opposite the columns of Hadrian’s temple. It’s small and cozy, with an inventive menu and pleasant service. Lots of laughs, and good food. Misha had Osso Buco, Katherine a salad and soup (which she raved about), David an appetizer of bread stuffed with vegetables and herbs…all were terrific. David was thirsty, so opted for a local beer, which he enjoyed.

Then, we walked back to the hotel, through the maelstrom that is the Piazza adjacent to the Pantheon – filled with tourists, vendors, and people of all types, enjoying a gorgeous evening in Rome.

Tomorrow is the long-awaited visit to the Trevi fountain (always a zoo), and our favorite restaurant in Rome, Al Moro. I know that Darren and David have been looking forward to this for a long time.

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Saturday – April 22, 2107 – Hello Rome. Hello confusion.

April 24, 2017

Up at 4:30 so we can get started to my dialysis clinic. It’s not the same one as last time, so we wanted to leave some extra time to get there. In case of confusion.

And there was some. We arrived at the building – 28 Vicolo Toscalono – but it was dark with the security screens drawn over the doors.  Called the doctor – no answer. Finally, someone hopped out of a car and opened the screen over the entrance. Seems when they say my appointment is at 0530, they mean that’s when they open. In short order, other patients and staff started arriving. It didn’t take long to find that no-one spoke English, including the staff. Fresenius had told David that the Clinic was “English Speaking,” but obviously, it wasn’t.

Issue #2 was with the town car that took us there, as the driver understood that he was to drop (both of) us off and someone else would come at 9 to pick (both of us) up and return to the Minerva, meaning David would be left sitting in the lobby for four hours. David finally convinced him to wait and then take him back, but he had another appointment, so soon was nagging David that he either had to leave to go back or stay the four hours.

David returned to the Minerva, and at 0845 got a call from the Concierge that a car would be at the Clinic at 9:00 to pick me up and bring me back to the Minerva. David explained that the car was supposed to pick him up at the Minerva, come get me, and return. This caused a flurry of activity rescheduling the car, but all went well, and soon we were both back at the Minerva. Hopefully the rest of our sessions go smoother.

After a short nap we headed to the Piazza for a glass of wine and a light snack before Katherine and Tome arrived. Just some focaccia and olive oil. Then we strolled back to hotel to meet The Wrights. We were all still jet-lagged, so ended up just having some wine and a light snack in the lobby bar before turning in.

Tomorrow we plan to go to Harry’s for Bellini’s, then the Sofitel rooftop for lunch, before Darren and Misha arrive on the train from Venice.

A nice, casual day in Rome.

 


Thursday – April 20, 2017 – Friday April 21, 2017 – Off to Rome

April 24, 2017

The day has finally arrived for our long awaited trip to Rome.

We’ll be meeting Darren and Misha there as they finish up there cruise of the Greek Isles, and Katherine and Tom, who will be flying out from California.

We left for Ft. Lauderdale and the first leg of our trip at around noon. Our flight to Charlotte left right on time and arrived on the dot with plenty of time to make our connection to Rome, which was at a distant gate.

We boarded our A330 Airbus and settled into our seats, which were the new design BizClass…very spacious and comfortable. Took off on time and headed for Roma.  The meal choices were pretty dismal, but we both settled on the Salmon, ate, and tried to get some sleep. The flight arrived a bit late in FCO (Rome), but we were soon on our way through Immigration and Customs  and then on to meet our driver who was taking us to Minerva.

Unlike our last trip in Rome, our driver did a nice job at reasonable speeds, and we were soon at the Minerva, ready to check in. Our room was on the fifth floor, with views of the adjacent square and Pantheon, and was very comfortable. We got a short nap, then a light snack, and turned in early, as tomorrow is my first dialysis day in Rome.

 


Friday, October 2, 2015 — Warp 11 Mr. Sulu

October 4, 2015

With a midday departure time, we had plenty of time to get packed and ready to head to the airport, so got everything set and had a leisurely check out.

The Sofitel is a wonderful place to stay, luxurious, well located, and friendly. We will definitely consider returning here. David checked out while the luggage was loaded into the car, and then we headed off for the airport. Once in motion, our stately driver was transformed into a Nascar wannabe. Apparently, he had learned only two throttle positions in driving school — zero and floored.

We roared off onto the already confused streets of Rome in a series of leaps that alternately pinned us into our seats and then tossed us forward against the seat belt restraints. I tried to say something to David, but the words wouldn’t come out of my mouth — I guess we were moving faster than sound. With too much traffic in the normal lanes to suit him, the driver veered into the trolley lane and accelerated t0 120 kpm (70mph). When he spotted a trolley headed towards us, he would lurch back into the regular traffic. When we hit the highway, we thought we would be okay, but the driver mashed the throttle and accelerated to 160 kpm (100+mph), roaring up on slower cars until he was about three inches away, then riding their bumpers.

We finally arrived at the airport, dropped out of warp drive, and pulled up at the curb. “Terminal three,” the driver said in his stately voice. We were still too scared to speak, so just nodded. He could have said “Gates of Hell,” and we wouldn’t have cared.

Into FCO Airport and the zoo that is the Italian transportation system. Our flight left the gate and headed out, then stopped. The pilot said there were a lot of planes ahead of us waiting to get out and that it would be a while because, “this airport is a mess.” Comforting words. None the less, in 30 minutes or so we were off to Marseilles.

Everything went smoothly and we soon had our car — an Audi A4 wagon with automatic, not quite what we had reserved — and were on our way. About 45 minutes later we pulled up at our home for the night, Mas de la Rose, a tranquil and beautiful spot just a couple of kilometers from the mas. They upgraded us to a junior suite, which was gorgeous, and we took a brief nap, still exhausted from our Rome trip.

Then it was next door to Potager du Mas, a warm greeting from Franck, and fabulous food. A lot of laughs came along with our usual kirs, followed by an entrée of thinly sliced scallops and avocado, followed by Dorade (sea bream) for David and St. Pierre (John Dory) for me. Both were excellent as always — this is one of the best restaurants in the area. We spent most the meal catching up on things with Franck, and then headed back to our room so we could rest up before an earlyish departure for dialysis. Franck warned us to be ready for a huge storm the next day, but — as forecasts in Provence are pretty unreliable — we weren’t too worried.

 

 


Thursday, October 1, 2015 — rain and another dining find

October 4, 2015

Rain, and lots of it, greeted us when we awoke this morning.

We made the run to the dialysis clinic, and David returned at around 11 to pick me up. The staff is very nice, and the doctor who administers everything gave me his card said that if we would like to come back, get in touch with him and eliminate a lot of paperwork. Hmmm, maybe for next spring?

Once back, I rested for a bit, then it was time to venture into the rain to get some euros and a bite for lunch. We walked about two blocks from the hotel and saw a sign that said Ristorante Aurora 10. Looked nice, so – despite the fact that it was 2 pm – we went in and were seated by a friendly head waiter. This was an old, classic restaurant. High ceilings, stately décor, an attentive staff, and a nice menu. David ordered two kirs, but got mostly blank stares except from one waiter who knew it was cassis and white wine. We ordered a bottle of Jermann chardonnay and the waiter appeared with a bottle of cassis with just a few drops left, aged to a dark brown to boot. Not wanting to be rude, we let them pour us the wine and cassis. We then took a gander at the menu. Nice selections. I ordered linguine with clams, and David had Bresaola to start, followed by buccatini amatriaciana. Both were excellent, and the service friendly and gracious. We marked this down as another spot to come back to, bade our farewells, and hustled back to the Sofitel to get out of the rain.

For our final night, we headed up to la Terrasse for a light bite and some drinks. They served us two comp flutes of Champagne, which we followed with a glass of wine. We were still full from lunch, so just nibbled on the bar snacks and then headed off to bed.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015 — More piazzas (not pizzas) and great dining

October 4, 2015

A sunny day beckoned us to do more exploring, so we grabbed a taxi for the Piazza del Popolo, known for its matching churches on one side of the square.

A short hair-raising taxi ride and we were there, only to find that the column in the square is being refurbed. Accordingly, the crowds were minimal, and I had great photo opportunities. We spent some time strolling around the square and went in to one of the churches, just as a Mass was starting. As David is Episcopalian (Catholic-Lite), he understood a little about what was going on, but not much. From what I gather, Episcopalians celebrate Holy Communion with Pringles and Chardonnay…

After the photos, it was time to stroll down one of the major streets that radiate from the Piazza. Some good window shopping opportunities and a lot of pizza spots. A few blocks down, we came to the via del Vantaggio, where the restaurant we are booked at for tonight is located. We strolled down the street and peeked in. A nice setting inside a modern, upscale hotel gave us hopes that the meal would be special.

It was getting near lunch time, so we meandered towards the Piazza di Spagne and started looking for a place to eat. We wanted a bit more than pizza, so passed on most of the spots until we saw a small ristorante, Malafemmena, with an appealing menu, and pulled up seats at a table on the street. It turned out to be terrific. I had linguine with clams, and David a risotto with cheese. As a side, I had a fresh salad, and David Roman artichokes. We ordered a bottle of Jermann Chardonnay to go with it and settled down for a very nice meal. The only thing we hadn’t counted on was that the restaurant adjoins a delivery point of a small market, so mini-trucks kept arriving and backing in, some coming close to David.

We escaped unscathed, and continued toward the Piazza di Spagne, where we found the Bernini Fountain was being refurbished…. I took some photos, mostly of the Spanish Steps, and then we continued on a bit. We pulled into a small square near the Spanish Embassy and grabbed a table at a small café for a glass of wine. The couple who sat next to us were from South Carolina, and made me wince when the wife ordered a salad caprese and asked if she could have it with mozzarella and tomatoes. Oh well, they were nice, and just starting a ten-day Italian vacation, so were upbeat and friendly.

Back to the Sofitel for a quick nap, then we got ready for our dinner at All Oro.

All Oro has gotten high marks for its innovative cuisine from a young chef, and has earned a number of awards, including a Michelin star. We arrived in the lobby and were amused to see a contemporary art piece of a cow, phones and phone book. The Italians do have a sense of humor.

We ambled into the dining room which was stunning, simple, but pleasing to the eye. The maître ‘d immediately greeted us and gave us a table of our choosing. We decided to go with a tasting menu, but had a difficult time deciding whether to have a 4, 5, 7 or the Chef’s 9-course meal. We opted for the 4-course. David ordered the wine, a chardonnay from Friuli, which was terrific.

The amuse bouche arrived compliments of the Chef. It was spectacular to both the eye and palate, so were looking forward to our entrees.  David and I both chose the same entrees of Beef Carpaccio (a beef from Northern Italy called Fassano). It was served with thinly sliced truffles, rolled into a small cylinder, and was probably the best tasting beef we’ve ever experienced. On to the second course, Capelettis with a creamy sauce and saffron. Capelettis means little hats in Italian, and these were filled with a wonderful broth. The third course consisted of Scallops cooked with speck (ham) and a potato gratinee stack, simple, but perfectly done. Dessert was a stunning presentation of Tiramisu. A swirl of chocolate, a hard, egg-like shell, and a sensational filling. Words can’t describe it, so take a gander at the photos. The maître ‘d asked which course we enjoyed the best. We decided we loved all of them, and said we would return in Spring for more.

It was a most memorable dinner, but it was getting late, and tomorrow is dialysis, so a taxi was called and we headed back to the Sofitel.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015 — What happened to the Trevi? Everything’s being refurbed!

October 1, 2015

We headed out to the clinic where I will receive dialysis while in Rome. Very nice, great service and staff. A bobble in out transportation left David stranded at the clinic for four hours. The town car was supposed to wait while he checked in, then take him back to the hotel, but when he went outside the car was gone. So, he waited patiently in the lobby for four hours, then we went back to the hotel. Oh, well.

For lunch, we decided to go to the Trevi Fountain area, and located several candidates in the area in addition to our old standby, Al Moro. The usual crowds were missing, because the fountain is being cleaned and refurbished. No water and scaffolding everywhere.

We headed off looking for the Galleria Restaurant, which got a good rating from Trip Advisor. We’re always a bit wary of TA ratings, as they often rate fast food and other places very highly because they get a lot of votes, and people are rating them as a place for a snack rather than on the quality of their food. In the Trevi Fountain area, for instance, three of the top five rated places are delis or pizza shops. However, the Galleria sounded interesting, so we went on a quest to find it. It turns out it is inside the Galleria Alberto Sardi, a large building crammed with stores and a few cafés. It took us several tries to locate the building and restaurant, but we finally arrived.

Lunch was okay, nothing exceptional, but the service was good and prices moderate. The setting is very modern, a far cry from the small ristorantes we normally go to. David had pacchieri, a large noodle, with amatriaciana sauce. I had tagliatelli with a light white sauce. We tried a couple of wines from their “by the glass” list, which were excellent. We finished our meal and decided to stroll around a bit before heading back to the hotel for a post-dialysis snooze. After turning down the 100th street vendor selling selfie-sticks, we grabbed a cab and headed back.

For dinner, we were both looking forward to going to la Rosetta, a terrific seafood ristorante near the Pantheon where we had a wonderful dining experience three years ago. All started out well, with a warm welcome and very nice starters. David raved about his tuna tartare, and, amazingly, was able to recall and order a terrific Sauvignon Blanc we had on our last visit, dry but tinged with a hint of grapefruit.

When our main courses arrived, things started to slide. David was served what looked to be my order, lobster with cappellini, rather than the risotto with prawns he had ordered. I was given a plate of pasta with clams, mussels, crab, langoustine, and prawns. As we started to tell the waiter that he had served us the wrong order, the head waiter appeared and apologized that he had made an error and didn’t order the risotto, but that he was sure that we would like the dish presented, as the pasta was “superb.” Rather than insisting on our original order, we accepted what was served, trusting that it would be okay, only to find that it was very hot, loaded with peppers. David ate part of it, and I only ate part of my lobster dish.

It appears that the mom and pop who ran la Rosetta have retired, or at least weren’t there when we dined, as the food was nowhere near what we experienced the last time. The service was nice, as were some of the dishes, but we don’t think we’ll go back.

After that, we headed back to the hotel for a sound night’s sleep. Tomorrow, more sightseeing and dinner at a one-star Michelin restaurant near the Piazza del Popolo