Friday: Eger, Hungary

We left Budapest this morning. I would love to go back. It is such a vibrant city and I could look at the ancient buildings’ architecture every day. But we were off to Eger – a two-hour drive by the time we got out of the very busy Budapest.

Eger is in northern Hungary and one of the things it is noted for is its red wine. So once we got settled we tried some at lunch. Later we checked out Eger’s holiday market (the “Advent” market) which really does not open until tomorrow. It looks as though it will be a big deal, with a bandshell, lots of food and wine booths, and all sorts of holiday gifts.

Their holiday lights and Christmas tree will be lit tomorrow night too. We are just here overnight and the lights that are on make the city look beautiful.


photos: a tree in the center of Eger’s town square; a stream that runs into the Eger River; palacsinta – a rolled pancake tgat can have nuts, jam, or other things in it. We had chocolate❤

Monday: Trieste

Trieste is a beautiful seaport city with a complicated history. It is just 12 miles from Slovenia, and has a wide mix of cultures. Trieste became an important music and literature center in the 19th century. Many writers, poets, and otherwise well known people have lived in Trieste: Italo Svavo and James Joyce among the more interesting.With all that said, it is a very cool, non-touristy place with excellent restaurants, bakeries, bookstores, and an arts scene that won’t really get underway for a few more weeks – late November.We had read about the osmisa, a tradition unique to the Trieste area. Osmisas are gathering places in a person’s home. Each day of the week, some of them are open. Anyone can go.We checked the osimisa website to see that of about 15 total, five of them were open near (30 minutes away) us today. We chose the one that sounded the most interesting (the owner makes honey, cheese, and salami) and set out. Like most, its open hours were pretty much all day: 9am-midnight.The osimisa was not easy to find, even with GPS. There are dirt roads, narrow passages, and unmarked roads, and then finally a small sign.We walked into the home sort of timidly. No problem – they welcomed us and the owner went to get his wife once he realized we spoke English.We ordered red wine (they make it), cheese and salami. We sat by the fireplace and it was a very interesting, very unique experience. People stopped in every few minutes for a quick glass of wine, or to sit and eat.We enjoyed our wine and snack (which turned out to be lunch) for about 45 minutes. I wished I had brought my book in from the car since it was a perfect reading setup. We left after paying €9.30 (about $12) for all we had.A traveling group of folk singers randomly stops in at osimisas during the week – in the early evening – and it would be fun to be in one when they showed up.photos: the center of the city at night; at the osimisa; interesting windows we walked past

Sunday: Scandicci

We are loving life in Tuscany after just 24 hours here. Our hosts are fantastic, and their attitude is that if you’re staying with us you are part of the family.

A lot of that ends up meaning food, and we are all for it. After an extra hour’s sleep because of the time change, we had a delicious and grand breakfast of eggs, cheese, pancetta, bread, jam, fruit – all grown by the family or prepared by Teresa, the host. It was delicious, needless to say.

We met a young couple from Canada who had been staying in the second bedroom for three days but were leaving that morning. They were fun to hat with a bit before they had to leave for their flight put of Rome.

We wandered into town, which was quiet since it is Sunday. When we came back to the villa, we were treated to wine, and mushroom lasagna, then a beef and potato dish, again with every ingredient grown or made on site. We were happily finished with eating when along came a mascarpone dessert with chocolate shavings on top. It was all better than any restaurant food we could have had, and all unexpected.

We left and stopped by an open house at a small nearby olive oil factory, and although we watched the whole process of olive and leaves going into the machine, the olives being separated, the fruit being chopped and blended, and eventually olive oil coming out, we did not sample anything because we were not at all hungry.

We came back to watch the sunset – an hour earlier than last night – and Teresa offered us wine and prosciutto on small warm rolls she had just made. Which of course we ate.


photos: Sunday sunset; an evening snack (plus wine); blending the olives – olive oil being made

Tuesday: Barbaresco/ Neive

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We visited Barbaresco today, a small city with beautiful – but foggy today – panoramic views and plenty of vineyards. They make wonderful wine there, but it’s tough to find an espresso in town. We never did.

We enjoyed the beauty of the surroundings and the quiet solitude we felt there. Tourist season is over for sure – we may have seen three other people during our time in the center of town.

We drove to Neive, a neighboring city that’s just a little bigger than Barbaresco. We easily found coffee there and we checked out the area. A school seemed to be for students all the way to high school, and kids dashed out on the streets at lunch time.

We had lunch in one of the two restaurants in town before heading back to Alba.

20191022_09371620191022_123500photos: autumn in Neive; Barbaresco view; Tiramisu dessert!

Monday: Barolo

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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.

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Wednesday/Thursday: Saint-Emilion

Our castle room is fantastic! What a lucky find on Airbnb.

Our hosts, Annick and Pierre, run the vineyard here and it has been in the family for four generations – five now that their son is out of college and actively working in the business.

We enjoyed a tour of their impressive wine-making operation where wine is still made traditionally – quite a tedious process from what we observed. Some of their equipment, like the numbered vats where the wine ferments – were made in the late 1800s. They produce about 45,000 bottles of wine annually. We tried some from 2016, 15, and 14, and liked it a lot. Yes, of course we got a few bottles to take with us.

Our small room in the castle is almost unbelievable, with ancient stone walls and very old solid wood furniture. It is much warmer here than in Ireland but the castle is probably naturally cool all the time. (It does not have wifi or television, and electrical outlets are scarce.)

Annick dropped off a fresh baguette and her own jam this morning and I met up with her after my run into town. (I thought I had woken up just before 7am, but with the time change it was actually an hour later. I guess I was tired after our long drive yesterday.) She is a schoolteacher and told me kids have school from 8-5 just four days a week, off on Wednesday.

We explored Saint-Emilion, full of many wine shops, cheese shops, and plenty of restaurants. The streets are very narrow and ancient, and sometimes tricky to walk on with their sharp, jutting rocks. It is beautiful and charming to walk around and very interesting to drive around. Grapes are harvested this time of year and workers are in the vineyards getting the job done.

photos: above – the door to our castle room.

below – wine vats from the 1800s, still used

bottles of wine produced by the vineyard

Tuesday: Bordeaux

We had an early flight to Paris this morning, so were on the hotel shuttle to the airport at 4:30. The shuttle runs 24/7, about every 25 minutes. I was glad we just had a five- minute wait.

The Dublin airport was wide awake even if we weren’t, and we got to our flight and on to Charles de Gaulle airport quickly (or maybe it seemed that way since we mostly slept for the 90-minutes).

Once through French immigration, customs and baggage claim, we figured out how to get the leased car from Citroen we will use to drive around France and beyond. We set off for Bordeaux, six hours from the airport, during a rainstorm.

We finally made it to our destination. After our hosts greeted us, I took a quick picture of our castle lodging before we set off for dinner. Long day and we are very hungry.

photos: dinner in Bordeaux

the castle where we are staying.

vineyards as we drove

Monday, March 23: Laguardia, Spain

I had heard it raining overnight, but was surprised to see it was snowing this morning. Yesterday it had been sunny and warm south of us and now, in the Rioja wine region of northern Spain, it was much, much colder.

I haven’t bought any clothes for below-freezing temperatures, but bundled up with what I have. Our plan was to walk to the gated entrance to the village (it turns out our hotel is right outside it, maybe a ten-minute walk) and check out Laguardia. We couldn’t do that because the snow turned to pouring rain. We waited it out, then drove to the entrance and dashed in through a gate.

Laguardia is over a thousand years old and is like another world. Surrounded by huge stone walls, it is easy to see how it provided the people of the city safety from attack. What is remarkable is that 1,500 people live there in these modern times.

It is a totally inclusive walled village made of blocks of stone. By “totally inclusive” I mean that the people never have to leave the walls of the city and few, if any they have cars. There are shops, restaurants, bars, services – it seems as though they have anything they need.

As soon as I dashed in, I marveled at the narrow stone-lined streets. I couldn’t take pictures since we were running in the rain. We were not really sure where to go since there are just doors within stone walls. Everything looks very similar. Some doors are people’s homes, others are businesses. There are no storefront windows, so you have to know where you’re going. This posed a problem because of the rain, since we couldn’t just walk casually around. And of course we had no idea where we were going.

We ducked into one tiny shop that had some nice sweaters displayed near the open door. The saleswoman/owner was nice although she spoke almost no English. She was able to direct us to a great restaurant after I bought a sweater there, and we dashed up the street because it was still raining.

After a delicious lunch, the waiter suggested we check out the restaurant’s cellar. Underneath the entire walled city are wine cellars. They have been separated under businesses and homes now, so are not connected as they were when they were first built as one huge place to safely store the village’s wine. It was interesting to see the small connected rooms that snaked underneath the building.

Tomorrow we are going to tour a winery and check out more of the inside of the walled village. We are hoping it is not raining or snowing so we can walk around.

Adios,
-Susan

The old and grand restaurant where we had lunch today.

The old and grand restaurant where we had lunch today.

The wine bar was not open when we were there in the late afternoon, but it was interesting to see the setup. We may go back tomorrow evening to see what it's like with people there.

The wine bar was not open when we were there in the late afternoon, but it was interesting to see the setup. We may go back tomorrow evening to see what it’s like with people there.

A sweater and pashmina I got today in the walled city

A sweater and pashmina I got today in the walled city

At lunch today

At lunch today

The caves underneath the restaurant. Wine is stored there, but it is also a wine bar at night.

The caves underneath the restaurant. Wine is stored there, but it is also a wine bar at night.