art, Italy, museums, shopping

Food and wine in Switzerland, Italy, and Liechtenstein… part eight

How great the art….

One of the reasons Bill really wanted to go on this trip to Italy, besides to indulge his love for fine wines and good food, was the chance to visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. When we visited Florence in 2013, we were only there for two nights. We stayed in a hotel outside of town. For some reason, we didn’t make time to go to the Uffizi Gallery during that trip. I think it was because he hadn’t booked ahead, and either couldn’t or didn’t want to stand in line at the ticket office. So, on this trip in 2022, we made a point of seeing the art gallery.

Bill loves to look at art. I am less interested in it, although I will admit that some of the paintings I’ve seen in art galleries amaze me. One would think I’d love to look at art, since it’s been such a big part of my life. I have a sister who is an artist, and after his career in the Air Force, my father made a living selling and framing art. But when it comes to museums, I tend to find interactive ones– science and natural history museums– more interesting. During the COVID era, I’ve not been that interested in going to many indoor activities at all. We did go to the Lindt Chocolate Museum in Zurich last year, and that was fun. Especially since tasting chocolate means taking off the damnable face masks. ūüėČ Below are some photos from breakfast and our walk to the museum.

The Uffizi requires booking a time in advance. Bill got us an appointment for 10:00am. After a simple continental breakfast at Hotel Firenze Capitale, we walked to the gallery. On the day of our visit, the Uffizi was still requiring everyone to wear face masks. I’m not sure if that’s still required as of May 1. There were a lot of people there when we were there, so I would imagine that anyone who is very concerned about contracting COVID-19 would want to wear a mask, even if they aren’t required. On the other hand, my guess is that people will get the virus whether or not they wear a mask, especially if they don’t cover their eyes. That is one thing I did notice in Italy. Many people in Italy wore glasses with their masks, which would make it less likely that they would get the virus.

We picked up our tickets, stood in line, and went through security. Then, we walked up several long flights of stairs that left me breathless and lightheaded at the top. I did notice that some people used the elevator. Before I knew it, I was among hundreds of people walking through rooms of beautiful art… with many depictions of mothers and babies, Madonnas, and marble statues of naked men with small penises. There were exhibits featuring Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo da Vinci, as well as many lesser known, but very impressive, artists. I took a lot of photos.

At one point, Bill wanted to walk into a very crowded room. I demurred and said I would see him later. He thought that meant I was leaving the museum altogether, but I meant I was going to go to a less crowded place. I don’t like crowds, even when COVID isn’t a thing. Later, Bill sent me a private message on Facebook, asking if I was still in the gallery. Yes, of course! And I did enjoy my visit. I went back later to see the paintings I missed when the rooms were full of people. Uffizi has a cafe, for those who need a moment with some coffee to process everything.

All in all, I found the Uffizi more manageable and less overwhelming than the Prado in Madrid was, when we went there in 2014. I haven’t been to the Louvre yet. Bill and I didn’t go there when we were last in Paris, back in 2009. We’ll have to fix that at some point. Below are many photos from the Uffizi.

There’s more to come, but I needed to break up the group. I wish we had spent a little more time around the Uffizi. I wanted to buy some art while we were in Italy, but didn’t get a chance. I noticed some artists near there when we were in line. We did visit the gift shop at the Uffizi and bought a few gifts for Bill’s daughter and her kids.

After we bought gifts for Bill’s daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren, we walked out of the museum. I heard a British guy say, “Yea! Now it’s drinks time!” Man after my own heart. I spotted a beautiful silk scarf in a shop window and decided to go in there and purchase it. And now I have another cash drain, because the designer, Massimo Ravinale, has a Web site, and I loved their stuff. May be time to order Bill a spiffy new necktie.

The huge photo load in this post has made loading much too slow. It necessitates closing this one and starting a new one. Sit tight for part nine.

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France, restaurant reviews

Reunited with France… and it felt so good to be back! Part seven…

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we decided to visit a couple of other towns in Alsace. One of the places we visited is the quaint and picturesque hamlet of Obernai. I wanted to go there because many of the times we’ve stayed in Ribeauville, I’ve noticed that our WiFi signal pings from there. A woman I knew from Stuttgart also happened to visit Alsace back in January 2020, when we were also visiting. We met up with her at a winery and had a tasting, and I noticed that after we parted, she went to Obernai. I remembered thinking the photos she shared made Obernai look like a very inviting place.

So we went to Obernai, which was every bit as cute as I thought it would be. The town has a large parking lot, complete with a very nice looking public restroom facility, which was closed due to COVID-19. As I walked around Obernai, I was thinking that it reminded me a lot of Ribeauville, except it was a lot bigger and busier. I noticed there is a shit ton of new construction going on there. It looks like a lot of people are moving to Obernai, or businesses are relocating there. The old town area is very charming and adorable. We mostly just walked around there, but got bored before it was time for lunch. It looked like a good place for eating, tasting Alsatian wines, and shopping, and I did notice a lot of places of interest, complete with informative signs in French, German, and English. But I still got the urge to move on fairly soon after we arrived. We visited the free public restroom, where donations were being accepted for the people of Ukraine.

Bill and I ended up getting off course on our way back to the car, so we were a little “lost” for a short while. It suited me fine, since I got the chance to take more pictures. We did eventually find ourselves back on the right track to getting to the parking lot. Obernai is definitely a cute town, but I think I prefer Ribeauville, because it’s smaller, quieter, and less “peopley”. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be up for a return visit someday. Below are some photos from Obernai.

As lunchtime got closer, we decided to head to Saverne, a town Bill discovered and was curious about exploring. Saverne is about a 45 minute drive from Obernai, but it’s kind of in the right direction for getting back to Sessenheim. That was important, since we had reservations at seven o’clock for our second gourmet dinner at the Auberge au Boeuf restaurant.

We easily found another free public parking lot in Saverne, although there was a two hour time limit. The lot was right next to the Presbyt√®re Protestant, which was inaugurated in 1897. It is a very beautiful church, but we didn’t take time to visit it, because we were on a mission to find lunch.

As soon as we walked into the little town, which is situated on the Rhine-Marne canal at the foot of a pass over the Vosges Mountains. It has a very different feel than Obernai does. The main drag is on kind of a steep hill that actually reminded me more of the Alpine town of Chamonix than Alsace.

Licorne Beer!

I had never heard of Saverne before we visited there, but I was impressed by what I saw during our short trip. For one thing, Saverne is home to the Brewery La Licorne. Licorne is the French word for unicorn. We didn’t stop in for a visit there, but we did pick up a six pack of their brews to bring home with us. We also visited Notre-Dame-de-la-Nativit√©, a beautiful old Catholic church that dates from 12th century. Bill was in a hurry, because he was worried about the time limit on our parking. Of course, no one was standing there with a stopwatch when we arrived, and I doubt people were chalking tires. He’s still big on following rules, though.

Saverne is also home to Rohan Castle, which is known as the “Little Versailles of Alsace”. It really does look like Versailles! And we almost had lunch at Taverne Katz, which is in a beautiful, historic building built in 1605 on the main drag through the town. We decided not to eat there when I noticed how many people were having lunch at that time. Instead, we dined at a place called Le Bistronome. Le Bistronome gets mixed reviews on Trip Advisor, but we had a good experience there. Curiously, the complaints on Trip Advisor seem to be about a “lazy, inappropriate, and grumpy boss/waitress”. We didn’t have that impression of the service at all.

During our visit, a very pleasant lady was handling all of the tables. She kindly suggested a table to us, and I noticed everyone in there appeared to be a local. I heard one woman even murmur “American” when she saw Bill and me. A large French family, complete with the obvious matriarch, sat kitty cornered to us. She gazed at us, looking either grumpy or curious. I couldn’t tell, but she did seem to be much beloved by the people she was with.

Below are some photos from Saverne and our lunch at Le Bistronome, where we enjoyed the musical stylings of Billy Paul and Barry White. I swear, it’s not a trip to France if I don’t hear the song “Me and Mrs. Jones” at least once! That restaurant is where I heard it on this trip to France. It also occurs to me that it looks like Bill and I only eat beef, fish, fries, and chocolate mousse. That’s not true at all, but that was how it worked out during our trip. Lunch ran us about 70 euros. The waitress was clearly very pleased when Bill tipped her generously.