To see my tribute to Flo, go here

See about helping Flo's Haitian artist friends at Jakmel Ekspresyon


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

St-Tropez




It was Margaret's birthday, and we made our excursion to St- Tropez.  The traffic was intense; I directed the TomTom GPS to the Parc des Lices garage for this once-in-50-years trip. There were vehicles crowding into the entrance from multiple directions. A van with Dutch plates cut in front of us, the passenger found it was too tall, and made us back up to let them out with people behind us. 

We found the busy Place des Lices market, went around there, and to a harbor café.  We didn't have lunch plans that were too ambitious, selected Le G for a pleasant birthday meal. 

The GPS took us down a narrow street that I wasn't sure was correct, but we wound up OK, including some extra circling of roundabouts. 

Back in Grimaud, for the evening, we hoped to go to a nearby creperie, but there seems to be a problem of limited places being open Monday and Tuesday. We wound with a pizza, not great. It's hard to review this full Grimaud stay, but it was an interesting return. Pictures:







Monday, April 25, 2016

Memories, getting to Grimaud


  Although the setup for the marathon appeared to allow traffic in one direction, we decided to leave the apartment before the start, go to the front of the train station, and get a taxi to the airport. At a fixed fare of 25 euros on Sunday, we got there much earlier than our scheduled pickup time, and sat with coffee for that time so the return time in Rome would be right. 

When we got the car, it was a Fiat 500L like last time, but automatic, which is overall preferable, especially without owing a supplement. It is a confusing type of automatic; with one setup it's semi and calls for shifting, although it doesn't have a clutch.

We took the autostrada-autoroute with some tie-ups on the Italian side. I planned a lunch stop for the last Autogrill on the Italian side; it turned out to be a snack bar with sandwiches. The tollbooth took a credit card at the staffed booth. Not many cars were crossing the border. In France there were three lanes in each direction all the way.  There were three booths that took a fixed toll, then a short segment with a ticket to hand in. 

I found my way close to La Maison du Prince, where we were staying. We checked into this small historic B&B. Wi-Fi is not that strong, and I'm typing this on the iPhone where I'm not used to typing much of length. The lady was maybe wanting to be too helpful in directing me where to park, but it's worked out well overall. 

We did a little exploration of the village of Grimaud, my house was not as I remembered it.  We had dinner at the restaurant I remembered, l'Ecurie de la Marquise, very nice with steak as it got crowded with the colorful waiter, speaking so many languages, needing to give attention so many places. 

In the morning, a bit more exploration of Grimaud, then a trip to the other picturesque village of Ramtuelle. We had lunch there at Saveurs Sincères, a burrata of mozzarella with truffles. Resting it off, here are a few pictures from Grimaud. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Genoa, over too fast

We woke up to a rainy day, our las day in Genoa.  For indoor attractions, we thought of the Aquarium and Palazzo Ducale, choosing the latter in the hope of some wandering of the Centro Storico.  

The Palazzo is a historic building that regularly has special exhibitions.  First we had coffee inside, then went to the show of Salgado photographs, great views of nature and primitive peoples.  

Then we wandered the small rainy streets a little, before finding the restaurant Da Ugo.  Had a nice meal there, green pasta with pesto and potatoes and green beans.  Then deep-fried baccalà (cod).   Even if the place looked modest, the price was about double that of Da Mario near us.  

Even though the rain had let up, we were ready to return home, and would leave Genoa without a whole lot of sightseeeing.  When we got home, in some of my browsing I found word of a half-marathon scheduled for tomorrow.  It will close our street, and it's hard to get word of whether we can get the bus to the airport to get our rental car.  I even caught a driver of the bus today, and he wasn't sure; no alternate routes have been announced.  I hope that, before the race starts, we'll be able to cross the street to the station, and get a train and shuttle bus, avoiding street traffic where the marathon is..

Here are some pictures of the rainy Centro Storico and a multi-ethnic street near where we're staying.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Settling in Genoa

Rough notes about our arrival in Genoa:  nice apartment in a multi-ethnic neighborhood near Principe station and the harbor.  Nice eating at the modest Trattoria Da Mario around the corner.

Main outings involved thinking of getting a smartphone for Italy at the main TIM store on the main shopping street, via XX Settembre.  When the model we'd chosen wasn't available, rather than make a rash decision while jet-lagged we slept on it and decided to go back to the last trip's plan and get an Italian SIM for Margaret's iPad.  

We also made two productive trips to the covered market, Mercato Orientale.  Yesterday we got a 24-hour pass for public transport, then today we found the metro shut down by a strike, and took taxis.  

Otherwise we've wandered around our neighborhood, and have one more day to wander the Centro Storico.  I have these pictures of the tiles under the porticos on via XX Settembre, the market, and the cruise ship terminal.



Getting to Italy

I was composing my account of the travel while in flight, and the file seems to be gone.  I’ll try to redo the basics of what I usually report.

First, we had a regional jet flight from Kansas City to New York LaGuardia. We’d been unable to check in online; it turned out the reason was a space in our last name on our passports, which was different from how American Airlines had it.  The flight went well, although we can see LGA’s bad reputation.  We hoped to get a Lyft ride, using a friend’s promo code, but I kept running into failures, for a weak connection or whatever, and went back to our established relation with Uber, found that car in the chaotic traffic in front of the terminal, and got a good ride.

At JFK we got in at a time of light activity for that terminal.  At a set of kiosks, a man started to help as Margaret asked for a wheelchair and we needed to recheck our bags.  There was a wait for that and, although we already had our boarding passes, we ran into the problem again of the space in our names. 

With the bags checked, the wheelchair assistant got us through security, chaotic even at that time of otherwise light activity at that terminal.  We were still six hours before departure, and planned to go to the Admirals Club, buying a 30-day membership, which would be useful also on our return.  I already knew that one of the two clubs was under renovation and we went to the other one, but precisely because of that renovation, the lounge dragon (term in common use) told us that they were not selling 30-day memberships there.

If we’d known that, that might have changed our plans not to leave the airport.  The attendant offered to have us stay in the wheelchair lounge, back in the other concourse.  He described it as comfortable, but when we got there, it had the atmosphere of a doctor’s cramped waiting room,and we were quickly out.  We found one place to sit down for lunch, stayed in that quiet concourse for a bit, then we went back to the other concourse with our gate, and the time didn’t drag on too much.

We had the excitement of boarding a transatlantic flight.  A large number of the passengers were Hasidic or other Orthodox Jews, we later learned on an extended family reunion trip to northern Italy.  We’d ordered one special meal, served quickly as there was a large number of special meals.  We got a decent amount of sleep.

We landed at Milan Malpensa and got to the gate at 8.30, 10 minutes late,and were hoping for everything to go well to make a train from the airport at 9.43.  We had a wheelchair waiting, and a big advantage was that attendant took us through passport control in the crew line, letting us bypass a long line.  Delivery of bags was being held up because the carousel was getting too full with the passengers still at passport control.  We eventually got the bags, and the attendant got us to the train station with time to spare.  He had me go to the staffed ticket window, where the agent, working for Trenord, only sold the tickets to Milano Centrale.  There was a machine for selling the tickets with seat assignments from Milan to Genoa.  I used the credit card that I had set up with a PIN, which that machine asked for.

The ride to Centrale went well, arriving at a track at the edge of the station.  With 45 minutes for the connection, we wanted to stop for a cappuccino, which appeared to call for leaving the platform area.  We got that, and re-entered the area, which now requires showing tickets.  Our train was the Thello, which continues into France.  That train went well, with a delay at the end.

We arrived at Genova Piazza Principe.  There was an elevator from the platform to the underpass, and we found our way to the via Andrea Doria exit from the station, just across from our booked apartment building.  We got the building manager, who showed us to our booked apartment, which looked fine.  The journey was complete.