France 2016 – Avignon

Moved on to Avignon from Arles.    Did the walking tour w/the guide and a whole group    After the tour, went back to the ship and had lunch.   After lunch we walked back in to the old quarter.  Nan did a bunch of shopping.   Ship headed out for Viviers.   Back to the ship for dinner and watched a movie.    Couldn’t sleep again.  Up at 2a and 4a.


France 2016 – Arles/Avignon

Didn’t sleep well last night.   Nodded early and then was up pretty much all night.  Ship left Avignon at around 4am.   Finally fell asleep and woke up at 7:50am.  Went down for the full breakfast in the restaurant.  Sat with the Playa Vista couple that we met last night (Don & ? )   Nice breakfast.   Finished about 8:50a after the “announcement” for the muster for the morning tour.  Decided that we weren’t up for the “Included” tour that left at 9a.   Hung in the room.  Nan showered.  I left an extension cord at the desk to try to have the engineers cut the polarized prong.   (Should have brought ground lifter)  Bathroom has a 110/220 outlet but the 110v is non-polarized.   Can’t use it for Waterpik.   Viking staff got the edge filed down and I was able to use it.    Did the Torascana castle during he morning.  Then lunch on board and took the 2pm shuttle to Arles in the afternoon. Wandered and shopped until 4:45p and then walked back to the bus.   Got there early (Nan was pissed, could have shopped more!) and shuttled back to the boat.   Had the greeting at 6:30p and briefing at 6:45.   Had dinner with Duli and Marlene (San Diego girls) as we went through the lock on the way back to Avignon.  Pulled in around 10p.  Nan and I did a walk on the track on the top deck, then crashed for the night.   Still up and down.  Not sleeping too well.



France 2016 – Arrival

We’ll we made it through the travel day/night.    Picked up by Gary (one of Tommy Richards at Paragon’s Owner/Op) and dropped at LAX by 1:30p for the 3:30p flight.   A bit iffy at check in.   Too many people at First & club world.   Got up to the One World lounge and got Nan some tea, as she still isn’t feeling well.  Boarded the A340 to LHR and were in the same seats as the Italy last time.  Pleasant flight and crew.   The seats make for a nice mini-suite and Nan did sleep for a bit on the way, although she is still quite sick.   Landed at LHR and had the usual shuffle only this time it included the tram ride and then a bus over to terminal 3 to clear security.   Went to the OneWorld lounge.  Decent shopping in that terminal.   Boarded the A320 single class Marsailles.   They don’t sell the middle seat and call it business class.   Landed and was met by Viking Rep.  Us and 20 other people boarded the bus for a 17 minute bus ride to the Avignon landing to board the boat.   Got there at 6:00 pm, just as they were doing the safety briefing so we had to wait for the crew to finish before we could board.   Everyone is very personable and friendly on board.  Went to the briefing in the lounge about the ship in general and the day ahead.   Back to the room and settled and then off to dinner.   Joined another couple and 2 ladies.   Ladies Duli and her friend from San Diego and Older Asian man and his wife from Playa Vista.    Called it a night after dinner.


France 2016 – Travel Day

Well it’s travel day today!  Unfortunately Nan is still trying to get over this stubborn cold that’s been hanging on for days now.   Talked for a bit this morning about whether to pull the cord on the “Cancel for any reason” offer.   That would require us to notify Viking before we left but would allow us to reschedule (less airfare charges) at a future date within a year.   Nan’s going to eat some breakfast and have a shower and we’ll decide.


First Day in Positano

Slept in at our beautiful room here at Palazzo Murat.   When we did get up, and opened the windows we were greated with a spectacular view.   ½ Positano hillside, ½ Mediterranean.  Wonderful.  Went down to a fabulous breakfast in the courtyard.  Smoked salmon, eggs, bacon, fruit tort, coffee.  It’s Palm Sunday here so lots of church bells going off.  Went for a walk to see the town.  First down to the beach.  Past the church where Palm Sunday mass was being held.  Lots of people with palm fronds walking about.    Lots of little shops tucked into the sides of the tiny path.    Nice beachside walk with a bunch of restaurants down there.Day 11 - Positano-0122_1280px

Walked in and out of a few shops.  Bought a t-shirt and Nan looked but didn’t buy anything.  Walked back up past the hotel and started up the hill.  Rounding about lunchtime so people were closing up.  Walked back down to the hotel and the desk recommended Le Tre Sorelle (The Three Sisters) as the place for pizza.   Not too impressed. Had a decent pizza with tomatos, mozzarella and porcini mushrooms but the crust wasn’t spectacular.  Nan had a lovely shaved parmesan salad w/cherry tomatoes.   Came back to the room for a nap as the winds kicked up in the afternoon.  Make reservations for post sunset (7:45p) at Chez Black for tonight.  Called Salvatore at Amalfi Car Service and set noon as the time to meet for tomorrows car/driver trip up the coast.   Had dinner at Chez Black.  Very nice on the inside.  Est 1949. Owner sitting up front.

Chez Black's Owner
Chez Black’s Owner

Wonderful veggie soup.  Nan had a grilled white fish and I had lobster pasta.   Wanted the local water lobster but N/A.  Got boiled Med lobster.  Little tough and not much in the shell.   Fabulous chocolate covered cream puffs for desert.

Loro > Arezzo > Positano

Had breakfast at the hotel in Loro, Dimora Casa Eugenia.   Small but nice breakfast.  Custom fried eggs (3 Euro).  Checked out (100 Euro) and John and Caroline met us w/Murphy.   We loaded up the bags and set off for Arezzo.  On the way Caroline gave a running commentary and back stories.  We drop by the Feregamo proprety where they lived for a couple years before buying their house.  Got into Arezzo and parked near the train station.  Stopped for a pastry and coffee off on the way towards the town square.  Italy 2015-Day 10 Arezzo-10

Walked through the town and into the town center.    Caroline pointed out the area that has the monthly antique show.  (Next week, Whew! Dodged that bullet)    Went to a friend of theirs cafe and had a bit of lunch.  Nan had a soup and I had a wonderful lasagna.  We had a cheese board with a pecorino w/wine in it, a pecorino with a chestnut honey drizzled on top.   Walked back and they drove us up the street to the station.  Hugs and good byes all around.   We boarded the Regionale Veloce to Firenze.   50 minutes later we were in Firenze SM Novella.   Walked over the the Fressciaross high speed train and boarded for the trip to Naples.
20150401_142241  Nicely appointed train.  Comfy seats.   Luggage wasn’t too much trouble.   Busy.  Business Class car was about ½ full.  We both napped between Firenze and Roma, where the train stopped.  Then on to Napoli.   Driver from Amalfi Private Car Service met us at the station.    Got the luggage to the car (Mercedes sedan) and started the drive.  Took 25 minutes to go from the parking exit, around the square, back to the parking exit to connect to the highway.

Naples Station TrafficeLots of traffic (crazy) out of town.   Then the freeway ride past Pompei, into Sorrento the traffic got bad and finally the crazy drive down the hill in to Positano.   Stopped in the main square at the parking place.  Hotel sent a porter to help with the bags.   Down the hill to the hotel.  Beautiful.  Welcome almond milk drink.  Taken to the lovely room and showed around by desk clerk.   Went down and had dinner in the restaurant.  Nan had grilled veggies and I started with scallops and asparagus.   Finished with manicotti style pasta with a provolone cheese sause and sliced black truffles.   Had a crème brule with berrys for desert.  Remembered to set the clocks ahead 1 hour as Europe does it tonight.  That means we’ve done it twice this spring. Once in the US and once here.

Florence to Loro Ciuffenna

March 28th, 2015

Took a cab mid day to the Firenze train station and jumped the regional to Montevarchi.   My pal John Jopson met us at the station and took us over to the hotel, Dimora Casa Eugenia.  Dropped that bags  and took a little walk around town for orientation.  Then out to and Caroline’s house for the tour and a nice lunch and chat.   Took them a bottle of wine from Florence for lunch.   John dropped us back in Loro and we did a bit of a walk and photo shoot around down and the Loro river.   Back to the hotel to dress for dinner.  John and Caroline came by around 7:15p and we went for an aparetif at the bar/café owned by the hotel owner.  Chatted about life, love, Julio, etc.   Went to dinner next door to the hotel.   Fabulous crepe with mozzarella inside and mushroom sauce outside.  Then a beef stew.   Pana cotta for desert w/expresso.  Back to the hotel about 10:45p.   They will meet us tomorrow at 10a for the trip to Arezzo and to catch our train to Positano.

John Jopson

Caroline Zimmermann

Loro Ciuffenna, Tuscany
Loro Ciuffenna, Tuscany
John and Caroline's house in Loro
John and Caroline’s house in Loro
Loro Ciuffenna, Tuscany
Loro Ciuffenna, Tuscany

Full photo gallery

Florence (Firenze)

We slept in this morning.  All the way to 7:30a.  Had breakfast here at the hotel.   Nice cold breakfast with pastry, meats, ceral, etc.    Took a walk to Eataly and stopped at the cheese store next door.   Bought cheese, cheese, cheese and some other stuff.   Then on to Eataly for chocolate.   Back to the hotel and then walked over to Mailboxes Etc. to ship a bunch of stuff home.    Took a walk over past Gili, loved the Easter windows, and Piazza della Signoria, where the Ufizi is .   Then in the afternoon, walked over past train station and I went to a meeting at St. James Church and Nan went to the famous Farmacia.   Met at corner bistro and walked back to hotel.  Leisurely lounging in the afternoon. (with some laundry)   Hotel suggested Cucina Del La Garga for dinner.  Walked over.  Beautiful restaurant with lots of comtemporary art on the walls.   Nice, but small, menu.  Nan had a Rocket Salad and I did the Mozzarella with sautéed peppers.  For dinner we split a tagliatelle w/Eggplant in a tomato sauce and a spell pasta with pesto and pistachio.  Desert was a killer cheesecake (the chef’s mother’s 40 year old recipe) and a chocolate tort with salt and olive oil.   Stuffed!  Back to the hotel to pass out.

Wine / Cheese / Olive Oil
Wine / Cheese / Olive Oil
Cafe Gilli, Florence, Easter (Pasqua) window
Cafe Gilli, Florence, Easter (Pasqua) window
Cuccina De Garga, Florence
Cuccina De Garga, Florence

Full photo gallery

Lucca & Travel to Firenze (Florence)

Got up this morning in the suite at the “residence” part of Hotel Ilaria and made instant coffee in the room.  Then walked over to the hotel and on the 1st floor (which is what we call 2nd floor in the US) and had a lovely breakfast on a glassed in patio up at the front of the property.  Very light and airy.  Good food and attentive service.    Went for a bit of a walk but it started raining so we bailed back to the room and packed for our 12:30 train to Florence.   Had the desk call us a cab and got to the train station in about 4 minutes.    Simple walk down the ramp and then up the elevator to the platform for the regional train to Firenze.   1:20 trip with a number of stops.  Larger cities on the way.  Lots of kids getting on and off.  Train was pretty full by the stop before Firenze.   Had to move our bags to allow someone to sit.  As it was the termination of the train, we waited until everyone got off and then got our luggage down on the platform.  No steps at Firenze Santa Maria Novella station.   Got out front and cabbed it to Il Guelfo hotel which is on Vie Dei Martelli.   That is the main street that runs in front of the the Duomo.   Lots of traffic and people.   The apartment is huge with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, living room with dining table for 8.   Washer in one bathroom, which is why we rented it.   Did some laundry and then took a walk up the street.   Went into Eataly and looked at the Duomo.    Came back and got into some more laundry stuff.   Front desk recommended a restaurant nearby for dinner.  Ristorante Le Fonticine.  About 7 minute walk, 500 meters.   Has >400 reviews on Tripadvisor so we had him reserve a 7pm table for 2.   Walked about ½ km to the restaurant.  Beautiful location.  Had a wonderful dinner.   Soups for both, Rigatoni Bolegnese for me and Salad Medici for Nan. She also ordered a pasta pomodoro and we finished with a chocolate pie with shaved dark chocolate on top.   Walked back and just got in when the rain started pretty hard.

Apartment at Hotel Il Guelfo, Florence
Apartment at Hotel Il Guelfo, Florence

Restaurant Le Fonticine

Restaurant Le Fonticine


Cinque Terra to Lucca

Great breakfast again at Hotel Margherita.  Nan went off for shopping but nothing was open.   Checked out and got a cab around 10:30 to catch the 11:05 train to Viareggio to connect to Lucca.   Got there just in time but had to hustle the 2 suitcases, 2 carry-ons and our purse/backpacks down the stairs and over to the other track.  Got up the stairs just in time to step on the Lucca train just before it left.   Nan was barely able to carry the carry ons.   Hard for her to manage.   Stood at the door with the luggage til we got to Lucca.   Cab to the Hotel Iloria, inside the walled part of the city of Lucca.   Very nice.  Stylish courtyard leading into a well appointed lobby.   Checked us in and informed us that there were free bicycles available and that there was a .6km ride along the city walls.   Turns out the “suite” was in the residence building across the street and down the block.  Porter took the bags and led us to a wonderful room with 2 baths, bedroom loft.   Comfortable layout, free snacks and sodas in the min-bar.   Jacuzzi tub in the downstairs bath.   We dropped the bags and went out and got a couple bikes and did a circuit around the city walls.    Started around again and decided to go in to the botanical gardens.  Bailed when it started rainging.   Went to a walk after it stopped about halfway into the city center.  At the hotels suggestion, made a dinner reservation at Buca di Santa Maria for 7;30p.   Dinner was fabulous.  Quaint restaurant with candles on every table and around the place.  Very attentive service.  Our waiter spoke very good English with a UK accent.  He is married to an English girl.   Started with Asparagus soup (Nan) and artichoke pie for me.  Then split a square spaghetti pasta with tomatoes, Olive Oil and Basil.  Finished with Cod Stew (for her) and Wild Boar for me.  Both with polenta.   Desert was a pear torte with warm chocolate.   Then a lovely walk back to the hotel.

with loft bedroom
Lovely bathroom with spa tub

Lucca Gallery
Day 6-Lucca-9525