Saturday, August 23, 2014

Le Meilleur de la Toscane Part I: Florence

the first stop of our Dream Tuscan Road trip was, of course, Florence. :)

upon arrival, we were a bit disappointed with the airport. it was so small and had very few shops. i also remember waiting a long time at the baggage carousel for our bags and so i noted how low the ceiling was and i started to feel claustrophobic.

speaking about small and cramped, this was our cute little ride all throughout the trip:

The FIAT 500 -- we were hoping to get this from the car rentals, and we did! :)

yes, it was small, but me and hubby fit together snugly but comfortable enough... and it's an Italian classic! i had a chance to drive it a bit but my legs are still too short for this already teeny tiny car! :(

our hotel bedroom

our four-star hotel in Florence... which to me is more like a pretentious three star. LOL.

we arrived at our hotel at past 10 in the evening. the snooty-looking receptionist of the four-star hotel recommended us to have dinner at this Osteria a couple of blocks away.

charming little place a few meters off our hotel

and so we spent our third wedding anniversary dinner at this Osteria. the food was so-so. but the ambience and the restaurant staff were really nice.

it was a coincidence that we had this wine from the famous Antinori vineyard in Chianti that we will be visiting at a later part of our trip

after dinner, we did not waste our time and walked towards the Piazza della Signora, where i saw for the first time a replica of one of my favorite famous nudes:

Michelangelo's David's replica

it's amazing how these sculptures look more alive than most people i know

we woke up to a beautiful sunny morning the following day and it was perfect for a walk towards the Piazza del Duomo.

wearing this shirt and skirt from the French summer sale from a shop called DPP made me feel as sunshiney as the weather

since it was still very early in the morning, we decided to climb all the way up to the bell tower to have these magnificent views:

don't you just love these colors?

view from one of the rose-patterned grids of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore's bell tower

and of course, i just have to be a part of it:

view of the cathedral's dome from the bell tower

we did not really bother climbing to the top of the dome because we were so tired after climbing the tower with more than four hundred steps! we did however made the mistake of queuing to go inside the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiori which is a waste of time because it is more spectacular from the outside than the inside. don't waste your time queuing and paying for that! although, i don't get why they make you pay to enter a church/cathedral/basilica! they should only ask for payment for the museum. how do you do if you're not a tourist and just want to attend the mass or do some worshiping?

feeling all famished from all the queuing and climbing, we decided to go to the Mercato Centrale. we heard that lunch was cheap but really good.

of course!

so many food options!

i love the ambience in this market! we came early, it got really crowded after 12!

and so much good stuff to buy:

i love these descriptive labels on the produce

i absolutely adore limoncello, that's why we bought a much bigger bottle than this one:

TIP: In Italy, they give limoncello and grappa shots for free at restaurants at the end of a meal if you ask for them, otherwise, they don't usually offer.

some sun-dried pomodori, free for tasting:

pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato

we had some freshly-made pasta with some freshly-made sauce and a few glasses of wine. i was a bit tipsy after lunch.

I had a glass of proseco before meal and a white wine to go with the pasta... it wasn't a lot but I still felt tipsy.

but it didn't stop me from still heading towards the Galleria del Academia to see the real deal on Michelangelo's David.

i wonder who owns this shop:

it was expensive and not really my type

i love the classic simplicity of old Italian buildings.

i love these narrow spaces with interesting views peeking at you

and i was not disappointed:

dream-come-true! :)

this guy is the real deal. i would take that half-hour queue in the heat (despite booking online) any time just to get this snapshot!

the next day we headed off to Pisa and Lucca and the rest of our Tuscan trip. we did however return to Florence on our last day to catch the plane back to France. but before that, we still had time to visit a small town North of Florence that had this restaurant that offers a spectacular view of all of Florence.

these are all my Italian favorites:

prosciutto and melons, bruschetta and crostini and some liver paté with our favorite Tuscan apéritif: Spritz

in the evening, we visited a small, cozy rooftop bar called, La Terraza, which has a view of the Piazza della Signorina and the Arno River.

and these cocktails with free-flow of snacks -- chips, olives and cheese.

hubby's girlie drink on the left is called Vesper, from the James Bond girl and mine is La vie en rose, which didn't really taste like the name at all

 lastly, there was this free concert amongst the nudes:

i really love Italy for the food, the sights and the beautiful weather... and also i like how people call me Signorina (Miss)... it makes me feel so young and pretty. :)

 next time: Pisa and Lucca

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tuscany Road Trip

you might think that i have already abandoned this blog since i haven't been updating for the longest time ever. the truth is June and July have just been very busy for me -- entertaining visitors, planning our three-week European holiday, and arranging things for my return to work after a three-year sabbatical!

but i won't be overwhelming you with too much information on this blog entry. for now i just want to write about my recent trip to Tuscany, one of the best regions of Italy.

Le road trip de rêve -- we followed the advice of our Lonely Planet guidebook, except we've replaced Volterra with Arezzo and Cortona
we have planned on going for a road trip all over Tuscany. our trip consisted of eight days and eight nights coming from Bordeaux, France to Florence to Pisa to Lucca to San Giminiano to Chianti to Siena to Arezzo to Cortona and finally back to Florence again.

it was quite a tiring trip but definitely worth it! the place is as magical as how you imagine it and a lot lot better than pictures!

i have seen places that were the setting of some of my well-loved movies: The English Patient and La Vita e Bella, to name a few. you would think that visiting a single place in Tuscany would be sufficient because if you've seen one, you've seen them all... NOT true at all. each time we progress to the next destination in our trip, we get completely awed by how beautifully different one place is compared to the last one we've visited.

right now, i am still a bit jet-lagged to post pictures and provide more details of the trips. but if you can hardly wait, you may visit my Instagram for a sneak peak... and oh, here is a video from Siena taken with my iPhone:

more next time! ciao! :)

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bali Gastronomy

last weekend, i had the opportunity to once again visit Bali together with my family and some visiting friends from France.

first off, i must say, that Bali is a lot more summery in June than when i first went in February of 2010.  but before i show you the food, i just want to show you a bit of the place where we stayed. it was quite old and lacking in amenities but the caretaker was really nice. and the place was always kept clean and i totally loved the way it was designed.

the entrance to our two-bedroom private villa

the tiniest of swimming pools

i just love this open air bathroom!

always looking forward to showering under the frangipanied skies

on the bed

i don't know what was amiss with me before but nowadays (due to my french husband's influence), food is one of the most important part of the trip. during my younger days, most of my trips were hurried and my goal was just to see all the important places and take as many pictures as possible. eating was just a necessary nuisance. but now that i am slower and kinder to my body, eating seems to have taken as much importance as the sights to see.

dinner at Petitenget Restaurant

hungry beach bums

this wine is actually locally produced

tuna salad

the seafood platter for entrance

a garden on a plate -- my vegan friend's main dish

this is what i had

panna cotta!

we went to Petitenget once for dinner on the very first evening, and then again for lunch on our last day! it was our absolute favorite because the staff are friendly and nice, the food delicious, wonderful ambience, and reasonable price!

duck watching

crispy fried duck, the restaurant's specialty... did not disappoint!

i love how you can see the ducks roaming around the huge fields in the restaurant

we had a good hearty lunch of crispy fried duck at Bebek Tepi Sawah restaurant in Ubud, Bali right before hiking up and down the famous rice terraces! the place is also a hotel and a spa.

the rows of restaurants atop the rice terraces in Ubud, Bali

what a beautiful relaxing view

my friends enjoying the view


i could sit here forever!

i thought i should also mention that we had a refreshing snack and drink at one of the restaurants facing the rice terraces. unfortunately, i forgot to take the name of the one we went to. it was the most relaxing, refreshing and wonderful time resting after a tiring hike in the hot sun.

the labyrinth-like path to the W Hotel

i was tempted to order LOL, but i'm not really a fan of lychee

i just love, love, love this dessert!

too much beer? :)

this was inside the toilet!

at the hotel lobby

i love the ceiling patterns and the lighting

i wonder what W means...

we found ourselves marching into the labyrinth-like path towards W Hotel on the way to the Fire Restaurant. hubby saw some good reviews on the internet and thought we'd give it a try. it was, unfortunately, a little bit too posh for everybody's taste. as for me, i didn't mind at all. the foie gras sampler and watercress salad that i had were satisfying. the only thing that bothered me was the techno music coming from the bar on the beach, which gave me a bit of migraine.

parking-side entrance to Menega Café, Jimbaran

look how cheap it is! :)

delicious lobsters!

i can never get tired of this view

it has the view of the surfers and the airport on the right side, which is not included in the frame

cool and bright and airy, although, the smoke from the grills are a bit of a hassle...

seafood fiesta!

lunch in Uluwatu was at Menega Café, in Jimbaran, which offers the best grilled seafood for so cheap price! i especially loved the lobsters! you should try to come and order early if you are hungry, as it takes almost an hour for them to serve the food.

tapas, etc.

the semi-crucified lechon

intricate tile patterns on the floor which reminded me of Madrid

out in the field

nice vines and ceiling art


last dinner in Bali was at Barbacoa. they serve American-Mediterranean inspired dishes, with Indonesian influence, of course. except for the beautiful terasse that opens into a wide vegetable farm and open skies (which are star-filled at night), i didn't really enjoy my dinner so much. most of the dishes were too salty. although, the lechon which was shared by my friend and hubby was really good. i'm not too crazy about lechon, though. also, if you want to have a good table, be sure to ask the caucasian manager who is very friendly and nice, unlike the rest of the restaurant staff that are pretty much useless.

bon appetit! :)