Winter is beautiful in Tuscany. The light is more gentle all day than in the summer and the warmth seems closer when the distant mountains are covered in snow and the nights are cold. We had a lovely time there, if only for two nights, warming the house with the wood furnace and taking long walks down to town and up to Rocca.
We ate at I Macelli in Borgo a Mazzano the first night – I had the Minestra Di Cereali, then the Ravioli di Castagne and finally the Filetto Di Manzo, all excellent as always. The food at I Macelli is excellent, always. The second night we had dinner at The Butterfly, just outside of Lucca. Butterfly is a Michelin rated restaurant and perhaps the best restaurant I’ve ever been to. Everything there is amazing.
Carolyn and I both had the “of the land” tasting menu. Of I think about 8 courses, only the pasta with sardines was not to my taste, but I don’t normally like them anyway and even so it was good.
It is a source of constant amazement how affordable first rate restaurants are in Italy. The food there is much better than anything one can get in the US, probably because the supply tend to be local and everything is made fresh and from local ingredients, and possibly for the same reason the prices are surprisingly low, even with the painful exchange rate one eats better in Italy than one could in the US at 4-5 times the price.
And then there’s the bulk wine dispensed into your own bottle at less than 2 euro a liter…
We only spent about 5 hours in Venice, between the arrival at dawn of the train from Zagreb until our departure by train to Firenza, but it was a perfect day. It was my first time there and it is by far the most photogenic city I’ve ever seen. It takes all the challenge out of photography that no matter where you look, no matter what time of day, there is some gorgeous and ancient structure or vista in front of you.
Zagreb seems to particularly honor Nikola Tesla. He’s got a very nice street named after him in downtown Zagreb and an attractive plaque. Visit Sunny Croatia!
We had a wonderful meal at the Restoran Dvorisce. The local Croatian wine was very good and the food excellent: Carolyn had the spaghetti with crab and I had swordfish. The restaurant is stylish and clean and the service was excellent.
The night before we ate at Masklin I Lata, a cute little local homestyle restaurant with a great selection of local brandies. I had vegetable farina soup, Carolyn tomato rice. She had seafood risotto and I seafood spaghetti. All excellent.
We went to a strip club in Zagreb on Andreje Hebranga Street at Ulica Gajeva. The club was stylish and upscale with very attractive women. Carolyn and I asked one of the very polite attendants what the process was and he helpfully explained:
A group of one or more men come in, and are charged an entry fee of 100 Kuna each (about $20 US at the moment). About two girls per guy sit around them and chit chat and smile and flirt (they don’t for a couple – they’re not quite that progressive yet). Eventually they ask you’d buy them a drink. The girls “drink only champagne” and while the rest of the drinks are very reasonable for a strip club (about 40 Kuna, but fairly light on the alcohol) Champagne is expensive: the menu lists 12 liters of champagne for 60,000 Kuna. Clearly the drink is a small part of the deal – the Champagne is not for the guest. If you want champagne, a strip club is not the place to go. They also list table dances (about 350 Kuna) and lap dances (about 500).
We had a few regular drinks, watched the girls go through their routines for a bit and then left. The wiki travel page seems a bit timid about strip clubs in the balkans, but the whole process was straight-forward enough and while not a bargain compared to US standards, not a rip off either.
The sex shop with the funny icons was close to another restaurant we went to. The strip club was minimally marked on the outside and we just happened to walk by the first night we were there.
Due to some bizarre construction at the Bologna airport (take an immediate illegal U-turn when you come up out of the underpass rather than driving half way around the airport to the rotary and save 5 minutes) we arrived at check in for our BLQ-FRA flight about 30 seconds after the agent had closed it.
As we walked up she said curtly, “the flight is closed.” We asked how much we had missed it by and she said “the flight is closed.” We asked if we could get on the next flight at 18:10 and she said “Maybe, I will get to you in a few minutes.”
So we stand around pleasantly and wait. Eventually she takes our passports and swipes them, a few seconds later she gives us a big smile and says she’s sorry and she will make a call and thinks we can get on the plane after all…
And after all that, the plane was 20 minutes late. .
Carolyn and I were on a night train from Zagreb to Venice last night and our cabin mate was on his way from Belgrade and told us that the most amazing experience of his life was the Guca Golden Trumpet Festival, especially the finale where the hills around the town are wired with dynamite charges, one for ever of the 47 years of the festival.
On the night train… Our cabin mate is coming from belgrade. This should be fun….