Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lunch at Hinode's

Today I had lunch with my dad and we dined at Hinode's located next to Carroll Creek canal in downtown Frederick.

It was too hot to sit outside under the umbrellas, as the temperature was rising to the high 90's, possibly hitting 100!

Hinode's has a nice selection of Japanese foods including sushi, sashimi, tempura and teriyaki dishes, and even lunch boxes.

We started with the Gataguri shrimp, which is wrapped in noodles, deep fried, and served with a sweet and spicy sauce,
and pan-fried beef gyoza.

Both were delicious, although the portions were small.

I had the sashimi lunch box, which consisted of a bowl of miso soup, California roll (although I asked for fish roe to be included), shrimp and vegetable tempura), rice, and three types of sashimi (tuna, white tuna, and flounder).

Dad ordered the pork Katsu, which is lightly battered and fried, and is served with a thick sauce; along with a side salad (not pictured).

For dessert we shared the creme brulee, which was one of the best I've had in a while (very creamy and light).

I thought the sashimi pieces should have been thinly sliced, rather than served in thick chunks; and the tuna wasn't of the best quality. Also, were served our main entrees when we were still trying to enjoy the appetizers. Overall, lunch was tasty and filling.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gondola and Flowers

I took this photo on my second day in Venice. It was a beautiful day!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Color Purple

Today my friend Beth and I went to a lavender farm in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful but hot and humid day. We lasted just three hours before we began to wilt. We took many photos and picked lavender to take home. The smell of lavender is wonderful and soothing. There were about a dozen or so of vendors selling various products, including items from Provence (which they jacked up the price).

Here area a bunch of photos I took from our visit.

In addition to the two fields of lavender, there were some pretty flower beds and herbal gardens.

After, we headed back to Frederick to have lunch downtown at Acacia. Delicious caesar salad and spinach stuffed ravioli with a Bolognese meat sauce for me ...

...and a beet salad and fried chicken with mashed potatoes for Beth.

A great day despite the humidity.

7 June 2010, Time to head home from Venice

7 June, Monday

I got up at 6:10am and got ready to head to the airport.

After breakfast at the hotel and paying the bill, I left at the hotel. The streets were very quiet, although some people were around. I took the #1 vaporetto to Piazzale Roma. On the way I snapped a few last shots of the Grand Canal.

I caught the #5 bus (A1 stop) to the airport. It was a hazy morning, so I knew it would be a very hot day. It was time to get out of Dodge, although another day in Venice would have been great.

Check in was fast since I got to the airport early. Security was tighter than in Philadelphia. I was asked to have my bags inspected. One camera and my itouch were in the carry on bag. Of course, it took a few minutes for me to put everything back neatly so I could close my suitcase. Flying with only carry-on is great but you do have to pack perfectly.

The flight home took a little over nine hours. We took off 30 minutes late but still arrived on time. I watched a couple of movies, read my book, and talked to the flight attendants who treated me to a few goodies.

It took about 40 minutes to get through immigration. I guess I got in the wrong line! I talked to two guys behind me for a bit. They lived in Towson, MD. One security worker had her cute beagle and he went around sniffing the luggage in the area.

Just as I got out of the customs area, I called Tony. I knew he had been working and was calling to see where he was. He said, “I’m just outside.” What a nice surprise! He was just around the corner from the customs area. He had finished working around noon and decided to fly to Philadelphia to meet me so we could drive home together.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner and later he did the rest of the driving. At that point I was pretty tired.

It was a great trip that I really needed and Venice is one place that I can go to anytime and enjoy. I can never get tired of exploring the many streets, canals, and bridges. There's a photo to be taken around every corner.

The weather was beautiful overall with the exception of two very hot days and some rain. I had the opportunity to meet old friends and new friends; and chat with waiters and hotel owners.

I'll be back to Venice again someday soon.

Now it's time to wait for my next trip: Another transatlantic cruise from Rome to Ft. Lauderdale!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day trip to Verona, Italy

6 June Sunday, Verona

Last night I had decided I would spend my last full day in Venice. I woke up early and decided I would go to Verona even though I hadn't bought any train tickets in advance. After a quick breakfast (nice spread of food at the hotel), I took the vapporetto to the train station and got in line to buy my tickets. The line had about a dozen customers in front of me, so I knew the line would go quickly. Four or five windows were open. I was lucky and caught the next train, only 10 minutes after purchasing my tickets.

It took about 1 hour, 20 minutes to get to Verona. Another hot but sunny day, I walked all around the city. Verona is a beautiful city with fabulous architecture. The lines were long at the Roman amphitheatre so I decided to visit it in the afternoon.

Along the pedestrian street, via Mazzini, there were lots of expensive shops with beautiful window displays. There was no market this day but I got to see the piazza Erbe without all the vendor's umbrellas covering the entire area. The piazza was once the forum in Roman times. All of the streets were small and so colorful. Many of the buildings had wrought iron balconies.

I took the easy way (elevator) to the top of the La Torre dei Lamberti (tower) for some great views. Not one cloud in the sky! The tower was first built in the 12th century and later restored I the mid 1400’s. A large clock was added in 1779.

My friend Anne gave me some restaurant suggestions but I ended up at Osteria Verona Antica. If I didn't have to worry about catching the train back to Venice I wouldn't have minded the slow service. I had a polenta and mixed mushroom dish and pasta with chinghiale (wild boar). I’ve had better.

I walked by Romeo's home...or at least that's the story. Juliette's home was nearby but didn't think about it at the time. I had been there several years ago.

I walked along the river, stopped in a two church’s (one with some fabulous frescoes that had been discovered at some point and unfortunately discovered when the workers used picks to tear town the stucco, which heavily damaged the frescoes). It was sad to see such damage. The other had a fabulous ceiling.

Next I walked to the castle but didn't go inside - I had seen one castle/fortress already and that was enough for this trip. The afternoon was very hot, close to 90 degrees.

In the center of town there was some sort of sport street festival and a stage with musicians.

There were lots of cafes in the area with people having afternoon drinks and dessert. At the amphitheatre, I discovered the place had closed at 2pm. I wasn't sure if it was for just the one day; however, that night I did see a concert on tv and I was 98% sure it was at the Verona amphitheatre. I also saw a sign for a Rod Stewart concert for June 21st. Too bad, as it would have been great to see him in concert in such a fabulous place.

I headed back to Venice on the 4:40pm train. It was a nice visit to Verona, as my last time there was back in 2001. It would have been nice to spend a night or two there. Back at the hotel, I had printed out my boarding pass. The hotel has one computer next to the front desk for people to use and a printer set up as well. I had Tony check me in since I couldn’t do it during the day.

I was back at ai Tre Spiedi around 8pm. The restaurant was empty when I arrived, but a few people did come in soon after for dinner. It was a slow night, but then maybe a lot of tourists left the city. I had a delicious bowl of mussels and clams in a light red sauce (like a soup), and then a pork cutlet with potatoes. The water treated me to a shot of cold limoncello. Yum!

I walked along the streets towards St Marks and took several photos. I bought a pretty purse in one of the shops that was still open. It was marked 25 euros. He knocked it down to 23 and I offered 20. He was quick to accept, so I imagined I could have started lower.

Back in the room, I finished off my local white wine, packed my suitcase, and went to bed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

This is one of my favorite photos from Venice. I took this same shot back in 2006. I wasn't sure I could find the place again, but happily I did.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

5 June 2010: Venice, Change of Hotels

5 June, Saturday

I woke up tired. I've done a ton of walking this trip and going to bed too late reading a good book (Sarah’s Key). I got up at 7:30am and enjoyed breakfast on the terrace. It was a beautiful day and it was a pleasure sitting outside under the umbrellas in the shade watching the boats go by. Breakfast at the hotel was pretty decent with yogurt, ham (the waitress told me it was prosciutto but I knew better), cheese, fruit, breads and pastries, coffee, tea, juice.

It was time to move to my next hotel. After checking out, I walked with my luggage to the Academia Bridge and took the #1 vaporetto to Ca d'Oro stop. From there it was just a 5-minute walk to my hotel, Hotel Giorgione. It was a lovely hotel, my first in Venice with elevators and large lobby! In addition, there was a beautiful outdoor garden area with tables and chairs with a water fountain in the middle. Breakfast is served in a dining room off the garden. There’s also a bar and pool table room. The hotel serves afternoon tea and cookies. Check in was not till 2pm so I headed out to walk around the area.

Nearby was an outdoor fruit and vegetable market, a Coop grocery store, and a wine shop that I had gone to a few years ago. This particular wine shop had large vats of wine, several types, and you can bring in an empty bottle to have filled.

I had lunch (a pasta dish with pancetta and mushrooms) at Hosteria Al Vecio Bragosso. I sat outside in the shade eating lunch and watching the throngs of people walking by. I couldn't imagine being in Venice in late June or July. It was a very hot day, the hottest day yet.

After more walking around in the area (and more photo ops)
I went to the hotel and to my room, #215. I requested a single room and was told I would have a single bed; however, the room had a full size bed in the corner with a pretty corner headboard. The bathroom was much smaller than at La Calcina and no shelving for storage. If hotels didn’t install bidets, there would be more room. The best part of the bathroom was the large mirror and decent lighting. The room faced an inner court area, so it was quiet at night. The bedroom area was a nice size with a small closet, flat screen tv., and a mini bar.

Since it was such a hot day (and also having to carry my luggage in the a.m.) I had to take another shower before going back outside.

I walked along Strada Nova, which is a long stretch of street that runs from the train station towards the Rialto Bridge. There are lots of shops with souvenirs, leather shops, and cafes and restaurants. There's even a McDonald's. Why would anyone eat there?

After some window-shopping, I walked back to the wine shop and had my water bottle filled with Pinot Grigio for just 2.20 euros, all for a liter. What a deal!

I was back at ai Tre Spiede for dinner. They have good food and the prices are reasonable. I was served a glass of spritz, which is made of wine and martini rossi. I had the carpaccio, ever so thinly sliced, that had thick slices of Parmesan cheese and truffle oil on top. It was a deliciously large portion. Next I had spaghetti with mixed seafood-clams, calamari, shrimps, etc. With 1/4 liter of red wine, dinner came to 28.56 euros.

On the way back to my hotel

Back at the hotel I met a woman, Leslie, sitting out in the garden having a drink. We chatted for about an hour have a couple of drinks. I brought my wine down from the room. It was a beautiful night and we had a nice time talking.