BUON GIORNO, my dear friends. Come stay oggi? Well, as you can see, I am still speaking (or more precisely, typing) in Italian. Perche? Because I have recently returned from a lovely 3-week adventure in grand old Europe! (I call it “grand” because that’s what it costs per day!) Alas, paradise does not come cheap. We had the privilege of spending one week in Rome and Positano, followed by a week-long river cruise in France, then 5 nights in vibrant London, England. Needless to say, we’re exhausted….. in a good way. We are also glad go be home and glad to be back to “normal” food and wine consumption. (My liver was about to charge me with abuse!)
Since many of my loyal blog followers are interested in travel, I will go into exceedingly boring detail of my adventures in the weeks ahead. But for now, I shall present a rough outline of my itinerary. (despite the fact that we were hardly “roughing it.”) Our outing began in The Eternal City (i.e., Rome) which should actually be called the Infernal City, due to the traffic. OMG, talk about crazy drivers! The traffic lights, as you’ve probably heard, are not to be taken literally. The various colors (especially red) are meant to be mere suggestions.
After surviving Rome, we drove down (with a driver) to Positano, which is the jewel of the Amalfi Coast. Since we couldn’t find a Motel 6, we were forced to stay in the magnificent Il San Pietro di Positano Hotel. (We are now up to two grand per day!) The hotel, though pricey, is truly beautiful. Our modest villa suite overlooked the gorgeous Tyrrhenian Sea, which is part of the Mediterranean, and most closely associated with the Etruscans of Italy. (Amazingly, the view was free, but staring was discouraged.)
Once we consumed our fill of GREAT Italian food (mainly at my favorite restaurant, Taverna del Leone), we drove back to Rome (with another driver) and then flew up to Paris, France. Here we hopped aboard a charming river ship called the Joie de Vivre (Joy of Life) and sailed north up the lovely Seine River. Along the way, we stopped at Monet’s farmhouse to admire his stunning paintings. As you might know, Monet was a fabulous impressionist. (Not as good as Rich Little or Dana Carvey, but still up there.) Claude’s farmhouse still retains quite a bit of charm, and if you look closely at his work, you can see elements of greatness… and maybe a hint of Bob Ross.
The next day was spent in the Palace of Versailles, which was a slightly bigger house. This humble abode (10 miles south of Paris) was the modest residence of Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and of course, Louis XVI and his cake-loving paramour, Marie Antoinette. The last tenants were a bit too lavish for the French bourgeoisie, and they eventually spent a tad too much on themselves while the rest of Paris starved. They were not stupid monarchs, but alas, they lost their heads. (Literally!) In fact, you might say they had a very close shave on the infamous guillotine.
The absolute highlight of our voyage was a day-long visit to the Normandy Beaches, which was simply overwhelming. The bravery of the American, English, and Canadian soldiers is on full display, and quite moving. Staring down the high cliffs along the Pointe du Hoc (a 130 foot cliff overlooking the English Channel) made me realize just how courageous and daring the U.S. Rangers were, and it was a sight I will never forget. Over 135 Army Rangers were killed on or near the cliffs, many of them shot down while protecting their comrades who were landing on Utah and Omaha Beaches. (Which we also visited.) What a truly memorable day!
After France, we flew over the channel to London and spent 5 glorious nights at the Egerton House Hotel in the heart of Knightsbridge. (In my humble opinion, the BEST hotel in the city.) The Egerton House is managed by the brilliant, charming, and capable Michelle Devlin, who has assembled a remarkable team of professionals. Trust me, this is the place to stay in London Town. (Most comfortable beds in the universe!)
While becoming regulars at the Brompton Pub, we managed to traipse around the English countryside and visit the interesting city of Oxford (where I was once asked to teach a course on pub crawling at the local university) and then visit the Cotswolds. (which were quite charming) Between pints of beer, we also managed to consume three (that’s right, three) Indian meals in London. OMG, what a delightful, if fattening, experience that was. (My favorite Indian eatery was called Dishroom, which is not to be missed!)
Well, my dear friends, jet lag is tugging at my pajamas, so I must take my leave. (I only got 10 hours of sleep last night) Before I go, let me remind you that today is September 11th, and as a former New Yorker, and proud American, I’d like to salute all of the amazing heroes (and fellow citizens) who sacrificed so much on that awful day. God bless the USA!
As they say, there’s no place like home!
Love to all,