Monday: Barolo


We drove from Alba to Barolo this morning, a quick half hour trip to a very charming wine city in the Piedmont area of Italy.
There was a fantastic wine museum there with information about the history of Italian wines of the area and some exhibits of how wine has been made through the years and ways it is used. There were just a small group of visitors there, so it was a good day to go.

We explored Barolo on foot and found that the city itself is small. The vineyards around the city center are beautiful – we saw them as we drove around after lunch at a small restaurant we found.

We drove back to where we are staying, and Alba seems very quiet today after their wild tartufo festival yesterday.


Sunday: Alba

Today was the International White Truffle (or as they say here: Tartufo Bianco) Festival in Alba. We spent a good part of the morning and early afternoon there until the crowds and then rain became too much.

The festival had all kinds of food – boar roasting on a spit, chicken, ribs, kebabs – and plenty of other selections. It was too early for any of that, so we checked out the games set up around the city center. All of them looked as though they had been used for decades – worn, but still good-looking Skittles tables, bows and arrows, a dart board, ring toss to win bottles of wine, and many other games that seemed well attended with prizes, mostly wine, handed out to winners. It was fun to watch.

We made our way to the truffle tent, where dozens of vendors were selling their white and black truffles. It takes forever to make a sale since they add the cost each truffle individually and they have to wrap them carefully. There is an official judging area for those who are skeptical about the value of what they bought. So there were lines of people everywhere and the whole place was very busy.

(We bought just one truffle with the plan to slice it up – there’s a special truffle slicer in the kitchen drawer here – and mix it into scrambled eggs, as suggested by our host.)

The tent, although huge, became so filled with people that it was impossible to walk, so we left. We continued to walk around the streets for a while but there were people and umbrellas everywhere.

Eventually we got out of the rain and came back to enjoy the tartufo scrambled eggs. They were very good.

photos: white truffles for sale

below: a game of Skittles. I watched for a while but didn’t see anyone win.

wild boar cooking

Saturday, Alba

Saturdays are the huge market day here, and I walked over early to see what it was all about. I was in search of fruit and vegetables, but there were streets full of everything else: men’s and women’s clothes, shoes, purses, and all sorts of household goods. The tables were chock-full of merchandise. I walked around for about an hour, then went back to where we are staying so the two of us could check things out.

We took a different route and eventually came upon the produce I was looking for.

After coffee, we dropped our bags back at our apartment and headed toward our tour of underground Alba. By now – 10:30- the streets were full of people, children, strollers, and dogs, and it took some time to get around.

We eventually found the meeting place. We knew the tour would be in Italian, but they gave us the script typed in English, which was nice and helpful.

It was interesting to see what archaeologists uncovered under the streets of the city, some under a church, a bank, and the police station.

The tour lasted about two hours and we had lunch at our apartment then walked around some more, this time in a direction we had not checked out before. We eventually headed back to make dinner.

photos: fruits and vegetables at the market today

underground Alba

the busy market

Friday: Alba

We continued to explore Alba on foot today and made plans to take a tour of the old underground city tomorrow. It should be interesting.

We had a lunch in an underground restaurant today, coincidentally. The storefront is on street level but once through the door, there are steps down.

The sand sculpture artist from yesterday was back today making an identical dog. I went for a run and passed his spot at 8am. He wasn’t there yet. An hour later when we walked by, he already had most of the dog sculpted. So it seems to be a sand art scam and he will do great with it this weekend, I’m sure.

photos: early morning in the city

pigeon on the back terrace

pigeon on the lunch menu

Thursday: Alba

Wow, Alba is a nice little city! Today we walked around to get acclimated to the area. Its population of 30,000 will balloon to 100,000 with the big white truffle festival this weekend. Already there are signs the stores and restaurants are getting ready, with canopies out on the sidewalk on some streets.

I mentioned in my post yesterday that we mistakenly drove into a piazza area that is restricted from most car traffic. The sign, in Italian of course, says that a camera will photograph the license plates of vehicles that enter, and a fine issued. Our host translated that for us last night.

So we stopped in at the tourism office this morning and asked for their guidance so we could pay the ticket before it got to our car rental company. The tourism agent made some calls, then had us follow her upstairs to the police department. They checked their records and couldn’t see our car’s data on file, so maybe we are in the clear. Occasionally the camera isn’t on or a car is blocking its view. Regardless, we were grateful for their help and it sounds like we probably saved 80 Euro.

We have a decent-sized kitchen here, so made porcini mushroom pasta for dinner.

All is well in Alba, Italy.

photos: a surprisingly realistic sand sculpture

bottom: white truffles under glass with their individual prices, which range from about $10-$30 each. Crazy and weird.

street performer

Wednesday: Alba

Despite falling in love with Lyon, we left the city this morning. We would love to come back. For now, we are enjoying Alba, Italy.

Alba is about a four-and-a-half hour drive from Lyon and we stopped a few times along the way. We arrived in the city close to 4pm and initially had some trouble figuring our where our Airbnb actually was. The google directions put us in a busy piazza area. We finally figured it out and were delighted to check in to our Alba apartment.

Our host was kind and spent some time getting us situated. He told us that the white truffle festival is going on this weekend, so we are looking forward to crowds of people and some delicious food. He also let us know about the farmers markets going on three times a week and other cities in the area we may want to visit.

We walked around this evening to check out what’s around and bought some local salami from a butcher nearby, who also got us to try some hot peppers in olive oil. We ended the evening with some gelato, which cannot become a habit despite the shop being next door to where we are staying.

photos: the Italian Alps looking beautiful on a fall day

below: trying some hot red peppers

Alba this evening, the banner is for the Truffle Festival on Sunday

Tuesday: Lyon

It poured all last night and a good part of today – the best reason to take a tour of the city via the hop-on, hop-off tour bus. We enjoyed seeing and hearing about an overview of many parts of Lyon and never hopped off the bus until the last stop.

It was a good day to check out Pralus Lyon, a bakery known for its praline and chocolate breads and it is mainly what they sell. I walked there in a downpour (why not) and was happy to leave the store with a small loaf of praline. It is delicious.

We finished the day meeting our daughter’s friend for dinner. She lives in Lyon and had lots of interesting insights about life there. It sounds grand.

photos: top – praline loaves

bottom – short, squat variety of zucchini that seems common to this area

L’epicerie, a nice place for dinner tonight

Monday: Lyon

Today was a beautiful Monday, close to 80 degrees and sunny. We took advantage of the nice weather (it is supposed to rain all of tomorrow) and walked around Lyon for most of the day, checking out some shops and enjoying the architecture and the old city.

It is remarkable how many restaurants, coffee shops, and bakeries are here – one right next to another – and they seem to be thriving. It is a beautiful old city.

photos: 222 steps going up ( and down)

below: peanut butter, apple, walnut toast for breakfast

beautiful old buildings are throughost the city.

Sunday: Lyon

We left Clermont-Ferrand this morning and drove to Lyon. The city was just over two hours away, but we had to take our time because check-in for our Airbnb was not until 4pm.

We stopped a few times along the way, most notably about an hour outside the city of Roanne, which was described online as having some delicious restaurants. Not on Sunday though. We drove through the town and nothing at all was open on Dimanche.

I found an open restaurant in a town about twenty minutes away. Yes, it was open but no, they couldn’t serve us. They were packed. I asked the woman who turned us away if there was anything at all open. “Not on Sunday,” she told me in French. Okay, we would wait until Lyon.

So we drove into the big, busy city, located the parking garage suggested by our host, and found dozens of restaurants open along the river and beyond. We ate, then found our rental apartment, then went back to the car to get our luggage. All the walking helped us get our bearings.

The tiny apartment is great: centrally located so we can walk everywhere, and super-cute in a very old building.

We will have fun discovering Lyon this week.

photos: A small part of our pretty drive to Lyon

below: used books for sale along the Rhone

The River Rhone

Saturday: Clermont-Ferrand

After breakfast in our hotel, we walked into the city, about a half-hour from where we are staying. There’s a bus and tram service close by, but it was a nice morning with temperatures in the sixties so traveling on foot seemed to be the best option.

It was an interesting walk – we passed very old buildings and narrow, pretty streets. We spent some time checking out the “Notre Dame de Clermont,” a replica of the famous cathedral built mainly in the 1300s. It’s black from volcanic ash outside, but inside it’s beautiful and used regularly, it seems.

We continued walking around and checked out some store, and stopped for coffee when a rain shower caught us off guard (without umbrellas). The sun eventually came out and we found a nice restaurant for lunch. We left a few hours later after eating too much delicious food and we started the walk back to our hotel and a comfortable reading spot.

Tomorrow: Lyon

photos- a narrow old city street

below – Notre-Dame in Clermont

from fromage at the farmers market this morning