Monday 28 August Docked at about 10am this morning. Cool with partly cloudy skies. Le Havre is the second largest port in France. Harbor art.
We had arranged a tour of Honfleur, a very ancient seaside town. I had been there thirty years ago. It is busier, but otherwise the same. The coach was comfy and our guide very nice and informative. We walked into town and around the tiny streets and along the shops which were along the waterfront. We admired the half timbered buildings. And the ones built all of slate to protect from the salt air. Then we walked up to the very cool church which was built by shipbuilders. The roof inside looks like the upside down keel of a boat. The bell tower was built a distance from the church. Since both are all wood they figured if one caught fire, the other had a chance of surviving. Here are my pictures.
These next ones are the shipbuilders church.
It was a nice day. The weather wasn’t too cool. It didn’t rain. I had fun. Now we are headed to Caan. We have booked a tour of the D-Day beaches but it looks like this could be cut short because I think we are arriving late. We’ll see!
Sunday August 27 After our marathon at sea we were very happy to get onto land for a day. The weather is quite chilly for August. This morning when we got up it was 54 degrees! And raining 😢. It is supposed to get up to about 70. And it looks like showers intermittently.
We caught the shuttle bus from the Star Legend to the center of the old town. Rouen has a long history going back to the Gauls. The Romans also occupied it and it is where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. It was claimed by both England and France during the Hundred Years’ War and was badly damaged by bombs in the Second World War. It’s most famous sight is Rouen Cathedral with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower) financed by the sale of indulgences for the consumption of butter during Lent. 😁 The cathedral’s gothic façade (completed in the 16th century) was the subject of a series of paintings by Claude Monet, some of which are exhibited in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
The weather was changeable. We had rain and sun intermittently all day. Windstar provided a shuttle bus. It was only a 15 minute ride. We walked down to the famous cathedral.
The old part of town is full of half timbered buildings. The Gros Horloge – or Great Clock, whose face was golden, shone in the intermittent sunshine.
Lunch was the only meal that I have reserved on this cruise. It was at La Couronne, pictured above. The restaurant has been there since 1345. It is known as the restaurant where Julia Child had her first French meal. I read her book describing the meal as a revelation to her. And as we all know, she was known as the French Chef and wrote books on French cuisine.
The building is full of pictures of famous people who have eaten there. It is dark and quaint and so very French. The meal lasted three hours. Most of us went for the Dover Sole Meunière, one of two signature dishes. It is what Julia ate. It was good but the meal was so rich we were worthless the rest of the day.
We returned to the boat and crashed. We skipped dinner. Sail away wasn’t until 1am. Then we would sail back down the Seine to Le Havre. We have a tour of Honfleur booked. We were there once, long ago and loved it. Another place where the Impressionists painted.
Thursday August 24 – embarkation day on the Star Legend
We had plenty of time until the 1Pm boarding so we went to a little cafe for croissants and coffee. Excellent croissant. Hot and flakey with butter and jam. Perfetto! We did some wandering about and later went out for a quick lunch because who knew when we could eat on the ship. The weather has turned rainy as was predicted. We went back to our hotel and retrieved our luggage. They called a cab and we were off to the ship.
The Star Legend is one of three identical yachts in the fleet. They hold 300 passengers. We boarded uneventfully and found our cabins. Then headed to the top deck for a welcome champagne. It had stopped raining but remained gray. We were required to muster at 4:15 to be briefed on emergency evacuation procedures. But at this time we were informed we would not be sailing that evening as planned. There was a problem with the ship which needed to be investigated by a certified scuba diver!
This is a disappointment. It means we will have to alter our cruise destinations. IF we sail out we will still miss seeing Bruges Belgium which was to be our first stop.
In the meantime we eat! Dinner in the main dining room named Amphora, was ok. We had a great wine steward. He kept the wine flowing freely. I enjoyed my entree of spicy shrimp on polenta. We watched a little of the news together. Todays big story, Trump turns himself into the Fulton County Jail in Georgia.
Next morning we listened to the Captains announcement. He said the divers were beginning work. We found out there was a repair needed on the inside of the ship but to get to it there was a pipe that needed to be welded outside the ship, underwater. He said we should get underway by mid-day.
I had maple French toast for breakfast. A rare treat for me. ~~~~~~~ At 12:30 we did manage to get underway. We sailed out of the estuary in the rain and sailed all day and all night and most of the next day because we had to skip our intended first stop. It was pretty cold and pretty wet. This ship was our next door neighbor.
These were along the estuary and while we were at sea.
After sailing for two whole days and having no internet we were very happy to finally see land and get some dots back on our phones. We had sailed along the coast and through the Straights of Dover, the narrowest part of the English Channel. Now we turned into the mouth of the Seine. It took over four hours to sail up to Rouen. At first it was very industrial with many refineries and tanks of oil I presumed. But eventually it started to get very picturesque. Lots of pretty quaint towns and even more interesting old French style houses. Lots of half timbering and even some thatched roofs. There are a lot of these but you can skip if you like. And you can click to get a bigger version of the pictures to see more details.
By the time we docked we were having dinner. It was a long time to be at sea! Tomorrow we tour around Rouen. It has a beautiful old town and Cathedral and we will lunch in La Couronne where Julia Child ate her first French meal.
These next few posts will be about our trip. I will be breaking it up like I did on our German trip last year since people seemed to like that.
Tuesday August 22. Departed Umbertide for Amsterdam, Netherlands
We drove ourselves and our cat sitters down to Foligno station to catch the Frecciabianca – fast train to Rome. We left them with the car so they could take in the sights. They are Sue and Bev, one lives in Canada, the other in Michigan but both were born in Canada. They have known one another since childhood. They came recommended by Liz one of our previous sitters. I am sure they will have fun. This week they will probably lay low because it’s hitting 38 degrees Celsius which is 99 Fahrenheit for a couple days. Hot! But next week cooler.
All went well on the trip. Train to Rome, caught the DaVinci express to Fiumicino airport. ITA Flight (formerly AlItalia) was 25 minutes late getting off. Miraculously we landed on time in Amsterdam. It is refreshingly cool in Amsterdam, just 22C or about 74F. We had arranged a driver who took us to L’Ambassade hotel. It is on Herengracht canal. Beautiful area. Nice hotel. We spent a night here in 1984 on our first trip to Europe. It has changed a lot! View from our window.
After refreshing ourselves, we met my sister Cindy and her husband Bill for dinner. This is our annual trip so we get to see each other once a year. So great to see her! Off to dinner at ‘t Zwaantje. Dutch food. It was busy and popular, but the food was not so much.
We walked back to the hotel bar for night caps. Cindy & Bill had arrived from the US that day and did the usual, stay awake all day then crash. Next day you are mostly over the jet lag. They made it almost to 10pm.
Wednesday August 23
Big day! We met up at 9am for our ticketed visit to the Van Gogh Museum. It was about a 25 minute walk. It is hard to walk here. Narrow brick sidewalks slope toward the street. There are millions of bikes traveling at speed. It seems like they couldn’t possibly stop if someone walked in front of them but my sister accidentally tested that, and damned if he didn’t stop in time. The motto here is, don’t be a squirrel. Like make up your mind in what direction you’re going and stay the course. And always look before stepping to a street. They say 63% of Amsterdamers travel by bike. Some pictures.
The Van Gogh museum was very good. Many floors. A permanent and a temporary exhibit. I took a lot of pictures of the art. It was interesting with many short write-ups about the art and about Van Gogh. Such a troubled man. Only 37 when he took his life. The last room was dedicated to suicide prevention which I thought was interesting. Just a few of the paintings I saw. I took a lot more than this! This first one was one of my favorites. Almond blossoms to celebrate new birth. It was on the occasion of the birth of his brothers baby, Vincent. Treasured by the family, especially after his suicide.
All of the next ones were painted just before he died. Most of them in the two months before his death and in that two months he painted 75 paintings. More than one a day.
We went to find lunch which we did in Restaurant Red. There turns out to be better choices but we don’t know the city or where to look and by this time we had been standing for many hours. I was anxious to sit down and for some icy cold water.
This evening we had reservations at an Indonesian restaurant named Tujuh Maret. Funny thing about Amsterdam that I noticed. When you reserve a table they have a beginning and end time. You get the table for 90 minutes. Having lived in Italy where the table is yours for the whole night it was a flashback to the US dining where they rushed the meal and brought the check, getting you out as fast as possible so they could turn the table. In Italy meals are relaxed affairs and you pay and leave when you are ready.
Anyway, we ordered the big Rijsttafel. Indonesia was a colony of Holland and food migrated with the people who came to Amsterdam. Now it is a specialty. I had had one of these many years ago and I told my sister I don’t care what else we do, I just want one Rijsttafel dinner. This one was 18 individual dishes served in the center of the table. With rice on the side. They were served in sets of six — mild, medium and spicy. Some of the spicy ones were pretty spicy but not too much for me. It was yummy. Ranging from tofu, beef, chicken, veggie, salad, sweet, sour, hot. So many different flavors. We all had fun except maybe Bill. He is a trooper and goes along but he isn’t a foodie and is not an adventurous eater. I hand it to him, he tried most of them. But he said the meal was only ok.
We are preparing for a new trip. We have house/cat sitters arriving on Sunday. We are meeting up with my sister and her husband for another small ship cruise. Again on the Windstar line. This ship holds 300 people. We will fly to Amsterdam and depart from there and sail down the coast to Bordeaux. Then fly home. I will, of course do a trip report. Right now many preparations are being made. Getting the apartment ready for our sitters is the prime importance. And also, of course packing for ourselves. We are almost ready. Still just need to make up a second guest room since our sitters are two women who want separate bedrooms.
Last night I finally tried the outside wood BBQ. I made a garlic, yogurt marinated chicken thigh recipe. It came out well but I needed either more oil on the grill or not skinless thighs. They tended to stick. They tasted good though. I will use this grill more now.
Stay tuned for my upcoming Trip Report. Buon fine settimana a tutti!
It is agosto, August, time stops here. I read some complaints on Facebook expat groups about the fact you can’t get anything done now because everyone is on vacation. You might be surprised, but really everything does stop. Go to your bank. There are no tellers. All construction stops. Factories close. Everyone is at the beach or in the mountains. My comment to the complainer, who said Italy can’t progress because of this stupid August thing, was to say, Viva la difference. Although it can and is frustrating to live in a culture so unlike the culture in the US. The very nature of the inconveniences make Italy, Italy. I didn’t move here for convenience and US sameness. I moved here precisely for the differences. For 45 years I worked in the “progressive” USA and fought for a work/life balance. Who is to say the crazy work, work ethic of the US is better?
On a lighter note, I walked to and from the Wednesday market and I grabbed a couple shots of this newly created “garden(?)”. I was amused. Snow White and her dwarves, fake grass, fake water lilies! Who says the Italians can’t be tacky? 🤣😂😅
I forgot to mention that we learned a little more about our apartment. Paolo, our cabinet maker, seems to be fascinated with this apartment. He was surprised, as so many are, to find a place like this in this area and in this building. Unexpected I guess.
Anyway, he must have mentioned it to other people and in the process he learned the original owner was a strange one. He had a storefront but did no business, his money sources were not known and he seemed to have no visible means of support. This means one thing to me. And you can probably guess what that is. He ended up bankrupt and this apartment went up for auction. The people we bought from were it’s second owners. I assume they got it for cheap. The original owner is no longer living. It is always interesting to learn about your house.
Again I made pesto. I wish you were here, I would give you some!
The title of this post is the name of Italy’s famous flying team. It means the tri-colored arrows — tri-colored for the colors of the Italian flag. It is recognized as one of the best aerobatic air patrols internationally. They fly Aermacchi MB-339 single-engine, two-seat advanced training and light tactical support jets. There are ten jets, nine fly in formation and there is a single outlier. We were thrilled here in Umbria to be paid a visit by this famous team. They headquartered at the Assisi airport for the week, flying practice runs over the countryside and doing two air shows, one in Perugia and the other in Foligno.
I should also mention, in the time since we moved here the Perugia/Assisi airport has really grown. There used to be only 3 or 4 flights a week but now we can fly from there all over Europe. And it is so easy to use. Twenty minutes south of us with easy parking and only 2 gates. It makes air travel fun again! ~~~~~~~~ Last week Paolo, our cabinetmaker, finally finished the work. His last thing was a built in cabinet with shelves into an odd triangular shaped space in the main hallway. When we moved in it was empty with no molding so I assume something was built in and removed by the seller. There was also an ugly spot on the wall that had been hidden. Our painter, Luca, fixed this when he painted but the space cried out for something to fill it.
Here is the finished cabinet. I think it looks nice. I will find something else to put on the empty shelf. And we will use the cabinet below to store the bags of pellets in the wintertime. Good place to hide them.
Lunch today was a panino. We had gotten a sample of flooring for our new kitchen and had to return it today. On the way home we picked up some nice prosciutto, both cotto (cooked) and crudo (cured). Prosciutto is just the word for ham here. I also bought a delicious ciabatta bread. Did you know that meant slippers? It is for its shape. The bread is chewy and really tasty unlike much Umbrian bread.
The weather today must be one of the top ten days ever on this beautiful earth! Cool breezy, sunny, puffy clouds, crystal clear air. Simply amazing. View from terrace at Calagrana. Am I right? Is it not perfect?
We joined four friends from Canada. One old friend and three new ones. Our friend Karen comes every summer and rents in Tuscany but not terribly far from here. They were blown away by the beauty of the restaurant and it was perfect as always. I loved my starter. In fact four of us got this. It sounded so good. Grilled peaches on a tomato bed with prosciutto.
Next will be some of our pastas. One a tagliolini in a creamy sauce with truffles, the other Fishioni (a type of pasta) with sausage ragù, arugula and pecorino cheese. So good!
The dining terrazzo full of happy diners.
Great seeing friends and sharing a delicious meal. Buona domenica a tutti!
I was, for some reason, craving this particular pasta from Sicily. A super simple dish which comes together very quickly. All you do is take about 6-8 anchovies in oil and put them in a pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and cook mashing them until they melt into the oil. Add a handful of pine nuts and cook a bit, then a chopped garlic clove and a handful of soaked and drained raisins or sultanas and a few stalks of minced parsley. I also put in some hot pepper flakes (natch😉). Cook the spaghetti and drain, saving some water, and toss into the sauce with some water as needed to make a creamy sauce. Serve with grated cheese if desired. Super fast, super easy, and super yum.
It pushed my pasta craving buttons perfectly. Tonight, southern fried chicken and potato salad! I’m nothing if not eclectic. 😄
Tomorrow we lunch with friends at Calagrana. We had a lot of big storms yesterday afternoon into the night. The world nearby is washed clean after weeks of drought and it is beautiful now. Clear with brilliant blue skies and puffy clouds. It is very cool with highs about 22C today and downright chilly in the night. Loving a break. The heat will return.
Here’s a picture over by Assisi up on Monte Subasio. My friend Doug Hunt took it. It is the road to his house. The colors are amazing and the world so clean after the rain. Enjoy! 💕 Umbria is so beautiful!
The weather has turned perfect after the heat wave. Highs in the low 90s – 33C here. Breezy and low humidity. Last night we had the most spectacular sunset which I want to share. No enhancements, all natural.
Now that the heat has broken it is not so bad to cook so I have been cooking some. Nothing heavy. Last night a tuna salad stuffed tomato. Not cooked obviously. Quite nice, and as a side we had friggitelli, small green peppers which we fry and eat as a side or antipasto. Last year we grew to love these in Spain as tapas. I was thrilled to find them here too.
Last night, a shrimp dish. Hot honey shrimp on summer slaw. It was nice but next time I’ll be adding something spicy, like a sliced jalapeño.
How does my garden grow? You ask? The tomato plants are ENORMOUS and I’m excited to see our first ripening tomato!!