Trip to Montenegro viewed from the water

We charter boats in Turkey every other year with our group of friends we refer to ourselves as The Dudes. This year we had the charter broker bring the boat up to Montenegro with the thought that we would cruise the waters of Croatia. We flew into Dubrovnik and had a car pick us up to drive us to our hotel in village of Tivat, Montenegro where we picked up our boat. We spent the first night at The Regent Porto Montenegro, a beautiful new resort with a huge marina and shopping village. The hotel has several pools, spa and the waterfront has many fun restaurants to choose from. We had dinner next to the hotel at a good Lebenese restaurant, BYBLOS, everything we ordered was fresh and beautifully presented and not expensive. 

The next day we had some shopping in the local village and sat by the pool until we could get on our boat at 4pm.  

Once we got settled onboard our captain told us he was not given permits to go to Croatia so we would only cruise Montenegro. There are often things that are out of your control and we had to just go with the change of itinerary and enjoy the next adventure. 

The airline had lost our luggage on the flight over a few days before so we were already wearing the few things we found in Tivat at little shops. The water in this area is not as warm as past cruises and we expected a few big rain storms so we got our books out and poured our first glasses of wine. The crew was great and the chef did an amazing job. The first night we anchored out not far from  Tivat. The next day we cruised along the shore going south to a small bay and village of BIGOVA. We went to shore took a hike and got caught in a big thunderstorm.  When we returned to the boat the chef had prepared one of our many course meals of fresh vegetable salads, fish and homemade bread.The next morning we went south to BUDVA the most popular tourist town in Montenegro. We made lunch reservations at the AMAN resort at SVETI STEFAN. This resort is two separate properties one on the pink sand beach and one on the small island that they have totally redone. We are on the top of the island then took the grand tour so we all marked on our notes to come back and stay. We spent the night anchored in the bay and the next morning we to shore in BUDVA. The old walled city has been well preserved, but of course the narrow streets are full of tourist shops and little restaurants. The newer area outside the old city has long beaches full of people sunning themselves and the beaches are lined with restaurants. We went back to the boat after a few hours and had the best lunch in town served by out great staff. 

We cruised north again to the bay of Morintsley this area has a great amount of history from years of war and the high mountains coming down to the water makes for dramatic scenery. We spent most of the next day n the lovely village of KOTOR. Carl and I hiked to the top of Castel St. John Illyrian Fort, it was 11,685 steps according to our watch counter. When we got back into town we met the rest of the group at a wonderful waterfront restaurant Galion. Montenegro is famous for the mussels they raise in many mussel farms. We ordered them and they did not disappoint. A great day from start to finish. Later some of the group decided to try out the water sports and a swim, but the water was very cold. 

The next day we took a transfer to Dubrovnik for our flight out to Amsterdam for the night before we headed home. We stayed at the Sheraton Amsterdam airport hotel. It is connected to the airport so it is easy to board the flight in the morning. The hotel has a good restaurant, so if you get in late and do not want to go into the city it is a good choice. 

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First trip to Berlin and know we will return.

On September 12th we arrived for our first time in Berlin and all our expectations we met. We checked  into Hotel de Rome on the square looking out over the memorial created when thousands of books were burned. Now you can look down through a small glass window to a room filled with white empty book shelves to commemorate the event. The hotel is a great location for walking through what was East Berlin. The breakfast was beautifully presented each morning and the service was top notch.

The first day we wandered the area and got our barring. We had an early lunch at “Alpenstuech” known for their SCHNITZEL. The portions are very large so perfect to share. It was a short cab ride but worth the trip. Make reservations at info@alpnstueck.de. 

The next morning our guide Caroline, stummeline@web,de,  met us at the hotel for a walking tour. We headed to the area know as Museum Island and since it was a light morning rain it was a good time to see the museums, starting with the German history museum, the Pergamon museum, and a quick tour of the Egyptian museum. Then we started walking to understand the areas in the East and how the people lived during and after the war when the wall was built. We went toone of the many inside courtyards that have now tuned into shops and restaurants. Carl wears bow ties and we went to the famous shop called “Auebach” galleria and manufacturer, a dream shop for ties and crazy socks.

Lunch was at the KAUTINE a small lunch spot on the grounds of the Arcitecture school,  Joachimstrabe, excellent soup and small salads.  From there we wandered through the amazing Berlin Cathedral before returning to the hotel, my app said we covered 4.7 miles.. That night we had a dinner to remember at an amazing restaurant,  PAULY SAAL. +49 30 3300 6070. 

Pictured above a couple of the dishes served, it is a prix fix menu, but the choices are many and not that large. The pea shells were a gift from the kitchen filled with small sweetbreads next to a mini croutons.  Be sure to make reservations and enjoy every bite.

The next day Caroline organized a car and driver so we could get a better idea of the difference of the East and West areas of Berlin. We cruised past and around the Bromdenburg Gate, Check Point Charlie and the Jewish Holocaust Memorial which is a full block of granite blocks etched with names of those who lost their lives. There is a section of the wall still standing along the river so you can walk along and feel how it must have been for the people of Berlin. There is so much history you really need more than just a couple of days.

Standing in front of the piece of the wall still topped with barb wire, and the new apartment building behind.

Our last night in town and we had dinner at Le Petit Royal, owned by the same guy as Pauly Saal. Very nice simple menu, casual dining at its best. We really wanted to go to Bandol sur Mer, but not enough nights, next time. 

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A few days in France, before our barge trip and Lyon after

We arrived in Paris a few days before boarding the barge, Nenuphar. Since we only had a couple of days we needed to walk fast. We checked into the Hotel Regina, 2 place des Pyramides, across the street from the Louvre. This was the first time we stayed at this hotel and it was a great experience. 

After checking in we headed out to walk along the river toward the French quarter with a plan to have lunch at an old favorite, ALLARD, 4 Ave St. Andre des Arts. We started with a lovely pate then shared a local specialty, frog legs in garlic butter and fresh local strawberries.  A little shopping and wander through the book stalls open along the river bank. Back to the hotel for a rest before dinner at a great bistro, L’Ami Jean C’Est. We walked back to the hotel and with the full moon above and the Eiffel Tower in the background it was a lovely first day in Paris.The next day we gathered for a walk through the Morais heading to the market by Faubourg and Denis. The food stalls were filled with large white asparagus spears, fresh local berries and stacks of small melons. Our appetites were peaked so we started walking through the neighborhood looking for a restaurant  for lunch, we chose “Le Square Frousseau” 1 Ave Antoine Vollon, a busy bistro with plenty of sidewalk seating.

We then headed to the Picasso museum  we had not been there since they had reopened after a remodel. Dinner was at a fun casual bistro ( d’Chez Eux ) they wheel over a great antipasti trolley and created huge platters for us to share. Several people shared  the amazing roast chicken, others had the fish of the day or lamb chops. The evening walk back to the hotel can take your breath away, Paris at its best in the evening. It was a long stroll, but after so much good food we needed it. Next day we only had a couple of hours before we left for the barge so a casual walk through the gardens and lunch at a great new restaurant “52” at Faubourg Saint Denis, after you enter the street through the huge arch you will arrive on the busy street loaded with restaurants and small food shops.  White asparagus at 52 was great!!!

 After a week on the barge Carl and I headed to LYON for city life. We checked into a very nice hotel, Hotel Carlton, newly updated with a great staff. The hotel is located on the small island just across the river from the old part. Lyon is famous for all their great restaurants and it did not disappoint.  After wandering the streets for several hours and a quick nap we headed to dinner. We had been eating French food for a week and chose a pizza/pasta restaurant close to the hotel, CASA NOBILE. This was not gourmet but go for the pizza and their great antipasti of fresh veggies and local meats. 

The next morning we walked to the area about 10 blocks from the hotel in the newer part of LYON. The food halls, LES HALLES OF PAUL BOCUSE.  There are over 100 food stalls with everything from pastry to one of our favorite stops at Bellota, serving perfectly sliced Spanish ham and Spanish wines.  This is a must see place if you get to Lyon. We then ventured back to the old section of the city and took the funicular to the top of the look out and walk through the Notre Dame basilica at the top. We walked back down and wandered along the RUE MERCIERE where we stopped for lunch at a cafe and shared mussels and fries. This is a great walking stree since there are no cars and plenty of ice cream shops.

That evening, since it was out last night in Lyon we took a cab back to the top of the lookout for dinner at CHRISTIAN TETEDOIE. if you go ask for a seat next to the huge windows overlooking all of Lyon.  The staff was very attentive and from the start with several amuse bouche, helping us work through the huge wine list and deciding if we wanted to choose the multi course meals or alacarte. I had a lobster starter and the braised rabbit, Carl had the pidgeon.  The next day we took the fast train back to Paris and stayed at the Sheraton airport hotel.  For dinner we took the train into town for a wonderful dinner at Chez Julien, 0142783164, make reservations and enjoy sitting outside in the courtyard. 

Our friend Joanne Weir gave us two restaurants that we have to try on our next visit, SEPTIME AND CLOVE CLUB,  until we return only good memories remain. 

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Pea, mint and spring onion soup

We had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week cruising along a canal in France. The chef on our boat prepared this wonderful fresh peas soup, she was kind enough to share it with me. Now that I would like  to share it with all of you.

Serves 8 for first course

 2 tablespoons of  butter

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 bunch, about 8, spring onions or green onions plus a few extra for serving

2 white potatoes, cut into small dice

2 one pound packages frozen petite peas, 32 ounces, if you use fresh peas from the market they may need a longer cooking time since the starch is often much higher in fresh peas. I say use the frozen peas then you k ow the end result will be perfect. 

1 cup fresh mint chopped 

8 1/2 cups of vegetable stock

Heat olive oil and butter when melted add potatoes and chopped onions. Saute without browning, about 5 minutes. Stir in stock and simmer about 10 minutes until potato is tender. 

Stir in peas, bring back to a boil and cook 3 minutes until just done. Remove pan from heat add mint leaves. Allow to cool slightly then purée in blender or food processor. Serve warm with a Parmesan crisp along side and a few finely minced mint leaves on top along with a few chopped chives or fine minced greens from onions.

PARMESAN  CRISPS are quick and easy to make or you can buy them at a specialty grocer. 

Line a baking sheet with parchment or use a Silpat 

Grate 1 cup of Parmesan cheese,  divide the cheese into 8 long strips on prepared baking sheet. Place under broiler or in oven at 400 degrees for 1 minute or until cheese is melted and lightly golden. Lift from baking sheet while still warm and flexible, allow to cool and serve with soup. 

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Barge trip in France with Friends

Carl and I have shared barge trips with friends before, but each trip brings new discovery. We gathered 10 friends months in advance to share a week long trip on the FRENCH COUNTRY WATERWAYS barge Nenuphar. We have cruised with other companies before, but nothing comes close to the experience offered by this company. 

A little about our boat:    We had 6 large king size bedded rooms ensuite. The barge is very spacious with a nice outside deck where you will find your 12 lovely bikes stored, ready for your morning ride. The 6 crew members ar always ready to make sure your every wish is taken care of. Our amazing chef, Kim, prepared 3 wonderful meals using all the fresh ingredients purchased each day in the local villages. 

We were met at a wonderful hotel in Paris, Hotel Regina, 2, place des Pyrqmides, across from the Louvre. The barge company offered us a special rate so it made the pick up very easy.  On Sunday early afternoon we were greeted by our guide and driver for the week, Charlie, with a large bus ready for the trip to our barge moored in the village of TANLAY.  We settled in, had a welcome dinner and got the details of our week ahead. We were cruising the Canal de Bourgogne, while the boat heads to the first in a series of 36 locks we got on our helmets and headed out along the path on our bikes. After lunch while the barge makes its way through the locks Charlie takes us to visit a great winery and we have our first introduction to Chablis wine. The wine maker explains the difference between Grand Cru and Premier Cru Chablis, offering tastings of both. Later over dinner we will share our first of many bottles of French Chablis and other regional wines. While we were learning about the wine and how the vineyards differ the barge was on its journey to the village of LEZINNES where we would moor for the evening. 

The next morning some of us were up early for a hot air balloon ride across the fields while the sun was rising. The lovely quiet ride ended after about and hour we had a smooth landing, after a champagne toast we were back at the barge in time for breakfast.  Charlie was ready to take us to the village of Ancy-le Franc, we had time to wander this old village and learn about its history and visit the church that is the center of  every town.  Of course we were back at the barge in time for another great lunch and a bike ride to the medieval capital of lower Burgundy, AUXERRE. 

It was now our third day on the barge and we are settled into the leisurely pace of canal living. Some of us walk from one of the lock houses to the next waiting for the barge to pick us up others take off on their morning bike ride to explore small villages along the way.  Then before lunch Charlie takes us on a walking tour to explore the village of NOYERS looking in the shops for our next treasure or sharing a cup of coffee in a local shop.  Later in the afternoon some of us go to CHATEAU OF ANCY-Le-FRANC, an amazing chateau owned by an American who is in the process of rebuilding the many gardens and restoring the chateau.  The boat will spend the night in the village of RAVIERES.

The next morning we went to visit an 18th century forge, FORGES de BUFFON. This area was a large producer of steel during the 18 hundreds because of the location next to 2 rivers and the canal there was water for power and easy access to shipping to Paris and other parts of France. The barge continued through the locks docking at MONTBARD for the evening. We had the opportunity to enjoy dinner at the famous 2 star restaurant, LE RELAIS BERNARD LOISEAU in Saulieu. This lovely hotel and restaurant was about 45 minutes from MONTBARD, but Charlie was a great driver and after 4 hours of eating and drinking good wine we arrived back safe at the barge. 

  • Friday morning we were up early to go to the farmers market in Montbard to buy a few special things we wanted to have chef Kim prepare. We bought the sweet Tuscan melons that we never have in Seattle and huge white asparagus which Kim did a great job serving for lunch. We got on our bikes to make up for all the local pastry, cheeses and wines we had been eating, time to count steps. We met the barge several locks later and cruised to VANAREY-Les-LAUMES.  After our amazing lunch and the required afternoon cheese course Charlie took us to visit ABBAYE de FONTENAY.  That evening was a lovely captains dinner since we would all be going our separate ways in the morning. 

The story would not be complete with out mentioning that each day after lunch we were served 3 different cheeses and the same following our amazing 3 course dinner with simple green salad. The introduction to all these cheeses was a wonderful education,  some that we knew and other that we had never tried, but look forward to finding at a local cheese shop later. I have to add a couple of my favorite cheeses were Fleur de Marquis, Brillat Savarin and a lovely Bleu de Causse, but with 36 cheeses served in a week it was hard to remember the wonderful flavors of each. 

We can not say enough good about a week spent in slow motion cruising along the French Country side. French Country Waterway has several beautiful barges to choose from, whether you want to gather several couple or just join others go to their web site or call Effie at 1-800-222-1236 and they will send you a brochure.

Thank you to the great staff and all our friends for sharing a very special week. Renee and Carl

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Italy a visit in Chianti/Tuscany

In April 3 girl friends and I went to Italy for 10 days of drinking wonderful wines, sharing wonderful local cuisine and shopping.

We flew into Rome and took a train to Florence where we spent our first night.  (If you have business class seats on the train you are welcome to use the private lounge in the station while you wait for your train to depart.) We stayed at the Hotel de La Villa on Via de Tornabuoni. The hotel staff was very helpful, the rooms are not large, but the location was good. We wandered the streets watching the crowds and buying a few simple things at the famous Santa Maria Novella only a couple of blocks from the hotel. We joined friends for a perfect dinner at FUOR d’ ACQUA, on Via Piscana, well know for the freshest fish in town. Our waiter was willing to help us share several dishes starting with a large antipasti platter then fresh pasta and fish that had just come to the restaurant that morning. 

The next day  we were up early and headed to Angela Caputi across the river on Via S. Spirits 58. Angela Caputi has wonderful fun jewelry that you will want to buy. She makes everything in house so they can help you with whatever strikes your fancy, must do. We also stopped by an amazing fabric store VALLI on Via Della Vigna Nouva, if you sew or want to buy fabric to take home this is a must.

We rented a car and ventured out to the country side. We were staying in a lovely castle, Castello Della Paneretta in Barberino Val d’ Elsa. Make sure you request a GPS in your rental car to find your way around the area,  finding the small wineries makes you feel  like you are on a scavenger hunt.  After getting settled in this lovely estate we ventured out to the CoOp to buy snacks and something for breakfast.  It was April and we had planned on warmer weather, so just be prepared since the wineries are often cold and the wind catches you off guard.  Once again we were in the car looking for our restaurant for dinner. We ate at ‘LA TOPPA” in the village of San Donato about a 30 minute drive to the area of Poggio. The restaurant is local owned with the mother making the pasta by hand, we knew we were in Italy.

The next morning we toured Cantine Bellini/llPazzo, this winery is closer to Florence, so we had quite a drive. We were in the Rufina area and this winery makes Chianti,  Chianti Classico,  and  nice vin Santo wines. They gave us a wonderful introduction to the difference between the two Chianti wines and the grapes grown to produce their products. Many of the wineries in this area also produce wonderful olive oil. You will taste great  differences in the oils depending on the soil the trees grow in and how the oil is processed. Some are very mild while others have a wonderful pepper finish.  After a special lunch prepared by Maurizio and his family served with their wines, we headed to an area across the valley called Pontassieve. 

The winery Castello del Trebbio, is also family owned and Alberto welcomed us even though we were late. Castello also produces a Chianti and Chianti Classico wine using only the grapes they grow. Their Lastricato, reserve Chianti and a lovely white Pazzesco Chianti gold were a special treat. 

After spending the day tasting wonderful Chianti wines we rushed back to our home base and took a cooking class at Paneretta Agriturismo about 100 meters from our home base. Chef Massimo  showed us how to make very traditional bread soup with tomatoes, vegetable stock,  and a touch of basil to finish, and also simple stew using beef cut into cubes and boiled vigorously for almost 2 hrs.  Then we all got our hands into the dough to make a batch of biscotti with whole almonds and chocolate chips. Our dinner wines came from Castello Della Paneretta where we were staying.  A lovely woman, Angelica, from Florence was there to help translate for us. Angelica Turi gives walking tours and guides guests troughout the region, http://www.itialianfootprints.com or angelicaturi@yahoo.it

The next morning we were guests at Querceto di Castellina a lovely property just out side the village of Castellina. Jacobo along with his family have created a beautiful winery with a nice kitchen for cooking classes.  They also offer rooms and apartments for rent.  Info@ Querceto.com, contact Jacobo Di Battista. Many of their wines are not sold in the U.S. so we took advantage of the opportunity to ship wine and olive oil home, I loved the SEI and FURTIVO wines.  

We headed back to Castello Della Paneretta for a tour of the castle built in 1596 with the family still living in the house.  After a tour of the house and wine cellars we were served beautiful lunch and continued a long conversation about the use of the red varital Sangiovese grape. Their Quattrocentenario  reserva 2008 wine (100% Sangiovese) was the highlight of the trip.  We all shipped home several cases.  After a rest and nap, that evening we had a special dinner at OSTERIA 1126.  The road to the restaurant will make you wonder if you will every find the front door, and it is well worth the drive to Cinciano, Poggibonsi. We shared lovely beef carpaccio shaved paper thin, a starter of lentils with a soft mild goat cheese, and several main courses.  have They have an extensive wine list, with many of the wines of the region. Don’t miss the soft chocolate molten cake and ice cream.

The next day we headed back to our last wine tasting at Fattoria La Castellina, this wine store/ cellar are located together in the village of Castellina making easy to shop after tasting their lovely wines. One very interesting thing we saw at many of the wineries is the use of a glass vessel, a COLMATORE,  placed on the top of the barrels  to allow the wine to expand as it forments  during the first months in the barrels.  Fattoria also own and rent a large house, LA FERROZZOLA Agriturismo Hotel, Alberto Palazzo Squarcialupi.   After tasting wine at 10 am, we ventured over to visit a jewelry store, TOSCANACCIO,  Via Ferruccio 44, owned by Marco and hosted by his  sweet attention seeking dog, ToTo,    Several of the girls bought beautiful pieces that Marco created from stones he had found in his travels around the world – worth a visit if you are near Castellina.

  • We then drove about an hour and half to Cortona where we stayed at a friends house, Casa Spare, high on the hill with an amazing view. We had a simple lunch at Tuscher in the village – lovely bruschetta, one with chicken liver and another with perfect chopped tomato and plenty of local olive oil. Walking and shopping in Cortona is fun because very few cars are allowed and the many local shops offer nice products from the region.  We made an appointment with Marco at his wine shop, MOLESINI-MARKET, wineshop@molesini-market.com, for a tasting the next day at noon.

We ate a simple dinner in a small slow food restaurant, Taverna Pan e Vino, offering interesting pasta cooked to perfection.  I had fresh young local goat cooked perfectly.

The next morning we went into the center of town to their Saturday market and came away with everything from dried  mushrooms to hand decorated jeans jackets.  Now it was noon and time for an amazing introduction to wines we do not often see in the U.S..  Marco and his brother served a variety of regional  white wines and thouroughly explained their differences.   I fell in love with Monteverro 2012 Chardonnay and 2012 Paleo Le Macchiole red. We were able to ship cases of our favorites back to Seattle, most of which are not readily  available in the states. Marco is a perfect contact for those wines you cannot find. Just  remember Molesini.  We had dinner in the square at “Osteria del Teatro”  and walked back down the hill to where we had parked the car.

The next day we drove back to Florence to drop the car and take the fast train back to Rome. It was about a 2 hour drive and we could have just as easily driven to Rome, but did not realize that until we were already committed to returning the car in Florence.  We arrived in Rome, checked into INN AT SPANISH STEPS, Via Dei Condotti 85. We booked with Platinum AMEX and were given a nice upgrade. The hotel is one block off the Spanish steps – a good location.  The rooms occupy several buildings so our room was in a separate building 2 blocks away from our friends.  Both of the hotel buildings are lovely, offering a roof top garden to have breakfast or a late afternoon cocktail. 

We wandered the narrow streets shopping and enjoying all the hustle and bustle of this area. We had all spent time in Rome and had visited all the major sites so this time we just shopped and ate lovely meals. Dinner was at “ANTICO ARCO”, http://www.anticoarco.it, a little bit out of the way, but a great meal in a charming old house. We shared a pasta of pecorino cheese and black truffles, beautiful shaved asparagus salad and sea bass. Nice find.

Our last day in Rome was a holiday so the city was busy. We wandered the streets again and bought a few special things to add to our spring wardrobe back home.  Then we  had a perfect lunch at The De Russi Hotel in the garden. They offered a lunch buffet that was such a treat. One of the vegetables that we had seen in the market and on other dishes is AGRETTI, or Salsola Soda, it looks like sautéed chives but has a very mild taste.  Look for it. Reserve in the Du Rossi garden for lunch or dinner and you will have a meal to remember.  We walked back through the Piazza del Popolo up to the Borgese park area and looked out over Rome. 

We had a late dinner a couple of blocks from the hotel at Dilla, a simple local fun place.  We had a very nice bottle of white,  Le Vigne di Zamo 2012 that went well with the asparagus risotto and eggplant parmigiana. Next morning we headed home saying good bye to Rome until our next visit. While in the cab heading to the airport we realized only two of the girls got up early and headed to the Vatican for an early morning tour. It was really the only tourist attraction visited during the whole trip. It was about wine, food and friendship, a little shopping too.

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A week in Brazil

 

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After planning a trip to explore the food and culture of Brazil it was time to apply for a visa, which is required for all U.S. citizens. If you plan a visit to Brazil it could take as long as 3 months once you send in your passport along with the required paperwork. So be prepared to not travel out of the country during the wait time. I did the required forms on line instead of using a local company and paying the $425 fee which I have been told helps speed up the wait time.

We flew from the U.S. to Rio, changed planes and went on to Iguazu Falls for a visit to the world renound tourist attraction of Brazil and the northern tip of Argentina. Our guide delivered us to Sheraton Iguazu resort. The only hotel located on the grounds of the Iguazu National Park on the Argentina side. From the deck of the hotel you can see the falls in the distance.  Connected by a huge trail system and a small train taking you to the head of the falls.

The next morning after an early morning breakfast we headed out on our own to explore the falls. Along the way we came upon some local wildlife of the region including the little raccoon looking  coatimundis, many butterflies.  It was close to 100 degrees so we  spent the morning walking on the many trails along the falls. After lunch we went on a raft trip along the river that takes you up to the bottom of the falls where we were all soaked as the amazing falls tumbles down to the river below. Be prepared to hike down the long set of stairs to reach the rafts and then the hike back up to your transport back to the hotel, worth the adventure.

That evening after a little rest we took a taxi into the town of Iguazu for a chance to watch the sunset at the place where all 3 countries, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. We stopped for a famous cocktail, the caipirinha, made with the local liquor, cachaca made from sugar cane.IMG_9177.JPG

Dinner at “La Rueda” where they pride themselves in serving famous local river fish was a great introduction to the local cuisine.

The next morning our guide came back to pick us up and drive us to the Brazil side of the falls for another view. Then we decided to take the short 15 minute helicopter trip over the falls, the cost is around $120 each but worth the time and adventure.

Ending our time in Iguazu we said goodbye as we headed back to the airport for a 2 hour flight to Rio for the next  part of our trip. We arrived in Rio our wonderful guide, Rodrigo, camera.rodrigo2@gmail.com, met us and took us to our hotel. The beautiful boutique hotel, Santa Tereza, is set high on the hills away from th busy beach areas. It is about a 20 minute cab ride back into the heart of town. After getting settled into our lovely rooms we had dinner in the restaurant in the lower garden of the hotel called Tereze. This is one of the best restaurants in the area and worth making the trip up if you are not staying at the hotel.

The next morning after a lovely breakfast at the hotel we were taken to the famous Corcovado’s Christ the Redeemer. It is considered one of the most famous sights, built in 1931 by the Catholic Church. They have a small train that takes you to the top and an easy trip back down after you experience the amazing views. Then we were off to explore the beaches of Ipanema and a unique drink made with Dried Acari berries and a sweetener using a syrup of Guarana. This drink give you a charge like drinking 2 Red Bull shots. They use it to give extra energy, really gets your heart pumping.

It  was time for a little local shopping and lunch. Our guide dropped us off at Via Seth for lunch were we had our first experience of trying the fresh heart of Palm for a starter followed by several great salads. Then across the street to a great shoe store and the purchase of hot new gold or silver shoes.

We returned to our hotel up in the Santa Teresa area, had a well deserved rest and got ready for dinner in the area. We walked down the street to a lovely local place Espirito Santa Teresa. The food was a true taste of Brazil, and very reasonable price.

The next morning we got an early start since we were going to tour the other famous landmark, Sugarloaf. Sugarloaf is reached by a gondola ride up to the lookout and amazing views of the beaches below.  You can wander around the whole platform take time for something to drink or local shopping from high end jewels to flip flops.

Then we headed down to the port to see the huge murals painted by a famous artist “Konrad” this is a large graffiti project on old building along the new redone port area.   On the way to lunch our driver took us to a good music store, Bossa Nova & Company on Rua Duvivier, 37A, in case you want to take home memories on a disk.

Then we wanted to try a local dish called ACARAJE, our guide took us to “Academia da Cachaca”  no tourist here, Ave Armando Lombardi 800.  We started with fried bean balls, once again the heart of Palm grilled. When the ACARAJE arrived with the topping of small shrimp in a sauce, green onions and chopped parsley it was way better than we had ever read. Back to the hotel which took almost a 45 minute ride with the traffic.  We had dinner reservations at 8pm back in town at the amazing restaurant, “Lasai” lasai@lasai.com.br. This restaurant is listed as the best in Brazil and in the top 100 in the world. You choose from either a 7 course tasting menu or choose a menu of fish, meat or veggie only. The food was lovely course after course prepared and presented with care. The owners are a young couple trained in New York at the CIA and they have brought all their ideas to Brazil and now use the food, herbs and history of Brazil in their lovely restaurant. Don’t miss it!!!

The next day we were on our own to explore, we visited a couple of famous churches and the museum of local history at the port. Then went to see their big mall called Leblon, it is several floors of local and international shops. There was a food court on the top floor so we enjoyed Lebanese fare at “Farid” good service and a nice change of pace.  We headed back to the hotel for a little pool time and a chance to catch our breath before dinner.

Dinner was at the top of the hill from our hotel at a famous restaurant called “Aprazivel”, reservas@aprazivel.com.br. The view was wonderful looking out over the entire city. They can seat several hundred guests in many little rooms, each area offering great views. They made a good Caipirinha with several different types of Cachaca to choose from.

The next morning we flew 2 hours north to the city of Salvador. This city was the place that in the late 1800’s most of the slaves were brought from Africa to Brazil to work in the sugar cane fields. Today the largest part of the population is still African.

We check into our hotel, Villa Bahia, in the colonial area of Pelourinho a neighbor hood reserved and fixed up as part of the UNESCO  cultural heritage. Our guide took us on a walking tour of the area, including the famous San Francisco Church. Salvador is the capital of the state of Bahia and still holds a vast array of cultural and artistic expressions showing all of Bahia’s charm.  The square where the hotel is located is full of little shops selling local items. The small streets leading to the square offer nice music in the late afternoon and restaurants serving local fare.

You will see little stand preparing the famous ACARAJE with ladies dressed in the old style local dresses with huge petty coats. The ACARAJE is served in a napkin with the salty shrimp and hot sauce topping the balls of mashed black-eyed peas.  The hotel is older but quaint and in a safer location then other places.

Dinner was down on the water at a place called  “Amado”, amadobahia.com.br, serving continental cuisine. Everything is pretty close so not a big cab ride. We did get caught in a couple of big rain storms, it seems that when it is close to 90 during the day and the humidity is the same you will have afternoon cloud bursts.

The next day our guide took us to the famous Bonfirm church, where people tie small ribbons on the fence surrounding the church which offers an amazing feeling as the ribbons tremble in the wind. It was famous for offering good wishes depending on the color of the ribbons you choose.  Then we left for a tour of the area  local fresh market with huge stands selling the dried shrimp, piles of fresh local fruit and everything from bird cages to chilies of every size.

Our laSt night in Salvador we went to the famous restaurant of the city, Casa de Tereza” where we shared the Brazilian seafood MOQUECA.  This rich stew arrives at the table bubbling in a cast iron bowl overflowing with shrimp and fish or lobster if you so choose. The dish is topped with cilantro and bright red peppers. This tradition al meal is a must when visiting this area and very filling so easy for 3 of us to share.

The next morning flew back to Rio for the day before catching the late night flight back to the U.S.. As we headed back to the airport you realize that the favela’s occupy every hillside of the cities. You don’t go into them because of the crime but looking at them as you drive by gives you a deep feeling of the poverty of Brazil and the struggles of the poor.

We arrive in Rio around lunch time and went to a restaurant off  Ipanema beach called “ZaZa”,  a combination of local fare and international dishes. As you enter the corner door with all the crazy decor you will be welcomed by the hostess and you can either head upstairs to what resembles a Moroccan hideaway or dine downstairs where you see an interesting mix of locals and tourists.  After lunch we said thank you to our great guide Rodrigo and headed to the airport, once again realizing all the hills are covered in the favela’s where the poor were pushed out of the cities a hundred years ago.

If you want a great guide in Rio, Rodrigo is your man,   camara.rodrigo2@gmail.com

We were happy we had the experience of Brazil and feel exploring a new part of the world is always worth the time. Whether you return to a place is determined by the food, people and culture you experience during your first visit.

 

 

 

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