Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris

Cafe Marly at the Louvre in Paris
Relax with a glass of wine at Cafe Marly overlooking the pyramid entrance to the Louvre.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The best chocolates in Paris?



Patrick Roger's friendly shop on the boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés has excellent chocolates packaged in green boxes that make great gifts and are easy to pack to take home. A sachet of 4 or 5 chocolate confections costs under 5€ (about $7.50). Are they the best chocolates in Paris? You decide!


Patrick Roger 
6th/Métro Odéon
108 boulevard St-Germain-des-Prés
Tel. 01/43.29.38.42
Closed Sun and Mon
www.patrickroger.com









Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paris Restaurant Update: Fall and Winter 2009



I wasn't sure what to expect on our recent visit to Chez Janou. It's been described as "trendy" and since it was featured in Samantha Brown's Passport to Europe television show, I was afraid that it would be loaded with tourists. Well, there were only a few tourists in the bistro and I certainly wouldn't call it "trendy." This old fashioned bistro is located a few blocks from the beautiful place des Vosges in the Marais. It seems like everyone is having a great time in this vibrant, compact eatery. The food is Provencal and straightforward French (very good entrecôte). The wine list offered decent priced wines with a heavy emphasis on those from Provence. The highlight of the dinner was dessert (pictured above). A bowl of chocolate mousse is brought to the table and dished out. Delicious! The bistro is known for its large selection of pastis (anise-flavored aperitif). Very friendly service.

Chez Janou
3rd/Métro Chemin Vert
2 rue Roger Verlomme
Open daily for lunch and dinner
Tel. 01/42.72.28.41
www.chezjanou.com


Le Reminet (pictured above) has been in Eating & Drinking in Paris for the last several editions. This quaint bistro is located in the Latin Quarter near St-Michel and just across the river from Notre-Dame. We were a party of six, which in such a small place can always be a challenge. The staff was helpful and pleasant and the romantic atmosphere (down to candelabras on the tables) made for a wonderful evening. We all started with a kir royal (an aperitif made with champagne and creme de cassis). Most of us had a green salad (it wasn't on the menu, but most restaurant are happy to make one up). Good wine list featuring wines from all French regions. The food was excellent. Some of the choices were:
picatta de veau (veal picatta)
joue de cochon (pork cheeks)
pot-au-feu (a stew of meat and vegetables).

Le Reminet
5th/Métro St-Michel
3 rue Grands Degrés
Open daily for lunch and dinner
Tel. 01/44.07.04.24

As reported last winter, La Maison in the 5th (just around the corner from Le Reminet) has been purchased by new owners. Claude, the fun and interesting former owner, and his French bulldog "Polo" have retired. Sadly, most of the charm of the former La Maison is gone and we can't recommend its replacement.


Aux Trois Petits Cochons is a lively, friendly and gay (in every sense of the word) bistro in the Montorgueil quarter. If available, make sure you try the excellent blanquette de veau (veal stew). I started my meal with the delicious pumpkin soup (highly recommended). Always a good time and always a great meal. For photos about this restaurant, see the blog entry just before this one.

Aux Trois Petits Cochons
2nd/Metro Etienne Marcel
31 rue Tiquetonne
Tel. 01/42.33.39.69
Open daily. No lunch
http://www.auxtroispetitscochons.fr/

Cafe Beaubourg overlooks the Pompidou Center (housing a modern art collection). It's getting just a little run down, but it's always fun and there's great people watching. It wasn't as crowded this November because there was a temporary strike which closed the Pompidou Center, so there were fewer people around the area. Still, a great place for a snack and drink.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Paris Museum Strike Spreads



It started at the Pompidou Center (the modern art museum pictured above) and has now spread to the Louvre, Versailles, the Arc de Triomphe, the Rodin Museum and Musée d'Orsay. Museum works are protesting government plans to cut the number of museum employees.


While in Paris this week, an announcement in English said "The Pompidou Center is closed today because of a strike. Thanks for listening."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A great way to end your day in Paris: Cafe Marly




After dinner, head to Café Marly at 93 rue de Rivoli (1st/Métro Palais Royal-Musée d’Orsay). You’ll pay for the view overlooking the glass-pyramid entrance to the Louvre, but it’s a great place to end your first day in Paris with a glass of champagne. How French! Info: 93 rue de Rivoli. Tel. 01/49.26.06.60. Open daily 8am to 2am.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Unique Dining in Paris: We'll Have A Gay Old Time


Aux Trois Petits Cochons ("The Three Little Pigs") is a lively, friendly and gay (in every sense of the word) bistro in the Montorgueil quarter. Excellent blanquette de veau (veal stew). Info: 2nd/Métro Etienne Marcel. 31 rue Tiquetonne. Tel. 01/42.33.39.69. www.auxtroispetitscochons.fr. Open daily. No lunch. Moderate.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Impressionist Art in Paris: The Marmottan Museum


Want to see Impressionist art in Paris? If you have the chance, head to a jewel of a museum. It’s a little out of the way, but worth the trip. The Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet is named after Paul Marmottan, who donated his beautiful home to house his collection of historic furnishings. In 1966, when Monet’s son died in an automobile accident, the museum received over 130 works by the artist, including Impression-Sunrise, from which the Impressionist movement is said to have gotten its name. In addition to the well-known water lilies and paintings of his house in Giverny, you’ll also see Renoir’s portrait of Monet. Info: 16th/Métro La Muette. 2 rue Louis-Boilly. Tel. 01/44.96.50.33. Open 10am-6pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €8, under 8 free. From the métro stop, walk west on Chaussée de la Muette which turns into avenue du Ranelagh. Turn right onto avenue Raphaël. The museum is on the corner of avenue Raphaël and rue Louis-Boilly. The walk from the métro stop to the museum is a half mile. www.marmottan.com.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tourism and Sex in Amsterdam


A new spin on window-shopping! Prostitution has been regulated and, of course, taxed in Amsterdam since 1984, and even has its own union. Along the narrow streets of the Red-Light District, women and some men wait in windows for their next customer. The storefront rooms have curtains that are closed when “business” is being conducted. You’ll see lots of foreign businessmen and tourists milling around (many very drunk). Be careful at night as the area is a prime pickpocket spot. By the way, don’t even think about taking photos. Your camera will likely be confiscated. (Can you believe that it has a web site?) Info: De Walletjes/De Wallen (Red-Light District). Behind Dam Square between Oudezijds Voorburgwal and Oudezijds Achterburgwal. http://www.red-light-district.nl/.

From sex clubs to live sex shows (especially the famous Casa Rosso at 106 Oudezijds Achterburgwal), sex is a big part of Amsterdam’s tourist industry. Locals don’t bat an eye at any of this, but you might. If you’re not interested in seeing any of it, stay away from the Red-Light District and the area around it. You can easily visit Amsterdam’s other wonderful sights without encountering any of the sex industry.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Picasso Museum in Paris closed for renovations until 2012



The famous and very popular Musee Picasso in Paris is now closed for renovation until 2012. If you're interested in seeing the works of this artist, ten of Picasso's works are on display at the nearby Pompidou Center.

Friday, October 2, 2009

If it's good enough for Barbra Steisand ... Arzak near San Sebastian, Spain



Recently Barbra Streisand appeared on Oprah and talked about dining in Spain. I received a few emails asking for more information about the restaurant she talked about (she also showed some food photos). The restaurant, which is featured in my Open Road's Best of Spain book is Arzak.


Located in the childhood home of chef Juan Mari Arzak, this celebrated restaurant is on the road (from San Sebastian, Spain) heading to the border with France. Traditional Basque specialties are served, often with a French influence. It’s a dining experience. Reservations are required. Info: 21 Alto de Miracruz. Tel. 943285593. Closed Sun (dinner), Mon, last half of June and Nov. http://www.arzak.es/. €€€

Thursday, September 24, 2009

US State Department Warning for Travel to Germany




American travelers warned about al-Qaida attacks in Germany

U.S. State Department issues travel alert urging American travelers in Germany to be cautious after al-Qaida threatens attacks around Sept. 27 German elections
Seattle Times Travel staff
The terrorist group al-Qaida has threatened to conduct attacks in Germany immediately before and following the federal elections on Sunday, and the U.S. State Department is urging Americans traveling in Germany to be cautious.
Al-Qaida recently released a video specifically warning Germany of attacks. German authorities are taking the threat seriously and are enhancing security throughout the country, said the State Department.
A travel alert was issued today for Germany by the State Department. It urges U.S. citizens to maintain a low profile, monitor news reports and consider the level of security present when visiting public places or choosing hotels and restaurants.
Travelers can get up-to-date information on security conditions in Germany and other countries atwww.travel.state.gov. Or phone 888-407-4747 in the United States or 202-501-4444 from outside the United States and Canada.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Paris in the fall?


Looking to visit Paris on a budget?  Last year, the average air and hotel package booked on Expedia for November was half the average cost for April. Although it can be a little rainy in the fall, I love Paris. We visit every Thanksgiving and find the lines short, prices cheaper, and the pace slower. Try it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Renting an apartment in Paris

One great way to truly experience life in a European city is to rent an apartment. They’re usually less expensive and larger than a hotel room. If I didn’t have to check out hotels, I would always stay in an apartment. Many come with a washer/dryer combination that allows you to pack less. There are many apartments for rent on the Internet. Here are a few that receive good reviews.
http://www.vrbo.com/139753




www.parisbandb.com (apartments and bed and breakfast)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Berlin's Holocaust Memorials: Remembering Jewish and Gay Victims of Nazi Rule




The Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas (Memorial to the Murdered European Jews) is a powerful and massive, five-and-a-half-acres memorial. 2,711 gravestone-like columns honor those Jews killed by the Nazis. It opened in May, 2005, after years of planning and controversy. When you are walking along the cobblestone walkways between the pillars, it is intended to invoke a feeling of being lost, alone and disoriented. The paths between the pillars slope down as you move deeper into the memorial. There’s an underground center that includes the known names of those killed in the Holocaust along with letters from those on their way to concentration camps. It’s truly a remarkable memorial that recalls the unimaginable. Info: Ebertstrasse and Behrenstrasse. Tel: 030/26394336. Open at all times. Information center open daily 10am-8pm. Admission: Free. S-Bahn: Unter den Linden. http://www.holocaustdenkmal.de/

On the other side of the street (Ebertstrasse) is a concrete slab with a small widow where you view a same-sex couple kissing. This is the Monument to the Homosexuals Persecuted During National Socialism. Homosexuals were rounded up by the Nazis during World War II, forced to wear pink triangles, and sent to concentration camps.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

iPhone top language translation apps (but not with menu translators)

Budget Traveler Magazine looks at iPhone Top Language Translation Apps. You still need to purchase Andy's Eating & Drinking guides to help you translate a menu!

Our favorite apps work with or without Internet access. Because, chances are, Wi-Fi hotspots aren't the only places you'll need help with the local lingo.
By Reid Bramblett, Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BEST FREEBIE
World Nomads
Free

Languages: Twenty-three, including Arabic, Cambodian, Cantonese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Lao, Malay, Mandarin, Nepali, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese, and Australian—the last app is handy for translating otherwise incomprehensible Aussie slang.

Usability: The World Nomads apps present lists, divided into categories, of a few dozen basic travel phrases. After tapping through the categories, such as "places to stay" and "directions & transport," you can select an appropriate phrase and hear an audio clip of a native speaker pronouncing it—a high-end feature we're surprised to find in a free app.

Frustrations: Dining phrases are missing—a big drawback.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Paris: Les Papilles

Here's another favorite place to eat (and drink) in Paris:

Les Papilles

5th/Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne (or RER Luxembourg)

30 rue Gay-Lussac

Tel. 01/43.25.20.79

Closed Sun. & part of Aug.

Near the Panthéon, Les Papilles (Tastebuds) sells gourmet foods and wine, and offers creative takes on French cuisine. Try the tender hanger steak. Worth the trip!

Moderate


For more information about Paris, check out Andy Herbach's Eating & Drinking in Paris: French Menu Translator and Restaurant Guide and Open Road's Best of Paris.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Paris: Le Fumoir (near the Louvre)


If you're visiting the Louvre and looking for a place to relax and have a drink or a snack, here's the place:

Le Fumoir

1st/Métro Louvre-Rivoli

6 rue de l’Amiral-de Coligny

Tel. 01/42.92.00.24

Open daily 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Closed part of Aug.

www.lefumoir.com


This bar and restaurant is located near the Louvre. It’s known for its Sunday brunch, salads, happy hour and gâteau chocolat (chocolate cake). There’s a library in the back where you can have a drink and read (and exchange your own books for the ones in their library). Inexpensive - Moderate


Photo from flickr by Jpeisman

Eating & Drinking in Paris: Bistrot de L’Oulette


We'll be taking a look at some old (and new) favorites on the Paris dining scene.


Bistrot de L’Oulette (formerly Baracane)

4th/Métro Bastille

38 rue des Tournelles

Tel. 01/42.71.43.33

Closed Sat. (lunch) & Sun.

www.l-oulette.com

Small bistro in the Marais (near the place des Vosges) featuring the specialties of Southwest France (especially confit).

Moderate


The last time we were there, we had a delicious meal and wonderful service. Although the prices are a bit higher than when this bistro was called "Baracane," the food is excellent and won't disappoint. The location is perfect for an after dinner drink at one of the many lively cafes around the place de la Bastille or the place des Vosges.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

(Not) Running With The Bulls in Pamplona.


Pamplona hosts of one of the world’s most famous events: the encierro, or running of the bulls. Some say it’s barbaric, others say it’s a great tradition. At 8:00 a.m. July 6-14, six bulls are released to run the narrow streets to the bullring (where, by the way, they are killed at the bullfight that evening). In 1927, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises made this event famous. The festival is the Fiesta de San Fermín and the city is swamped with revelers, many drunk and without hotel rooms (as there aren’t nearly enough to accommodate the crowds). Theft is common. It’s simply one non-stop party.

If you choose to visit at any other time of year, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by this tidy, attractive city. You’ll find ruins of a 16th-century Ciudadela (citadel), a Gothic cathedral, and the Museo de Navarra showcasing art of the region. Pamplona’s main sights are all within walking distance in the historic Old Town.

The heart of the Old Town is the Plaza del Castillo. Check out the attractive Café Iruña at number 44. This square was the site of the former bullring. The current bullring, the Plaza de Toros, is only a few blocks from Plaza del Castillo.

Among the narrow streets around this square is Calle Estafeta, the main street for the running of the bulls and home to many tapas bars. For a break, try the restaurant/bar at Casa Otano at number 5 at nearby Calle San Nicolás. Another attractive square in the old town is the Plaza Consistorial where you’ll find the 18th-century Ayuntamiento (City Hall) with its ornate façade.

Parts of the Catedral date back to the 14th century. Its Gothic interior contains the alabaster tomb of Carlos III. Not to be missed are the Gothic arches of its cloister. Also here is the Museo Diocesano (Diocesan Museum) with a collection of religious art and artifacts. Info: At Calle Curia and Calle Dormitalería. Tel. 948210827. Cathedral open daily. Museum open Mon-Fri 10am-2pm and 4pm-7pm, Sat 10am-2pm. Admision to Cathedral: Free. Admission to Museum: €5.

Pamplona was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Navarra. The Museo de Navarra, located in a 16th-century former hospital, houses a collection of regional archaeological artifacts, local costumes and art (including a portrait by Goya). Info: 47 Cuesta de Santo Domingo at Calle Jaranta. Tel. 948426492. Open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm and 5pm-7pm, Sun 10am-2pm. Admission: €4. 

For more on visiting Spain, check out Andy Herbach's Open Road's Best of Spain.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Don't take a taxi in Paris. Take the metro.


The métro system is clearly the best way to get around Paris. It’s orderly, inexpensive and for the most part safe. You’re rarely far from a métro station in Paris. They are marked by a yellow “M” in a circle or by those incredibly beautiful Art Nouveau archways with “Métropolitain” on them. Although you may be confused when you first look at a métro map, simply follow the line that your stop is on and note the last stop (the last stop appears on all the signs) and you’ll soon be scurrying about underground like a Parisian. Service starts at 5:20am and ends at 1:20am (one additional hour on Saturday night/Sunday mornings and the eve of holidays). Métro tickets are also valid on buses. The cost of a métro ticket is €1.70. A carnet of 10 tickets costs €11.70, and the price of a Passe Navigo (a week pass from Monday through Sunday) is €22.50.



Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best of Provence: Colorful Roussillon


Roussillon is 6 miles (10 km) east of Gordes/28 miles (45 km) east of Avignon.

Legend has it that a local lord had his wife’s lover killed and the wife threw herself off a cliff, staining the rocks with her blood. In reality, two centuries of ochre mining have left this perched village surrounded by red quarries and cliffs. From deep red to light yellow, the colors of this town alone are worth a visit. Although it can be quite crowded in high tourist season, you can still find peaceful, beautiful squares and take in the surrounding countryside.


While here, a good choice for both indoor and outdoor dining is the friendly Bistro de Roussillon, serving hearty Provençal fare. Moderate. Info: place de la Marine. Tel. 04/90.05.74.45. Closed Jan and mid-Nov to mid-Dec.
For more on Roussillon and Provence, check out Open Road's Best of Provence.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Changing Face of Valencia, Spain


Valencia, Spain’s third-largest city, doesn’t fit easily into any tour of Spain (it’s over 200 miles from Barcelona and Madrid and 400 miles from the Costa del Sol). But if you’re able to visit, Valencia can be a truly Spanish experience. The real question is, “Can a complex change a city?” That’s what seems to be happening here. Like the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, the futuristic Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències has created a domino effect of improvements. The 2007 America’s Cup has also spurred development along the city’s waterfront.

The Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències (City of Arts and Sciences) is a major tourist attraction. Valencian architect Santiago Calatrava (who designed, among other things, Milwaukee’s fabulous lakefront art museum) designed this innovative, sprawling complex, which includes:

L'Hemisferic (Hemispheric Planetarium) shaped like a floating eyeball that even blinks.

L’Oceanogràphic (Oceanographic Park).

Museu de les Ciències Príncipe Felipe (Prince Philip Science Museum).

Palau de les Arts (Palace of the Arts).

There’s also an IMAX Theater, marine habitat, amphitheater, indoor theater and music hall. Info: 7 Ave. Autovía del Saler. Tel. 022100031. www.cac.es. Museum open daily 10am-7pm (Jul to mid-Sep until 9pm). Oceanographic Park open daily 10am-6pm (Jul and Aug until midnight). Hemispheric Planetarium daily shows every hour from 11am-7pm (additional show at 9pm on Fri and Sat). Admission: €31 (includes admission to Museum of Science, Hemispheric Planetarium and Oceanographic Park).

The Institut Valencia d’Art Modern (IVAM) is an art institute with a collection of 20th-century contemporary art and photography. Info: 118 Guillem de Castro. Tel. 963863000. www.ivam.es. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: €2, free on Sun. The IVAM is also home to La Sucursal, one of the city’s best restaurants serving contemporary cuisine. Info: Tel. 963746655. Closed Sun. Reservations required. Expensive. 

The Museo de Bellas Arts features Spanish artists, including works by Goya and Velàzquez. Info: Calle San Pío. Tel. 963870300. www.cult.gva.es/mbav. Open Tue-Sun 10am-8pm. Admission: Free. 

Valencia’s Catedral is best known for its Capilla del Santo Cáliz (Chapel of the Holy Grail) that is home to what some believe is Christ’s cup at the Last Supper. The Cathedral is also home to one of St. Vincent’s arms (!) and a museum featuring Goya’s painting of St. Francis de Broja. Info: Plaza de la Reina. Tel. 963918127. Open daily 7:30am-1pm and 4pm-8:30pm. Admission: Free to cathedral. Museum: €2.

Travelers to Spain often return home with ceramics. At the Palacio de Marques de Dos Aguas you can see the grand ceramic collection housed in the Museo National de Ceramica. Info: 2 Poeta Querol. Tel. 963516392. Open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm and 4pm-8pm, Sun 10am-2pm. Closed Mon. Admission: €3. 

Dining in Valencia is a pleasant surprise. The city is famous for its rice dishes, especially paella. Contemporary chefs have taken this old favorite and created imaginative cuisine. At Civera (near the Bellas Artes Museum) you’ll dine on Spanish and Mediterranean food, with an emphasis on seafood. Excellent lobster dishes. Info: 11 Calle Lerida. Tel. 963475917. Closed Mon and Aug. Moderate-Expensive.

At El Timonel, the nautical décor is appropriate for this restaurant specializing in seafood (they also have good meat dishes). It’s located just a few blocks from Valencia’s Plaza de Toros, the largest bullring in Spain. Info: 13 Félix Pizcueta. Tel. 963526300. Closed Mon. Moderate-Expensive.

For cheaper dining, try Los Patos, serving specialty duck dishes to pizza in a 20th-century townhouse in the central city. Good value. Info: 28 Calle del Mar. Tel. 963529323. Closed Mon. Moderate.  

While in Valencia, make sure you try the delicious horchata, a milky drink made with crushed tiger nuts. It’s served everywhere. And head to the Barrio del Carmen located around the Plaza del Carmen for a few cañas (glasses of beer) at any of the funky bars here in Valencia’s oldest neighborhood.

For more on Valencia, check out Open Road's Best of Spain. Delta Airlines now has four nonstop flights per week from New York's JFK Airport to Valencia.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Where did President Obama dine while in Paris?


On his recent trip to Paris, President Obama and the First Lady dined at a restaurant recommended in both Eating & Drinking in Paris and Open Road's Best of Paris. We just hope this doesn't raise the prices at this favorite. Here's information on La Fontaine de Mars:

Red-checked tablecloths, friendly service and reasonable prices near the Eiffel Tower. Try the poulet fermier aux morilles (free-range chicken with morel mushrooms). Info: 7th/Métro École-Militaire. 129 rue St-Dominique. Tel. 01/47.05.46.44. 

Monday, June 1, 2009

Shopping for antiques in Paris


Here are a few choices for shopping for antiques in Paris:

Le Louvre des Antiquaires
You’ll find 250 antique shops at the arcades along rue de Rivoli facing the Louvre. You can go inside and visit all of these shops (not just enter from rue de Rivoli). There are Art Deco objects, antiquities, furniture and art. Info: 2nd/Métro Palais Royal. Place du Palais-Royal. Open Tue-Sat 11am-7pm. http://www.louvre-antiquaires.com/.

Village St-Paul
An attractive passageway with cobblestone courtyards and interesting shops, especially antique shops. Info: 4th/Métro St-Paul in the Marais. 23-27 rue St-Paul. Open Thu-Mon 11am-7pm.

Near the rue du Bac metro
You’ll find over 100 antique shops on rue du Bac, rue de Lille and rue de l’Université in the Carré Rive Gauche (between St-Germain-des-Prés and the Musée d’Orsay). Info: 7th/Metro rue du Bac.

Taken from Open Road's Best of Paris.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Spain's City of Wine


Wine tourism is on the rise in Spain, the world’s third-largest wine producer (after France and Italy). Just a little over one hour south of Bilbao is the La Rioja wine region. Its capital is Haro whose barrio de la estación (train-station neighborhood) is dotted with wineries (bodegas) where you can sample the region’s wines. Head to nearby sleepy Elciego (its Basque name is Eltziego). Here you’ll find the Hotel Marqués de Riscal, designed by architect Frank Gehry (his magnificent Guggenheim Museum is in Bilbao). You can’t miss its roof wrapped in pink, silver and gold titanium ribbons. Opened in 2006, the luxury hotel is home to a “City of Wine” including a renowned restaurant (Echaurren), a wine bar, wine tastings, cooking school, wine museum and shop, and “vinothérapie” spa with such features as bathing in wine. Now that’s a total wine experience! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you can tour the winery and taste two of the local wines for €10 (tours are in English, reservations must be made in advance). Info: 1 Calle Torrea. Tel. 945180880. http://www.marquesderiscal.com/. Elciego and the “City of Wine” are 68 miles (110 km) south of Bilbao/76 miles (122 km) southwest of Pamplona. If you’re driving from Bilbao, take Highway E-70 to Highway A8 in the direction of Victoria-Burgos. Follow Highway AP68 to the Cenicero exit (Exit 10). Continue past the toll booth and turn right onto N-232. Proceed for 1 kilometer and turn left onto LR-512. Turn right onto A-3210 and continue to Elciego.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Venice: Cicheti Bars

Cicheti (chee-keht-tee) are the Venetian version of tapas. Cicheti (cichetti) are small portions of food served in bars in Venice, usually with an ombra (a small glass of wine.)

Here are a few places where you can hang out with locals and try a fun Venetian tradition. All are located near the Rialto vaporetto stop.

Osteria alla Botte
5482 Calle della Bissa (east end of the Rialto Bridge near Campo San Bartolomeo)
Tel. 041/5209775
Closed Thu. and Sun.

Osteria Sora al Ponte
1588 Ponte delle Beccarie (near the Rialto Bridge Market off of Campo de la Beccarie)
Tel. 041/718208
Closed Mon.

Bancogiro
122 Campo San Giacometto (west end of Rialto Bridge along the Grand Canal)
Tel. 041/5232061
Closed Sun. (dinner) and Mon.
For more on dining in Venice, check out Eating & Drinking in Italy: Italian Menu Reader and Restaurant Guide.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Wine Tasting in Paris


"Coming to Paris and not tasting good French wines is like going to the U.S. and not trying a good burger," says Olivier Magny of Ô Château. This young French sommelier will guide you through a fun, informative and relaxing wine tasting in his new Parisian location. Info: 1st/Métro Louvre-Rivoli. 52 rue de l'arbre sec . Tel. 01/44.73.97.80. Admission: from €20 per person. www.o-chateau.com.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Berlin's Holocaust Memorial


Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas
(Memorial to the Murdered European Jews/Holocaust Memorial)
Ebertstrasse and Behrenstrasse
Phone: 74072929
Open at all times. Information center open daily 10am-8pm
Admission: Free
S-Bahn: Unter den Linden
http://www.holocaustmahnmal.de/

This powerful and massive, five-and-a-half-acres memorial of 2,711 gravestone-like columns honors those Jews killed by the Nazis. It opened in May, 2005, after years of planning and controversy. When you are walking along the cobblestone walkways between the pillars, it is intended to invoke a feeling of being lost, alone and disoriented. The paths between the pillars slope down as you move deeper into the memorial. There’s an underground center that includes the known names of those killed in the Holocaust along with letters from those on their way to concentration camps. It’s truly a remarkable memorial that recalls the unimaginable.

Italian dining in Berlin

When you get tired of all that heavy German food while in Berlin, head to Al Sarago. This authentic Italian eatery is located just off the lovely Victoria-Luise-Platz. The staff is extremely friendly and you'll dine with locals on such dishes as ravioli di ricotta burro e salvia. Wash it all down with an excellent bottle of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo red wine. Highly recommended. Info: 1 Regensburger. Tel. 030/2137711. Open noon-midnight. www.alsarago.de.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Paris: The best baguettes in Paris?


If you're looking for the best baguettes in Paris, head to Kayser.


You'll find excellent baguettes, specialty breads like the coarse and hearty pain au levain, and delicious pain au chocolate. Info: 5th/Métro Maubert-Mutualité. 8 and 14 rue Monge. Tel. 01/44.07.01.42 and 01/44.07.17.81. Closed Tue. www.maison-kayser.com


































Saturday, April 18, 2009

Berlin Celebrates the Fall of the Berlin Wall

After World War II, the Allies divided Berlin into four sectors. The American, French and British sectors became West Berlin, and East Berlin was controlled by the Soviet Union. Between 1949 and 1961, three million people left East Germany. To stop this mass exodus, a 100-mile fence was erected virtually overnight on August 13, 1961, a barrier that remained for 28 years. Ultimately, the concrete wall was 13 feet tall and had a buffer zone (no man’s land) of between 25 and 160 feet. Three hundred guard towers were built to monitor the area around the wall. In that 28-year period, 5,043 people are known to have successfully gotten around the wall. Guards fired at 1,693 people and made 3,221 arrests. In all, 1,067 are said to have died trying to flee East Germany, and as many as 263 of the deaths were at the Berlin Wall. Did you know that the GDR referred to the wall as “The Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart”? Guards suspected of shooting to miss were court-marshaled. A total of 52 military officials and 141 border guards were charged with manslaughter or attempted manslaughter for killings at the border, although most were given suspended sentences. Only 11 spent time in prison. 

Almost the entire wall is gone, having been chipped away as souvenirs or demolished. A 230-feet-long portion of the wall was reconstructed and includes bits and pieces of the original wall. The “new wall” is mostly stainless steel and contains narrow holes allowing you to look to the other side. It’s located at Bernauer Strasse and Ackerstrasse, not too far from the Bernauer Strasse U-Bahn. A large stretch still stands along Wilhelmstrasse. Behind it is a park on the site of Hitler’s SS command center. 

Berlin has erected several temporary (and free) exhibits about the erection of the wall, life in a divided city, and the fall of the wall. It's just another reason to visit this fantastic city!


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A report from Munich: Marienplatz



A visit to Munich should start with a trip to Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) the medieval town square and the pedestrian zone around it. Take the S- or U-Bahn to the Marienplatz stop. The square is named after the Virgin Mary. Her statue has been here since 1638. Dominating the square is the ornate Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) dating back to 1867. You can take the elevator up to the top of its glockenspiel for a good view of the city (€2, Mon-Fri 9am-7pm, Sat & Sun 10am-7pm). Or, you can have a seat at a café and watch the daily “show” at 11:00, noon (and 5pm from May-Oct). 32 life-sized figures reenact historical Bavarian events. You’ll see dancing barrel-makers and Bavarians (they’re in the white and blue) defeating their enemies. A golden bird chirps three times to signal the end of the show.

As you face the New Town Hall, the Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) is to your right. Destroyed in WWII, it’s been rebuilt. That’s Ludwig IV front and center.

Behind the New Town Hall at 14 Dienerstrasse is Alois Dallmayr, a deli. Okay, not just some deli, but the former deli to the royals. You can check out the wide selection of food and drink. Open Mon-Sat 9:30am-7pm. Closed Sun.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dining under the stars in Madrid.

El Mirador del Museo
International and Spanish dishes are served under the stars on the top floor of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. Truly a unique experience. Good wine list. Info: 8 Paseo del Prado. Tel 914292732. Open Jul and Aug. Reservations required. Metro: Banco de España.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Italy: Turin (Torino)

Turin, host of the last winter Olympics, is a wonderful city. On my recent trip to check out its restaurants, I visited the quaint Al Bicerin. Founded in 1763, this tiny cafe is a great place when visiting the market at nearby Piazza della Repubblica  (Monday to Saturday 8am-2pm). You have to order a bicerin, a combination of chocolate, coffee and cream. Info: 5 Piazza della Consolata. Tel. 011/4369325. Closed Wed. www.bicerin.it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

An Irish Terrier helps you calculate the cost of your next trip (Happy St. Patrick's Day!)

Times are tough, so before you take your vacation, figure out how much it really is going to cost. Go to the link below and do a quick calculation of the cost of your next trip. The calculator reminds you to include such things as parking and pet care costs while you're away. A helpful tool! 

www.independenttraveler.com/travel-budget-calculator/

Photo of Rosie, the Irish Terrier, on her 4th birthday on St. Patrick's Day.


Paris Favorites: Eating, Drinking and Shopping

David Lebovitz has one of the best web sites/bogs for "foodies" visiting Paris. He's compiled  a list of favorite dining spots by authors of guides to Paris. It's definitely worth checking out, so here's where you'll find the list...

http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2009/03/paris_favorites_eating_drinking.html

Photo courtesy of David Lebovitz (www.davidlebovitz.com).

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Long layover at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport? Visit an art museum.

The Rijksmuseum (Royal Museum) in Amsterdam is one of the world's greatest art museums with masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, and countless others. It's also the first museum in the world to have an annex in an airport. The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam Schiphol is located behind passport control between the E and F Piers. It's free and open every day from 7am to 8pm. So, next time you have a long layover here, take in some fantastic art!

Eating & Drinking in Paris: La Veraison




Sometimes it's fun to travel to "remote" areas of Paris to have dinner. La Veraison is certainly worth the trip. It's casual and small -- the one-man kitchen is up front, and you'll see the chef cooking as you walk in. Excellent selection of wines (the chef will obligingly zip out from behind the stove to help you make a selection). The food is a modern take on traditional French cooking. The neighborhood is residential and we were the only non-locals dining. My veal was excellent and the chocolate and creme caramel dessert was fantastic. Highly recommended.
La Veraison
64 rue de la Croix Nivert
Tel. 01/45.32.49.49
15th/Metro Commerce
Closed Sun and Mon

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Italy: Positano

Da Aldolfo
After a 15-minute boat ride, you'll arrive at Laurito beach where you'll find this beachfront restaurant and bar. There are changing rooms and showers, and you can rent an umbrella and lounge chair. The specialty here is grilled mozzarella on lemon leaves. Delicious fish dishes. Unique! Info: Accessible by the "red fish" boat departing from the main pier from 10am to 1pm and 4pm to about 6:30pm - later on Sat. in July and August. Closed Oct-Apr. www.daadolfo.com

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Madrid's Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza


While you can see traditional art at the Prado and contemporary art at the Reina Sofia, you can see both at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. This interesting and eclectic collection (very Impressionism-heavy), acquired by the Spanish government in 1993, features works by Picasso, Velázquez, Goya, El Greco, Dürer, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. It also has a collection of contemporary works, including some by Pollock, Lichtenstein and Kandinsky, and there’s an interesting section of art from the USA, including works by Georgia O’Keefe and David Hockney. Info: 8 Paseo del Prado. Closed Mon. Metro: Banco de España. www.museothyssen.org.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Barcelona's Mercat de la Boqueria.

Pass through the iron gateway to one of the largest, most interesting and colorful markets in Europe. You’ll find everything from fresh produce to delicious snacks under its wrought iron-and-glass roof. Each stall in the market is numbered. My favorite is the counter of El Quim at numbers 584-585. It’s a great place for a drink and tapas. Info: 91 La Rambla. Open 8am-8:30pm. Closed Sundays. Admission: Free.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Eating & Drinking in Cinque Terre

The highlight of any trip to the Liguria region of Italy is Cinque Terre. Five beautiful towns, which until recently were accessible only by train or a series of hiking paths. Perched on dramatic cliffs above the sea, you will experience car-free serenity and an Italy of old. Here are some recommended restaurants to visit while exploring the Cinque Terre.

De Mananan
117 Via Fieschi, Corniglia
Tel. 0187/821166
Closed Tue.
Hearty fare served in the cellar of a home in the smallest Cinque Terre town. Many dishes feature pesto. Try the pansoti (triangular-shaped filled pasta). Moderate

Marina Piccola
16 Via Lo Scalo, Manarola
Tel. 0187/920103
Closed Tue.
Dine on delicious cozze (mussels) or zuppe di pesce (fish stew) at this waterside restaurant. Moderate

Miki
104 Via Fegina, Monterosso al Mare
Tel. 0187/817608
Closed Tue. from Sep. to July, and all of Nov. and Dec.
Ligurian seafood served in this charming Cinque Terre town. Enjoy delicious antipasti while you take in the sea view. Moderate – Expensive

Gambero Rosso
7 Piazza Marconi, Vernazza
Tel. 0187/812265
Closed Mon., Jan. and Feb.
Ligurian specialties at this harborside restaurant (it’s been open for over 100 years). The creamy pesto is fantastic. Moderate – Expensive

Trattoria Gianni Franzi
1 Piazza Marconi, Vernazza
Tel. 0187/821003
Closed Wed., Mar. to mid-July and mid-Sep. to Jan.
Dine on fresh grilled fish and excellent ravioli on the lovely main square. Have a glass of limoncino (lemon liqueur). Moderate

For more on dining in Italy, check out the 5th edition of Eating & Drinking in Italy: Italian Menu Translator and Restaurant Guide.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Paris Restaurant: Beefy Le Severo

Paris restaurant recommendation: Le Severo.

Check out this small bistro away from the tourists. The chef used to be a butcher and the beef here is fantastic. I’d make the trip just for the fries! The wine blackboard fills a whole wall of this bistro. Looking for a truly Parisian experience? This is the place. Info: 14th/Métro Alesia or Mouton-Duvernet. 8 rue des Plantes. Tel. 01/45.40.40.91. Closed Sat, Sun and Aug. Moderate.

What to do after dinner in Paris.

















After dinner in Paris, head to Café Marly at 93 rue de Rivoli (1st/Métro Palais Royal-Musée d’Orsay). You’ll pay for the view overlooking the glass-pyramid entrance to the Louvre, but it’s a great place to end your first day in Paris with a glass of champagne. How French! Info: 93 rue de Rivoli. Tel. 01/49.26.06.60. Open daily 8am to 2am.



Or you can visit the Eiffel Tower. The lines will be short, the view memorable, and the light show on the hour is spectacular. There’s no better way to end your day! Info: 7th/Métro Trocadéro, École Militaire or Bir-Hakeim. Champ de Mars. Tel. 01/44.11.23.23. Open daily.