The employee wearing a rubber apron and processing shellfish at the entrance and the bistro style ground floor dining area belied the refined ambiance we found once we climbed a narrow staircase to the first floor of Rech, long known for its seafood in a city preoccupied with eatable treasures from the seas. As the first to arrive for lunch we were thrilled to have the dining room to ourselves for a few minutes until the next guests appeared.
On our most recent trip to Paris we made time to revisit the Louvre in part to discover the new wing. We’ve been there many times over the years and were bracing ourselves for the overcrowded museum of past visits. In an attempt at a more leisurely and less crowded experience we arrived late in the day on a weekday when they were open into the evening. The later hour made a surprising difference.
As is the case in most densely visited area anywhere, Italy’s Amalfi Coast abounds with local eateries eager to introduce hungry tourists to the local fare. On a recent visit to the area, it quickly became obvious that although the quality of food and service could vary wildly, menus were virtually interchangeable from one restaurant to the next; until I reached the Santa Caterina Restaurant. Located in the legendary five-star hotel that gave it its name, this superb formal restaurant welcomed its guests with the same flawless service, exquisite décor and eye popping views of the Amalfi coastline that have made the property famous for over a century. And best of all was Chef Domenico Cuomo’s menu: classic southern Italian cuisine, created from the freshest local ingredients and fish just out of the Tyrrhenian Sea. There were also sublime pasta dishes, homemade of course, the likes of which I hadn’t tasted since my Tuscan paternal grandmother made them for me when I was a child.
Art Deco? That was the last thing that would have come to my mind when thinking of Rome, until my most recent visit to the Eternal City. It was for its location rather than its design that the Hotel Mediterraneo first caught my attention. I was to arrive by train for a three-day stopover between two legs of an extended tour of the region, with no other plans than just being in Rome, to wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The Mediterraneo was 250 meters (820 feet) from Stazione di Roma Termini, the main railway station and public transportation hub in the city; and within reasonable walking distance from the most popular landmarks including Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica, the Coliseum, Forum, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Via Veneto and the Piazza di Spania (and its famous Spanish Steps). The location seemed ideal for my purpose, and it proved to be. But it was the grand, impeccably preserved Art Deco property itself that made my short stay in Rome a memorable experience.
The history of Alsace is well documented, as far back as 58 B.C. when along with the rest of Gaul (great swaths of what is now France) it was conquered by Caesar. Rome attached the region to its Germania Superior province. Thus began a tumultuous two-millennia history during which this wedge of rich alluvial plain, 190 kilometer (118 mile) long by 50 kilometer (31 mile) wide at its largest, between the western bank of the Rhine River and the Vosges Mountains changed hands several times between France and Germany. This generated a unique culture that, while remaining resolutely French, abounds with unmistakably German elements in its traditions, architecture, arts and cuisine.
In a city that exudes at every turn the allure of a millennium of rich historical memories, Romantik Hotel Le Maréchal stood out as a gem of timeless romance. Located in the heart of Colmar, in the medieval neighborhood known as La Petite Venise (Little Venice), the property consisted of four adjoining 16th century houses built on the remains of 11th century fortifications overlooking the River Lauch. The rear of the hotel faced the river, while the three-story façade opened onto a small private courtyard. At every window a riot of red geraniums tumbled from windowsill flower boxes. Above it, the impossibly steep red tile roof that is a trademark of Alsace housed two additional stories of chiens-assis (sitting dogs, as dormers are called in French). Inside, common walls had been opened into passageways that jogged and slanted between the various parts of the property to form a welcoming maze of cozy nooks filled with local antiques. Most inviting of all was the restaurant, L’Echevin (a medieval title for a high-level magistrate) at the rear of the first floor. In addition to superb cuisine, this noted bastion of local gastronomy offered a lovely view of the tranquil river and the colorful ancient homes that lined the opposite bank.