The 5:30 a.m. alarm wasn't so welcome this morning but we were excited to head to the Burgundy region of France. Our driver from BT Transfer was on time and helped the 7 of us into the van. We unfortunately had a long and rainy 3 hour drive to Puligny Montrachet.
We had reservations for a 10 a.m. tour at Olivier Leflaive's Vineyard. I booked the tour and lunch directly with Olivier Leflaive's staff/family and was also assured they could accommodate my dairy allergy. I hated to do it but I did have to send them an email explaining that we would be arriving a little late. The staff were wonderful and assured us we could either catch up with the group or pass on the vineyard tour and head onto the cellar tour. When we arrived we were shown where to drive to meet up with the rest of the group in the field. Our guide was explaining to us in English and French their process, the type of grapes, and the type of land. We were a little cold but it was very interesting, beautiful scenery, and an enjoyable time. After a quick walk back to the main building we were ready for the next tour which would be of the cellar. My mother, sister and I opted to stay at the hotel and try to warm up with some coffee. The rest of the group enjoyed the cellar tour and all of the information provided.
Our group met up again and it was time for lunch and a wine tasting. We opted for the Emotion menu. We started off lunch with Gougere's (cashews for me) with a glass of Bourgogne 2014. For our starter we enjoyed gently roasted Salmon and cucumbers along with both Auxey - Duresses 2013 and Saint Romain 2013. For our entree we enjoyed roasted Cod with chorizo and zucchini along with both Meursault 2013 and Meursault 1 2011. For dessert we were given either a cheese plate, a chocolate dessert, or fruit in my case along with a glass of Aloxe Corton 2013 (the only red wine). After lunch we purchased a couple bottles of wine and champagne to enjoy back in Paris. Our driver was on time as usual and we enjoyed a beautiful ride home.
Here's where things got tricky for me! I received an email from Paris City Vision informing me that our 10:00 a.m. group tour on Friday (which was booked months ago) was being cancelled due to a strike happening in Paris on Thursday. The only option I was given was to switch to a 6:00 p.m. tour that included time on a river cruise. This option didn't fit our group at all. I asked for a full refund and Paris City Vision was accommodating. So there I am on my phone researching, emailing and calling other tour companies to arrange a city tour of Paris for 25 adults in only 3 days. Luckily I found a couple of companies that could accommodate us. More on that in the next post.
Later that evening we met up with friends for dinner at Le Coq. We walked the couple of blocks to the restaurant and dined al fresco. This was our first experience with the difference between Bostonian's and Parisian's when it comes to cool weather. We opted to sit in the area that could accommodate a large group but without heaters. The temperature was between 55 and 65 degrees all week and we were in light jackets, or long sleeve shirts, etc. The Parisian's were in down jackets, wool coats, sweaters, and knit hats.
For starters we enjoyed the 4 tomato salad, quinoa and prawns, pizza, and artichokes with asparagus. For entrees we ordered the beef tartar, gilded chicken breast, filet of beef, salmon, and more. When it came time for dessert we ordered the Yuzu tart, a large creme caramel, and a giant profiterole.
After dinner we walked next door and took pictures with the Olympic rings and the Eiffel Tower. We watched the midnight light show and then took a leisurely walk back to our apartment.
We had a 7:20 p.m. flight on Air France booked along with my parents. I originally chose Air France for their flight times. Going to Paris wasn't a big deal time wise but coming home I knew that the wedding ended at midnight and I wouldn't be up for an early morning flight on American Airlines. Unfortunately I ran into a few snags with Air France. The first being our paid seats got refunded for our return flight due to an equipment change. Luckily this would be rectified later on.
We booked a car service to the airport with Airport Limo Boston. We were picked up in a clean SUV with a friendly driver who got us to the airport on time and safely. The 2nd issue we had with Air France was when neither I nor the customer service representative I was speaking with knew that Air France doesn't participate in TSA pre-check (so much for our global entry passes). The 3rd problem was when I realized that even though their website states they offer an allergy free meal it's actually not true. I ended up buying something safer in the airport and turning down Air France's meal service. The final issue was that I also prepaid our excess baggage on their website but it didn't trickle down to the airport staff. I had to pull up email receipts at check in. In regards to our flight it was on time, the staff was friendly and I found that I had more room in economy than on previous international flights.
We landed in France on time and then we hit the frustration many people talk about at charles de gaulle airport. From the time we landed to the time we left the airport it was 3 hours! Luckily my parents got to take the disability line due to my mom and her cane however they did have to sit and wait for us. Our amazing driver from BT Transfers waited for us the entire time! While we were in the customs line we were speaking with Brian from BT Transfers. We had originally planned an excursion to Versailles at noon for us and the rest of our group (already in Paris). There was no way we would make that time so Brian graciously rearranged our car service to 1:00 p.m.
Our driver took us and our luggage to the clean SUV and drove us to our AirBnb in Paris. We met up with the rest of our group and quickly toured the amazing apartment we rented. Our apartment offered 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, a living room, dining room, kitchen, and multiple terraces.
We quickly refreshed ourselves, enjoyed some snacks and hopped in our next car with BT Transfers to Versailles. Once we got to Versailles we had some confusion about where to be dropped off but our drivers were wonderful and took us to where we needed to be. We now had 3 hours to enjoy exploring the gardens (we visited on a Monday when the palace was closed). Our group walked for a little while but due to the rain we decided to rent 3 golf carts. This was perfect! We had a little convoy of tourists who got to stay mostly dry, explore a lot of the area, and keep those of us with ailments from having difficulties. When it was almost time for our pick up we dropped off those that couldn't walk too far at the entrance. The rest of us returned the golf carts and right as the sun was coming out we walked back to the entrance stopping along the way for more pictures.
Our drivers picked us up right on time and took us back to Paris. We now had a couple of hours to unwind with a glass of wine on the terrace with the amazing view of the Eiffel Tower!
Tonight we booked a private chef through La Belle Assiette for 11 adults. Chef Remy Coste and I had emailed a few days before hand to discuss the menu. For our group we were hoping to avoid veal, seafood, and dairy (for me). Chef Coste and his wife Florence arrived on time and fully prepared. The both of them were fun, personable, and talented! We enjoyed some Foie Gras Lollipops as an amuse bouche. Our starter was Ricotta Ravioli's with Basil for most of the guests and Beef Tataki for myself. Our entree was Beef with Sauteed Mushrooms and Truffled Mashed Potatoes (Oven Potatoes for me). For dessert we enjoyed a Rich Chocolate Cake with Figs and a Caramel Sauce (Chocolate Mousse with Figs for me). The entire meal was outstanding! We could not stop raving about the food and the service!
24 hours after leaving Boston we were in love with France, full with delicious food and wine, and ready to enjoy a good nights sleep.
Rome is one of my favorite cities to visit. Rome is a city full of beautiful sights, friendly people, fabulous food, and and offers incredible moments. We have visited Rome several times. To check out our full travel reviews you can visit HERE and for our full restaurant reviews visit HERE.
I've just finished editing some videos of Rome. The first is Climbing the Cupola in Vatican City. The second is touring the Vatican Museums. The third is a flock of birds over the Piazza Navona.
The morning started out extremely gloomy. From my window I found it strange that so much of Frankfurt can be covered up by Fog. I decided to get on with my day and so I headed out of the hotel and walked up to Palmengarten.
Palmengarten is a mixture of indoor and outdoor water features, flora and fauna, and an all around relaxing area. I enjoyed the indoor tropical gardens, and the cacti gardens most since it was a bit chilly out. The outdoor gardens and lakes must be incredibly beautifully on a sunny and seasonal day!
Around lunch time I walked down to Zeil St for some shopping! I found chocolates for family and friends, cookbooks for my mother, and toys for my nieces and nephews. After working up an appetite I decided to stop for some Currywurst (one of my new favs). Bratwurst with a curry ketchup sauce and french fries on the side. Yum!!
When Greg got out of work I met up with him and a few of his co-workers at a wine bar near the Alte Opera. Greg enjoyed a beer while I enjoyed a lovely Pinot Noir.
For dinner we decided to dine back at the Hilton Frankfurt. We were both tired and in need of easy! For the full review visit here.
I walked through Frankfurt on this sunny day and headed to the Stadel Museum. In the end I have mixed feelings about the Stadel Museum. The layout is Top to Bottom (oldest to newst). The Highest level of the museum is dark and closed in. It gave me a rather eerie feeling. The 2nd floor offered well known works of art from artists such as Degas, Monet, etc. This floor was a bit brighter and definitely had more natural light. The lowest floor of the museum has high ceilings, bright lights, and offers modern art in a more modern setting. This area was actually my favorite and considering I'm not really a fan of modern art I think that's saying something.
I walked along the river and came across a peculiar sight. A large film crew were taping either a tv show or movie and it was supposed to be Christmas Time. I even got a peek at Santa :-)
The morning started out with a drizzling rain and a gloomy feel. Luckily, I packed an umbrella! I grabbed my jacket, gloves, and umbrella and set out to see Frankfurt. I walked around the Hilton Frankfurt (parks, and restaurants). Made my way to Hauptwache and Zeil Street. There you will find restaurants, stores, malls, and street performers. I walked towards the river and visited the Romer area again (no giant beer this time though).
On my way to the riverfront I stopped for a snack. I bought a soft and salty Pretzel - so yummy! It's been ages since I had a pretzel and none that I have had in the past could compare to this one!
At this point I was kind of cold and sick of the drizzle so I headed back to the Hilton Frankfurt for some warmth and lunch. For my lunch review visit here.
In the afternoon the sun finally emerged and so I headed back out into Frankfurt. I walked up the block to the Alte Opera (original opera house). The beautiful architecture and pretty sunset made for some relaxation time and fun photographs.
In Germany it's best to make reservations for dinner. We made reservations at Urban Kitchen. It's not traditional German it's more modern eclectic flavors. I had read good reviews about the restaurants and being that's it's right across the street from the Hilton Frankfurt it seemed like a good choice. For my full review visit here.
We got a very early start this morning as we needed to check out of the Hoxton Hotel, meet our driver, and get to the airport for our British Airways flight to Frankfurt. We checked in for our flight, dropped off the bags, and made it through security fairly quick. We decided to grab a quick breakfast at Giraffe. The food is always good, the service is either really good or severely lacking. This time the service was good.
The flight is under two hours so after a quick cat nap we arrived in Frankfurt. We picked a cab and 33 Euros later we were at The Hilton Frankfurt. For my full review of Hilton Frankfurt visit here.
We were in need of some rest thanks to my mother. LOL, she accidentally called us in the middle of the night. Not too funny except when you realize she's yelling at your to hang up when you are saying hello. We had a nice joke later about how we should have been the ones to be mad at her for calling not her at us for answering lol.
After our nap we decided to go wander around. We ran smack into Fasching! Fasching is a festival (similar to Mardi Gras) that happens right before lent. Kids, teens, and adults were all in costumes, there was a 3 hour parade, floats tossing out candies to the crowds, beer stands, bratwurst stands, and so much more. What a great way to start the week in Frankfurt!!
We walked down to the Romer area of Frankfurt (old town) and chose to sit outside at a restaurant. Two very large beers later and we were ready to try Currywurst! Currywurst is bratwurst in a ketchup/curry sauce. So yummy! After the parade we took some more photos around the area and headed back to the hotel to clean up for dinner.
We decided to try Paulaner Am Dom. For my full review visit here.
P.S.Don't ask me how but I am able to eat dairy in Germany just like I can in Italy. I'm sure people will say it's just in my head but how do you explain me being sick in the U.S., being sick in the U.K, and not being sick in Germany or Italy. I truly believe there are big differences in the additives and processes that go into creating milk.
I finally get to spend the day with Greg!! Luckily for him I've been exploring for a week and can pack in a lot of sightseeing for him!
We started our day with a walk from The Hoxton Hotel to Tower Bridge. We made a stop along the way at Spitalfields Market so he can see all of the cool vendors. Oh how I wish I had room for some cool antiques!
From there we walked to The Tower Bridge, Tower of London and the gift shop there. The lines were extraordinary so we decided against a tour. Walking a little further we ended up on London Bridge. When the hunger starts you just walk a little more and enjoy the bounty at Borough Market. The market was beyond packed (Greg hates crowds by the way) but there were a ton of new vendors for me to try. I see vegan cupcakes and I just have to try them!! The Spiced Plum Cupcake from The Free From Bakehouse was to die for! The cake was moist, the flavor was natural, and the frosting was the perfect texture. For an actual lunch we chose a salt beef sandwich and a roasted pork sandwich. Both were good but not very memorable.
I just had to run in to Rabot 1745. Rabot 1745 is from one of my favorite companies Hotel Chocolat. I would have loved to dine here but the lines were too long. I settled on being able to purchase Cocoa Gin. When we got home we tried a bit and it's delightful.
Back to sightseeing! We hopped onto the Tube and headed to Piccadilly Circus. From there we walked through Trafalgar Square, National Gallery, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. We walked back through St. James Park to Whitehall Palace and Covent Garden.
Before heading back to our room we stopped for drinks in the lobby of The Hoxton Hotel. I especially loved the Pornstar Martini (passion fruit with prosecco).
For dinner we made reservations at Wright Bros Spitalfields. For the full review visit here. This was the perfect ending to a great week in London!!
I intended to take a ride on The Original Hop on Hop Off Bus today. I took the Tube over to Trafalgar Square and started to look for their main office. After a brief chat with Greg (needing a favor) and looking at the traffic I decided to wander around on foot.
My first path took me down to Buckingham Palace. In the winter the Changing of the Guard takes place every other day. Today just happened to be the right day. Unfortunately, I arrived when the ceremony was almost finished. The area was very crowded and the best viewing spots were already taken. After I a while I walked through St James Park up to Whitehall Palace.
Greg's favor from the morning was asking me to find a charger for his Iphone (somehow it disappeared while at the office). Luckily, Covent Garden was pretty close by and offers an Apple Store.
What's that right across from Apple....yup yummy Laduree Macarons! Being a good wife I bought some for Greg to enjoy after work. For lunch I happened upon Balthazar Boulangerie. For my full review visit here. After my lunch I walked back to Leicester Square Station (Covent Station is exit only this year).
Tonight we had reservations at Bar Boulud at The Mandarin Hotel. Since we were semi-dressy and it started to rain we hailed a cab and drove to the restaurant. For my full review visit here.
This is when you realize how great the Tube is in London. It's dependable, clean, fast, and decently priced. Today I started out in Piccadilly Circus. It's a fun little area kind of like a more spread out Times Square. I popped into Whole Foods for some more dairy free breakfast items (for our next week in Frankfurt).
I then walked down to Trafalgar square and took some photos of the fountains, art, and surroundings before visiting the National Gallery. I should mention that all of the museums I visited are in fact free. They ask for donations which I was happy to give. If you want a map of the museum you are visiting those do have a cost associated with them. I found they were only a pound or two and that they were worth it (keep track of where you've been and as a little keepsake).
I truly feel blessed to have been able to see sets of paintings throughout my travels (Rome, London, New York, Boston, etc.). It's a great feeling to see the famous paintings by artists like Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir and more.
I have been very well behaved so far but finally I give in to Retail Therapy!! No place could be better than Harrods. Naturally Harrods offers a bit of everything but as a foodie I spent most of my time in the food halls. Restaurants, prepared foods, chocolates, teas, bakery items, jams, cookies and on and on. I spent a very long time in Harrods and I'm sure I only saw about an 1/8 of the store!!
For lunch I headed back to Banh Mi11. At this point I was feeling a bit congested and nothing is better for a small cold that some hot Pho!
Tonight we walked down Great Eastern Street (from our Hotel) to Rosa's Thai Cafe. To read my full review visit here.