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Hileman Cirrito European Vacations

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Hileman Cirrito European Vacations - Page Text Content

S: 1983 -2008

FC: Cirrito & Hileman | European Vacations

1: To our incredible travel buddies and friends Maureen and Joe When we made our first trip together thirty years ago, Scott and I had no idea of the life-time of happiness we would experience from our travels. Creating this album and reliving all the t rips has been a remarkable journey. Our time in Europe has greatly impacted the people we have evolved to today. Not only were our vacations great fun but also an unbelievable learning and growing experience. Europe is aesthetically rich but also steeped in history that beckons you to learn more. When I was younger, I never fully appreciated the architecture prior to the 20th century. It is none thing to see a photo and another thing to see the beauty multi-dimensionally. Art was not a subject I took in school although I had visited several great US art museums. But my travels to France quickly heightened my love affair with French Impressionists. For many years we were unaware of the planning and research that went into our great trips, we just benefited from your efforts. However, when we made our first trip without you we quickly discovered and appreciated the time it takes to really make a truly memorable vacation. Every trip has been fabulous; not just because of the wonderful places we have visited or the great food and wine (yes, there were days when I enjoyed the wine as well!), but most importantly because we were privileged to have two amazing friends to share our journey. Surprisingly, there are very few things I would change if I could. Perhaps, the only significant thing is I did not start keeping a travel journal until 2007 so the earlier trip memories are not as vivid. Yet, recreating those early trips together for this album has made us all remember all our great times together. Of course much has changed since we acquired our first passport. When we first started traveling internet information and reservations were non-existent. Books, articles and travel agencies were utilized for research and reservations. Bookings were often made via letters, especially with smaller inns. We often had to wait weeks to find out if hotel rooms were available. When we purchased our first set of Italian dishes from the factory in Vietri, the shipment had to clear customs in a US port before being sent to Arizona. I had to hire an LA company to complete the customs process and freight forwarding on our behalf. When the dishes finally arrived, they were in a large wooden crate packed in hay! The process was quite different the second time we and Brad bought dishes in Italy; all we did was ship the dinnerware via Fed Ex and the bubble wrapped dishes arrived in a small cardboard container directly to our home. Each country had their currency and conversion rate to dollars. The dollar was much stronger and the relative cost much less than it is now. Over the years, English has been more widely spoken. Many years ago most countries required children to learn English and as the population has aged, English has been more prevalent. Also, many Iron Curtain countries like the Czech Republic have become accessible to tourists. There have been so many special times, but some of my favorites are those memories with the locals. Experiences when you interact with the residents that endear you to the country. And of course, there are those occasions when one of us just experiences something unexpectedly. Those are such special memories; memories that bring a quick smile and often a laugh. Hand sorting Italian dishes with Maureen in the factory Maureen almost getting arrested on the Paris Metro The kiss from the Ma Bourgogne chef and wine glass gift Scott's first visit to the French Riviera and nude beaches Diane jumping on the car hood to see the wild animals in the Camargue Diane hoarding the last strawberry dessert Europe possesses some of the world's best scenery, architecture, museums and food and remarkably many of these collectively exist in one city / area. We have had the good fortunate and pleasure of visiting many of them and we look forward to visiting many more in the years ahead.

2: Our European journey began in Paris, Europe's most beautiful city. We spent our three nights at Hotel Vendome, situated in an elegant and convenient Paris district. Scott and I were somewhat intimidated by Paris, but we were fortunate to have multi-time Paris visitors as our travel mates to introduce us to the wonderful city and assist us with French menus, the metro and foot rubs for my pansy feet that were not used to walking. | France 1983

3: Paris

5: Paris

6: Paris

8: For 800 years the glorious market at Les Halles used to be the food distribution hub of Paris. In the 1970's' the market was transformed into a multi-level underground shopping center dominated by the curves of modern glass and metal designed buildings. | Les Halles

9: Window shopping (and buying) is one of Maureen's and my favorite Paris activities. The French call it Leche-Vitrine, literally "licking the windows" which is fitting because many of the displays look good enough to eat. Shopping attracts millions of visitors to Paris each year with its incredible stores and fashions. A trip to Paris is never complete without several serious shopping excursions. Maureen provided a very comprehensive introduction into the vast network of shopping treasures Paris possesses, and I willingly followed her lead. We took the Metro to the famed Paris Flea Market where I purchased a beautiful white lace tablecloth and napkins and Scott acquired several old coins. A delightful afternoon was devoted to shopping the many levels of Paris' large department store Galleries Lafayette where the food floors were great fun and the guys especially enjoyed sampling the vast selection of culinary delights. And then there were the endless array of tempting small boutiques including Boulevard Saint-Germain des Pres with its charming tree-lined streets and beautiful Parisian buildings. I had been warned that many Parisians were not fond of Americans and although we did encounter a few stand-offish sales clerks; Maureen's limited French seemed to be sufficient to engage the clerks and provide us with a wonderful shopping experience. | Shopping Paris

10: Paris

13: Paris

14: ""La Ville-Lumiere" The City of Light Paris is especially magical and romantic when its monuments are illuminated and lights are reflected by the waters of the Seine. Paris originally acquired the nickname City of Light as it was a vast center of education and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment. In 1828 the nickname was reinforced when Paris began lighting the Champs Elysees with gas lamps becoming the first city in Europe to do so.

15: Paris

16: Cassis

17: We started our Southern France adventure in Marseille. Our first destination was Cassis an ancient fishing port rebuilt on old 18th century ruins. The harbor area and colorful pastel buildings with tile roofs were charming but we will always remember Cassis for the sandy beaches and Scott's face when he first saw topless sunbathers .

18: Aix-en Provence | Our first of three nights in the Provence region was in Aix-en-Provence, the city of one thousand fountains and home town of Cezanne. We stayed in the 18th Century five-star provincial manor house Hotel Le Pigonnet.

20: As we drove through Provence we first saw a single poppy stem on the side of the road. Next, we were enticed by a few at the edge of a vineyard. But then to our delight, a bright reddish orange carpet of the delicate flower called coquelicots in French took our breath away and Joe climbed a tree to photograph the spectacular site. On this beautiful Provencal day, we had our picnic in the orchard of an old abbey. | Food is an important part of any Europe trip. But after all our delightful meals, our casual roadside picnic in Provence is still one of my personal favorites.

21: Picnic in Provence

22: Hotel D'Arlatan | We stayed in Arles at Hotel D'Arlatan, a 12th century private house.

23: Casis | Arles | The town of Arles was one of the richest urban centers in France during the Gallo-Roman period and we visited two of the important remaining structures; the Arena and the Theatre. Arles has remained medieval in character with narrow and winding streets between ancient buildings. For our one night, we stayed in the heart of the historic enter of Arle at Hotel D'Arlatan. | Arles dates back to the 7th century BC and was one of the richest urban centers in France during the Gallo-Roman period. The streets of the city are medieval in character; narrow and winding between ancient buildings.

24: Les Baux

25: Next we drove to the tiny chateau-village of Les Baux. The medieval village with steep narrow cobblestone streets and 12th century stone houses was a fabulous combination of a medieval village with amazing natural beauty. Les Baux was surrounded by the Alpilles and boasted incredible rock formations. We climbed to the top of the village to view the ruins of the fortified castle and had an excellent panoramic view of Provence.

26: Palais de Popes | Avignon

27: In the 14th century, Avignon was the seat of the papacy. The Pope's Palace is an austere-looking fortress and one of the most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. We spent our night in Avignon at Hostellerie Le Prieure.The former convent and Relais & Chateaux property provided a quaint experience. | Le Prieure

28: Pont du Gard

29: Casis | Spanning the Gardon River, Pont du Gard made up part of the Roman aqueduct that brought water from the Uzes to the Nimes. Two thousand years after its construction this ancient edifice is still a masterpiece.

30: Theatre Antique d' Orange

31: In the town of Orange we toured the Ancient Theatre built under Emperor Augustus in the 1st Century A.D. The arena is one of the best preserved of all the Roman theaters.

32: The small, well-preserved medieval walled village of Perouges was charming. Situated on a hill overlooking the Ain River with cobbled streets and medieval timber-framed houses it is easy to see why it has been the set for several films including the "Three Musketeers". We spent our one night in Perouges at Hostellerie du Vieux. Our room was like stepping back into medieval France but with modern conveniences. Our dinner that night at the inn was superb, particularly the traditional strawberry galette dessert. | Hostellerie du Vieux

33: Perouges

34: Perouges

37: Annecy | Next we visited the small medieval lakeside city of Annecy for lunch. Inspired by the surrounding Alps we all enjoyed fondue. The town was enchanting with its canals, narrow streets and picturesque peaks of the French Alps in the background. Our only disappointment was the shops were all closed for lunch.

38: From Annecy we drove to the Burgundy region. The mustard fields in Dijon were so vivid they did not seem real. That night we stayed in Beaune at the small old charming Hotel Le Cep and ate at Hotel de La Poste.. | Burgundy Region

43: Situated in France's Champagne province, and a short drive from Paris, our last night lodging was at the 16th century five-star luxurious castle Le Chateau de Fere-en-Tardenois. We enjoyed walking around the property's grounds and posed for photos at the ruins of the first caste built in 1206. Dinner that night at the Chateau was superb. It was a grand way to finish our first European trip with the Cirritos. | Chateau de Fere-en-Tardenois

44: Rome

45: Italy 1988 | Our first trip to Italy began in Rome where we stayed three nights at the Intercontinental De La Ville Roma near the Spanish Steps. Maureen and Joe joined us on our second day so we spent our first day viewing the sites. We were surprised with the abundance of police with machine guns in the Rome airport and on the streets. Also, many of Rome's buildings and sites were not as clean as Paris. However, the history and sites were spectacular.

47: Vatican City | The small city-state of Vatican City was beautiful and unlike anything we had ever seen. We viewed the stunning gardens, buildings and museums. We were disappointed that St. Peter's basilica was closed but the ceiling frescoes of the Sistine Chapel that took Michelangelo four years to complete were exquisite.

48: Florence is picturesquely situated on both sides of the River Arno, surrounded by the foothills of the Apennines. From the Middle Ages to present Florence has been regarded as Italy's intellectual center. The abundance of art treasures in a relatively small area and the beautiful environment made Florence one of our favorite cities. We especially admired Michelangelo's David and the beautiful dome on the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the largest brick dome ever constructed. The food in Florence was wonderful. We ate at Cantinetta Antinori owned by the famous wine family and at Il Latini a local restaurant where we enjoyed a traditional Italian dessert of strawberries prepared with pepper, sugar and balsamic vinegar.

49: Florence

51: Assisi | In Assisi we stayed at Hotel Subasio, a converted convent with a fabulous view of the valley. That evening we ate dinner at Buca di San Francesco, where they carried Lungarotti Rubesco Reserva wine (one of Joe's favorites) Joe asked the owner if he could buy some bottles to take back to New York. The owner obliged his request and at 6am the next day, Joe returned to the restaurant and purchased a case of the wine.

52: Siena | Siena was a classic medieval hill town. We enjoyed visiting 13th century Piazza del Campo, one of Europe's greatest medieval squares. We also liked seeing the Duomo of Siena, one of Italy's best Gothic Cathedrals. We ate lunch outside Siena at Il Pozzo in the walled town of Monteriggioni where we had a fabulous Tuscan meal topped off with strawberries and champagne for dessert.

55: Pisa is the second largest tourist attraction in Tuscany. The Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral Square) is home to a group of medieval architecture masterpieces built during the 11th-14th centuries. Scott and Joe climbed the famed Leaning Tower's 296 steps to the top and enjoyed a fabulous view. We toured the interior of the marble Romanesque cathedral and especially enjoyed the elaborately carved pulpit by Nicola Pisano. The pulpit is regarded as one of the masterpieces of medieval sculpture. We visited the large round Romanesque Bapistry and the Campo Santo, the most famous cemetery of its kind. | Pisa

56: The well-preserved ramparts built in the 16-17th centuries enclose the historic center of Lucca. We walked along the ramparts enjoying the views of churches, terra-cotta roofs and narrow cobblestone streets. In the heart of the main square was the San Michele in Foro church Dating primarily from the 12th century, the church had an incredible facade of gleaming white marble inlaid with a menagerie of real and mythical animals. We ate a marvelous meal at Buca di Sant' Antonio which has been serving Tuscan food since 1782.

57: Lucca

58: The former fishing village of Portofino instantly captivated us. The highly photographed natural hideaway is set at the end of an Italian Riviera peninsula and is even more captivating in person.

59: We stayed just off the cobbled piazza at a small inn, Il Nationalle that has now relocated. We climbed the hill to visit the church of San Giorgio and enjoyed incredible views of Portofino. That afternoon we had a delightful lunch on the outside patio of the Splendido. | Portofino

60: Portofino

62: My 40th birthday vacation began in the Loire Valley with the Cirritos. We spent our first night at Chateau de Chissay and the next night at Chateau de Tiedres. We toured Chambord, the largest chateau in the Loire. Covering almost 22,000 square yards it is larger than Versailles. Built in the 16th century it was originally the palace of Francis I. It was never planned as a place for living but rather for hunting and large receptions in the summer months. Its rich decoration reflects the Renaissance style. The rooms are large with wood floors, wainscoting and coffered ceilings.

63: Chateau de Chambord | France 1990

64: Loire Valley

66: Chateau de Chenonceau

67: Built in 1520 with its famed five arches spanning the River Cher like a bridge, it is considered the most romantic of all the Loire chateaux, and is second only to Versailles as most visited chateau in France. It is known as the chateau shaped by exceptional women. During World War II, the chateau's gallery was used as a means of escaping from the Nazi occupied zone to the free zone on the opposite bank of the river.

68: Normandy

69: From the Loire Valley we drove to Normandy. Normandy has two distinct regions; the Upper Region and the Lower Region. We started our travels in the Upper Region. The Upper Region has a dramatic 360 mile coastline on the English Channel with sandy beaches and rocky cliffs. It encompasses the World War II landing beaches, the breathtaking island of Mont Saint-Michel, the picturesque old port of Honfleur and the luxury seaside resorts of Deauville-Trouville with their boardwalks, casinos and race tracks. Our first stop in Normandy was lunch in the seaside town of St. Malo. After lunch we headed to Mont Saint-Michel. We finished our visit to Normandy in the Lower Region which is a combination of lush farmland, apple orchards, bustling markets, and historic towns and landmarks. It is known for its fine cheeses (especially Camembert), apple cider and Calvados brandy. In the Lower Region, near the bank of the Seine River, lies the village of Giverny, home of our favorite Impressionist artist Claude Monet.

70: Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most recognized landmarks and has more than three million visitors annually.Now a rocky tidal island, in prehistoric times the Mont was on dry land.

71: Mont Saint-Michel

72: Chateau d' Esclimont | Chateau d'Audrieu

73: After our visit of Mont Saint-Michel we drove to Chateau D' Audrieu an early 18th century stately home set in 50 acres of wooded parkland. That evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Relais & Chateaux property.

75: Normandy | American Cemetery & Memorial

77: To witness the perfectly aligned endless rows of white marble crosses and the many remembrances and memorials of the soldiers that sacrificed their lives in the 1944 Normandy invasion was a somber yet moving experience. As children of World War II vets, we grew up listening to our parent's stories about the war and to observe this splendid tribute reminded us of the many sacrifices our parent's generation endured for freedom.

78: . The next morning we drove to the charming village of Giverny made famous as the residence chosen by the great artist Claude Monet. After visiting Giverny we drove to our last destination, Paris. | Chateau d' Esclimont | We stayed our last night outside Paris at the five-star Chateau d' Esclimont. Built in 1543, the Renaissance style country chateau with stone bridges, turrets and towers was situated on a 150 acre wooded parkland and encircled by a moat. That evening we had an excellent meal at the chateau.

81: Giverny | It was exciting to see the Japanese bridge, waterlilies and gardens that inspired Monet in so many of his paintings from 1883 until his death in 1926. We visited both the flower garden (Clos Normand) in the front of the house as well as the Japanese inspired water garden. We also found Monet's house with ancient furniture, Japanese prints and china very enjoyable.

82: Our fabulous trip concluded in Paris at Hotel Le Sainte-Beuve, a small boutique hotel situated by the Luxembourg Gardens in the Rive Gauche. Since our last trip to Paris, two significant milestones in French museums had occurred: The Musee d'Orsay had opened in 1986 and the Louvre's glass pyramid had opened In 1989. Significant controversy surrounded the Louvre's modern geometric glass edifice designed by famed architect I.M. Pei The pyramid serves as the new grand entrance to the Louvre and was indeed impressive at 72 feet tall pyramid and 100 feet wide at the base. The former Orsay Railway Station built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900 transformed into art museum dazzled us not only with the remarkable renovation but also the vast display of art from 1848-1914. I purchased two extremely large and heavy books containing colored photos of the art in each museum as a reminder of our trip.

83: Paris

84: Musee d'Orsay

86: Italy 1991

87: We started our vacation on the Isle of Capri. Since the the 19th century Capri has been a sought after destination for its dramatically beautiful land, seascapes and peaceful Mediterranean retreat. We arrived at Capri via the hydrofoil from Naples and took the short funicular ride from the port to the center of Capri. Perched on the cliffs overlooking Capri's spectacular coastline was the Hotel Luna where we stayed two nights and were first introduced to Limoncello, the lemon liqueur indigenous to the region. | Capri

88: Capri

91: Positano | Our second destination in Southern Italy was Positano where we spent three night at Le Sirenuse.

92: "Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they unbelievably are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably bleu and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water ... | We went to the Sirenuse, an old family house converted into a first class hotel, spotless and cool, with grape arbors over its outside dining rooms. Every room has its little balcony and looks out over the bleu sea to the islands of the Sirens from which those ladies sang so sweetly." JOHN STEINBECK

93: Le Sirenuse

94: Meals on the Amalfi Coast were a culinary delight. Our highlight was dinner at Don Alfonso, the highest Michelin rated restaurant in southern Italy. Located in Sant' Agata Sui Due Golfi a hill town named for the two gulfs it cradles; Naples and Salerno.

95: Positano | Two memorable but diverse luncheon experiences overlooking the Amalfi coast were our casual poolside pizza at Le Sirenuse when Scott surprised us with a pizza from Black's and a more elegant lunch at Il San Pietro when our lunch was served on the Vietri dinnerware of the region.

96: Positano

98: Amalfi Drive

99: One of the most memorable days of our trip was when we drove to the Vietri factory Solimene to purchase our "animal dinnerware". To our amazement as we drove the small countryside roads we encountered a local man herding his sheep. Of course, we stopped the car to let them pass. Later that day we watched the artisans in the factory painting dishes and Maureen and I sat on the factory floor among pile of plates assorting the different patterns and shapes for our Italian dinnerware.

100: Pompeii

101: On our way to Sorrento we stopped at Pompeii to see the ruins of the Roman Empire town buried by the volcanic eruption of nearby Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

102: Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria | The rustic seaside town of Sorrento with its panoramic views of the Bay of Naples was our our last night along the Amalfi Coast and we stayed at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria. The next morning we headed north where we spent our final night in Italy outside Rome in Frascati at Villa Fiorio. We ate dinner at Traverna Dello Spuntino in nearby Grotta Ferrata where we enjoyed an authentic Italian meal with the locals. The natural beauty of the Amalfi Coast and the great food and wine made for an incredible experience. Before we even headed back home, we knew this was a trip worthy of an encore.

103: Sorrento

104: France 1994 | Maureen and I selected Paris and Provence for our first European "girls" trip. We knew we would manage in Paris without the boys (although we obviously would miss them), but Provence meant driving and navigating on our own. Maureen was an excellent navigator, even though we did find ourselves circling the round-abouts a few times before we figured out which way to go. And then there was this issue with driving a standard transmission and remembering to use the clutch that I struggled with at times. But we made it and had a great time!

105: Hotel Saints Pere | In Paris we spent our four nights in a two level loft room at Hotel Saints Pere, a 17th century mansion in the heart of the St. Germaine district. We ate our breakfasts on the outside terrace of nearby Les Deux Magots where I consistently enjoyed my traditional Parisian breakfast of pane au chocolat and hot chocolate.

106: .

107: Castillion du Gard

108: . | From Paris we took the train to Avignon for our visit to Provence. We stayed three nights at Le Vieux Castillon in the Provence village of Castillion du Gard. Our hotel was a beautiful Relais & Chateaux property with Romanesque architecture and panoramic views of vineyards.

109: Le Vieux Castillon

110: . | Camargue

111: The immense 8000 acre French marsh land between the Rhone and the sea is an incredible zoological and botanical reserve. Pink flamingos, the "Camargue" bull, and over 400 species of animals inhabit the vicinity. On our first trip to the Camargue with Joe and Scott there were not any significant animal sitings but on this trip with camera in hand, Maureen was able to not only capture a herd of wild horses but also me on top of car roof witnessing the exciting moment.

112: Oxford | London 1995

113: Scott and I flew on Thanksgiving night to London for a week vacation. The weather was cool and rainy, but it did not deter us from visiting the traditional sites. Maureen and Joe joined us for a portion of the trip. The UK was the first English speaking European country we had visited which made navigating and communicating much less intimidating. We quickly learned the meaning of several of the Brits different terms. My favorite was "Mind the Gap". (Watch out for the opening between the station platform and the train). We liked walking the different neighborhoods in London and enjoyed both plays we attended.

114: Oxford

115: London

116: Jardin du Palais Royal | France 2000

117: The new millennium began with a very special and beautiful trip to Paris, the French Riviera and a variety of charming hilltop towns in southern France. We enjoyed the magnificent spring tulips throughout the city and revisiting some of our favorite places and restaurants. For the first time, we visited the Musee Rodin and enjoyed the sculptures and the manicured gardens. | Paris

118: Musee Rodin

119: Paris

121: La Bastide de Moustiers | Our stay at La Bastide de Moustiers was five years after legendary restaurateur Alain Ducasse opened his country inn. Situated in the heart of the Provence region and at the foot of the village of Moustiers, we had impressive views of the Moustiers-Sainte Marie cliff. The 17th century house was intimate with only eleven rooms individually designed and named to evoke a particular provincial theme. Our rooms were the "Pumpkin" and "Rose" rooms. The inn's original library served as our own intimate dining room where we enjoyed an incredible meal..

123: Moustiers-Sainte-Marie | During our stay at Alain Ducasse's La Bastide, we visited the small village that clings to the side of a limestone cliff. Outside the village I stopped for a photo at a waterfall from a spring flowing from the cliff.

124: In the valley of the Var region overlooking rows of grapes was famed French chef Bruno Clementt's unique restaurant specializing in black truffles. We dined on the patio and enjoyed both our meal and ambiance. Our only disappointment was that the gift shop was closed.

126: We spent one night in Saint Tropez in the old quarter at Hotel La Ponche. The famous harbor, fashionable boutiques and sites were conveniently located to our hotel once we battled the congested auto traffic surrounding the town.

127: Saint Tropez

128: We visited the enchanting St. Paul de Vence, a medieval fortified village with wrap-around views. Perched on a hill between two deep valleys, St. Paul has attracted artists for years with its beautiful light and surroundings.

129: St. Paul de Vence

130: La Colombe d'Or

131: Our lodging was just outside St. Paul de Vence at the rose-stone Renaissance mansion of La Colombe d'Or. Art treasures from Miro,Chagall, Calder, Leger, and more surrounded us on the dining room walls. In the earlier days of the inn, art was often exchanged by artists and the owners for a stay or a few meals. La Colombe d'Or was a favorite place for many French artists including Picasso and Chagall.

132: Chapelle du Rosaire

133: In neighboring Vence we toured Henri Matisse's Chapelle Du Rosaire. The chapel that opened in 1951 was conceived by Henri Matisse and was the first time a painter entirely designed every detail of a monument. The unique art monument was very simple with pure colors used against a white background.

134: Cannes | Centered around the old port, Cannes is famous for the May International Film Festival, glitzy hotels, cars, beaches and abundance of tourists.

136: Mougins

137: We spent one night in the charming town at Roger Verge's Le Moulin de Mougins. That evening we ate at L'Amandier. | Located four miles from Cannes, Mougins is known as the medieval village where Picasso lived the last years of his life.

139: Food markets are an intrinsic part of daily French life and experiencing the Southern France markets was great fun. Buzzing with life, full of color, aromas and sounds, they are treasures of gastronomic delight. Joe and Scott especially enjoy sampling all the food and Maureen and I never tire shopping for provincial linens. | Markets

140: Monaco

141: The tiny city-state of Monaco was an enjoyable half day visit. The town exudes glamor with its yachts, sport cars, luxury shops and palatial hotels. We toured the Palais Princier and the Old Casino and walked along the promenade along with throngs of tourists.

142: Nice

143: Nice has been a popular tourist destination for centuries. Inhabited for 400,000 years the city retains it medieval heritage in the VieIlle Ville (Old Town). We enjoyed walking its narrow winding streets and closely-packed red-tiled roofs of old buildings. We especially enjoyed Southern France's most famous market, Cours Saleya.

144: Ten minutes from Nice is the boutique-lined staircase streets of the enchanting medieval cliff-side village of Eze. We stayed at the fabled Relais & Chateaux property, Chateau de la Chevre d'Or. The stunning views overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, charming rooms and great food made for a memorable stay. | Eze

147: Chateau de la Chevre d'Or

148: Milan | We began our trip in Milan, Italy's commercial center of business, fashion, music and design. We spent our two nights at Hotel de la Ville. | Milan

149: Italy 2003 | One of our favorite sites in Milan was the four-story double arcade, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II; one of the world's oldest shopping malls.

150: Venice was unlike any other town we had visited. The city consists of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. As our water taxi approached the main island the cityscape of stone buildings seemed to float on water. After exiting the taxi for our two day visit, Scott and I ventured off to find our hotel la Fenice et des Artistes as the Cirritos settled into their hotel Londra Palace. Deciphering street names and finding signs made Venice difficult to navigate. It took us almost one hour to find our hotel that was only a couple blocks away from where our water taxi ferried us.

151: Venice | Our first evening we ate at Ile Corte Sconto and although they specialize in seafood they prepared a pasta especially for me. Maureen and I especially enjoyed visiting the island of Murano and visiting the tiny boutiques selling delicate glasswares. We each purchased several pieces.

153: Venice

155: Venice

156: Venice

158: We took the hotel water taxi to visit the lovely Hotel Cipriani and enjoy brunch. Although the hotel property was beautiful, Joe got food poisoning and spent one full day in Venice in bed recovering.

159: Venice

160: Verona | Founded by the Romans in the 1st Century AD, the northern Italian City of Verona is a combination of pretty palazzi, elegant squares and medieval gems. Known as the city of Romeo and Juliet and the Roman Arena, many architectural remnants of the Roman Era exist. We spent our one night in Verona at the 5-star Hotel Due Torri. That evening we walked to the nearby Michelin Star restaurant Ristorante La Fontanina. The dinner special was Carne de Cavallo which Maureen conveyed to Scott meant "horse meat, but Scott thinking she was chiding him asked the waiter who confirmed it was indeed horse meat!

162: We spent our two nights in Florence at the Hotel Lungarno. Situated on the south bank of the Arno the hotel was located close to the Ponte Vecchio.

163: Florence | Since we visited the most important sites on our previous trip, we we devoted our time to enjoying the incredibly romantic city, great shopping and superb Tuscan food.

165: Florence

166: Lake Como

167: The enchanting shores of Lake Como have attracted the world's elite for centuries. Since the days of the Roman Empire, Como has been regarded worldwide as Italy's prestige romantic lake. Lake Como is one of the most beautiful places we have visited with its stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains and clear blue lake. Picturesque towns and villages encircle the lake with many luxurious converted castles, hillside chalets and beautiful villas. We stayed at the Albergo Terminus a 19th century building on the shores of Lake Como.

168: Villa D'Este

170: Paris 2006

171: Maureen, Vickie and I enjoyed a work/pleasure week of fashion, shopping, eating and art. We stayed at Hotel de l'Abbaye and attended Fashion's Premiere Vision along with shopping a plethora of boutiques and visiting the Musee d'Orsay..

172: Hotel de l'Abbaye

175: Secluded on a cobblestone side street in the Latin Quarter, Le Coup Chou provided us with an "Old Paris" traditional French dinner in a medieval setting of stone walls, brick floors, exposed wood beams and warm cozy fire. The owners dog, sensing we were without our husbands joined us as our fourth. After a delightful dinner we asked our taxi driver to tour Paris' main sites so Vikki could witness the nighttime beauty of the city. Our driver delightfully assumed the role of tour guide and even stopped on the Champs Elysees in traffic so Vickie could jump out of the cab and take a photo of the Arc of Triumph.

176: Maureen and my encore visit to Paris was a great combination of sharing our favorite foods and activities as well as experimenting with new places. For the first time, instead of taking a cab from the airport, we met at Charles de Gaulle and took the RER suburban city train to the Luxembourg station. It was easier than I thought and we quickly began our week in Paris. On the way to our hotel, we walked through the Luxembourg Gardens with its graveled paths, vibrant flowers expansive lawns and famous fountains and sculptures. We were hungry after our overnight flights and enjoyed our first lunch there in the small Cafe Restaurant under the trees... luggage and all Following lunch we continued to Hotel de l'Abbaye and discovered a problem with our reservation and mid-stay we had to relocate for one night at the Odeon Hotel. Shopping stores for trends and samples has been an important part of our careers in fashion. So for what was to be our last "official" work related trip to Paris, we hit the stores with a passion. Of course, we always seem to find a few personal purchases for ourselves while working diligently on the job. This time we both purchased table linens and a beautiful floral Gien platter. I was also able to purchase a few fashionable items to wear for my upcoming cruise that summer. Our meals were enjoyable. Most mornings, we visited nearby Deux Magots for our traditional Parisian breakfast of pain au chocolat and hot chocolate. For dinner we returned to our favorite French Bistro, Ma Bourgogne and I indulged in their fabulous roast chicken. The owner was extremely attentive to us, and as he departed Diane received a surprising kiss on the lips! For Maureen's 60th birthday celebration, we selected another favorite restaurant, Le Coupe Chou. | Paris 2007

177: As Monet enthusiasts, we decided it was time to visit the off-the-beaten path museum, Musee Marmottan- Monet. The museum hosts the largest collection of Monet in the world with over 300 of his works thanks to the bequeath of Claude's son Michel and a family friend.. We enjoyed not only the vast Monet collection that includes Monet's late life water lilies and Impression Sunrise, 1872 the painting credited with beginning the Impressionist Movement but also the other art. | Musee Marmottan-Monet | It was a high caloric intake vacation for the girls as we made sure to have at least one dessert a day. For the first time, we visited the well known Angelina's for lunch and enjoyed their famed hot chocolate and sweets. During the week we also indulged in yummy chocolate crepes and my favorite dessert, profiteroles. Anxious to explore new districts and better familiarize ourselves with areas where we have not spent much time together, we began by visiting the nearby Latin Quarter. This area has been the heart of student Paris for over 800 years. France's oldest university La Sorbonne as well as many small restaurants are located here. We enjoyed several delightful meals but perhaps one of the trip's highlights was listening to a young singer on the sidewalk. Her voice was so beautiful it brought tears to our eyes. Later in the trip we visited the historic district of Marais. Originally known as the aristocrat district, its little streets, cafes and trendy shops are now heavily patronized by "hipsters". On our final day we ventured to the 16th district that is known as one of the favorite places of residence for France's high society. Dominated with ornate 19th century buildings and Paris" second largest public park, Bois de Bougogne we visited for the first time Musee Marmottan-Monet. On our last day in Paris, I was starting to loose my energy and thought I was getting sick. That night, I accompanied Maureen to a restaurant close to our hotel. Toward the end of the evening it was apparent I was catching the flu, so Maureen utilized her French speaking skills to talk to the local pharmacist and purchase some medicine to get me through the flight home. Fortunately, Maureen was able to not catch the flu. Hopefully, the poor guy seated next to me for twelve hours on the return flight was equally as lucky.

178: For the past 25 years, Scott and I have explored, shopped and eaten our way through France and Italy with Maureen and Joe. But surprisingly, more than five years had elapsed since our last trip to Europe together. Scott and I missed our four-some trips and we were looking forward to a new adventure; to an area of France and Spain we have never visited. | We awoke to cloudy skies and rain. Without any change of clothes, we redressed in the travel clothes we had been wearing and met Maureen and Joe to explore Bordeaux and treat our stomachs to their first meal. Hot chocolate / coffee and croissants sounded like a perfect way to begin our day, so we searched for an outdoor covered cafe that would allow us to absorb the local ambiance. Following breakfast, we briefly explored the city as a light rain fell, before driving to our first destination, St. Emilion. | Southwest France | We arrived in Bordeaux as scheduled at 10:30pm; unfortunately our luggage did not. After completing all the necessary forms for missing baggage, Air France provided us with a small toiletries kit; a t-shirt for sleeping and phone numbers to call and sent us on our way. We took a cab to Hotel Continental in Bordeaux. Our hotel was sparse but adequate and since we did not have luggage to unpack, we quickly fell asleep.

179: Bordeaux | and Spain 2008 | Situated on the Garonne River, Bordeaux is the heart of France's wine-producing area. The city of 220,000 inhabitants and 50,000 students offers a mixture of 18th and 19th century buildings complemented with modern urban enhancements. I especially enjoyed watching their new tram system as the cars weaved through the tree covered city streets. | Bordeaux

180: St. Emilion | St. Emilion is a charming walled town that stands on a limestone escarpment above the vineyards for which it is known. We climbed the steep cobblestone walkways with our umbrellas once again sheltering us from the rain as we looked at menus and tried to decide where to eat lunch. Finally, we settled on a brasserie, Amelia Canta. We sat inside but viewed the incredible limestone as we enjoyed a good lunch. I had a beef dish and creme caramel for dessert. We meandered through the streets and enjoyed the views of the vineyards below. Unlike Paris and Provence, the shops throughout the region were very limited in their wares. Their focus was items indigenous to the area; wine, canned confit, foie gras, walnuts and truffles; none of which I was interested in purchasing. The good thing was that I was not tempted use my American Express Card.

182: Le Moulin du Roc | From St. Emilion we drove to the small town of Brantome for a quick view, and then on to Le Moulin du Roc where we were staying in nearby Champagnac-de-Belair. Built in 1670 on the Dronne River, Le Moulin du Roc is a beautifully appointed Relais & Chateaux property with lush grounds and hospitable staff. As promised by Air France, our luggage greeted us at the door, and we were anxious to see our rooms, put on clean clothes and explore the lovely acreage. Our room was beautifully decorated with antiques and a four-poster bed. The walls were rock and the ceilings pitched and beamed which Scott knocked his head on several times. The windows overlooked the flowing creek, mill and lush grounds. Mike and Joe's room was equally charming with a lovely terrace.

184: Perigord | In the morning we returned to Brantome for our vacation breakfast de jour; croissants and hot chocolate. From Brantome we drove along the Dronne River to another medieval town of the Perigord, Bourdeilles. We enjoyed our short visit of the beautifully maintained village and especially the enjoyed the picturesque old bridge. Then it was onward to Perigueux and their lively Saturday outdoor market. Perigueux is a place where real people live and work, not simply a tourist destination. The old streets were wonderful with distinguished medieval and Renaissance buildings. We enjoyed walking the outdoor markets' rows of food which Scott and Joe especially enjoyed sampling. Although the skies threatened rain, we ate lunch under a large tree in a charming square.

186: Vieux Logis | From Perigueux we drove to our last stop of the day, Tremolat and arrived at Vieux Logis just before the rain. The Relais Chateaux estate was as exquisite as Maureen had remembered on their previous trip. Our large rustic style rooms were decorated in a Provencal-style and opened to the property's beautiful gardens. I was tired and took a nap while the others explored the gardens. That evening we decided to eat dinner at "Le Bistrot d' en Face", the Chateaux owned Bistro down the road rather than their more formal in-house restaurant (and former tobacco drying barn) . Everyone's meals were incredible, our table in the secluded corner provided an intimate setting for our foursome to savor our meal and surroundings.

188: Joe had purchased pastries in the town for Maureen and I, so we were able to enjoy breakfast in our room. From Tremolat we drove to another small market in St. Cyrien. The market had a wide variety of food, clothes and textiles, but we did not make any purchases. Next we drove to the picturesque cliff town La Roque-Gageac, situated above the Dordogne River featuring rare troglodytic forts built into the cliff face. We enjoyed views from Chateau de Beynac, a medieval fortress with rare original 12th century parts that have been restored from the 13th through 17th centuries. Surrounded by poppies on the hillside we took one of our few group photos. | Chateau de Beynac

189: La Roque-Gageac

190: Our tummies needed nourishment so we drove to Domme looking for a restaurant Maureen had researched. We parked near a town map but had difficulty locating the street of the restaurant, so we decided to just explore and find it since it was such a small village. After an hour of searching, I went in a shop and directed up the hill. But when we arrived at the restaurant, the menu was too fancy, especially for my taste, so we ate outside at another restaurant, La Poiu Riere. After lunch we looked at the village map again and then discovered why we could not find the street of the original restaurant. We were looking at a street map of ancient Domme! | Dordogne & Limeuil


192: Sarlat | Getting to Sarlat in our Passat station wagon was easy, finding our hotel was not. The old City of Sarlat closes their streets on the weekends to autos, and our hotel and instructions were inside the Old City. Fortunately, we saw a directional sign for our hotel, so we unloaded our luggage to transverse down the hill on foot to our hotel, La Villa des Consuls. The hotel was an old structure centrally located with large rooms recently refurbished in a modern Scandinavian decor. Not exactly my preference in furnishings, but very clean and comfortable, and David the owner was very friendly and helpful. Once unpacked, we explored the medieval town. Sarlat is the capital of the Perigord Noir and an exceptionally preserved city that originated in the 8th century. The Old City offered a combination of shops, restaurants and historic buildings. We preceded dinner with champagne on Maureen and Joe's terrace that overlooked Rue de La Republique. The recommended restaurants were closed on Sundays and our first dinner at Les Chevaliers was only fair. On our second day, we drove a small winding road to Les Eyzies a nearby village bound on one side by the Vezere River and the other side by a limestone cliff with small buildings and caves built into the cliff face. We found a local food and textile market and bought a Provencal tablecloth and napkins for Scott's mom before heading back to Lascaux 2 for our noon tour of the cave.

195: I had never visited a pre-historic cave and was looking forward to visiting Lascaux. Although the original cave (Lascaux1) was closed in 1968 due to the damage being created by the visitors, the replica of the cave, Lascaux 2 was regarded as a brilliant reproduction. As our tour began we learned about the ten-year process of replicating Lascaux and that it had been reproduced as precisely as possible, including the temperature. We viewed a diagram of the layout and learned of the tools and pigments used in Lascaux 17,000 years ago. When we entered the cave chambers we were awed by the paintings. The Hall of the Bull at 5.5 m in length is the largest known prehistoric painting. Our tour guide was incredibly informative and his humor enchanting. What a remarkable history lesson! When the tour concluded our stomachs were yearning for more French food. We stopped at a small town on the way and had a surprisingly good meal. | Lascaux

196: Lascaux

198: Rocamadour | After lunch, we drove to Rocamadour, one of the most unusual settings in Europe. The medieval cite clings to the rocks above the Alzou River gorge. Rocamadour is France's second most popular tourist site (after Mont St.-Michel). At the top of the hill is the Romanesque-Gothic Basilique St - Sauveur built in the 11th-13th centuries. Although the town's shops were quite touristy, Maureen and I were able to find vintage French poster reproductions for my kitchen. What a great reminder of our trip to Southwestern France together. Following our tour of Rocamadour, we drove back to Sarlat where we at dinner in the Old City on the outside patio at Restaurant du Commerce. Our food was better than the previous night, but still was not up to our previous meals.

200: Lot Region | We began the day in Sarlat with a breakfast of orange juice and croissants (one of my few breakfasts without hot chocolate) on the Cirrito terrace. The skies were bright and clear for our trip down to the Lot Region. Our first stop was Cahors a small town with a blend of the historic past and 21st century. Our entrance to the small 12th century town of Cahors was on the beautiful tree-lined Boulevard Gambetta flanked with charming 19th century buildings. After driving down the boulevard we walked along the river to Pont Valentre the most famous medieval fortified bridge in France that bridges the Lot River. We then headed to the old portion of the city for a satisfying lunch in a charming old building at Restaurant Auberge du Viex. Following lunch, we viewed the domed Cathedral St. Etienne built and modified from the 13th-18th centuries and then ventured back to our Passat for our journey to Grotte de Pech-Merle. Grotte de Peche-Merle is a cave discovered in 1922 that dates from 20,000 to 15,000 BC The natural formations include the usual stalagmites and stalactites, but also upright calcite discs and white 'cave pearls'. But even more remarkable, are the marks left by man. The majority of the nearly 80 representations are of animals, the most beautiful frieze being the famous "dappled horses" one of several using or inspired by the natural contours of the rock. We toured the damp limestone cave with a guide shining her flashlight to identify the pints of interest. As we made our way through the somewhat eerie caves I felt at times that I was walking through a movie set, what I saw seemed too sensational to be real!

202: Saint-Cirq Lapopie & Hotel de La Pelissaria | From Grotte de Peche-Merle we drove a short distance to Saint-Cirq Lapopie originally founded in the 12th century. We entered the village through a narrow medieval arch and at the foot of the village that cascades down the hillside high above the River Lot was our Hotel de La Pelissaria, our lodging for the night. Our rooms were very rustic (perhaps a bit too rustic) but very charming and with a great view of the Lot River. As always, we were ready to explore the village on the high cliff. However, after walking an almost insurmountably steep incline to view the village and the restaurant menu, I vowed I was not walking up the cliff again for dinner. Adjacent to the restaurant was an outside cafe with beautiful flowers so we stopped for some liquid refreshment, and to provide Maureen and I a chance to catch our breath before descending Mt. Everest. The boys accommodated our reluctance to climb the cliff for dinner by driving us up the steep incline in our car. Dinner that night at Le Gourmet Quercynois was one of the best on the trip. Everyone except Maureen ordered duck cassoulet (as her goal was to have confit de canard every day). Everyonel agreed it was the best cassoulet we had ever had.

204: Toulouse

205: At 8am Joe knocked on our door to let us know they were ready but we did not hear him as I was in the shower and Scott was "rocking out" to his IPOD with earplugs muffling the sound. Today was one of our longer driving days, and once again we were hoping to get an early start. We planned on stopping as usual at a small cafe for breakfast on our way to Toulouse but the remote area outside Saint-Cirq Lapopie did not have any cafes. We settled on a croissants-to-go type establishment that was adequate. However, at that point food was the least of our worries. The low-fuel light in our car was lit and we needed gas soon and there were no stations in sight. We entered the toll road and as the miles elapsed without a station we had visions of Joe jogging the toll road for a can of gas. Fortunately, we made it to a station and paid $150 to "fill-her-up". We arrived late morning at Toulouse, capital of the Midi-Pyrenees. Toulouse is France's fourth largest city, is home to the second largest university in France and the hub of France's aeronautical (Air Bus) and space industries. Toulouse has a different appearance than most cities in France. Structurally the brick buildings looked more like Tuscany than France with Northern African influences and the population had a large representation of Muslims and Africans. Since we were limited in time, focused our attention on the old portion of the city. The hub of Toulouse is the huge Place du Capitole. Its surrounding square is a vast semi-pedestrian area that today was hosting a not too impressive market. The other impressive structure in Toulouse was a beautiful church and the largest Romanesque church in Europe; Basilica of St-Seminand. Following our sightseeing we looked for a restaurant where we could sit outside, enjoy the beautiful weather and partake in the ambiance of the city. Bistro Romain, a cafe in Wilson Place fit the description perfectly and we enjoyed a pleasant lunch viewing a small park, beautiful fountain,carousel and greenery. From Toulouse we drove west to the ocean and Saint Jean de Luz.

206: Saint Jean de Luz is a charming old fishing village / seaside resort in the western Pyrenees. It's narrow streets lined with 17th-19th century houses, fishing boats and a pretty beach in an oval bay make in an enchanting town. Hotel La Marisa was superb and our beautifully decorated room was one block from the water and one block from the shops and restaurants. Our first evening we enjoyed dining outside at Le Portua. Maureen and I shared profiteroles for dessert. We walked back to our hotel after dinner via the seaside boardwalk at 9:45 PM as the sun was setting. It was could not have been more perfect. After our day in Spain, we had a fabulous dinner at Le Kai Ku about one block from our hotel. The food was one the trips' best!. The following morning we walked back to our small breakfast cafe, Le Bistrot Luzien where we feasted on croissants, espresso and hot chocolate. The sun was shining so we decided to explore Biarritz, the Atlantic coast's answer to Nice. The small town of 30,000 swells to 110,000 during the summer, evidenced by the Miami-beach style high rises that frequent much of its shoreline. We drove north of town to Pointe St. Martin and enjoyed the beautiful coastal views before driving back to the center of town for more exploration and lunch. The resort town was immaculate with a plethora of flowers, especially hydrangeas in a wide variety of colors including red. We walked the promenade above the beach enjoying picturesque views. We ate lunch at Pizzeria Le Capri Biarritz in a seaside square. For dessert, Maureen and I treated ourselves to the best profiteroles I have ever had. The chocolate was so rich, as it should be as chocolate originated in the Basque Country during the reign of Louis XIV. Later that day we visited the Jean-Vier store (table and bath linens inspired by the Basque Region.) After dropping our packages in our rooms we decided there was time to purchase another item of the region, espadrilles. I bought two pair and Maureen bought four pair. Dinner that evening was at Restaurant La Diva.

207: St. Jean de Luz & Biarritz

208: St. Jean de Luz & Biarritz

210: Bilbao

211: Thanks to Frank Gehry's titanium Guggenheim masterpiece, Bilbao, a rusty industrial port city on the northern coast of Spain has enjoyed a transformation from a second-tier city into a tourist magnet. The city of 350,000 has enjoyed a rebirth with over 9 million visitors to the museum from it's opening in 1997 through 2006. The streets of Bilbao were congested. Neo-Baroque buildings with terra-cotta roofs surrounding the Guggenheim were intertwined with construction crews and cranes. Parking was almost impossible. The Guggenheim was built on a former shipyard on the left bank of the Nervion River that winds through Bilbao to the Bay of Biscay. Although I am not an enthusiast of most contemporary architecture, my appreciation of Gehry's Disney Concert Hall in LA had heightened my interest in seeing this earlier built museum with such similarity. As we approached the Guggenheim we were overwhelmed by Jeff Koons' "Puppy" a giant West Highland terrier covered with flowering plants that guards the entrance to the museum. Gehry's curved volumes clad in titanium and the orthogonal structures in limestone blended harmoniously. Thoroughly enjoying our short but efficient tour, we headed back to the car for our next stop, San Sebastian.

212: San Sebastian | As we entered San Sebastian, we were surprised with the size and architecture of the city. The town of 185,000 was more a city than just the summer beach resort of Spain. The mixture of new and old structures was an interesting blend of French and Moroccan. In the heart of the town we walked through the beautiful Hotel Maria Cristina looking for a restaurant before venturing to a small bar/restaurant and dining on American-type food. Following lunch we enjoyed walking around the town before heading back to France.

214: Bouliac

215: After our final breakfast in St. Jean de Luz we stopped in Dax on our way to Bordeaux so we could visit a local Saturday market. Our drive to Dax took us through the Les Landes region, the second largest region in France. The forested area was very rural with scattered population. We located the local Saturday market in Dax and hoped to find some Provencal linens and over-sized plaid baskets. But we were disappointed to discover only a very large selection of ladies housecoats so we headed on our way to Bordeaux. It was lunchtime and we were on the search for our last lunch in France. We stopped outside Bordeaux at Cafe de L' Esperance in Bouliac. Everyone ordered roasted chicken with fries and salad, simple but excellent. It poured rain while we ate on the outside-enclosed patio and some of the patrons had to move inside due to roof leaks. We visited a charming church and a modern Relais & Chateaux with unusual contemporary sculptures throughout the property before heading to Cameyrec and Chateau Lamothe Prinice Noir our lodging for the last night of our trip.

216: Chateau Lamothe Prince Noir | Chateau Lamothe was built in the 12th century and surrounded by a moat. The Bastide family had purchased and refurbished the property. Veronique, a heavier French lady greeted us and welcomed us into their home. The downstairs consisted of a large ornate dining room, sun room, kitchen, reception area and a winding staircase that led to our rooms. Scott was very glad we consolidated our luggage, as he had to carry our one bag up 3-flight of stairs. The last flight of stairs was a narrow and winding staircase. The Cirritos had a 2-room suite; The Rose Room. Their suite consisted of the traditional bedroom and a second room that was a combination bathroom / sitting room, complete with table, chandelier, state of the art high tech shower and claw-legged tub. What a combination! Our large room; The Blue Room, was not nearly as outrageous, furnished in white cotton and blue velvet French Provencal antiques with lovely shuttered windows on both sides of the room overlooking the greenery outside. We walked the property and chatted with Veronique who made dinner reservations for us that evening in St. Emilion. When we returned following dinner we all put on our PJ's and chateau-supplied terry robes and went to the Cirritos suite where we toasted our last night and great vacation together.

219: I was glad we were returning to St. Emilion for an encore visit. It was raining on our earlier trip and the rain greatly restricted the views. We arrived in St. Emilion early enough to enjoy the view and a glass of St. Emilion wine and Lillet at Bistrot Le Clocher prior to dinner. Our dinner at Logis de la Cadene was a perfect dinner finale for our trip. We ate inside the charming old building with white tablecloths and napkins. I had veal, Scott and Mike had confit de canard, and Joey had entrecote bordelaise. For dessert I shared a chocolate dessert with Mike and the others enjoyed the local wine. | St. Emilion

221: Bordeaux | Having bidden adieu to Scott and Diane at the airport, we then headed north on the Route de Medoc wine road. Also known as the Route des Chateaux, it winds up the Medoc Peninsula, hemmed in by vineyards on both sides as far as the eye can see. We toured through the townships of Margaux, St-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estephe, enjoying the lush country side and the varied architecture of the towns and chateaux. On our way back to Chateau la Mothe, we drove back to Saint Emilion one more time for a lovely dinner at Restaurant Le Tertre.

222: On the last day we drove to Bergerac, a beautiful little city, where swans swim in the Dordogne, and charming medieval, half-timbered houses cluster around the old port. Bergerac is steeped in history. In the 12th century it was a major crossroads. Because of its bridge – at that time the only one on the river –it evolved naturally into a thriving commercial city and trading port. Wandering around in the old town, there are many lovely squares, and narrow cobbled streets with some of the finest historic architecture in all of France.

223: After an excellent duck confit lunch we drove back to Chateau le Mothe where Veronique served us a bottle of local wine and nuts on the moat. On our last evening, we went back to Bouliac and Cafe' d'Esperance and dined on perfect roast chicken, as only found in France. The rainy weather we encountered on the trip was clearing, and there was a radiant sunset reflecting on the church across form the Cafe... Ending our very special trip where we began.

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  • Title: Hileman Cirrito European Vacations
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  • Published: almost 6 years ago