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23 January 2015

The Final Step Done!

The last thing left to do for our 2015 vacations was to book the hotels for our France trip and it’s now done! YEAH!

Now comes the fun stuff: Street View! and how to get to the hotel from the train station and airport etc… all that researchy type stuff I love.

The first hotel in Lyon is Citadines again just like I said I would do! Honestly, I didn’t even shop around. The price was cheap so I pounced; we know what to expect from this chain so as long as the price was good it was a no brainer.

I had 2 locations to chose from, and I picked the one closest to the train station.

Getting to the train station from the airport is (as in all European cities) effortless. An express tram leaves every 15 minutes and is only 4 stops. 


I figure since we’ll be doing some day trips while based in Lyon (to Dijon and Grenoble) and we’ll eventually be moving on to Avignon by train this hotel location made the most sense. It’s a very short walk.


To get to the old town it’s about a 30 minute walk or about 2–3 metro stops. Easy!

The neighbourhood looks nice too – and the restaurant next door tempts me already!! Can’t wait to check it out in person!!



The next place was going to be either Arles or Avignon because we plan to visit both places and they’re only about 40km apart. I settled on Avignon because one of our day trips from this home base will be to the Pont du Gard and that’s departing from Avignon.

So, we’ve now got two nights reserved in the heart of the city at the Regina Hotel.


We’ve seen it, undoubtedly since it’s on the main drag, when we were in Avignon in 2010 and I think I have a picture of it.

Here it is in Street View:



And here is my picture… I am almost positive this is it on the right by the “HOTEL” sign. The balconies look the same to me.

Around Avignon 16

The last hotel is nothing special – it’s at the airport in Lyon: NH Lyon Airport.

We don’t know what time we’ll leave Avignon the day before, but the idea so far is to arrive back in Lyon and leave the bags at the train station, enjoy the last hours of our vacation, have a nice meal, then off to the airport hotel and fly home the next morning.

Now I have to see if buying our train ticket to and from Avignon from Lyon in advance is worth while.

To be continued!

22 January 2015

The Internet is Creepy

Just booked my first of 3 hotels for Lyon (Citadines again, very happy) then seconds later on Facebook what do you think I see in the adverts?


16 December 2014

Memorable Meals: Z

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

Not that I meant to leave you dangling (as if!) my Z cities are: Zagreb, Zurich and Zermatt.

Well Zermatt wins – that’s easy because it involed cheese!

I have a no-resto-repeat rule on vacation, but this only applies to the current vacation. We’re allowed to go back on subsequent vacations and that’s what we did here in 2006 and 2011

Restaurant Whymper-Stube http://www.whymper-stube.ch/restaurant.html

It was not only memorable because of the cheese, but because of the owner’s name which just happens to figure prominently in my family tree. I got a kick when I saw it on the menu! I wonder just how we are related?

(I look a little stunned in this shot! LOL!! it always makes me laugh when I see it)

Restaurant Whymper-Stube Simone 

In 2006 when we discovered the restaurant, we could not dig in and pig out like we wanted to because my husband was under the weather and I was… let’s just say… unable to ingest more solids until “things got moving again”.  Ahem. We had a nice meal, but vowed to come back someday and enjoy a proper meal!  And we did!

Rainy Day in 2006:

Whymperstube 1

Sunny Day in 2011:

Restaurant Whymper-Stube 1

Very friendly service, good food, nice atmosphere…  touristy, but the entire town is! Smile

7 December 2014

Cat Food Fiasco

Back from a lovely weekend in Boston.

We didn’t take that many pictures; we have a ton from our 2012 visit and it was raining on Saturday so I just added the few new ones to the already quite complete 2012 album.

The most infuriating experience of our little get away was coming home: we were refused entry back into Canada….  because we had too much CAT FOOD!

Yup, seems that is a no-no and we didn’t know.  We bought 4 big bags (20 pound bags) of Iams dry cat food in Burlington saving about 30 dollars compared to what we’d pay at home…  only to be turned back once we got to the border.

They told us to drive back to Burlington to return the food which meant driving an extra 80 miles / 130km.  Instead we drove to Swanton which is only 6 miles / 10km from the border, and “donated” the bags to a total stranger who knew someone who has a cat.

Ok, the law is the law and rules are rules, I understand. I respect that these are people who are just doing their job, but is there NO discretion in the enforcement? It’s CAT FOOD for crying out loud!!!! Give me a warning or charge me a fine or at worse confiscate the bags…  but to deny entry??

Extra frustrating because the last time we bought cat food on the way home from New York City, the bags were in the back seat of the car in full view and we were just waved through!!!

Well it’s done now and we are home- I just hope someone in Swanton Vermont is thanking their lucky stars, blown away that 115$ of cat food just fell in their lap!


30 November 2014

I’ve been shopping!

YEAH!  A new book!  So exciting!! 

It’s been 2 years since the last time I added one to the “collection”.


28 November 2014

Memorable Meals: X and Y

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

I have no X or Y cities.

I am confident I will get a Y eventually, we’re going to London next spring so maybe this will motivate us to do a day trip to York!

The X cities will be a lot harder…  unless we visit mainland China!

Memorable Meals: W

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my W-cities are: Warsaw, Windsor, Wroclaw, Waterford and Würzburg.

This is an another easy one: Würzburg

Alte Mainmühle http://www.alte-mainmuehle.de/

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 7

It’s in the old town of Würzburg on the old bridge, and at cocktail hour the bridge is full of people having drinks and enjoying the views – it’s a terrific atmosphere!!!

Alte Mainbrücke 7

Alte Mainbrücke 2

Alte Mainbrücke 4

The restaurant serves drinks out of their little “kisok”… with a 10€ deposit on the glass.

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 1

We met up with our Chicago friends here too, a great place!

Alte Mainbrücke 12 - Simone Frank Barb Larry

Alte Mainbrücke 14 - Frank Larry Barb

The restaurant has a double decker-terrace and while it was a little cold to be outside, we were ok with our coats on.

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 2

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 3 - Simone

We had a very odd cheesy entree. NO clue what was in it; it tasted like part brie, part Velveeta, part KD powder… perhaps it was once alive and that’s why they had to kill it with breadsticks? 

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 8 - App

For the main meal, my husband had trout and to this day raves about how great it was. I had sausages and they were AWFUL! They tasted like they were boiled in sugar.  BLEH!  I should have had the trout too!

Lunch - Alte Mainmühle 10 - Simone's too sweet lunch

But the beautiful views of the bridge and the fortress while sitting on the terrace overruled the strange food and made it a memorable meal.

Alte Mainbrücke & Festung Marienberg 3

22 November 2014

Memorable Meals: V

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my V-cities are: Valencia, Venice, Vienna, Versailles, Verona

Immediately when listing those cities, three TERRIBLE meals sprang into my mind.

Gnocchi in Vienna that was really just flavoured mashed potatoes, Pizza in Venice that was like plastic cheese on ketchup on cardboard, and the winner? Verona.

Memorable for it’s disgustingness. It was so bad I did not even bother to remember the restaurant's name.

Really, I ask you: Is this pasta with pesto or did someone just vomit on my plate?

Yucky Pasta at ... Simone's Meal

Memorable Meals: U

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

This one is easy because I only have 1 U-City: Ulm.

Ulm was a fun day because we finally climbed The Münster (Cathedral). We first noticed it in 2008 from the train on our way to Stuttgart and said we HAD to visit it one day - 5 years later, here we were!

It is so unbelievably big, it takes your breath away! IT'S MASSIVE!! It’s the world's tallest steeple - 161.5 meters high (the viewing platform is 143m up), that's 768 steps!


After this, we were ready for a good lunch. Originally we wanted to go to a Biergarten we spotted while admiring the city from the steeple, but on the way we got side tracked when we saw a restaurant that had a nice terrace along the river (The Danube).

Michealangelo http://www.michelangelo-ulm.de/

It does not really look like it’s by the water from this angle:

Lunch Michealangelo 1

But from the vantage point of the terrace, you can see the river. I think I look tired in this picture… I was probably just hungry and fed-up after that climb and wanted to eat!

Lunch Michealangelo 3 - Simone

The pasta was memorable not because of the taste, but because of the texture. I have never had fettuccine with bumps on it! It looked like a disease!

Lunch Michealangelo 5 - Simone's Meal

You can just barely see it in the picture and I could not find a better one on line - I googled “Textured Pasta” “Pasta with Bumps” “Pasta with Dots”.   no luck.

Lunch Michealangelo 5 - Simone's Meal

I presume that it’s textured like that to grip the sauce better, clever.

21 November 2014

Memorable Meals: T

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my T-cities are: Toronto, Torino, Toledo, Thun and Tivoli

Tivoli. No contest.

Ristorante Monteripoli http://www.ristorantemonteripoli.it/

I don’t have much to say about the food, but this is the meal that my husband and I refer to when setting our anniversary date: October 1 2003.

If you know me, you know I met my husband on vacation. But did you know it was thanks to my mom? In 2003 I turned 30 and I was single.  I thought to myself that I wanted to do something special to “mark the year” and also I thought that since I was single at the time, it would be the perfect opportunity to do something with my mom and have a nice Mother - Daughter memory, so we decided to go on a Cosmos Bus trip through Italy.

[Pompeii 03[5].jpg]

I find it so hysterical that from the time we booked (late 2002) until the time we took the trip (October 2003) I would refer to this vacation as : “My Italian rendez-vous with destiny”.  HA! Little did I know!!!!

It was my mom who spotted him first, or rather: spotted his camera! This was just around the time that digital cameras were becoming affordable and since she is somewhat of a gadget freak, she noticed it right away!

[Rome -- Colosseum 5.[3].jpg]

She finally got her chance to “corner him” on an excursion to Tivoli to grill him about the camera.

We had supper at a restaurant that OBVIOUSLY caters to bus tours and large groups.  He sat at the very end of the long table by the window in the corner and my mother made a b-line to sit there too. 

I on the other hand wanted nothing to do with him. I was not attracted to him AT ALL, didn’t care about his camera one bit and would have preferred to sit at the OTHER end of the table, closer to the entertainment.

It was a nice evening, NO sparks flew but it was fun overall.  If you would have told me then that this was the man with whom I would be settling down, I would have looked at you like this:

Tivoli -- Dinner Out 1

At the end of the evening, he tipped the entertainers and joked to them how he was paying for “him and his wife” and pointed at me.

And so… the rest is history! Red heart

Memorable Meals: S

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my S-cities are: Siena, Stockholm, Stuttgart, Salamanca and St Petersburg.

Wow, this one was HARD!

Throughout this experiment when I have had trouble deciding on the winning city, I have not gone to my pictures for help but rather I wait to see what pops into my mind unprompted.  The whole point is to pick something memorable right? So my memory has to do the work.

When I ran through this list of S-cities, our meal in Stuttgart was the first one that popped up.

The city did not leave much of an impression on us, but lunch did because it solidified our theory that the best Italian food can be found in Germany!

This is the only picture I have – but trust me, the food was excellent!

Pane e Vino

Pane e Vino

Memorable Meals: R

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my R-cities are: Rome, Rothenburg, Rouen, Rabat, Rimini.

Well, I feel compelled to pick Rome as the winner!!  But which resto?

Of the top of my head, I can think of a few memorably bad meals. For example, I had shockingly bad gnocchi here in 2006.  We picked it because we could admire the Coliseum while eating but it was an awful bowl of mush.

Universale - Mushy Gnocchi 

I rather have a good food memory, and this resto was easy to pick because we still talk about how much we enjoyed it.

Angelino ai Fori http://www.angelinoaifori.com/

It was the last day of a 2 week vacation - we did Rome for the first week, then off to Naples and Sorrento, then back to Rome for the last afternoon, sleep at a hotel next to the airport, and fly home in the morning.

I also remember this day because of an awkward moment at Termini train station. We arrived from Naples around 11AM and we brought our suitcases to the luggage storage place. While waiting in the line, someone came up to me and asked “is this the line for the luggage drop?” I replied something like “the line starts there” or “that’s the back of the line” and I must have sounded really bitchy because he snapped back: “I didn’t ask you that, I just wanted to know if it was the line”…  ugh it was an uncomfortable moment!

Once we were freed from our bags (almost an hour later!) our mission was to find a “nice” place for a “nice” lunch; it was our final meal of the vacation and we decided were going to indulge.

My husband spotted this place first, and I wasn’t keen on it – it didn’t look “nice” enough.

Supper at Angelino ai Fori 5

But their outdoor terrace turned out to be really nice!! The vines made it feel cozy and the atmosphere was perfect!

Supper at Angelino ai Fori 6

Check out the guy at the table behind me.  Is he thinking: “Oh shit, this isn’t my girlfriend! I hope that tourist taking this picture never posts it!” Ha. Sorry dude.

Supper at Angelino ai Fori - Simone

Well, I hunkered down and settled in for a full meal!

A nice bottle of wine:

Supper at Angelino ai Fori 7


Caprese salad as an appetizer:

Supper at Angelino ai Fori - Simone's App


Pasta with mushrooms for my first course:

Supper at Angelino ai Fori - Simone's First Course


And for a main, Beef Carpaccio:

Supper at Angelino ai Fori - Simone's Second Course


It was a great afternoon and the perfect way to say goodbye to Rome!

20 November 2014

Memorable Meals: Q

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

I only have 1 Q-city: Quebec City

Bleh, I don’t have a lot to draw on for this one!  None of the meals I had in Quebec City were really all that memorable. Lots of mediocre ordinary experiences, a disappointing fondue…

If liquid lunches can count, then I pick the Bar at the Chateau Frontenac.


When I went with a girlfriend a few years back, we relaxed for a few hours at the bar… it was near lunch time…  This is a stretch I know, but it is memorable because it’s here that I was introduced to Harvey’s Bristol Cream and I have been in love ever since.


image       IMG_1523

Memorable Meals: P

When updating our Alphabet City Game spread sheet, I had an idea: What was my favourite meal in each of those places? So, I gave my self a challenge to come up with them.

According to the spread sheet, my P-cities are: Prague, Portland, Pompeii, Paris, Paradiso.

Well this is easy! Of course it’s Paris.

The hard part is picking which one is the most memorable… so many choices! But this one stands out for all the wrong reasons.

Le Train Bleu http://www.le-train-bleu.com/fr/index.php

Sometimes I think asking people if they have made a reservation is a way to get rid of the riff raff if the Maître D does not like the way they look. We were woefully underdressed and did not have a rez, but we did speak French and smiled a lot so I think we passed muster.

We did not get the best table mind you, in a corner, off to the side, near the bathrooms… but still, you could argue all tables are good tables because all you need to do is look up!

Le Train Bleu 2 - Simone

Le Train Bleu 4

Le Train Bleu 12

I had a forgettable starter, some sausage in a sweet roll. For my main I ordered the steak tartare, a dubious meal according to many people but I like it…  It was good, but too much; I could not finish and besides I wanted to leave room for desert: CHEESE!

Le Train Bleu 8 - Simone's Meal (Ipod)

The cheese was amazing, they bring a cart to the table! MMMM

Le Train Bleu 9 - Cheese

I did something a little stupid: I asked how many pieces I could have.  Some restos give you X pieces for Y prices so I thought this might be something like that. In retrospect I do see how that was a stupid assumption.

When I asked how many pieces I could have, the waiter replied (probably thinking I was an idiot) “As many as you like!”

“Great!” I replied. “I’ll have one of each!…  but no blue”

That meant 8 pieces!!!  DEEEEEEEEEE-licous!

Le Train Bleu 11 - Simone's Desert (Ipod)


So this all sounds good right? Why is it memorable for a bad reason? Well… we got food poisoning.

I am still reluctant to pin point it back to this meal, but everyone says it was the steak tartare which is admittedly a risky food choice – however I had a whole plate while my husband had just a bite and he was out of commission for the entire rest of the vacation while I was only down for the count for 1 day.  I really don’t think the steak was to blame!

Doesn’t food poisoning take time to set in? It was only the next day that I had my first symptom… another reason I am hesitant to trace it all back to this resto! 

You might want to stop reading now T.M.I. alert.

It was the next afternoon, we went to the Ritz for a drink and they gave us some finger snacks… Very nice!  But isn’t the finger food a more likely culprit for spreading bacteria?

Ritz - Bar Vendome 3 - Simone's Drink

Ritz - Bar Vendome 4 - Snacks

After we left the Ritz, right there in Place Vendome I farted…. then to my utter horror I realized it was not just a fart. 

Yes ladies and gentlemen, I shit my pants in Paris.

As revolting as that experience was you have to admit it certainly was memorable!