Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Poggio Cioppino

Poggio at Casa Madrona on Bridgeway, Sausalito
Poggio in Sausalito, CA started a wonderful Tuesday night supper that's 3 delicious courses along with wonderful wines by the glass that complement the courses. We had Cioppino and it was delicious.

Poggio Interior
Poggio is a special place. We’ve been coming here for years and the food has gotten better and better. Poggio ("hill" in Italian.) Restaurant is a wonderful Italian trattoria that is a comfortable place filled with locals and visitors alike. Across the street from the Ferry Boat Landing, Poggio has heated outdoor tables on the side walk.

Multi Course Antipasti
The Tuesday Menus change monthly and this month the dishes started with bowls of antipasti. There were five bowls ranging from english peas, charred radicchio, chick peas, farro and mixed baby lettuce, What a great start to an Italian meal. The paired Casali Maniago Pinot Grigio went perfectly with the vegetable antipasti.


Cioppino
The primi was Cioppino. It was so delicious and rested in a thick spiced red wine sauce. In the sauce was large cracked dungeness crab, mussels, clams, prawns and halibut. It was served family style in a large bowl and smelled and tasted of the sea. With this course, the paired Refosco red wine fit perfectly.

Tiramisu
The dolce was the classic Tiramisu with ladyfingers dipped in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks, egg whites, sugar and and mascarpone cheese, flavored with cocoa. Perfect ending to a perfect meal.


Pleased not only with the food but with the service, enthusiasm, seating and overall dinner vibe for a Tuesday night. Poggio was pleasantly busy and we were genuinely impressed with the service.

 Highly recommended anytime, even Tuesdays!


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mud Run 2014

Mud Run 2014
It's fun to stay motivated by signing up for road races around the Bay Area and always have a goal to keep us challenged. When looking for a race to do in April we found the 2014 Mud Run and signed up.


Starting Gate
We made it to Granite Park in Sacramento CA on a Saturday morning. We stood in line and got t-shirts, bandanas and a  timing chip, which you turn in for a free beer after the race. The race is run in waves with starts every 15 minutes of about 1000 runners.

Climbing is Fun!
The set of obstacles we saw was daunting enough but when we saw the first runner come over the hill navigate the ropes and wall climb and then run down to the final mud obstacle we really knew we could do it! Undeterred, we made it to the starting line for our start. At the start  we were reminded that this wasn’t a race but a challenge. No penalties for skipping obstacles, there are no winners or losers here.

Swimming throughthe mud and Under Barbed Wire
We started, ran, walked climbed, waddled, crawled and slithered through the 5K course. Had a great time. We were kids again! 

The sense of camaraderie among the participants is a wonderful thing. We chatted, laughed and helped each other through the obstacles along the way. 

When we finally came to the final slide into a pool of mud we swam through laughing and feeling great!

Duck and Pepper Cheese
We finished our adventure by heading to one of our favorites. Taste Restaurant in the Gold Rush era town of Plymouth. 

Steak Sandwich with Wild Mushrooms and Egg plus Arugala
Had a great  Steak Sandwich, Flat Bread and Cheese plate with Armenian preserved walnuts. Also had a local Amador Valley Yorba Zinfandel which was perfect.

Yorba Local Zinfandel


Great time playing in the mud! 

Highly recommended!


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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Pompeii

Ruins with Vesuvius Looming Over Pompeii
At the Napoli Centrale station, we went to the  Circumvesuviana train ticket window and got tickets for Pompeii Scavi, which is a little closer to excavations of Pompeii. The trip took about 40 minutes and cost €2.30. At the ruins we rented hand-held audio guides to help explain the site. The site also offers free maps written in many languages which helped us with information on many of the site's key points of interest.
Ruins
Pompeii was everything we expected and more. It's approximately a 10 minute walk from the Scavi station. Pompeii is an amazing ruined city. Allow for an entire day to see the main sites

Breathtaking Pompeii is an archeological treasure. The ancient city of is large, about 65 hectares (170 acres). Mount Vesuvius looms just 8 km (5 miles) away. The story it tells are endless and it’s something we'll never forget.

Victims of 79 CE
The human shaped plaster casts remain in stunning detail and tell a story which have physical remains that tell of how people fell and died, then were covered with ash. Ancient Pompeii is a world heritage site. So try to go in season, as many areas can be closed in the winter.

Pompeii House
Historically, the Romans took control of Pompeii around 200 BCE. On August 24, 79 CE, Vesuvius erupted, burying the town of Pompeii in ash and soot, killing around 3,000 people, the rest of the population of 20,000 people having already fled, and preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Pompeii is an ongoing excavation site and is an outdoor museum of the ancient Roman world. This site is considered to be one of the few sites where an ancient city has been preserved in such detail.

Temple of Apollo
Pompeii is a walking site only. Note that walking the old cobbled stone roads can be quite exhausting, especially in the heat of summer with loads of fellow tourists about. The temperature is between 32 and 35c in the summer. Make sure to take plenty of water and watch your step as the old roads have grooves in them where the carts ran. It is advisable to wear good footwear, sunscreen and hats. There is a lot to look at and it takes all day to see everything.

Fresco from the Villa of the Mysteries
End your visit at the Villa of the Mysteries, and try to interpret its amazing, bizarre frescoes—scholars have debated their meaning for years. It’s an ancient world.

Pompeii is a must see. Highly recommended!

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Naples


Castel dell'Ovo Napoli
After a quick train trip from Rome we arrived in Naples at the main station, the Napoli Centrale - Piazza Garibaldi. It is connected to the Naples subway system but we used a taxi for the short trip to the Hotel Santa Lucia on Via Partenope. 

Hotel Santa Lucia
Check in at the Santa Lucia was quick, efficient, and courteous. The agent escorted us to our Mt. Vesuvius and Bay view room that we had booked on the fifth floor and the view was incredible! The room was well laid out and beautiful - parquet floors, linen wall coverings, beautiful wood furniture and comfortable seating chairs, and an outdoor balcony with table and chairs.

Piazza dei Plebiscito
The area around the hotel was very scenic and quiet. It was safe, and it was a pleasant walk to the bustling areas of Naples and the Via Toledo. The concierge and front desk staff were always helpful with directions/dining recommendations. The beautiful atmosphere of the hotel was a welcome sight after a  busy day of sightseeing in Naples and Pompeii. 

Spaccanapoli 
The Centro Storico is a  labyrinth of history built in several layers of one period over the other and Naples prime tourist attraction. With excellent pizzerias, baroque churches, underground greco-roman ruins, famous streets like Spaccanapoli with shops selling traditional Neapolitan nativity figures, mozzarella, costumes and souvenirs and a vibrant night-life and atmosphere makes this free-of-charge living museum a must see among the must sees of Naples.

Quartieri Spagnoli
Spaccanapoli is an interesting street. It is the straight and narrow main street that traverses the old, historic center of the city of Naples. The name is a popular usage and means, literally, "Naples splitter". The name is derived from the fact that it is very long and from above it seems to divide that part of the city. Historically, Spaccanapoli is one of the three decumani, or east-west streets, of the grid of the original Greco-Roman city of Neapolis.

Pompeii Floor Mosaic of Alexander the Great at Naples Muaeum


Naples is a wonderful old city and the whole experience is totally worth it.

Highly recommended!

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St Peter's Basilica


St Peter's Basilica
As part of the visit to Rome, we went to Vatican City including St. Peter's Basilica. It's an amazing place, with incredible statues, stunning architecture. Totally impressive. We went up to the dome and climbed the 200 steps. Then we went to the next level, all the way up via 330 more stairs to the top. There’s a great view of the Vatican and Rome from the top. Both are a must see.

The Alter with Bernini's Baldacchino
The inside is stunning and you get the feeling of grandeur mixed with the fact that along with the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is a rich institution.

Basilica Interior
We took the option to go to the dome of the basilica and this is something I would recommend to everyone as long as you can handle lots of stairs. But if you can’t climb the stairs take the lift for 7 euros  each. The stairs themselves cost 5 euros. It’s worth it though, again, the views are truly spectacular.


Laocoön and his sons from the Pope's Art Collection
Well what else can be said about this incredible church? You absolutely have to visit if you're in Rome. Very simple to get to via the Metro. You can either wait in line, or take a chance with one of the many tourist companies that will haggle with you. No words can adequately describe how amazing it is to be in the midst of such amazing artwork and history. Just visit and you will see.

The St. Peter's Basilica represents power and splendor of Rome's 2,000 year dominance of the Western World. Over 2,000 years ago, St. Peter's oval shaped square was the site of Nero's Circus which was in essence a Roman chariot race course. During halftime, they killed Christians. They were to fight wild animals, gladiators, were crucified and burned or tortured in other ways. 

The Pope's Apartment
One of those who are said to have been killed here in about 65 CE was Peter, who was Jesus's disciple. His remains are thought to be buried where the main altar is today. He has been recognized as the first pope. When Christianity became legal in 313 CE, Constantine built a church on the site of Peter's historic tomb site.
The whole experience is totally worth it.
Highly recommended!

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Ancient Rome

Roman Colosseum
Today is a good day for a nice walk to the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill. Weather's perfect and  Ancient Rome is magnificent. Took all day to see the sights but it was worth it. 

The Hypogeum, a series of underground tunnels
The Roman Colosseum or Colosseo was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater. It was commissioned in 72 BCE by Emperor Vespasian. It was completed by his son, Titus, in 80, with later improvements by Domitian. The Colosseum is located just east of the Roman Forum and was built with its 80 arched entrances allowing easy access to 55,000 spectators, who were seated according to rank. The Colosseum is huge, an ellipse 188m long and 156 wide. Originally 240 masts and cloth shades were attached to stone corbels on the 4th level to provide shade to the spectators.

Vespasian ordered the Colosseum to be built on the site of Nero's palace, the Domus Aurea, to dissociate himself from the hated tyrant. His aim was to gain popularity by staging deadly combats of gladiators and wild animal fights for public viewing. Massacre was on a huge scale: at inaugural games in 80 BCE, over 9,000 wild animals were killed.

Pre booked the entrance tickets and the tour so it was easy to enter the Colosseum. .The English speaking tour guide was excellent. At each point he would explain the facts for a few minutes then give everyone a few minutes to take photos. Worth the extra euros for a tour.

Roman Forum
It’s only 12 euros for the pass that is for Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill. We saw all three sights and it was fantastic how the ancient roman city came to life through the ruins.

Caligula's Palace on the Palatine Hill
It was a good day in Rome and tomorrow is the Vatican. Rome is a great place and even better, we’re going back to the St Regis Grand luxury for the night.

Everything here is highly recommended!


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Historic Rome

View down Via dei Condotti from the Spanish Steps
Since we’re at the St Regis Grand we started at the nearest Roman Attractions by walking by and investigating the ruins of the Baths of Diocletion. He was Roman emperor from 284 to 305. Born to a family of low status in the Roman province of Dalmatia, Diocletian rose through the ranks of the military to become cavalry commander and then Emperor.


Baths of Diocletion
The Baths of Diocletian (Thermae Diocletiani) in Rome were the grandest of the public baths, or thermae built by successive emperors. Diocletians’s Baths, dedicated in 306, were the largest and most sumptuous of the imperial baths. The baths were built between the years 298 and 306.

The Spanish Steps
Next was the Spanish Steps. Located in the heart of Rome, this vibrant and elegant square is surrounded by 18th-century buildings augmented by the colorful flowers that adorn the Spanish Steps. The elegant steps by Francesco de Sanctis (1723-1726) consist of twelve flights of varying width, which descend to the scenic Franciscan Church of Trinita dei Monti. Very interesting.

The Pantheon
Then there's the Pantheon. The Pantheon dome remains the single largest, unreinforced concrete dome in the entire world. At about 142 feet in diameter, the Pantheon’s dome is bigger even than the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Built by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD, it is the only ancient building in Rome to have been in continual use since its completion.

The Trevi Fountain
Last stop for the day was the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is situated at the end of the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct constructed in 19 BC by Agrippa, the son-in-law of Emperor Augustus. The Trevi Fountain we see was only inaugurated in 1762. Tradition has it that you will return to Rome if you throw a coin into the fountain's water basin over your shoulder. 

Baths of Diocletion
That was a good day in Rome and tomorrow we have quite a bit more to see. Rome is a great place and even better, we’re going back to the St Regis Grand for the night. Luxurious. 

Everything in Rome is highly recommended!


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St Regis Grand Rome

St Regis Grand Hotel
Left by train from The Santa Lucia Train Station in Venice for the 5 hour trip to Rome. The destination was the St Regis Grand Hotel near the Rome Termini. Really great hotel near many central Rome attractions.

St Regis Lobby
The St Regis Grand is loaded with history. In 1894 César Ritz opened Le Grand Hotel as the most elegant hotel of Italy. It was known as Le Grand and the original sign is still proudly on the St Regis today. It also was the first hotel in Europe to have electric lights in every room.

St Regis Imperial Living Room
The famed Auguste Escoffier was its first chef at Le Grand. Diplomats, heads of state and royalty shared tables at lavish banquets and occupied its splendidly appointed suites and rooms. Lina Cavalieri, a flower girl working there, became one of the greatest opera stars of her days. The King of Spain spent the last years of his life in his suite there. In1945, the seeds of modern Italy were sown at the Grand Hotel.

Marble Bath
Fiat tycoon Giovanni Agnelli maintained a year round apartment at Le Grand and the stars of Hollywood enjoy it as their preferred retreat in the eternal city. In short: the St Regis is one of the cultural, social, economical and political revolving points of Italy.

The St Regis Le Grand is in a central downtown location. Within a 15-minute walk, is Teatro dell'Opera di Roma and Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The Roman Forum and The Colosseum are also very close by. The Baths of Diocletian are right next to the hotel on the way to the Piazza Repubblica. In the other direction you’ll find The Spanish Steps and the Via dei Condotti. The Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are all within walking distance. Fantastic Hotel and location.

St Regis Imperial Bed Room
Wonderful hotel, the service is excellent, the room was great, very spacious which is quite unusual in the centre of Rome. Lot of attention to details, the concierge is very polite and helpful as well as reception. Overall a great stay and looking forward to come back when returning to Rome.  

Highly recommended!


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Venice Italy

The Gritti Palace on the Grand Canal
After a long Flight from SFO to Schiphol Airport (AMS) in the Netherlands, we transferred to a flight to Venice for the rest of the trip. We landed at the Marco Polo airport (VCE), then took a speedboat across the lagoon to the Gritti Palace Hotel on the Grand Canal. Perfect airport taxi!

Taking the Speed Boat from the Airport
The Gritti is a fifteenth century palace with a unique gothic structure that’s been turned into a luxurious hotel with views of the Grand Canal and charming surroundings.  

View from Room at Gritti
Each room is one of a kind with different views, sizes and each has unique decorations. There are  82 rooms and only 9 are overlooking the Grand Canal. We were lucky enough to get one with fantastic views of the Grand Canal. Sublime.

Grand Canal Side Street
The Grand Canal is Venice's main water thoroughfare, lined with great Renaissance palaces and is a colorful and busy spectacle of gondolas and vaporetti.

The Gondola in Action
Also had a great trip on a Gondola with a wonderful Gondolier. Expensive but a unique experience. Definitely worth it.


We Visited St. Mark’s Square and Basilica that’s quite close to the Gritti. There’s so much to see in Venice. Traveled all around town on foot and visited the Rialto bridge while walking through the antique surroundings to get there. 

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum was a fantastic break from old Venice. It contains works by artists such as Magritte, Jackson Pollack, Alexander Calder, Picasso, Duchamp, Braque, Brancusi, Mondrian and many more. It’s a must see.

Small Palace that's a Venitian Home
Venice is a wonderful city that has been a host to travelers for many years. It has grand architecture and many sights to see.   

Highly recommended!


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