Category Archives: restaurants

Domenica pranzo with friends

On our ride south today to lunch with friends. Brilliant sunshine.

We met up with friends in a town called Bastia Umbra. Completely overlooked by everyone but we are told there are a lot of monied folks living there. I assume it was bombed during the war since much of it was new. But the old outline of the wall was still there. And some of the old gates remained. Inside was a clothing market along the streets. The second picture below is marking the border of one of the Rioni, or neighborhoods. Most towns have a number of neighborhoods and people living within them are fiercely loyal.

Our friend Doug found the restaurant we went to. It was just outside the old perimeter, called Perl d’Oro. Unpretentious outside but pretty inside. Good service. Delicious seafood.

Here are pictures of our food. Captions under photos.

This was called Gamberi tempura. Not like any tempura I have had. But very delicious.
Luther and I chose the red snapper. It was under potatoes and roasted tomatoes.
Jen got the Branzino in a salt crust.
Afterward they brought scoops of Gelato di Mele (apples) with pistachios. Very refreshing.
Finally we shared this chocolate dessert. Mmmm.

Originally we wanted to visit a huge fair on the fairgrounds there which was all kinds of vintage things, clothes, furniture etc. We didn’t allow enough time to make the entry fee worth it but I will go again in the future allowing more time…once I am in the buying mode for our new house. 😁

Thanksgiving

We had a very good meal with nine others at our table in Calagrana yesterday. They started doing a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins a few years ago for all the Americans in the area and a sprinkling of British and Italians. Originally Susan and Gary had them cater a dinner for us since a big turkey here is too large for the normal Italian home oven. After a couple years of making the gargantuan Tom turkeys, Ely decided there might be interest in a dinner from others. And the rest is history!

The Tom Turkey which we feasted on yesterday was a whopping 17 kilograms, or 38 lbs. Here he is!

And my dinner. The turkey was amazingly moist and tender. Jane and Christie had brought two bags of real cranberries on my request. So we had real cranberry sauce — my old standby Zinfandel cranberry sauce. I have to use Primativo here which is a relative of Zinfandel.

Besides the turkey we had antipasti of tiny shrimp and a primi of ravioli with zucca puree (sweet winter squash). Very sweet with a surprise of what I thought was wasabi. It turns out it is Senape Essense. She got it at the pharmacy. It added a nice kick. Her little bottle had a skull and crossbones on it. 😄 If you’ve ever had hot Chinese mustard and eaten just a little too much on your eggroll you’ll know what I mean. I looked it up and I think I’ll order some, could be fun to experiment with!

Although I am a day late, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great day! I am thankful for all I have. I wish for peace in the Ukraine and the USA. I also wish for global accord to combat climate change. 🕊 Today is the day Against Violence to Women. There is a little demonstration in the piazza. I also wish violence of all kinds would stop. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Celebratory lunch at Calagrana

What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.

Calagrana on it’s hillside.
View from in front Calagrana.

There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.

Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.

It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!

So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.

Excellent lunch with friends

Today, Saturday, was a bit gray, dreary and chilly. I went out to the market to do some shopping where I bought quite a lot of stuff for soups and salads. I noted we have a new bread kiosk which I must try. But today I visited our local forno for bread.

My haul.

Our friends from Spello, who moved here in July, were coming up for lunch at C’era una Volta, a restaurant near our new apartment. The name means Once Upon a Time. But first an aperitivo in the Piazza was in order. We sat at a table and Jane happened by so we invited her to join us. Then Jim (our realtor) and four other Brits sat at the table next to us. Bar Mary is always the place to meet and greet.

We headed down to the restaurant. We pointed out our new apartment on the way. I actually love C’era una Volta. It is only one block from our new apartment so I anticipate it will become our go-to place. The people are so friendly. I think they are Sardinian. Mom, dad, and daughter. We got the names of Mom, Laura, and Dad, Giuseppe. Next time, daughter. The food is quite good. They have a menu but the specials are recited. It is a real language and memory test! Here are pictures of our food.

Our shared antipasto plate. Amazing variety.
Delicious, made in the house, pasta with zucca (winter squash/pumpkin), prosciutto, and funghi (mushrooms).

We had such a nice time catching up with Roselyne and Steve. They are renovating their apartment right in the historic center of Spello. Excellent location with three terraces, one of which is right over the main drag up the hill so they can see what is happening all the time. Much like our view of our Piazza. It is ALL good! We will see them again soon!

When I got home I snapped yet another photo from our terrace…our last Autumn here. I want to always remember this view.

A little later I looked up and was greeted with an amazing sunset! It doesn’t get any better!

Buona domenica a tutti! 🌈

Beautiful day, nice lunch

Yesterday was a beautiful day! In fact, we have had a nice long run of beautiful September and October days. The Germans call it Goldener Oktober. We, in the US, call it Indian Summer. No matter what it is called…I am loving it!

We had a planned lunch with our friend Doug who just moved here a few months ago. We were meeting in Gualdo Tadino, a town in eastern Umbria which lies on the slopes of the Apennine mountains. The really big ones that run from the top to the toe of Italy. I had not visited this valley. It runs north and south along the mountains from Foligno to Gubbio.

The restaurant is Terrazza di San Guido. It sits high above the town on the mountain. I would have thought it would take advantage of it’s position to showcase the view. But it does not. It has an unpretentious interior dining room, and a few tables outside. The service was good. They have an unusual offering on the menu which I had not seen before. A whole section devoted to Crescia. It is a flat bread specialty of Umbria and Le Marche which they use to make sandwiches. I think it is the same as what I know as Torta al Testo.

Doug ordered one as his starting course. It looked tasty. We also had a chance to sample the bread as they brought out bags of it, soft and warm. I had Caprese insalata to start and it was good. The October tomatoes were still decent. Then we had pasta, and Luther, ever the meat eater, got the mixed grill. Doug got the Tartuffi Lasagna — Lasagna with truffles. I got a taste and it was great. I ordered Cannelloni al Sugo di Carne. It was good…but not great. Here are pictures.

Truffle lasagna
My Cannelloni
And…the mixed grill.

On the way home I took a couple of pictures of the bodacious day and the beautiful scenery.

We will continue to enjoy this wonderful weather for as long as it continues. I am now seeing many pictures of the olive harvest which is just beginning here. Umbria is known for its oil. It is robust, grassy, and peppery in your throat. I am smitten with it. To me it is the best of all. Love the green green color of the new oil. Photo from my friend James Lupori.

Buona domenica a tutti!

Ristorante San Giorgio

Just here in our main piazza is a splendid restaurant, Ristorante San Giorgio. Elegant. The food is the best in town. We have been eating there since before we moved to Umbertide. They always begin with a plate of ”gifts” from the chef. When we go the food is always excellent.

But, we have not been since last year. Why? you may ask…since it is so good…do you not go more often? It is because they don’t change their menu — EVER. They do not have seasonal menus. They never have a special. The gifts from the chef never vary. They even got a brand new chef when they reopened after Covid. I was excited to see what changes she would make. Well, exactly none. I suppose the owner must think if you’ve got a good thing then don’t mess with it. It is Michelin rated bib-gourmand.

To me, half the fun of eating out is seeing and trying the new and seasonal things the chef has created. It keeps me coming back. I would become really bored if I cooked there. Since it has been a year, at least, since we went, I think we will go back soon. And if you ever visit Umbertide, do give it a try. It is a special restaurant for sure, if you don’t eat there too often. You must reserve, and it is open for lunch and dinner and it is closed Tuesdays. Here’s San Giorgio at night, across from our apartment. Romantic!

Beautiful Sabato!

Last night, I said to Luther, we should go to a winery tomorrow, while we have this nice break in the weather. We haven’t gone wine tasting since we had our last guests in October. Quick phone calls ensued. Mevante, a winery near Bevagna which we had not visited, were happy for us to come for a tasting. Luther thought lunch at one of our favorite places, L’Alchemista in Montefalco, would be a fine idea.

What a glorious day, if a bit windy. The winery sits on a hill overlooking the valley over to Monte Subasio. They were hosting a big event this evening, a christening for 100 people, so they set up a table just for us outside. I felt like royalty! I will let the pictures speak for themselves. First two are views from our table.

Tasting room
Grecchetto white wine was one of the best we have had
Their olive oil was some of the best. super peppery in the throat. I loved the itty, bitty bottle.

The owner was our host and he was very welcoming despite that he was very busy with the expected group. Of course we bought quite a bit of their wine.

We drove to L’Alchemista. I love the round square that Montefalco has. It was a lively place today. Fun people watching. Our food was good as always.

We headed home for a siesta as is called for after a satisfying lunch. Here’s a picture of the small street in Umbertide which we cut through to stay in the shade. It looked pretty today. I love all the layers, balconies, lamp, stone balustrade, rooflines.

~~~~~~
Finally, good news! We see they are finally bringing back our Otto Cento festival, gone since Covid. (put Otto Cento in the search bar to see pictures of past festivals) It will be the end of September. I am thrilled.

In other news, the little hill town near us, Montone, is gearing up for its annual film festival. It lasts a week with multiple screens for films around town, each with food and drinks served. This year, the really big news is that Stanley Tucci is the guest of honor. He will get the keys to the city. I have to think he will show up at our Saturday slow food market in Umbertide since he is all about food. I will be hanging out! Hope he does.

That’s all the news that’s fit to print! ciao!

Spain/Morocco/Portugal Cruise – part 2

Go to Part one of the trip


Wednesday June 22It was very cool this day. I even bought a sweatshirt from the ship store. We had docked in Gibraltar during the night. The “Rock” was not as expected. Turns out we were on the wrong side of it. Our side had vegetation and was not the pronounced, pointy granite face I had expected.

The Rock – from the wrong side

We didn’t take the tour to the top. We just decided to walk into Gibraltar city. It is known for its shopping. So — we shopped! I bought some new tanzanite earrings to go with the bracelet I bought on our trip to Turkey. And another pair of inexpensive earrings.

Gibraltar streets
Gibraltar streets
British live here

We went to Zoca, a small out of the way but pleasant place to have lunch…of what else? Tapas! These were good but since we now have many others to compare them to, they were not the best.

Zoca
Fritters
Patatas Bravas
Iberian ham
Steamed bread sandwich
Garlic shrimp
Beef – can’t remember what was under it.

The walk from the ship to the town was very long. But it wasn’t too hot. We returned and relaxed before heading to the briefing on the next port of call — Cadiz where we will be for a day and a half. Then we had dinner in Amphora and we even had dessert!

Thursday – June 23
I woke early and watched them dock the Star Pride in Cadiz. The town is right next to us today so not a long walk.

Really pretty city

After breakfast and a little earlier than we usually go out, we left to be assured we would get a map. They said the Tourist people are only there a couple hours. We successfully obtained maps and headed into the city. There were four walking tours on the map. We ended up following the pink/purple one. They painted lines on the streets so we could easily follow the way…except for the worn off bits…then the map was useful. It’s a lovely city. Pretty streets with nice architecture, balconies, wrought iron and embellishments on the buildings.

We visited the Cathedral which was crumbling. And enormous. We visited some pretty squares. The Plaza de Fiores with lots of flowers.

The Cathedral is crumbling. There are nets to keep the bits falling from the ceiling from hitting people.
Flower market
Pretty, colorful and billowing dresses.
I loved this wrought iron gate

Then we visited the huge indoor food market with vendors all along the two aisles with amazing seafood. We get good seafood in Italy but there was some that I couldn’t identify. Cadiz, being right beside the sea at the mouth of the Mediterranean and on the Atlantic has much to catch! The exterior vendors around the sides were all meats. And there were veggie places scattered about. It was great. I love a good market.

Beautiful shrimp
Tiny conchs
Pretty clams!
I had to look these up. I have never seen anything like them. They are barnacles! I didn’t know you could eat them.

We stopped for a glass of wine and to figure out where to go for lunch. They are more traditionally Spanish here. The restaurants don’t open until 1:30. Many tapas bars open at 4:30 or even 8pm. This is the Spain I remember from my first trip here many moons ago. I’m glad it still exists.

We chose Casa Rafael. It got good write ups and was open when we wanted to eat. It was a bare-bones neighborhood place. Rather understaffed and chaotic. The menu only in Spanish. We managed to get fed. We had the plate of cured meats. A bigger variety than I have ever seen. Then we had patatas bravas. Next gamberos grilled, and the salt cod. It was all good enough.

Casa Rafael
Obviously famous for their meats
Patatas bravas (again!)

We returned to the ship for naps. Thursday nights are always the big BBQ nights. We sat on the deck and the wind blew in a gale. It was so strong it blew the salad greens right off your plate! In thinking of the BBQs we enjoyed on the Wind Star ship in the past this one pales by comparison. There was a much smaller variety of starters. There was no grilled lobster, my favorite. And there were only flank steaks,  no other types nor did I see chicken.

Afterwards they cleared the deck for the line dancing. We moved to the top deck to watch. It was fun.

Getting ready to dance

Friday – June 24
Our second day in Cadiz was just a half day. We went out walking to a different part of the town and then went back to the ship for lunch in the Grill on the top deck. I had a hot dog! Don’t laugh! I haven’t had a good grilled dog in a very long time. And sometimes you just gotta have a dog if they are there!

hot dog!!

We watched sail-away to the Vangleis music – which doesn’t quite work on a non sailing ship, in my opinion. It was the most beautiful day. Sunny and the temperatures are perfect. We stayed on deck for a while and headed down for our siestas.

Later we went to the briefing for Casablanca. I was a little nervous about this one. He explained where we would dock. How we could get into town. There’s a shuttle bus and taxis. Two kinds of taxis petite and grand. The little ones are all red. The big ones are all white. The mosque in Casablanca is the third largest in the world. This minaret is over 600 feet tall. There are two Medinas – the old one and a new one.

We had dinner in Amphora and went topside for nightcaps. A pretty night. The ship was rocking a bit. But not enough to be a problem.

Saturday – June 25
We had gained an hour overnight. A new time zone for the rest of the trip. We arrived before seven and the tours went out at 7am promptly. One to Marrakech which was a twelve hour tour, and one to Rabat – five hours. We decided to just explore a little on our own.

We took the shuttle bus into town. Casablanca is Morocco’s big business city. It also has the largest port in the world. We were dropped off at the United Nations square. Easy to pinpoint because there is a big Hyatt hotel there. Turns out the Old Medina was just next to this and it was my first time on the continent of Africa.

Not beautiful!

Here are my impressions of the Old Medina. We were early so many stands were not yet open. Luther noted the electric lights around the stands and thought they might be open at night. The men working there were very persistent and I learned the code words “no shopping” and they left you alone. It was dark and dirty. There was trash everywhere. But I noticed the people were sweeping it into piles. Maybe someone comes and picks it up. Maybe it was left from the previous night. The food/fowl/fish market was very smelly. The chickens were pitiful. We took pictures and left. It was enough for us to see.

Loved these colours
Has he got a deal for you!

There were hundreds, maybe thousands of cats. Strays, skinny and sad. A tiny kitten mewed at us piteously. I doubted he would live much longer. I hate this. We saw not one dog. Berbers hate dogs.

We were still early, gaining that hour kind of messed us up some. We figured eating there wasn’t going to happen. We didn’t have any local currency anyway. So we returned to the ship where we had lunch and a siesta.

In the evening we are early and watched sail away. We also watched the late bus arrive back from the 12 hour tour to Marrakech. The road had been jammed by an accident. Then we watched the inept dock people destroy the Star Pride’s paint job by scraping and jerking with a fork lift the gangway. We finally got underway. Later we dropped into the bar where the duo was singing. They are good. There was a talent show where the crew gets to show off. I decided to give it amiss. The room was crowded, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a crowd. I am still sensitive to my surroundings after Covid lockdowns. I’m sure it was fun. Cindy and Bill went.

Beautiful sunset

Sunday – June 26
We sailed all night and half of the next day to arrive in Portimao Portugal. Overnight the seas were very rough. we did some rocking and rolling but it was like being rocked in a cradle while you slept.

We got up and went to breakfast and then to the Yacht club which is on the top deck in the front so we could watch our noon arrival. We had to go up a small river and it was narrow and shallow. There was a big tug which helped turns us 180 degrees for a fast getaway in the evening. We were only in Portimao for five hours.

Kicking up some mud.

We had signed up for a bus tour. An Algarve wine tasting and tour of a tiny town Silves. Algarve doesn’t make alot of wine and it never gets exported, so we weren’t familiar with it. The guide was good. the town of Silves was not much. It had a castle. It WAS Sunday so very quiet. The winemaker, Mark dos Vales, was a German man. Quite eccentric, but enthusiastic. We tasted a very good rose, a white, and two reds, along with a little bread and olive oil. A little more food would help since none of us had had lunch. We were glad we had taken the tour but it wasn’t the best. We got back to the ship just in time to let it get away for our last sail-away. It’s always sad to see your last sail-away.

Castle in Silves
All things made from cork. Hats even shoes! 90% of the worlds cork comes from Spain and Portugal
According to our guide they no longer migrate and are nuisances now. They sterilize their eggs.

We had our last dinner in Amphora. It is always hectic since you’ve got to get packed up to be able to have your suitcases into the hall by 6:30am.

Monday, June 27
We arrived and debarked on a transfer to the Altis Grand hotel in Lisbon. Our room was not ready and sadly the Windstar people dropped the ball badly by not telling us about a way to pre-check in which would give us priority for a room as soon as it became available. They just told us to go away and come back in six hours.

We did a huge long walk from our hotel to the seaside. The weather was quite cool so it was pleasant. We found O Trigueiros, a neighborhood restaurant which was great. It was packed with locals and because we got there early, we got a table. We were craving sardines since the wine tasting the day before when the winemaker mentioned eating them with his wines.. O Trigueiros delivered. A huge plate of delicious grilled sardines, with blistered, crispy skin served along with boiled potatoes and sliced tomatoes. Heaven! It was a lot of food, which we could not finish. It was a great little place and a cool experience!

Speciality of Lisbon. Custard tarta.
Mmmm
Fellow diners


Tuesday, June 28
We were up early – 5am – for our early flight with Portugal Air to Bologna to retrieve our car and return to our casa in Umbertide, where it has been unbearably hot for our entire trip. Our house sitters had a tough time. This is an unusually early heat wave. Normally we get this sort of heat in July/August – not June! Our flight was uneventful, if late. My sister was not so lucky. I hope when she gets home she will erase the ugly return and remember the lovely time we two sisters had together after three long years apart 💕

Summary

Best olives – El Cantón, Cartagena
Best Iberian ham – Mediamanga, Barcelona & Casa Rafael, Cadiz
Best Tapas – Cerveceria Catalan, Barcelona and Cerveceria Catalan, La Tranca, Malaga
Best Lunch – Cerveceria Catalan, Barcelona – La Tranca, Malaga and
Best seaport – Cadiz
Best city – Barcelona
Biggest disappoint – Gibraltar
Best shopping – Gibraltar
Worst meal – Candles and Cuadro44 on the Star Pride
Dirtiest place – Casablanca
Best tour – Barcelona
Most remarkable thing – Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

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Go to Part one of the trip

Spain/Morocco/Portugal Cruise – part 1 

Here’s another Trip Report so skip if you’re not interested

Lots of food pictures – of course! 
~~~~~~~
Go to Part Two of the trip

Tuesday – June 14
We left our casa in Umbertide in the capable hands of Liz and Mark, Canadian friends and cat lovers and we headed for Bologna where we overnighted before our nine AM flight to Barcelona. In Bologna we always stay at Hotel Bologna Airport where we get a room for the night and they keep our car during the trip. Not a fancy place, but adequate.

Wednesday – June 15 – Barcelona 
We took the shuttle and everything went without a hitch. No one paid any attention to our expired Permessi. Yay, and big relief. The flight was an hour and a half. Easy peasy. Arrived in Barcelona at 10:30. Got our luggage and met the driver who was transferring us to Casa Camper our favorite hotel in Barcelona. It is in the Gothic quarter, two blocks from Las Ramblas. We stayed here four or five years ago and loved the quirky vibe.

Our street
Outside our bathroom window. I love Casa Camper.

We had been in touch with my sister Cindy, on WhatsApp, who arrived from Virginia earlier than us. They were staying in a different hotel. It makes it more difficult being in hotels a 25 minute walk apart. But it’s just two days. We decided to meet up for lunch at Cerveceria Catalana – a popular Tapas place closer to them than us. We sat outside and had multiple plates and multiple bottles of wine. The food was soooo good. I am sorry I didn’t take more pictures of the food. This place had the best patatas bravas of the trip. Our waiter was soooo amusing. It was a lot of fun and this was the first time in three years I have been able to actually – physically – touch my sister. Emotional and overwhelming. 

Fried fish
Squid-O-s

We walked las Ramblas and then Cindy and Bill went back to their hotel. We returned to our hotel for naps and then later for snacks from the free kitchen in Casa Camper. They have an honesty bar on the roof deck area with bottles of wine and liquor for which you just fill out a form saying what you took. We sat outside where it had cooled off nicely and enjoyed some wine and Luther, his cigar, a gift from Mark, our house/cat sitter. A vintage Cuban cigar made in 1991. It was so well made and burned beautifully for a long time. Thank you Mark! It was a nice first day of our trip.

View from rooftop
Our wall of plants outside our bathroom window

Thursday – June 16 – Barcelona
This day we had our half day tour of Barcelona. We had a driver, Jorge, and Marta our guide, who owns Forever Barcelona. We were picked up at our individual hotels at nine AM and we started off with a walking tour of the Gothic quarter. We got a pretty good picture of how the city evolved. Where the ancient Roman walls were, where the Jewish quarter was until around 1050 when there was a riot and massacre. We saw the cathedral. The former forum, lots of interesting tidbits. Then we met up with Jorge and we drove to a panoramic view of the city. It has between 1.6 and 2 million people. It was a sleepy backwater until the 1992 Olympics put them on the map. Since then it has been a vibrant city.

The cathedral
Love the gargoyles
Cathedral
Gargoyles
Gargoyles
Ancient mailbox. The swallows say your mail will fly, but the turtle tells the tale.
So the bishop didn’t have to go outside.
Beneath the bridge
On our walkabout we came upon a schoolyard in an ancient plaza

Today was Corpus Christi. Every place we went had the ”floating egg”. It is the tradition. Here are the three we saw.

The highlight of the tour was Gaudi’s church of the Sagrada Familia. I was completely gobsmacked. The man was an insane genius. The church is still unfinished. They wanted it to be finished by 2023 – the 100th anniversary of his birth, but Covid put the kibosh on that. Now they aim for 2030. There is still much to be done. This was my first view of the cathedral. The large tower, center, unfinished, will be the highest spire.

The fruits. God’s bounty
Sculptures everywhere you look. Overwhelming.

Now for the spectacular interior. It literally took my breath away. It was like being inside an animal – so organic.

My first stunning glimpse of the interior of this amazing building
The pillars split at the top to resemble tree branches
Fire
Ice.
light cast by blue stained glass windows

Exiting the church on the back side, which is newer and more abstract. The different sculptures were not all done by Gaudi. They were merely his vision created by other artists. Here is just one from outside the back. They all together tell the story of Christ.

After that we went to a restaurant nearby that was recommended by our guide called Mediamanga. It was on the pricy side. Not traditional tapas. But we shared a bunch of plates that were mostly pretty amazing. World famous Iberian acorn fed ham was on the menu. I have heard of it many times but never got to try it. It lived up to it’s reputation. We also had a plate of Spanish anchovies, fried whole shrimp, a chicken lasagna, white asparagus with anchovies in an anchovy sauce, and a fried egg and scallops with suckling pig. All smallish dishes. All shared. Very good food. Nice waiters. 

Aged Iberian ham. Delicious.
Anchovies served with tomato garlic bread
Garlic. shrimp – fried
White asparagus pieces toped with sardines
Fried eggs with scallops and suckling pig
Their take on lasagna. Delicious

We all returned to our hotels for a nap and showers to wash off the sweat.

In the evening we went out shopping for some ham and cheese and some chorizo. Also bread and wine. We had a nice picnic in our “living room”. In Casa Camper everyone gets a bedroom and bath and across the hallway, a living room. Makes it easy to enjoy some food without messing up your bedroom. Then we enjoyed the roof deck which we had all to ourselves. 

Friday – June 17
This was embarkation day. We went down and had a big breakfast (because who knew if we would get lunch?) of scrambled eggs and bacon with juices, and cake and cheese…and.. It was excellent.

I packed everything up. On this trip, which is pretty long, I brought one medium sized suitcase and one carry-on size. The bigger one was packed full of just clothes. The smaller one I aimed to use In Barcelona so I didn’t have to touch the bigger suitcase. This mostly worked great…except for the socks.

After breakfast we went out for a walk around the neighborhood. It was already steamy hot and humid outside. Then we went back, got our luggage, and checked out. They called a taxi for us. The ride to the port is short. We arrived and they took our luggage, we went through port security which is like an airport and then into the terminal. This is where the fun begins.

There was a huge room. With chairs set up in three columns of four seats. We all got numbers and were directed to which section to sit in. There were two tables in front of this section. When our turn came we went to one table and he checked our temperature and also our vaccination certificates. We were directed back to the seats. About 30 minutes later we were called and given an Antigen test. Then we moved to another set of chairs to wait for the results. There was water, iced tea, and cookies in this area. 

Meanwhile my sister and her husband had arrived from one of the Windstar city hotels on the bus. They got there after us and it took them a while longer to get through since they were in a big group and behind all those who arrived first.

We got our A-OK and went to check in. We turned in our passports and gave them our credit card, and went down the line of people. We purchased the drink package and we made reservations at the two restaurants where you needed to specially reserve. The Star Pride, our ship, has a specialty Spanish restaurant and the Candles restaurant. 

We boarded the ship and were shown to our room. It is an “all suites” ship. We had a bedroom and living room and a small balcony, big enough to stand on but not big enough to sit on. Nice setup.

The Windstar fleet is just 6 ships, three yachts, and three sailing ships. The three yachts were scheduled to undergo construction where they cut the ship in half and inserted a new section in the middle. Essentially it became a ship version of a stretch limousine. So the Star Pride just got out of dry-dock and back to sea at the end of May. This was all planned prior to the Covid pandemic. They proceeded with the work once the shipyards reopened in Italy. We learned the ship is about 2/3 booked with about 230 people on board. This is just the second sailing since it’s refurbishment. 

Picture of the stretching.

We went out to explore. There are eight decks. The bottom three are not used by the guests. We are on deck six. We found all the restaurants, the spa and gym, shop, and the deck with the pool. We stopped on the top deck to have some wine while waiting for Cindy and Bill who finally got through the testing process and checked in.

We had our mandatory muster call, and then watched sail-away from our little balconies. It was much cooler now. Beautiful Sunset.

We went to dinner in the Amphora. It was ok.

We were disappointed that the smoking section on the top deck was put in the most unappealing possible spot. Between the two gigantic stacks of the exhaust and behind a bunch of stuff. Four chairs and a table, and a couple of other chairs made up this awful spot. I think perhaps it will be better when we are not sailing but rather, in a port for the night. We will see.

Saturday – June 18 – at sea
This was our at sea all day, day. We went to breakfast around 9:30. Then we wandered around the boat first going to the Yacht Club which is a nice lounge with a coffee bar and continental breakfast. It is in the bow and affords nice views forward. Later we shopped in the little boutique shop onboard. Then we headed up for a glass of wine outside on the top deck. We had a light lunch of salads for most of us at the Grill, but the guys both had some of the grilled meats. This is a well known chef who chose the menu and set up the restaurant. It is primarily grilled meats. We liked this added casual restaurant venue.

After a short rest I joined my sister and Bill for a Spanish wine tasting. It was quite good. We had a sparkling, a white, and three reds. Most came from the area north of Barcelona. We also attended the talk about our first port of call, Cartagena. 

We returned to the Amphora for dinner. I had a cooling watermelon and feta salad, which was good. My choice of pulled pork penne was not good. Too salty by far.

Sunday – June 19 – Cartagena
We had breakfast and then headed into Cartagena. In the talk we heard it was a town of around 250,000 but there is a central old town, as usual. It seemed much smaller. The boat docked right next to town. Easy walk. Pretty little place with impressive multicolored stones for pavers on the streets. Many streets were pedestrian only. But it was Sunday, and a lot of shops were closed. We walked the length of town. Which isn’t saying much. Still pretty with some nice architecture to include an Art Deco section. We visited the Roman amphitheater. It was only discovered a hundred years ago. They had built a church on top of it. It was pretty impressive. 

Now it was time for lunch. I found a traditional tapas place. It was supposed to have the smaller sized tapas. Nowadays, apparently the so-called tapas are more of an appetizer size. But traditionally they really were just a few bites. The restaurant was called El Cantón. Only a block from the Roman Amphitheater. A nice little place. Not much English but a fun proprietor. We sat outside. We each chose several tapas. The menu has sections like “let’s start with” and then, “toasts” then “boards” and more robust finishers. We had everything from tomato with olives and tuna toasts, to crackers with Russian salad and anchovies, to chorizo with crackers, to goat cheese and Caramelized onions, and finally two plates of the famous artichokes Cantón style, apparently a speciality.  A light white wine washed it all down, it was really fun and nice to try authentic tapas. Good value at only €78.50.

Our Restaurant. Loved this “local color” in the foreground
The proprietor explaining his head is in the coin.
Tuna, tomatoes and olives. What’s not to like?
Toasts.Topped with the ubiquitous “Russian salad” and anchovies.
Artichoke hearts with bacon and bread crumbs. The speciality of the house.
Pork stew with frites.
My sister! 💕
Our dining companion.

We returned to the ship for sail away.

We had dinner in the Spanish restaurant on ship. It was OK. We each had an appetizer and entree. We chatted with the people near us and then headed to the Star Bar for a nightcap. To be honest, even though this is a well known NY chef, it is hard to beat the Tapas we can get in the towns we stop in. If we weren’t in Spain it might seem more special.

Monday – June 20 – Malaga
We arrived in Malaga after a bumpy overnight ride, we had purchased tickets to the Picasso museum and we headed out at around 10:30. We toured the show. Malaga is Picasso’s birthplace. The museum had some early works and some later works but not many in between. It was a good show with some good anecdotes in the write-ups. We decided to stop for a drink in the plaza behind the museum and in front of the Roman ruins and coliseum. 

Next to where we had drinks.
Just beside the port

We decided on La Tranca for lunch. It got good reviews. Well, it was a real hoot. Not many tables. A long bar. Great Spanish music on the stereo which the waitresses sang along to. We got there just at one and within ten minutes the place was packed. The menu was only in Spanish, which was a challenge. We looked up some words and figured out a lot of the offerings and then we each ordered one or two things. They were soooo good. Luther got tuna with cheese on a skewer. Cindy got avocado with crab and shrimp. I ordered a skewer of shrimp which was so garlicky and to die for. Bill ordered an empanada. And then we had a huge bowl of salty grilled peppers and patatas brava. We did not go hungry. It was all delicious. At the end they total up your bill by writing in chalk on the bar and adding it up. €50 to include two bottles of nice white wine and a tip. Not bad at all!

Pimientos de Padrón – a favorite of mine. I could eat this whole bowl!
Avocado and shrimp and the cheese and tuna
Totaling our bill on the bar in chalk.

We wandered back through the city and returned for a siesta as the locals do. At six we headed to the lounge for the Flaminco show. A group of five, two women and three men. One woman sang, one man played the phenomenal guitar, one did percussion and the other two were the dancers. They were all very talented. For dinner we tried the grill. It was served buffet style and there were baby back ribs and marinated grilled chicken. Along with salads and sides. A nice change from the Amphora. Finally Luther could smoke a cigar since we were spending two days in Malaga. The ship wasn’t moving.

Tuesday June 21 – Malaga day 2
Our anniversary! A special day. The summer solstice, my wedding anniversary, and the anniversary of my retirement! It was cloudy and cool. A welcome change. We had a leisurely breakfast and decided to wander the streets and small alleys of Malaga. There were no big stores and I saw only one chain store which was Spanish. It was just about all small shops. Many souvenir stores. The specialty items which we saw in many shops were scarves, fans, Malaga ceramics, flamenco paraphernalia. I have now accumulated three fans! They are quite beautiful. I bought a hand painted one in Cartagena and two here. Both of the later ones were smaller in size and fit in my purse. One quite inexpensive, and one of wood which was moderate in price.

These were very lifelike.
Flaminco shoes for little girls.

We went to Picasso Tapas for lunch. It was on a big square with many mimosa trees. We, of course, had tapas again. These were quite small and I think we ordered nine in two rounds. My personal opinion was they were good but not the best we have had. The patatas brava were very sub-par with no garlic sauce and only a ketchup which was spiked with cayenne. The spicy shrimp were not very garlicky and not very spicy. The padron peppers were good. We were waited on by a Welshman. Unexpected!

Spanish young boy next to us. I was intrigued by his style!
Olives. There are always olives. Spanish olives are great.
Poor excuse for patatas bravas

We walked back and had our siesta then readied ourselves for the Captains reception for returning customers. And our anniversary dinner at Candles.

Candles was a shadow of its former self. Too bad. Afterwards we headed to our room where we all watched the end of the Congressional hearings.
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Go to Part Two of the trip

Spring’s bounty!

Just an addendum to my last post. My socks. 😁

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From time to time Luther sends me a recipe he likes. Truth be told, he sends me at least one a week. They come from the Italian newspaper or from the Dr. Wine site. He complains that I don’t make many of them. I admit, I don’t. Friday, I made a zuppa that he sent. Zuppa di legumi misti, mais, e orzo perlato. It is a mixture of dried beans, farro, lentils (your choice of the mix) with corn and orzo. This is another oddity. Orzo, in the US, is rice shaped pasta. Here, orzo is barley. Here’s a picture. (I added short pasta and potatoes)

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I love this time of year. Gone is the winter produce. Now we see ruby red radishes, piles of fava beans and new peas ready to sbucciare, my new word for today. As in to shell, or to peel. Luther will sbuccia all of them for me, and then I do the cooking part 🙂 There is asparagus in heaps, of course. Beautiful bitter greens like arugula, called rucola here. And lettuces. The baby zucchini are just coming in and the cucumbers. I impatiently await the tomatoes but they won’t be here until July, maybe late June.

Today I bought something interesting from one of our nice cheese mongers. She had in her case containers of Sardinian potato dumplings that she had prepared (she is from Sardinia). All I have to do is boil them and serve with a good tomato sauce with basil. I also bought a container of fresh ricotta.

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Lunch out Saturday! With friends. We decided on a restaurant in Montone, a nearby hill town. This restaurant has been there since we’ve lived here but in typical Italian fashion it was never open when we tried to go. I heard from friends that it is open now, under new management. It is called Taverna Del Verziere. One of the best features of this place is the views from the walls across the valley from their terazza. Spectacular and oh so pleasant on a summer day.

It is a family run place and they were all super welcoming. I was glad I had reserved since it was pretty packed. Their antipasto menu was interesting. We tried a couple new-to-us things. I had the papapomodoro with seasonal vegetables. A typical Umbrian recipe using stale bread soaked in tomato juices. The veggies were either roasted or pickled. Susan got the roasted purple carrot Hummus.

We both enjoyed them. Luther and Gary got the tagliata with lardo for their secondo. It is grilled steak sliced and they put a very thin piece of Lardo on top. Lardo is a speciality of northern Tuscany. Pork belly lard, the purest white, is packed with herbs into giant marble boxes and left to cure for eight months. Then it can be thinly sliced. When it is placed on hot meat, it melts and adds wonderful unctuous flavor.

Montone is a walled town with several gates through the walls. I love this one and the view.

Buona domenica a tutti!