Friday: Beaune

We spent this rainy day in Beaune and got organized for our trip home in a week. This took a while since we have been tossing things into our rental car without thought about whether it would eventually fit into our luggage. Consolidating took some time, but I am relieved that is done.

We did some Christmas shopping in town and had a delicious lunch. Later we walked up to the small Christmas market which really doesn’t get into full swing until Saturday. It was nice to hear holiday songs and check out what they were selling.

Tomorrow we leave Beaune and head toward Paris, staying about an hour away. We drop our car at the airport on Sunday and then stay a few days in the city before our flight back.


photos: €20 Christmas trees for sale in the city (a bargain); a street in Beaune; Athenaeum – a store that is the best of two worlds; a bookstore and a wine cellar. Plus great gifts.

Wednesday: Beaune

We left Vichy at about noon and drove to Lyon. There we picked up our daughter who flew from London to go home to the U.S. for the holidays.

The drive was about 2.5 hours, but with pouring rain it took longer. It also took longer because we tried to find a pack-and-ship place so we could send home one big, heavy box so we wouldn’t have to lug it home. We were not successful – the one we found just took prepaid packages – and we may just check it with our luggage. Meanwhile, we were thankful that her flight was on time.

From there (still pouring rain) we drove to Beaune, about two more hours nearer to Paris. We will stay there tonight. So – it was a day in the car, but necessary.


photos; The Christmas tree at Lyon airport; ancient bridges oureside Lyon; the end of the day, in Beaune

Wednesday: Budapest

Yesterday our food tour guide mentioned the New York Cafe, a hotel and restaurant originally built in the late 1800s by the New York Life Insurance Company. The cafe is often mentioned as the most beautiful in the world, and it was once a place where influential newspaper writers and editors would meet. We decided to have breakfast there.

It is easy to see what draws people to the cafe. It is sensational, with beautiful Italian Renaissance-style architecture that is perfectly restored. Breakfast was good, but I was more interested in checking out the hotel lobby and taking in the elegant building.

After breakfast, we walked to the House of Parliament, about a half-hour away on the banks of the Danube River, and took a tour. Aside from checking out a courtroom and seeing the heavily guarded Holy Crown (no photos permitted) we learned of the importance of the number 96 to Hungary. No building can be built to be over 96 meters, so it is not higher than St. Stephen’s Basilica and the Parliament building – important to church and state. Additionally, the main staircase in to Parliament has 96 steps, and the number figures importantly in other ways too numerous to mention.

We had lunch and it was pouring rain when we left the restaurant. It was still raining this evening, and about half of the Christmas market vendors were not there as we walked by. Music at the market were two talented guys covering the Rolling Stones.

photos: Where members of Parliament put their cigars when they went into the courtroom. These numbered spots are still there because they are part of the wood; the New York Cafe – usually packed with people; the main entrance to the Parliament building, from inside

Wednesday: Gyor, Hungary

We left Trieste this morning and although we would have liked to have stayed a few more days, the almost constant wind and heavy rain was becoming ridiculous. On to Hungary.

To cross through Slovenia and Hungary, tolls are paid via a vignette – a sticker on the car window. A car without a sticker means a €140 fine, paid on the spot. Stories are all over regarding clueless drivers who figured “toll road” means what it means in other countries: pay when passing through a toll booth. Fortunately we had read up on this and got a sticker in a shop close to the Italy/Slovenia border. Sure enough, police were on active lookout on the Slovenia/Hungary border.

The five- hour drive went fine until we got into the city of Gyor. Since the hotel was in the promenade/ pedestrian walk section of the old city, there was no way to get to it get there without parking in the garage and walking over – no big deal once we knew that, but GPS caused some frustration as we drove around looking for the hotel.

We finally found it, after parking our car and walking around inside the area closed to cars. We checked in and got the rest of our luggage and almost immediately went looking for dinner because we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We found a nice place within steps of the hotel – a good thing because of course it continued to rain.

We walked around for a while after we left the restaurant and eventually found a small dessert shop. Who knew “Gofri” means “waffle,” and that these things are gigantic.


photos: a vignette firmly attached to the windshield; wild and delicious gofri/waffle; Hungarian restaurant this evening. The old brick structure is interesting to check out.

Tuesday: Trieste

Today we visited the Castle of San Guisto, a fortress that protected the town in the late 1300s when it was under Austrian rule. Most of the castle is now a museum to display ancient armory, and the range of very old sword types is sort of startling, but impressive. Written explanations in English were throughout the armory collection, which made it more interesting.

I most enjoyed the panoramic views of the harbor from the windows of the castle and then out on the back deck (they probably didn’t call it a deck). Even with the constant rain today, it was still something to be seen. Afterwards, I met Marija, who runs the visitors center there. She wanted to talk about the Chicago Bears, who I know almost nothing about. Her husband runs football camps in Trieste and invites retired American football players to come over and participate so Marije knows many of them. She was fun to chat with.

Last night we tried to get into the Antiquarian Umberto Saba bookstore, a historical landmark I had read about and was anxious to check out. It wasn’t open when we went, so we tried back today but it was still closed. Perhaps the owner is sick, although I did read that he tends to keep his own hours despite what is posted.

On to lunch at the wonderful, charming Tavernetta. This small restaurant was fantastic – what could be better than five enticing choices written on a blackboard and a kind owner who was happy to make us comfortable.

Today we experienced Trieste’s “bora” – the intense winds that are unique to the area. When they are accompanied by rain they are called the “dark bora.” So today was a dark bora day, with winds so strong they pulled you with your umbrella. Or in the case of my traveling companion, wrecked your umbrella altogether.


photos: The castle provided the most beautiful views of Trieste; dessert- fantastic; part of the sword display at the castle museum.

Friday: Viareggio

Today was mainly a relaxing day. I did some reading and some work, and we went to lunch in the city – the same restaurant as Tuesday since we liked it so much. I have been eating squid at every opportunity since it is so fresh and we don’t have it often/ever in the Midwest.

We did some planning for the weeks ahead and walked around the city.

Of course it was raining.


Photos (it was not much of a photo day, especially with no sun) – a typical apartment building in the city; my favorite food around here; our home here.

Wednesday: Viareggio

It rained for so long and so hard last night that the power was out this morning and water had come in under the balcony door in both of the two bedrooms in our house. Since the floors are a nicely finished wood, I dont think water comes in very often if at all. It seemed to be an unusually heavy and constant downpour.

Our host texted me first thing this morning to tell me where the circuit box is and how to reset the breaker. A half hour after I did that, it rained hard again and the power went out. I reset for a second time and we were good (= hot coffee).

It continued to pour most of the day, with thunderstorms regularly. We had planned to take the train to Cinque Terre today, but will try that tomorrow. Today we ran some errands, got food to make dinner, and hung out – a nice quiet day except for the rain hitting the roof.

photos: a lime tree across the street from where we are staying. The limes are huge and round; our Airbnb home; the scene almost all day today

Sunday: Siena

Our last day in beautiful (but still very rainy) Siena was mainly a lazy and relaxing one. We got laundry done, which took a few morning hours. The streets were pretty much empty – so different from yesterday evening.

We went back to the Boccon del Prete restaurant for lunch (we had been there a few days ago). With many places closed on Sunday, it seems lunch spots are at a premium so we felt happy to get a table and have a delicious spaghetti-with-meat- sauce lunch.

Tomorrow we leave Siena drive to the Viareggio area to enjoy a few days of exploring there. It is two hours from here and on the watee. It will be a nice change of scenery although the 7-day forecast doesn’t look great right now.


photos: Siena looking like a postcard; the book exchange – I love finding this in a place I’m staying; Siena – empty of people this morning

Saturday: Siena

Today was another rainy day in Siena, but that’s okay. We still made the most of it.

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed out for a stroll around the city. We ended up at the Museum of Torture, which I never should have gone into. Medieval methods of torture are so awful that I get nauseous just thinking about them. Sure enough, this museum was certainly well equipped, with ancient gizmos designed to get a person to admit their guilt, suffer horribly, and slowly die.

I walked the experience off and we had lunch at Osteria Babzuf, a restaurant the hotel staff had recommended. We were glad they did – it was a small cafe, it had delicious food, and it was a comfortable, relaxing stop.

We browsed around some shops after that. An interesting butcher shop, La Bottega a Rosano, has been around for over 300 years, passed down from fathers to sons. The entire family apparently lives upstairs and it is a tiny shop, made smaller by the many types of meat hanging from the ceiling and salami displayed in the cases. Photos are not allowed – they aren’t trying to be a tourist attraction. Still, it was a fascinating place to see.

It rained off and on for the rest of the late afternoon and evening, heavily at times. We spent some time in a patisserie waiting for it to lighten up and eventually went back to our hotel.


photos: fun tiny art at Osteria Babzuf; the Piazza del Campo; a room at the torture museum, I photographed none of what I saw there.

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