Monday, August 4, 2008

More of our trip to Europe

Now that it has been a few weeks and a lot of new things have happened, my memory of the details our our trip are getting a little bit fuzzy, but there are plenty more photos to share so here it goes....

After Arles we spent a day driving through Provence. The highlights were Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Baux-de-Provence, Cavaillon, Gordes and then to Grenoble to sleep.

Baux-de-Provence (hard to believe that this is a combination of houses and rock formations)

We saw the scenery that inspired Van Goghs paintings, but skipped the walk to see the asylum where he spent the end of his life. We stopped often to take photos and marvel at the endless purple fields of lavender.

Some photos of Gordes....

What we ate in Gordes (we didn't actually eat this ice cream...I saved myself for Italian gelato)

We did eat this sandwich, which was nothing too exciting (cheese, tomato, greens, balsamic vinegar and olive oil) but was nice and cheap and kept us going until dinner.

We finally got to Grenoble at around 6 pm, drove in circles for 1/2 hour, found our hotel (Hotel Del Europe) and enjoyed some delicious food. I would have liked to have spent more time here, riding the cable car, checking out the museums...but we had to make it to the small village of Sinio, Italy the next day.

My only photos of Grenoble include the view from our dinner cafe and

my dinner - smoked salmon with ravioli and probably 2000 calories worth of cream and butter, but totally worth it.

The process of getting to Sinio was quite stressful. We didn't think about the fact that neither of us knew any Italian at all. Not even the basics. When we pulled into the first toll booth in Italy and the attendant said " "Buongiorno!" we learned to at least say "hello" and then proceeded to pay an ungodly amount of money to drive on the autostrata.

Everything was fine until we made it to Alba during siesta and were way too hungry. All towns in Italy pretty much shut down between 1 and 4:30 (my usual lunch time). So we stopped in a grocery store to get some snacks and ask find a map or ask directions. Sinio was not on our map, but we knew it was close to Alba. We got a few confusing directions and then decided to head out in no particular direction and hope for some signs. It didn't work out so well. We learned how to say "left and "right" and started stopping everywhere to ask for directions. People in this part of Italy don't speak much English, so there was a lot of guessing involved. We finally made it and it only took 3 hours to find a place that turned out to be only 20 minutes from Alba! We couldn't complain about the scenery though and Ben was starting to have fun negotiating the narrow streets with our little car.

We could not have been more happy with the welcome we received when we arrived at our Agritourismo - a hazelnut farm and vineyard. We stood around and talked about the farm, the area, and possible ways to spend the next few days. They suggested that we try their favorite restaurant less than a mile away (not before giving us a local map). We were hoping to get a small bite to eat, but were not able to communicate this to the waitress.

Patio overlooking the vineyards

Our hosts

The patio outside of our room

Even cats take a siesta

Back to the food.....This restaurant had no menu, you just eat whatever she brings. First she started us out with a bottle of vine (it was this night that I became a wine drinker), some bread sticks and two kinds of locally produced salami. It was just the right amount of food, but then she brought out the next course...thin slices of veal (vitello) with some kind of sauce that may have involved tuna? She was so excited. We had to stop this craziness, so Ben managed to communicate to her that we weren't that hungry and would maybe just like to try a little bit of pasta. He felt bad and couldn't find how to say sorry in the terrible phrase book; he was only able to find out how to say "I'm ashamed" . This made the waitress laugh at least! She served us some ravioli with sage and butter and I ate it even though I didn't think I could fit any more food in my body.

We decided that if we were ever going to get an authentic Italian meal it was going to be here. So we went back the next day with a good appetite and went for it (my only requirement was no veal). We had breaded fried zucchini flowers (only available at this time of year), prosciutto with cantaloupe (surprisingly perfect together), green salad with oil and vinegar, some weird ham pimento, gelatinous loaf, vegetable tart with cheese and spinach, thick noodles (tagliatelle) with a beef ragout. After this I was done, but Ben kept going and had the meat course which was local wild boar cooked in red wine. We finished it off with a fruit torta and a chocolatey egg dessert. This meal was 50 Euros well spent!

The first bottle of wine that I drank and enjoying without making wincing faces

No meal is complete without a late night shot of espresso (I'm not sure how people sleep in Italy!)

So we spend the next few days exploring the Piedmont area - sampling food, walking around cute little villages, churches and castles. It was relaxing and felt like an authentic Italian experience without all of the tourists that flock to Tuscany. We will definitely go back here!

This was my favorite village in the area- not sure what it was called though

a typical small grocery store in Italy (gastronomia) which sells what we would consider gourmet food and they consider every day necessities - locally made olive oils, wines, chocolate, meats, cheeses, vinegar, bread, fresh made pasta.....

We went back to Alba in a more relaxed manner to use the internet.
Fruit and Vegetable market in Alba

Our first gelato and my first dairy ice cream in at least 6 years. Mine was vanilla with chocolate shavings, Ben's was some unknown fruit. He had buyers remorse (a common problem for him) and wished he got the same flavor as me. It was so creamy and not too heavy tasting.

I obviously enjoy taking photos of cats?

a castle

The next and final post on our trip will be Tuscany, Umbria and the French Riviera.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Getting a chance to take a second, more relaxed look at these photos! Totally enjoying!!! Love to both of you, Mom (Fran)