Barcelona

The last time I was in Barcelona was the first time.  It was 8 years ago and I came with my Mom and Josh.  Josh was 10 years old.  My Mom took a trip with each of our kids when they turned 10.  I came along too.  It was fun to go back and read those posts before we got here.  Many of the restaurants we went to are still some of the ones to go to today.

coffeethismorningWe got up and went for a much needed coffee.  I forgot how insanely strong the coffee is in Spain.  This place was just about coffee.  It is called Nomad Coffee Productions.

topofdepartmentstoreBarcelona and I believe most of Spain is a late town.  Dinners start late and in turn so does the day.  We walked over to the Contemporary Museum of Art but it was not open until 11.  So instead we walked over to the main department store, El Corte Ingles, where you can go to the top and get the views of the city.  The windows were filthy so the pic isn’t great.

modernartThen we headed back to the museum.  Really wonderful building.

chokWe thought we’d check out some galleries today and we headed over to a gallery.  On the way there we stopped in this tiny chocolate shop called Chok.  I love how they did the donuts on the wall.

artgallery1We got to Artevistas Gallery.  They basically carry a combo of young artists work.

It was finally time for lunch.  I think that Mercat de la Bouqueria is one of the best markets in the world.  A few more markets have opened around Barcelona such as Mercado de San Miguel, Mercardo de San Anton and Mercato de San Ildefenso.  Each are a little different as some have produce and others just small restaurants.  Maybe we will go to them but the Mercat de la Bouqueria is key.  We snagged two seats at Bar Pinoxto and had lunch.  There are a handful of places to sit down and eat in the Mercato but I think this is one of the best.

chickepeasWe had four dishes.  Chick peas with a slight cinnamon flavor.

cuttlefishbeansTiny pieces of squid with white beans.

razorclamsRazor clams

hakeHake.  Each dish was just simple and well cooked.

cafeconlecheHad to have the cafe con leche to end the meal.  They do a really good one here.

peppersThen we walked the market.  Fish, peppers, fruit, juices, meats, chickens…you name it.

juicesHere are the juices.  There are several others.

jelliesCandies too.

paprikaI picked up some paprikas.

porksGotta love the four large jambons waiting to be sliced.

boughtartWe walked over to an area that has a handful of art galleries.  It is now getting super warm outside.  There is a reason people take siestas in Spain.  We bought this piece and it will be interesting getting it back.  It is all wrapped up now and it appears that I am carrying a baguette.

Nothing else rocked our boat.  We had been walking for about 6 hours and decided to call it a day.

 

Goodbye Provence, Hello Barcelona and Pakta

lastbreakfastin franceWe got up early and drove through Beziers for breakfast.  We were going to stop in Arles but after having zero luck in finding a parking place we drove on.  This was our last meal in France.

In order to truly move from one head to the other on our drive we listened to A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle on our drive to Barcelona.  Mayle is the one who reads the book so hearing his British accent about his experience in Provence among the France was a delight.  I remember reading the book when it came out in 1989.  This book  set a new standard for travel/food books that are now in abundance.  You follow his personal journey of that year that him and his wife moved to Provence and renovated an old farm house.  His relationships with all the characters in the community are hilarious.  It was a perfect ending to our time in Provence.

catalanianPerhaps an amateur moment but little did we know that 9/11 was a national holiday in Spain.  For us, it is a time of annual reflection and one that I recall everything about that day as if it were yesterday.  In Barcelona there was a tremendous protest from the Catalan Separatist Movement.  The streets were crazy and nothing was open.  At least nothing we wanted to go to.  We walked along the streets, saw the protests, checked out a few Gaudi buildings and took a long nap.

Dinner tonight was at Pakta.  Patka part of the Albert and Ferran Adria (elBulli) group.  The Adria brothers have entered into partnerships with 5 different chefs to create restaurants with unique culinary concepts.  Pakta is combination of Japanese and Peruvian cuisines.  The restaurant has been open for 18 months.  We spent sometime talking to the incredibly humble chef Jorge Munoz from Peru who is all of 28 years old.  The other chef who we did not talk to was a woman yet we watched her prepare many dishes.  Nice seeing a woman behind the counter who is heading up the Japanese menu, Kyoko Li.   We also spent some time talking to the head waiter.

There are two menus.  Each have the same amount of food on it but the larger one has more dishes.  We opted for that one.  The food just keeps coming.  Here is my only thing about these insane 21 dish events is that sometimes less is best.  The meal was superb but I would have liked to leave feeling less overwhelmed and wanting to come back for more.  The chefs are so creative and they can’t help themselves but sometimes it would be ok if they did.

oneHere comes the food.  I won’t be able to remember every nuance but here goes.  You start off with a tasting of 5 items.  The server comes over with a pointing utensil wrapped in Peruvian colors and points to each piece on the dish.  She told us in what order to eat the and with what utensil.  It is quite brilliant.  Toro with a spicy gel, Tamago-dofu (egg custard with this slight hint or orange), corn tuile (like a parmesan crisp dotted with a spicy cream), smoked sardine with mashed satoimo and miso (like mashed potatoes) and a cherry with kimchi.  Each taste was a serious explosion in the mouth.

twoChalaca with yucca chips.  Chalaca is basically a fresh tomato salsa and this had two smoked mussels in the sauce.

threeOysters with wasabi and ice apple.  We just tossed these back.  Perfectly plump oysters that tasted like that had just been plucked from the ocean and the wasabi ice freezes your mouth.  Wow.

fourCrispy yucca with huancaina sauce.   These are like yucca cream puffs.  Crispy treats filled with a creamy sauce with a hint of spice that lingers long after you eat it.

fiveThese next two dishes were related.  First they bring out the deep fried prawns (the whole thing is edible) and you dip it in the spicy sauce.  They do this at Blue Ribbon Sushi too.  They bring the body out later fully fried.

sixThen out comes the prawns each sliced into two separate pieces (one is mine and the other one is Fred’s) sitting in a similar type of spicy sauce.  This was outstanding.

sevenThe next three dishes are called the Nigiris.  White fish with a smoked amarillo sauce, tuna with a light anticuchera sauce and a white salmon with an aburi sauce.  Each of these pieces were delicious and the sauces just took the fish to another level.

eightSlices of mackerel with roasted sweet potatoes, cilantro oil and pickled shallots.  This was my least favorite.  Super subtle.  Here is a dish that I could have done without.  They asked us our opinion to see what we thought because it just got on the menu.

nineCeviche of guanabana fruit.  Pieces of raw white fish with toasted corn sitting in a fruit sauce.   A unique twist on ceviche.

tenThe next few fishes are called the Causas.  Squid maki causa with soy sauce and mentaiko.  A few layers here.  The black squid maki layered with a piece of white fish and a few different sauces.  The other is a fried causa with chicken and huacatay.  Deep fried pulled chicken with a rich cold dip on top.

prokbuCannata Sanguchito.  So sorry the picture is blurry here because this was out of this world.  Super crispy sliced pieces of suckling pig inside of a light airy bun.  A much better version of a classic pork bun.  I could have eaten several of these.

twelveThe pork bun was served along with these pork gyoza dumplings with a ponzu sauce.  Really good and definitely tasted Japanese.

thirteenVeal tataki with a lomo saltado ponzu.  This took us back to Italy.  Veal carpaccio with crispy sour potato chips and a lemon ponzu sauce over the top.

fourteenSoba noodles.  I really liked how this was served.  A plate of cold soba noodles and a bowl for dipping them.  A spicy pepper sauce over a cilantro sauce.

fifteenNo we are not done.  We are working our way towards the finish.  This was brilliant.  They called it warm ceviche.  A banana leaf filled with a thick vegetable root paste and right before they wrap up the leaf they put in raw fish.   There are some pine nuts in there too and the warm rich paste with the light white raw fish is an amazing combination.  I scraped the banana leaf clean.

sixteenGrilled spicy pieces of chicken and a roasted potato.

seventeenRoasted blackfish with a escabeche sauce.  This reminds me of the classic black cod dish that made its way on to many menus after making its appearance at Nobu.

eighteenLayers of roasted eggplant topped with a foie gras cream.   Not sure why this is dark.

nineteenNow we move into the desserts.  Steamed cake stuffed with a ginger cream.  Green tea sandwich with a shikwasa and vanilla ice cream inside.  Sweet potato picarones with a cinnamon honey.

twentyThis was a sweet/sour peach.  Never have seen this before.  Served in a koji sauce.

twentyoneCrystal (literally gets stuck in your teeth) cone with raspberry-chica (purple corn that is a constant in Peru) with verbena tea.

twentytwoWild quinoa stick that was really interesting and tasty.  White chocolate and tea square.  Chocolate rocks.  We spent some time talking to who I believe was the head waiter about the length of the meal.  He talked about the first restaurant that was opened of the 5 called 41 Degrees Experience.  41 for 41 courses.  He agreed with us or at least he seemed to that it was just too much.  Regardless, if you are in Barcelona and love Japanese food this is a very worthy experience.  The dishes were unique, delicious and incredibly well prepared.  We waddled back to the hotel

Last night in Provence

provencehouseWe drove down into the town of Mausanne-les-Apilles for dinner at Le Bistro du Paradou.  The restaurant is located across the street from this absolutely adorable classic looking Provence home.

provencerestaurantI loved the feel of the place the second we walked in.  One large room with a bar that extends the entire length, wooden plank ceilings, tiled floor and just a great vibe.  Ends up they do not have our reservation.

provencekitchen I showed them the confirmation from the hotel and in the end we got (as far as we could see) the best table in the house.  The one that they use for when friends stop by.  The one that essentially sits in the back room by the kitchen.

chef:sourchefWe got to know the staff, the chef and the sous-chef.  We watched them prepare everyones meal.  More important we learned what a local watering hole this restaurant is.  All the locals came in the back to pay homage to the chef.  Fred found a photo album that we looked though and some of the people we had seen who had made their way through the kitchen were in the book.  It was an amazing night.

eggplantThe menu changes daily and it is what the chef prepares.  The wines of the evening, a bottle on your table, is chosen by the staff.  So if you are a local and you love his lamb chops then you come on Wednesday night.  That is all he is making unless of course you know him and he will whip up a rabbit leg on the side but otherwise it is what it is.  The first course was an option of escargot or roasted eggplant with sliced Parmesan over the top with a light pesto sauce, chopped tomatoes and a green salad on the side.  We both went for the eggplant.  It was fantastic.  It was like eating the best home cooked dinner ever.

lambThe lamb chops were also cooked to perfection with an eggplant caponata on the side and a nice helping of buttery mashed potatoes.

cheeseplateWe are in Provence so what is a meal without a cheese course?  Here is the plate they leave with you to take whatever you want.  When you are done just give it back.

provencedessertDessert is either sorbets or gelatos.  I went with lemon and strawberry sorbet and Fred had vanilla and chocolate gelato.  Both delicious.

Such a wonderful evening.  Both of our dinners in Provence were out of this world.  Already planning a trip back to Provence next October.

Oustau Bauminere

cloudsWe actually did go out for dinner after an epic lunch….and we had an epic dinner.  Our fear of not finding great food has been put to rest.  We went to dinner at Oustau Bauminere located in a hotel down the road from ours.  The hotel is so old and beautiful.  On the way over to our dinner we pulled over to take a picture of the sky.  The light here is incredible.  No wonder Van Gogh and many of the impressionist painters hung out in Provence.

startersOur meal started out on the sprawling back porch underneath hundred year old trees sipping rose champagne and tasting these three delicacies from the kitchen.   A bite of foie gras, a melt in your mouth savory cream treat and a crunchy cigar filled with pieces of rye seeds.

restaurantThe restaurant inside is just beautiful.  Built sometime in the 1700’s.

ravioliWe did not do the chefs tasting but ordered a la carte.  Definitely the way to go considering what we had for lunch!  Leek stuff ravioli with truffles.  Actually quite light.

crab saladCrab stuffed vegetable ravioli wrap with small dollops of cucumber coriander cream.  On the side is a rich broccoli sauce with edible flowers.  This was also quite light and all the flavors were super subtle.

wineThis vineyard is on the way to Baux de Provence, the area we are in.  We are only drinking wines from the areas we are in.  Fred is buying a case of each wine we drink and like from our local wine guy and having them delivered to our house.  When we get back I fear how many cases of wine we will have.

pigeonI had to have the pigeon based on the last pigeon dish I had.  This was amazing too.  Crispy legs and a perfectly cooked breast wrapped in a light potato fondue sauce.  Delicious.

porkAll different types of pork.  Pork chops, bacon, suckling pig, etc.  Quite a feast.

cheesGotta love the cheese cart.  We tried a few.

candied fruitWe passed on this but it is quite cool.  The cart of candied fruits and vegetables.  They take one month to make essentially sucking out every bit of water from the fruit or vegetable and then turning them into candy.

sweetsOf course the small grouping of treats.  Such a wonderful evening.  The chef came out and went to each table too.  I always love that.  We are already plotting on how we must return to Oustau Bauminere.

More of Provence

hotelroomwindowWe only stayed one night at Couvent des Minimes.   The hotel located in an old monastery in the Manes region of Provence.  It was just recently renovated and the design firm did an amazing job.  They took all modern decor and planted it in an old building.  Our room was at the top of the church still located in the building.  This was our view this morning.

eggsWe got on the road after breakfast to our next location in Provence.  Just have to share this egg maker they had at breakfast.  Pretty cool.  You cook your own eggs.

sunflowersThe drive through Provence is just breathtaking.  Gorgeous trees that frame the roads providing shade and beauty.   Fields of lavender and of course the final gasp of sunflowers drying up for the Autumn months ahead.

linensWe stopped in Gordes where there is the weekly market.  This one is smaller and more manageable.  There is also a focus on linens.  Yes we picked up a tablecloth.

dried peppersLots of pottery.  Had my fill yesterday on that.  Dried peppers that I wasn’t sure would travel well.

driedlavendarClassic dried lavender creations.  Also can’t imagine these would travel well.

jellyaspicJelly aspics.  Have yet to see this.  Delicious!

mushroomsMushrooms.

lavendar cheeseCheese.  I was fascinated with the blue cheese.  It is infused with lavender.  The cheesemonger has one infused with tomato too.  We tried the lavender.  It was amazing.  This combination of a mild cheese with an earthy flavoring of lavender herbs.  Crazy good.

gourdesThen we drove out of town.  This is a photo of Gordes.  Quite jaw dropping.

creekOur next stop was in L’isle Sur-La-Sorgue.  If you want to know where all antiques to go die this is the town.  I believe you can even buy pieces of old churches here.  There is a beautiful creek that travels throughout the town.

turning wheelThese wheels keep the water moving.

antiguqesWe were definitely amateurs because it turns out that on Tuesday most of the antique shops are closed.  The real day to go is Sunday but most shops are open Friday-Monday.  We just walked the town.  Tons of restaurants too.

misenbouheWe had lunch at Le Vivier.  A real treat.  You know you are in for a good meal when they bring you this to start.  A little bite of foie gras, eggplant pate, crunchy Parmesan like cheese and a sage leaf.  Wow.

lobsterWe split everything.  Pieces of lobster is inside that crispy casing that has a citrus flavoring to it.  To keep the lobster in that is a whipped avocado.  On the side is  a grapefruit gel and pieces of chopped razor clam in the clam shell.   Really interesting mixture of flavors and textures.  Also such a beautiful plate.

foiegrasThis is classic French.  Terrine of foie gras and smoked eel.  The toast is filled with tiny pieces of dates.  Creamy and luscious.  Perfect.

bathroomTook a bathroom break.  Had to take a picture of this.  The whole restaurant has this goldfish theme.  It is hilarious but makes sense since Le Vivier sits over the creek filled with fish.   We could hear the rush of the water throughout lunch.  So soothing.

fishFilet of sea bass with pieces of squid ink ravioli stuffed with just a little bit of fennel.  The fennel is also infused with super light whipped potatoes that is close to a foam.  The broth is a fish consume.  Those yellow squares are like eggy saffron sponges to absorb the broth.  Light, elegant and delicious.

chickenBelieve it or not this is chicken.  Chicken rolled in something that had the consistency of quiche but was made of eggplant and bell peppers.   The small balls on top are stuffed with pulled dark meat and coated with an eggplant mixture and then deep fried.  These balls stick to the chicken pieces with roasted red pepper tapenade.  Then rolls of roasted eggplant with small bits of Parmesan crisps on top.  The dish is not only unique it tasted amazing.

strawberriesDessert is creative too.  They call this Strawberry fields.  Dollops of mint ice.  Loved this.  Just exploded in your mouth.  Strawberry mousse and pieces of meringue.

lemonraspFresh raspberries served with very tart pieces of lemon tart, cardamon mousse and lemon ice cream.

treatsWhy stop?  Another round of treats.  Cannelles, macaroons and creamy chocolate fudge packed with a few hazelnuts.

Next stop was the hotel.  We drove to Les Baux des Provence.   This is located at the top of the mountains overlooking St. Remy.  There is an old fort up there including vineyards and olive trees.  The drive is beautiful and the topography is really different.  The hotel is located in between those mountains in a flat area.  It is pretty cool like a huge rolling mesa.  They even have a golf course up here.  The hotel is called Domain de Manville.  It just opened in January.  Might be our favorite hotel yet.   We settled in and lounged by the pool.

Dinner is in a few hours and we have to rest up!

Freddy is my co-pilot

restaurant 9When Fred and I graduated from college we got in our Toyota and took a 6 week drive around the US.  It was an epic journey.  We essentially stopped in every state except for Kansas, Hawaii and Alaska.  We stayed at Motel 6’s along the way plotting out how far we would might drive each day and making a reservation in advance.  Sometimes we would stay with friends.  Remember this was pre-Internet so we made a reservation with the hotel we were leaving for the next one coming up.  Also, no mobile phones.   Did I mention that I would hide underneath the seat so we would only have to pay for a single vs a double?

We had a notebook that we kept how much we spent each day by subtracting from the total and documenting what it was we bought.  I think we did the whole trip on $1500 in total.  We were basically eating cheese, bread, cereal and wine.

At this point we had been together a few years so I was well aware of Fred’s driving skills.  He has many assets and that is not one of them.  I believe we had already been in two accidents with him behind the wheel at this point.  So before we began our journey, either it was given to us as a gift or I had it made, we had a bumper sticker on our car that said FREDDY IS MY CO-PILOT.

Fast forward, there are GPS systems and Google Maps.  Sometimes you have to have common sense and get your nose out of the map but on this trip I am the driver.  Fred has yet to get behind the wheel.  We also have a really great GPS system.  As I have written, you have to be focused when you drive in the back roads of Europe.

vealLast night for dinner we went to a place call Le 9.  Very much peasant food which was a nice change of pace (veal dish above) It is at the top of Forcalquier where we were earlier in the day.  You can not bring the cars through the small hill town yet Google maps suggested we should.  We got caught up at the end of a street and turning around on stick is not easy.  Then we figured our way up to the restaurant in the back of the town.  After dinner we made our way back to the hotel and had to park in a new location.  We started to drive into an area that was a grassy road where people would stroll and overlook the outdoor reflecting pool.  We both flipped.  It was comical and stressful at the same time.

treeAll I could think of the entire time was….oh yeah, Freddy is my co-pilot.  Great job!  We went down to the bar at the hotel, sat outside under this magnificent tree and just laughed.

Hello Provence

Driving from country to country and city to city really gives you a perspective on how people live in the area.  We got up early and drove to Provence from the South of France.  A very different vibe and community.  We got up early to make the Forcalquier Market.  There are daily markets all through Provence and this one happens to only be on Mondays from 830-1pm.  It literally takes over the entire town.  It is a big event.

onionsWe got a parking spot and make our way into town.  This particular marketplace supposedly is long on linens which I did see but did not pick up any.  Not sure it is my “look” but they are beautiful.  Here is the onion cart.

figsFigs

meatMeat man.  I have always loved how the trucks are so compact and they just open up and there you have a butcher shop.

herbsHerbs

chevre onlyChevre.  That is all she sells and makes.  I bought a piece.  It is really difficult to go through these markets and not just buy everything I see.

honeyHoney.

olivesOlives.  They are abundant through this market including lots of tapenades.

tomatoesBig sun dried tomatoes.

sausagesSausages galore.

chickenThe chicken truck.  I want one of those trucks!

basketsBaskets.

lunchWe walked up into the higher roads of the town and sat down for a glass of rose and a salad to split.  Such a nice place, L’Aigo Blanco.  The kitchen was across the street in another building.  We were in a small square.  I mean small.  The other building was about 4 steps from where we were sitting across the street.  This was a perfect lunch.  Chevre, Jambon and Greens.

storeI returned to this store after lunch.  I had walked in earlier.  I bought some olive oil bowls, a huge cooking piece, napkins, spoon holders etc.  Very very Provence.

lobbyThen we went to the hotel, La Couvent Des Minimes.  It is absolutely adorable.  I love the lobby.  It is also the first official spa of L’Occtaine.  I plan on taking full advantage of that this afternoon.  Driving so defensively is starting to create some tension in my upper back.

Very psyched for dinner tonight.  New region, different type of cooking!

Exploring the South of France

cofee in capjeanHave never figured out why it is so difficult for the hotels not to make a great cup of coffee when the local cafes put it out all day long.  We headed into St Jean-Cap Ferrat, the town, for coffee and a baguette.  A local watering hole.  Most definitely our best cup of Joe here.

houseThe next stop was Villa-Ephrussi where Beatrice Rothschild resided.

rothschild

Beatrice was married at 19 to the Russian banker Maurice Ephrussi, both of them heirs to incredibly wealthy families who were in business together.  The home was completed in 1912 after six years of construction.  It still remains filled with antique furniture, paintings, rugs and sculptures.  This room is pretty much what the entire house looks like just different types of furniture.

rothgardensThe gardens are absolutely beautiful.  She had a Japanese, Rock, French, Spanish and other different gardens created throughout the property.

rothschildviewWhat is more spectacular are the views.  Waking up to this every morning is pretty amazing.

ezebeachWe decided to take a drive over to Eze after we saw the property.  Eze is a tiny town with really nothing but residential homes and two hotels at the top where the restaurants are.  If you blink you can miss the town.  We walked down to the beach which definitely has a groovy vibe to it.  There are a bunch of small beach homes on the water front almost shack like.  Keep in mind it was about 90 degrees out and we were just sweating!

We continued up the coastline to check out Monte Carlo but stayed in the car as we drove through.   I had to sit in the car and cool off for a good 5 minutes before moving on.

saladDinner was in town at Le Sloop.  A tiny place on the water in St. Jean-Cap Ferrat.  It was like a good home cooked meal.   This is a simple green salad with shaved Parmesan and black truffles.

I am really glad we got to see the Rothschild estate.  When I was a kid my Grandmother took me to see a play about the Rothschild family.  I remember being fascinated with their history.  At one point they were the wealthiest family in the world.   Mayer Rothschild was born in the ghettos of Frankfurt who began his banking business in 1760 eventually building a big enough empire where the 5 sons each ruled over a piece of it (including the wine and oil business).  The family is still in banking today.  I am definitely going to read a book on them.  

Nice

nellcoteWe did something that just had to be done while we are on St Jean-Cap du Ferrat.  We drove by Nellcote and checked out the huge gates that surround the estate called Nellcote and took a photo of the name.  The Rolling Stones recorded Exile on Main Street here in 1971/72.  They chose the location because of their access to Marseille where heroin could easily be bought.  They also were beginning to make a lot of cash and they needed to live somewhere else for an extended period of time in order to not pay everything to the British Government.  Fred and I own every Stones record ( just vinyl) every made so we listened to Exile on Main Street this morning en route to Nice.

headinniceThe last time I was in Nice was my junior year of college.  After the semester ended I took a two plus week trip through Europe with a friend I had met on the program.  As we drove down the hill into Nice this morning this is the first piece of art we saw.  Good beginning to the day.

chaggalThe one place I did recall going as a student was the Marc Chagall museum.  I am pretty sure that they have upgraded the entire building but I so remember the glass stained pieces.  It is funny how when you see something from a long time ago how other memories come rushing back.  The museum is small yet powerful as each piece is so intense and beautiful.

dressinmuseumThe next museum we went to is the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art.  The building is shaped like a circle allowing you to walk into four different rooms on each floor that house an installation.  The top floor is the terrace that has views of the city.  The second and third floor under that are from the permanent collection and the first floor is for exhibits.  Really enjoyed the collection.  This piece is made of plastic bottles by Enrica Borghi.

yveskleinThey have quite a lot of Yves Klein in their collection.  The second we walked into the room and saw that blue I knew it was Yves Klein.  Although I am not that familiar with his work (now I am as they have a pretty broad range) it is the color that captured my eye.

wesselmanThis is from Tom Wesselmann.  Really large pieces maybe 6 feet high.  Big fan of his work.

nicebeachesWe wandered around the old town of Nice.  This is the rocky beach.  So different from the sandy beaches at home.   Stepped into a few art galleries in the area and then took a deep dive into old town.  There are no cars allowed in this area and you could probably get lost.  Windy small streets packed with shops, galleries, restaurants and in between a few squares with flowers, fish and vegetables to be sold.

masonaeurMany of the stores have been around for a long time.  Mason Auer, a chocolate shop has been in business since 1820.  I could spend hours in this shop.  They still make chocolates by hand in the back.  Picked up a few treats for later in the day.

cavebianiCave Bianchi, a wine store, around since 1860.  If you peek in the back you can see the old thick brick walls.

icecreamtomatobasilandavacadoWe stopped to look at Fenocchio, a 90 flavor ice cream shop including some out there flavors such as tomato basil and avocado.  If it was post-lunch I probably would have tried them.   We also popped into Chez Theresa that makes a chickpea pancake doused with olive oil and pepper like a crepe.  They only sell them in the square where they sell flowers vs the restaurant where we went so we ended up not getting one.   Alas.

lesperleursWe had lunch at Les Pecheurs that is down by the docks serving fish and seafood.

tunatartarteStarted with a Mediterranean tuna tartare.

lobsterFred had the lobster tomato salad.

octoWe both went for the octopus soup that was like a spicy bouillabaisse.  It was served with a pumpkin cappuccino that was amazing.  Super rich and flavorful.  Also on the plate was a mixed saffron rice.  Nice presentation.  A little heavy for lunch but quite good.  We had our fill of Nice and decided to opt out of the Matisse museum and make our way back to the hotel.

Really like Nice.  It is a lively city with great art, plenty of museums and lots to taste.  The fifth most populous city in France. Watching the planes fly into Nice is wild too.  They come across the city and bank left and land on the airport at the end of the town.   Nice day.

Goodbye Italy, hello France

sanmviewPiedmonte was the perfect ending to our Italian adventure.  We finished our trip in the middle of the wine making area staying at Relais San Maurizio.  We were honestly so full from lunch that unfortunately we could not eat dinner.  Instead we just sat outside overlooking the gorgeous landscape drinking Barbarescos, Barolos and Dolcettos.  Drinking was not a problem.

sanmmorningThe next morning we got up and checked out.  The hotel that resides in an old monastery is really beautiful and well curated with art everywhere.  We definitely did not take advantage of the place.  Lots of people on bikes getting ready to ride the hills and check out the vineyards and perhaps hit up the pool in the late afternoon but we hit the road.

pistachiogealtoWe are en route to the South of France.  We drove through the town of Sanremo and stopped for lunch.  It was our last stop in Italy and we had yet to have gelato so we literally stopped on the way out of Sanremo and got a cup of pistachio before crossing the border.

poolsidegrandhotelWe are staying at the Grand Hotel that is located at the very end of Saint Jean du-Cap Ferrat.  Driving down through the very windy narrow two line highway is not for the faint of heart.  Driving through these roads are seriously tricky.  We finally arrived and took a deep breath.  The place is magnificent.  Immediately made our way down to the pool area.

beachsideThere are places to eat in the area and also in Nice, Eze or Monaco that are not too far.  I opted for places that were close to the hotel. Happy to drive and explore in the day but night time is a whole other ball game.  Our first night we had dinner at Plage Paloma, a restaurant on one of the best beaches in the area.  Here is our view just before the sun started to set.  We were literally sitting beach side.  Stunning.

fishThe waiter brought us over a fish to choose from for our main course.  They grill it wrapped in parchment paper.

foiegrasFor starters we had the foie gras.  Kind of can’t beat foie gras when in any part of France.

artichokesaladWe also split a shaved artichoke salad.  That was basically it including a bottle of chablis.  A 5 minute drive back to the hotel and we were done for the night.