November 15, 2014 – Udine

The people at the Astoria Hotel have upgraded us to a suite for some unknown reason. It’s nice to have the extra room but the windows, which have to be open since it is too hot in the room otherwise (the A/C doesn’t work this time of year), is right on the market square. At least until past 2 AM there are drunken louts yelling in the street and cars with yelling occupants blowing their horns plus shortly before 6 AM the city recycling truck picks up the bin of empty bottles which sounds even louder than when our recyclables are dumped at home. Add to this the crying baby across the hall and you have a bad night’s sleep.

It’s raining today but we have places to go and things to see. We start at the Udine Duomo, the Cathedral of St. Mary. Construction of the building started in 1236 and if you look hard you can still see vestiges of the early church.

The church of St. Mary (Udine Duomo) stock photo

The church of St. Mary (Udine Duomo) stock photo


Above the door is a carving from the 1300's of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ

Above the door a is carving from the 1300’s of the birth, death and resurrection of Christ


The interior shows much of the fashionable update from the 18th century. Old frescoes have a been covered with romantic visions and even some of the things that still exist have been gussied up.
Perfectly good Madonna and Child now wear crowns and jewelry

Perfectly good Madonna and Child now wear crowns and jewelry


Next door at the Museo del Duomo there are still some of the early works including wonderful frescoes and paintings of St. Nicholas and a sarcophagus of Blessed Bertrand, a bishop who died at the age of 90 in 1350. The sarcophagus carvings do not leave out the grisly details.
The bodies of Sts. Ermagora and Fortunatus without their heads. A man holds the two heads in a drape.

The bodies of Sts. Ermagora and Fortunatus without their heads. A man holds the two heads in a drape.


There is a lady docent here who follows us around. She is very nice but she doesn’t speak any English and doesn’t really know much about any of the artworks. She does, however, keep me from taking pictures.

Next stop, the Patriarchal Palace which now functions as an art museum. We have only 45 minutes to see this as we are reminded that the blessed Italian lunch must be observed for three hours. We get the audio tour and start with woodcarvings from the Middle Ages. The lady from downstairs comes rushing up to us. “No,no, time is short! Tiepolo upstairs!” Seriously, I would much rather look at the woodcarvings but we follow her upstairs since trying to explain would be pointless. We look at the Tiepolos. Yes, very nice. Then we hurry downstairs again to see the woodcarvings.


Then there is a great altarpiece with 10 carvings. The upper tier are all lady saints. It seems like there was only one model.
Altarpiece

Altarpiece


Here are close-ups of the lady saints –

These are the Stepford wives of the New Testament.

Obviously we have seen a lot of stuff so far today. Our plan for the rest of the day is to have a late lunch, stop at the store to buy something to eat later in the room, and watch the ATP Tour World Finals.

One last picture to epitomize much of our vacation.

Old churches and rain

Old churches and rain

November 14, 2014 – Cividale del Friuli

Today is the long awaited day of no rain. We pack up and get on the road from Ljubljana, Slovenia to Udine, Italy. Along the way we plan to stop at Cividale del Friuli, a town known for its Roman and Longobardo artifacts.

First we stop for some gas. Our diesel Peugeot has been getting really great mileage. Mostly I take this picture to show that there is actually blue sky.

Blue skies as John fills up the car

Blue skies as John fills up the car


We make our way across the border into Italy. There are no stern-looking crossing guards here. Just an EU Italia sign. Cividale del Friuli is not far over the border and we plan to see three sites – Tempietto Longobardo, the National Archaeological Museum and the Museo Cristiano. First up, the Tempietto Longobardo.

This small chapel from the 6th century has a few frescoes but is mostly known for the six enigmatic female figures high above the altar surrounding a window. The figures, slightly taller than life size, all have halos. The two next to the window point to it, a reference to Christ being the light. The other four hold the crown of martyrdom and the cross in their hands.

Tempietto Longobardo

Tempietto Longobardo


Female figures in the Tempietto Longobardo

Female figures in the Tempietto Longobardo

Moving along we visit the Christian Museum and Treasury of the Duomo. Here we see the striking altar of Ratchis built in the mid 8th century by the Lombard king to commemorate his father. The bas-relief carving is amazing.

Ratchis altar

Ratchis altar


Detail of Mary (with cross on her forehead) visitng Elizabeth

Detail of Mary (with cross on her forehead) visitng Elizabeth


Lunchtime!

Thus fortified we tackle the National Archaeological Museum. This museum features mostly Roman grave goods and relics.

We’ve had a good visit to Cividale del Friuli and now make our way to Udine where we will spend the next two nights.

November 13, 2014 – Walking tour of Ljubljana, Slovenia

We don’t have a big agenda today. There are no old churches with frescoes or even much in the way of Roman ruins in Ljubljana so we decide to do a walking tour of the city. It’s a very pretty city with lots of 18th and 19th century buildings.

At the tourist information office we are able to rent iPhones with a tour loaded on them. All we have to do is following the walking directions from the guides and we will see it all. As it turns out, following the directions in real time is nearly impossible as the narrators assume that you are an Olympic race walker. So we have to keep stopping to figure out where we are, but in the end, we see most of the old part of the city.

Here’s some of what we saw –


I have to give a shout out to a place we stopped for cappucini. It is the best cappucino that I have ever had. Anyone who reads this and goes to Ljubljana should definitely stop there.
Cafe 13 - best cappucino ever!

Cafe 13 – best cappucino ever!

On the rampart wall of the castle we meet a young man from Turkmenistan named Guy who is living in Ukraine and visiting Ljubljana. He has visited New York and is going back. He asks us to take his picture. He has an iPad and a fancy camera. We oblige. He takes our picture. It’s all so “it’s a small world.”

Mary and John in Ljubljana (Picture taken by Guy of Turkmenistan)

Mary and John in Ljubljana (Picture taken by Guy of Turkmenistan)


It’s past 2 PM so we find a restaurant and have our usually main meal lunch.

We walk around a little more. It’s not actively raining. We stop at a store and buy some bread and salami for tonight’s dinner and head back to the hotel as it begins to get dark.
Ironic sign seen in a store window

Ironic sign seen in a store window

November 12, 2014 – Visiting the Pilato Winery on the way to Ljubljana

The question in the morning is no longer, Is it raining? It’s, How hard is it raining today? Today the rain is coming down in sheets. It’s also thundering and streaks of pitchforked lightning are visible from our window. It’s like a bad Hollywood set. We manage the luggage down the stairs and I hide in an overhang while John runs it over to the car. It’s hard to carry an umbrella and luggage at the same time.

The weather is finally getting to me. We’ve done a good job over the last week+ keeping a happy face and dodging the raindrops. We’ve seem most of things we’ve wanted to see but we are getting tired of the rain and gloom. There’s been more rain in the last week than California has had in the last two years. But we soldier on.

On Wednesday when we arrived in Croatia, the waiter got all excited when he saw our name on the credit card. Pilat? Are you related to the Pilato Winery Pilats? There’s a whole town filled with nothing but Pilato and Pilat families. Then last night at the hotel, Pilato wine was on the menu. We had to try some.

John with namesake wine

John with namesake wine


We usually try to find something to do on our way from one place to the next. Today it will be to stop in at the Pilato Winery. After leaving the big highway we travel down winding country roads. We are really not sure where this winery is but we trust Jack, our GPS, to find it. Rounding a bend in a small town, there it is.
Pilato Winery

Pilato Winery

Cool logo

Cool logo

John and logo

John and logo


Unfortunately it looks pretty much closed up. We go to all the doors we can find and knock. We go next door. Finally a car with a delivery comes up. John runs after them. He explains he is a Pilat from the U.S. and he is trying to meet the Pilato’s of the winery. They oblige by calling the Pilatos up. A charming young lady comes out to meet us and open up the winery for some tasting.
Pilato Winery tasting room

Pilato Winery tasting room


John with wine boxes

John with wine boxes


We find out that everyone in town is basically a Pilat. Some append the final “o” and some do not. We chat and try their wine. The chardonnay and the malvasia are good. The cabernet sauvignon not so much. The winemaker and John exchange business cards. What a great experience it has been all around.

We travel on. After passing through the passport checkpoint into Slovenia we start looking for a place for lunch. Jack directs us to a restaurant off the main route, Gostilna Cah in Rizana.

Restaurant Gostilna Cah

Restaurant Gostilna Cah


The proprietor is definitely not friendly. In fact he seems a little scary. He tells us to sit anywhere and gives us a multilingual menu. None of the languages are English. There’s Italian, though, and we muddle through.

As we leave our somewhat unpleasant lunch experience, we give a glance at the macabre woodcutting on the wall – a group of animals carrying a coffin. It’s been kind of an Alfred Hitchcock lunch.
Doomsday plaque

Doomsday plaque


We drive the rest of the way to Ljubljana in the pouring rain an check into our digs, the Hotel Cubo. It’s very near the old center and everything should be walkable.

We have our usual breadstick dinner and settle down to watch the ATP World Tour Finals.

November 11, 2014 – Romans, rain, and beer in Pula

This morning we get up and look out the window. It seems to be missing something. Ah, rain. It’s not sunny but it’s not raining.

Our hotel is in the town of Uvala where it is not raining at the moment

Our hotel is in the town of Uvala where it is not raining at the moment


The man at the desk suggests that we park quite far away from the Roman arena as the downtown is too crowded. We drive down and find a parking space across from the Roman arena. I think crowded in Croatia and crowded in California mean two different things.
We find a parking space just across the street from the Roman arena

We find a parking space just across the street from the Roman arena


The arena is immense and I strike a pose quoting Marc Antony’s eulogy of Caesar. We are the only people in the arena.
Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

Roman arena in Pula, Croatia

"Amici, Romani, Cives..."

“Amici, Romani, Cives…”


There is an exhibit in the spaces under the arena where they used to keep the wild animals and gladiators. It is about trade during the Roman era in the Adriatic. They have a photograph of a map from the 4th century A.D.
Who doesn’t love a map! It shows Roman roads and cities. The top strip is includes the Istrian peninsula, then there’s the Adriatic Sea. Below that is Italy which has mountains running down the middle, then the Mediterranean Sea and at the bottom Africa. Aquileia which we visited is very prominent.
Ancient map

Ancient map

Aquileia on the map

Aquileia on the map


We continue with a walk around the harbor area. There is a touching memorial to the partisans of WWII. These anti-fascists died very young, some not even 20. A bust of Tito is among them.
Partisan memorial

Partisan memorial


We are headed toward a Roman temple when it begins to rain. We hurry back to the car getting there just ahead of a heavy downpour. We decide just to do a driveby.

It is well after lunchtime so we make our way back Uvala and look for somewhere to have a light lunch. I am still not 100% but would like a little something. It turns out that Uvala is something of an upscale ghost town. Most of the houses are just for the summer or for rent. All the restaurants are closed. In our wanderings we have come across a billboard for the Beer Club. Maybe we can find it. We do! It is really pouring now and by the time we walk from the car to the pub we are pretty soaked. John finds an old favorite from when we were in Montenegro on a cruise. “Make mine a Niksicko,” he says. Then he follows up with a Croatian brew. We share a ham and cheese panini.

John and Niksicko

John and Niksicko


A local brew

A local brew


We head back to the hotel. We are tired of being wet. We catch up on mail and blogging. I take a nap. Later we go down to hotel restaurant for dinner. We feel sorry for the family running it. It’s not summer and it’s not sunny and no one is visiting Uvala. Here’s our dinner -
We are really, really hoping for no rain tomorrow!

November 10, 2014 – Touring Porec on the way to Pula, Croatia

It’s November 11 today and I have been feeling pretty under the weather since yesterday at lunchtime. But if I don’t write down what we saw, I will forget it. I am abbreviating this by just putting the commentary on the pictures.

Although we've driven into Slovenia before it's still kind of new to us

Although we’ve driven into Slovenia before it’s still kind of new to us


The border to Slovenia and the one into Croatia aren't total open like the rest of the EU

The border to Slovenia and the one into Croatia aren’t total open like the rest of the EU


Welcome to Croatia!

Welcome to Croatia!


Before we head to Pula, we stop in Porec. Our goal here is to see a 6th century church.

After lunch in Porec we walk down a pretty street

After lunch in Porec we walk down a pretty street


The town is all built up around the church complex so it isn’t possible to get a clear shot of the building. First we go into the Baptistry.
Baptistry

Baptistry


At this point I am feeling bad and can only sit in the church while John takes pictures.
Interior of the Euphrasian Basilica founded by Bishop Euphrasius in the mid 6th century

Interior of the Euphrasian Basilica founded by Bishop Euphrasius in the mid 6th century


Over the altar is the stunning altarpiece with the first depiction ever of Mary as mother of Jesus

Over the altar is the stunning altarpiece with the first depiction ever of Mary as mother of Jesus


In the picture above St.Euphrasius is shown on the left side of Mary holding his church.
Above the mosaic of the Madonna is Christ and the 12 Apostles

Above the mosaic of the Madonna is Christ and the 12 Apostles


Other mosaics include an Annunciation

Other mosaics include an Annunciation


and Mary visiting Elizabeth

and Mary visiting Elizabeth


There's also an arch dedicated to female martyrs. This is the mosaic of St. Justina

There’s also an arch dedicated to female martyrs. This is the mosaic of St. Justina


At this point I need to get to the hotel in Pula. We manage to get ourselves back to the car and get to the hotel. In our room is a cruise ship display of towels.
Towels as swans

Towels as swans


A bad night’s sleep ensues.

November 9, 2014 – Trieste

Our days have fallen into a pattern. Breakfast, sightseeing until 1PM or 2PM, late lunch, more sightseeing, crash in room, and have breadsticks for dinner. Today is no exception.

Our hotel, Palace Suites, an adjunct of the Continentale Hotel, is centrally located and most things are easily walked to. The one exception would be the cathedral complex which is located on a high bluff. We decide to do the lower part of the city in the morning. First up, the Roman amphitheater.

Roman amphitheater in Trieste built at the end of the 1st century A.D.

Roman amphitheater in Trieste built at the end of the 1st century A.D.


Amazingly this amphitheater used to be outside the city walls on the seashore. Due to the silting up of the harbor it now sits in the middle of the city.

Next we wander down by the waterfront. The Piazza del Unita d’Italia is the largest piazza on a waterfront in the world. Important, I guess, if you are into being placed in the Guiness Book of World Records for something. (Much like Baker, CA’s largest thermometer) It’s an impressive space celebrating Trieste’s reunification with the rest of Italy after WWII.

John in front of the Piazza del Unita d' Italia

John in front of the Piazza del Unita d’ Italia


The Fountain of the Four Continents  - The fountain was built to represent Trieste as a city of prosperity, thanks to its establishment as a Free Port by Charles VI and Maria Theresa of Austria's policy for developing the city.

The Fountain of the Four Continents – The fountain was built to represent Trieste as a city of prosperity, thanks to its establishment as a Free Port by Charles VI and Maria Theresa of Austria’s policy for developing the city.


Close up of the statue depicting the Americas

Close up of the statue depicting the Americas


Looking out into Trieste harbor

Looking out into Trieste harbor

Statue, harborside, of two girls sewing an Italian flag.  Installed in 2004 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Trieste to Italy

Statue, harborside, of two girls sewing an Italian flag. Installed in 2004 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Trieste to Italy


Even with its ancient Roman ruins, the city of Trieste mostly looks like a prosperous late 19th century city.
Buildings along the main street next to the harbor

Buildings along the main street next to the harbor


We’ve been walking around looking at things for quite a while now. We stop in at the Tourist Information center and find out that the cathedral is closed for the sacred Italian lunch until 3:30PM. So we figure it’s time for a little lunch and a little siesta for ourselves.

The obligatory food pictures –

After lunch and a little rest we decide to go up to the cathedral. It is really up high and we decide to take a taxi due to my bad knee and John’s unoperated hip. We get up to the Cathedral of St. Justus and there are a lot of cars there. We go in and there are a lot of people and kids in some sort of scouting get-up. So we go to sit down to see what’s up. Then the Bishop arrives and we sit through a mass with singing and celebrated in both Slovenian and Italian.

Cathedral of St. Justus

Cathedral of St. Justus


Blurry shot of the bishop after mass

Blurry shot of the bishop after mass


The Bishop seems very sweet and at offertory time the kids bring up baskets and baskets of local produce. He examines each basket and smiles and talks to the kids.

Luckily for us, all the lights are on in the cathedral highlighting the fabulous mosaics from the 11th century. When mass is over and everyone heads for the door John and I hot foot it up to the front to take a look and snap some photos before anyone can turn out the lights and yell NO FOTO at us.

Mosaic of Christ flanked by St. Justus on the left and St. Servilo on the right

Mosaic of Christ flanked by St. Justus on the left and St. Servilo on the right


Madonna and Child with twelve apostles

Madonna and Child with twelve apostles

Behind the central apse are more modern mosaics

Behind the central apse are more modern mosaics


Now here’s a thing we didn’t quite think through. How are we going to get back down to the hotel? It’s dark out now and we are not going to be able to find a taxi. Luckily we strike out (down) in the right direction and slowly make our way down the steep streets to the lower part of the city.

November 8, 2014 – A leisurely drive to Trieste

There are two routes one can choose between when driving from Aquileia to Trieste, the fast one on Autostrada A-4 or the slower one on state road 14 which winds its way along the coastline. We decide on the slow route and pull off the road a few times to look at the views.

View along the Adriatic coast

View along the Adriatic coast


We decide to break up the short trip with a stop at Castello di Miramare. Just north of Trieste on a promontory it was built in the second half of the 19th century by the Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg as a residence for himself and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.
Castello di Miramare

Castello di Miramare


We walk around the beautiful grounds for a while and stop to have an espresso. We even sit outside as the rain has held off today. Then we head back up the coast towards Trieste.

Since it’s lunchtime we are in favor of finding a seaside restaurant where we will be assured to get great fish. We spy a restaurant and pull over. It’s a good omen, the restaurant’s name is California. Of course we take food pictures –


After a couple of false starts we reach our hotel in Trieste. Our room is actually a little apartment. I think we will be very comfortable at the Palace Suites for the next two days.
We are really looking forward to our two nights in Trieste.

November 7, 2014 – Aquileia

John is writing the first part of the blog today. Slow internet response makes the writing and uploading of pictures very time consuming. So he’s writing a bunch of stuff and then mailing it to me. All I have to do is paste it in and upload pictures. And, of course, write this lengthy explanantion.

John writes-
Ten years ago, we visited Aquilea. It was summer and really hot. Today it’s not hot but it’s threatening rain. We plan to see and do many of the same things we did ten years ago. If the rain holds off, that is.

First we go to the Patriarchal Basilica. It’s been built and rebuilt many times since its beginnings immediately after 313 AD, with significant parts remaining from each era. The main church is really all about the fourth-century mosaic floor. We walk on raised transparent walkways over portraits of men and women in Roman dress, all kinds of land sea creatures. and allegorical scenes.

Patriarchal church in Aquileia

Patriarchal church in Aquileia


Overview of interior

Overview of interior

There’s one of a rooster (symbol of Christianity, the “Light of the World”) battling a tortoise (symbol of Evil, name in Greek means “Lives in Darkness”).

Good and evil about to battle it out

Good and evil about to battle it out

Then there’s Christ as a young shepherd tending his Mystic Flock of all sorts of animals.

The good Shepherd

The good Shepherd

We also see a large fishing scene that includes episodes from the story of Jonah, symbolizing death, resurrection and ascent to heaven.

Fishing scene

Fishing scene

The altar area is blocked by scaffolding, but we can see off to the side a relief of Christ flanked by Peter and St. Thomas (presumably Becket) of Canterbury. (They all seem to have large ears.)

Manny, Moe and Jack

Manny, Moe and Jack

After the floor, we go down into the Crypt of Frescoes, which tells the story of the martyrs of Aquileia, most notably saints Fortunatus and Ermagora. These frescoes were painted in the 11th or 12th century, and include scenes of the crusades on the lower panels.

Into the crypt

Into the crypt

We’re able to go into another crypt, which includes excavations showing the floor of the original 1st-2nd century Roman house on which the church was built, the early 4th century floor one meter higher,a later 4th century floor a meter higher than that, and the foundation for the 11th century bell tower another meter or so above that.

An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt

An earlier rendition of the tortoise and the rooster in the excavation crypt

We finish the complex with a visit to the baptistry which has been converted to a museum.

The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry

The peacock which symbolizes resurrection from the Baptistry


Mary writes –

After we finish at the cathedral we stop by the Paleo-Christian museum. We saw this the last time we were here but now we have ten years worth of knowledge about early Christian art. But it’s closed. Only open on Thursdays. Bummer.

Closed Paleo-Christian Museum

Closed Paleo-Christian Museum


Time for lunch anyway. We head over to All’Anfora, a pizzeria and restaurant that we ate in the last time we were here. Our last foray had us ordering a pepperoni pizza only to find out when it arrived at our table that pepperoni means peppers in Italian. It was a very delicious pizza with peppers but not what we were expecting at all.

I order a cheese pizza and John orders a pizza not listed on the menu. “Possible pizza con salsicci e cipollini?” he asks. “Oh, si, si.”

We are presented with two giant pizzas. Way too much. But the crust is so yeasty, so elastic, and has great char. It is hard to not to eat too much. This is like the pizza of my youth.

John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza

John and friends with a sausage and onion pizza


After lunch we spend some time in the National Archaeological Museum. Most of their exhibits come from the Roman funereal sites around Aquileia. Aquileia was the 7th largest city in the known Roman world. So there are lots of relics.
Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln

Funereal sculpted head looking a lot like a young Abe Lincoln


John didn't get the memo that toga was not optional

John didn’t get the memo that toga was not optional


John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it's a Wall St. tip to buy two

John says the guy on the left is signalling slider while I think it’s a Wall St. tip to buy two

It is getting dark and time to go back to the hotel. There’s no chance that we are eating dinner tonight. In fact, I think we’ve only been out to dinner one or two times since we started our vacation. Lunch takes care of dinner too!

November 6, 2014 – A wet day full of ancient churches

It continues to rain. We are trying to not let it upset our plans. We have three ancient churches from the 10th to the 12th century to explore today. One thing about having such esoteric taste, you’re not liable to run into any crowds. In fact I would be surprised if there were anyone but us in all these places.

The countryside is flooded. There must have been a good deal of rain before we got here and now these latest storms are adding to the total. We pass by farmhouses stranded on little isles in a sea of brown water.

A farm house in a sea of muddy water

A farm house in a sea of muddy water


This area has been inhabited for a long, long time. The Romans built their houses and temples over previous houses and temples, and early Christians built on top of that. In the 4th century Constantine declared Christianity legal and the building of churches began in earnest. Very few of those early churches survive as they have burnt down, been sacked or have been carried away in floods. Coming across anything from the 11th to 13th century is rare and this area has a least three partially surviving churches. The first church we go to is the Abbey of Santa Maria Maggiore in Summaga.
Abbey of Santa Maria Maggiore, view from the front

Abbey of Santa Maria Maggiore, view from the front


Side view

Side view


Although the church has a 17th century facade, the body of the church is from 1211.
Central nave of Abbey of Santa Maria Maggiore in Summaga

Central nave of Abbey of Santa Maria Maggiore in Summaga


There is no one here but the door is open so we go in. Down the left side of the church are various martyrs standing in amongst a bunch of cattle. I have no idea what the cattle signify but you can tell that they are martyrs because they carry the palm frond.
Martyrs and cattle

Martyrs and cattle


Close up of martyr with cattle

Close up of martyr with cattle


Above and surrounding the altar are the Virgin and Child and beneath them Christ and the twelve Apostles. They are in pretty good shape considering that they were frescoed in the 13th century.
Altar area

Altar area


There is a lot to look at. Adam and Eve being expelled from the Garden of Eden, the Crucifixion, the Redemption. It’s also nice to be able to walk around taking pictures without someone coming after you saying “NO FOTO.”

Leaving Summaga we head for Concordia Sagittaria, a Latin sounding name indeed. As we get out of the car the skies open and thunder starts. Perhaps this is an indiscreet comment on our visiting churches. This complex consists of an archaeological dig which holds the 350 A.D. chapel which held the remains of the Holy Martyrs of Concordia killed by the Emperor Diocletian in 304 A.D. There is a cross-shaped recess that held the relics.

Trichora with cross-shaped chamber for relics of the Holy Martyrs of Concordia

Trichora with cross-shaped chamber for relics of the Holy Martyrs of Concordia


We also visit the cathedral which is dedicated to St. Stephen. It is the third cathedral built on the site and was erected in the second half of the tenth century. It is a large structure that we don’t have too much time to explore since it is time for the holy Italian lunchtime and the cathedral must close.
Cathedral in Concordia Sagittaria dedicated to St. Stephen

Cathedral in Concordia Sagittaria dedicated to St. Stephen


One of the buildings that we do have time to explore is the baptistry which lies between the cathedral and the excavations. It is a small bulding built in the shape of a Greek cross sometime between 1089 and 1105.
Baptistry at Concordia Sagittaria

Baptistry at Concordia Sagittaria


The ceiling is covered in frescoes. Here are three well-preserved ones.
Fresco of St. George off to slay a dragon on his steed

Fresco of St. George off to slay a dragon on his steed


St. Peter holding his keys

St. Peter holding his keys

St. Mark writing his gospel with his ever-present lion

St. Mark writing his gospel with his ever-present lion


The rain has abated somewhat and we are off to our third visit before we head to tonight’s lodgings. It is the Benedictine Abbey of St. Mary Sesto al Reghena. It’s situated on a little island with a moat around it. As we drive up towards the gate it all looks very promising.
Entrance into the abbey complex

Entrance into the abbey complex


We buy a parking ticket and walk through the gate and up to the church entrance. There is an elaborate portico with frescoes. I especially like one with a serpent body attached to a very glam looking head.
Mary next to the door of the church with fresco above

Mary next to the door of the church with fresco above


Close-up of serpent

Close-up of serpent


But the door is locked. It is 12:45 PM and everything is closed for the sacred Italian lunch break from noon until 3 PM!

Off we go to find a place to have a very slow lunch. Jack, our GPS, finds a ristorante and we are ushered in. There are plenty of people in the restaurant but we are put in a room by ourselves. Odd. Then there are no menus. Just the waitperson telling what’s for lunch. Now we are no strangers to Italian dishes when we see them written down but when they are rattled off in rapid fire Italian, we ourselves are a bit rattled. But we order some pasta and a salad and even have dessert trying to fill the two hours until the Abbey reopens.

We arrive back at the Abbey at about 3:05 PM to find it still locked. As we search around to find someone to ask about this, the door finally opens at 3:15 PM. Apparently 3 hours is not quite long enough for lunch.
We are ushered in, buy our tickets and I snap one picture when I am told NO FOTO. I say, no flash? NO FLASH, NO FOTO! Sigh. There are many great frescoes here. We buy a book with pictures since we cannot take any of our own. It is probably what they want you to do.

Inside of Abbey church

Inside of Abbey church


It’s getting late and we want to get to our next overnight before it gets dark. It is also raining (again/still). We find the B and B where we are the only guests. Our host does not speak much English. The whole place is a bit rustic but we are tired and collapse for the night.
Our room at the Al Pic de Corone in Terzo d'Aquileia

Our room at the Al Pic de Corone in Terzo d’Aquileia

November 5, 2014 – Noah get the boat!

Due to spotty slow internet, there are no pictures. When I wrote that yesterday I thought I might be able to post it without pictures. Alas, it was not to be. So now we’ve landed in a new place which is quite rustic but does have reasonable WiFi. (Yay!)

Post from Wednesday, November 5

We choose today to depart Venice because the high tide tomorrow (Thursday) is supposed to be higher than today. As is, this morning after the city high water warning alarms woke us at 6:30AM, the water in our canal is ankle deep on the other side. People are walking around with plastic bags on their feet and legs and I see a guy crossing the bridge in fisherman’s waders. A wind blowing up the Adriatic from Africa pushes the water into Venice making the high tide, aqua alta.

First warning - our landlady brings us boots

First warning – our landlady brings us boots


On top of the water flooding the streets and the wind howling there is also rain which falls torrentially off and on. We wait for low tide and brave the elements. It’s not like you can call a taxi to come pick you up. The walk to the Alilaguna stop is not too far away, just down the block and over a couple of bridges but by the time we get to the stop we are soaked through. Plus there is no covered enclosure to wait under.

Luckily we do not melt and we and our sopping luggage catch the boat to the airport.

On the slow boat to the airport. It's probably about a mile away but it takes almost two hours to get there.

On the slow boat to the airport. It’s probably about a mile away but it takes almost two hours to get there.


We pick up our rental car at the airport and drive about a half and hour to a Relais and Gourmet hotel. At least the roads are draining well and are well marked.
Good roads

Good roads

Our hotel

Our hotel


It seems that there is only one person manning the hotel. He checks us in. He waits on our table. In fact, he waits on all the tables. Our room is nice and except for the main course the food is good.

I think moving out from Venice is a good save.

November 4, 2014 – Aqua Alta and visiting churches

First, due to high water forecast with the high tide occurring on Thursday morning, we have decided that we need to leave during low tide on Nov. 5 instead of Nov. 6. We were alerted to this when our landlady brought boots to our doorstep late this afternoon. We cannot imagine trying to drag our suitcases through the water.

Second, Clark and Lewis have no post for today. We were visiting churches and even I have some sense of decorum. It’s hard to pose Clark and Lewis on the altar rail without feeling a little sacreligious.

So this is going to be a quick post.

I love seeing artwork in the venue for which it was intended. In Venice you can buy a ticket called the Chorus Pass which lets you into 14 churches. Each church has a placard that explains what the church is about and what the artwork is. There’s a map of the artwork in the church on the back. It’s 12 Euros and totally worth it.

First and best church up first – Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. Pictures are not allowed so I only was able to sneak a couple (I am so bad.)

The Frari Church

The Frari Church


Monteverdi's tomb

Monteverdi’s tomb


Vivarini tryptich of St. Mark (center) with Saints

Vivarini tryptich of St. Mark (center) with Saints


The best artwork in my opinion is the Bellini altarpiece. It is so beautiful and Mary looks like she is about to step right out of the picture. Unfortunately there were too many people around for me to get a photo. I got a picture from the internet but it just doesn’t do it justice.
Bellini alterpiece

Bellini alterpiece


Next church, San Polo.
San Polo

San Polo


San Polo's most famous painting Tintoretto's Last Supper

San Polo’s most famous painting Tintoretto’s Last Supper


I was able to snag that last one because the guard got a phone call.

One more church before lunch, San Giacomo dall’Orio

San Giacomo dall'Orio

San Giacomo dall’Orio


This was a wide church without any little corners to hide behind to take pictures.

We’ve been on our feet for about 4 hours at this point so we decide to take a break for lunch. We end up in a kind of grubby place called Captain Hook’s. The place is full of workers. No women. No English. Our meal is okay. Not outstanding.


After lunch we go to St. Stae. It has mostly 18th century stuff.

We catch the slow water bus #1 down the Grand Canal. It stops at every stop. It’s good to be sitting down. Our last church of the day is Santa Maria della Salute. It is enormous. The best works are in the sacristy. We are given mirrors to look at the artwork on the ceiling.

Santa Maria della Salute

Santa Maria della Salute


Interior

Interior


Here’s a picture of me in front of the church.
Mary in Venice

Mary in Venice


After this the sky begins to threaten and we hurry back to the apartment and get the news about the Aqua Alta which starts tomorrow. Time to pack up and leave during low tide!

November 3, 2014 – Visiting the Accademia

Today our plan is to visit the Accademia. It is full of early Renaissance and later artwork. Since it is Monday we are hoping that most people will think it is closed since Monday is the traditional day for everything to be closed. The last thing I want is to be enjoying these beautiful pieces of art with hundreds of other people.

As we leave the apartment we notice workers doing a renovation across the canal. What a lot of work! The guy on top lowers a bucket full of debris to the worker at ground level who transfers it into a wheelbarrow. When the wheelbarrow is full he wheels it over to the boat which is parked near by. Then the debris is taken out by bucketful and put into the debris boat. Renovating here must be time consuming and expensive!

Boat being filled with debris from a renovation

Boat being filled with debris from a renovation


The walk to the Accademia is a short one involving only one bridge. Upon arrival we discover very few people in attendance. Yay! We stow John’s knapsack and my purse and start with the early Renaissance paintings. These painting are usually done on gold backgrounds and the figures in them are stylized. There is a lot of information in them though. Just the figure of a saint would have told someone in the 14th century all about them – who they were, what their story was, how they died and what moral they imparted. Here’s one of St. Stephen. He was a Hellenistic Jew who adopted Christianity and fiercely denounced the authorities who were judging him for spreading Christian teachings. His fate was to be stoned to death. He is usually shown with rocks on his head and shoulders and carrying a martyrs frond.
St. Stephen

St. Stephen


Then there are tryptichs full of these figures. Each one can be identified by his clothing and what he is holding. It takes a long time and careful examination of the paintings to do this. That’s why we need the gallery to be uncrowded! We are art hogs!
Annunciation with Saints

Annunciation with Saints


Moving along from the 14th to the 15th century we see styles change as perspective and more lifelike painting occurs. Here is a picture of Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna and Child with Saints painted at the end of the 15th century.
Bellini masterpiece

Bellini masterpiece


At one point a woman came up to me. Do you know Italian she asked. Apparently I am a dead ringer for an American. What’s this word nebbia in the picture of St.Mark’s Square she asked. I don’t know much Italian but I do know nebbia which is fog. She said it looks just like St.Mark’s Square now. We walked outside after our long day at the art gallery and it was indeed nebbia-y.
Foggy view across the Guidecca Canal

Foggy view across the Guidecca Canal


It is past lunchtime so we decide again to make a late lunch our major meal of the day. We find a restaurant and tuck into some salad and pasta.

On our walk back to the apartment the fog clears and a gondola goes sailing by the gondola repair shop. The shop is just down the canal from us.
Gondola repair shop with gondola sailing by

Gondola repair shop with gondola sailing by


Finally one last picture which is kind of iconic of Venice.
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November 2, 2014 – Visiting the Doge’s Palace

It is a beautiful day today and we are off to visit the Doge’s Palace over in St. Mark’s Square. It’s kind of a long walk with lots of bridges and we are enjoying the sunshine and all the Venetians and tourists who are out in droves today.

Some pictures from the walk over to the Doge’s Palace –

John in front of our apartment

John in front of our apartment


View down the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge

View down the Grand Canal from the Accademia Bridge


View up the Grand Canal

View up the Grand Canal


St. Mark's Square

St. Mark’s Square


Basilica San Marco (still being restored)

Basilica San Marco (still being restored)


Sharing a wall with the basilica is the Doge’s Palace. In fact until around the 12th century the basilica was the private chapel of the doge.
The Doge's Palace on the right with the Basilica San Marco behind it

The Doge’s Palace on the right with the Basilica San Marco behind it


At first we decide that we will just follow the self-guided tour and read the placards which are conveniently posted in three languages. Since English is the second language of the world, it is always included. (In fact today a Russian family was having lunch at the same time as we were. The Italian waiter could not understand Russian and the Russians could not understand Italian so they all spoke English. We’ve seen this a lot.) Getting back to the palace visit, the explanations on the placards are very lengthy and require looking back and forth from the placard to the object that it is describing. It is just too onerous and we decide that we are better off using the audio tour.

The palace is immense and was not only the doge’s house but also the seat of government where our audio guide says that the functions of executive, legislative, and judicial branches were carried out. We are not sure that this is a picture of an early modern form of government since many of the same people were doing all the jobs. Not exactly a separation of powers.

Here are some pictures from the palace –

The courtyard

The courtyard


The always interesting Hall of Maps

The always interesting Hall of Maps


A sculpture of the head of Doge Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon

A sculpture of the head of Doge Francesco Foscari by Bartolomeo Bon


At this point John takes the camera and snaps off quite an array of artwork. I’ve asked him to pick out a few of his favorites.
St. Christopher by Titian

St. Christopher by Titian


On the ceiling Tintoretto's Doge with the Holy Family

On the ceiling Tintoretto’s Doge with the Holy Family


Tiepolo painting near the end of Venetian power is rather tired looking Venice (the woman) and her symbolic lion

Tiepolo painting near the end of Venetian power is rather tired looking Venice (the woman) and her symbolic lion


We visited the Doge’s Palace when we took Sarah and Jonathan on a Grand Tour in 1998(?). One of the rooms that they enjoyed was the Hall of Scrutiny. Actually its function was for vetting future doges and office holders. But at our house ever afterward when someone said something a little unbelievable, we would give them the gimlet eye and say sonorously, Hall of Scrutiny!. (A little of our weird family humor)
The Hall of Scrutiny

The Hall of Scrutiny


Needless to say our minute examination of the Doge’s Palace takes up the better part of the day which means at 4 PM we have not eaten lunch. Eating near St. Mark’s Square is a dodgy business since many proprietors are not really interested in serving the hordes of tourists the best food but are interested in charging the most expensive prices. But we duck into a little alleyway on the route back to our apartment and are pleasantly surprised by a well-prepared lunch/dinner.

November 1, 2014 – A slow start in Venice

Today I wake up with my face swollen. I kind of look like Popeye from the nose down but without the pipe. I’ve been battling some sort of auto-immune reaction to some unknown allergen for a couple of years. Been to the allergist and basically he has no idea what the allergen could be. It’s ideopathic. Probably the exhaustion from yesterday brought it on. Anyway it is not usually life-threatening and a couple of big doses of benedryl does the job. However, benedryl makes me sleepy so our day gets off to a slow start. We manage to get ourselves out for a while in the afternoon.

Our apartment in the Dursoduro section of Venice is on a little canal with some boat and gondola traffic. We have a sitting room that faces the canal and we can watch the people and boats go by. There’s also a little kitchen, bath with a shower (yay! for enclosed shower), and a bedroom. The internet works most of the time. We are in a perfect location for doing all the things we enjoy – close enough to walk to most things fairly easily and far enough away from the crowds that fill St. Mark’s Square.

Here’s the little bridge which is right outside our door.

Bridge over the canal

Bridge over the canal


John in the kitchen

John in the kitchen


Delivery boat out front

Delivery boat out front


In the afternoon we take a walk along the large Guidecca Canal. It’s a beautiful day and Venetians are out with their families walking, skating, sitting in the sun and in the many cafes along the canal. We head to the Church of St. Sebastian built on the site of an older church in the 1450’s. St. Sebastian is thought to have saved the city from the plague in 1464. He is usually pictured tied to a tree and shot full of arrows. He was able to survive from this effort to kill him.
The Church of San Sebastian

The Church of San Sebastian


Just inside the door there is a painting by Titian of St. Nicholas. He is recognizable by the three gold balls by his feet and his bishop’s garments.
St. Nicholas

St. Nicholas


There’s also a nice bas relief of St. Jerome with his cardinal’s hat, lion and rock so he can beat himself.
Bas-relief of St. Jerome

Bas-relief of St. Jerome


The church is most famous for its Veronese paintings. Unfortunately most are undergoing restoration.

Back out into the sunshine we go to help get over jetlag. I am not sure if I am tired from the time change or from the benedryl. We stop in another church, the Gesuati. This church was also built to replace an earlier one in the late 1400’s. It has an impressive ceiling by Tiepolo.

It’s getting late in the afternoon so we decide to stop in a little cafe/bar just at the foot of the Accademia Bridge. We order a small sandwich which comes, Italian style, on crustless white bread. John orders a negroni. Whoa, what’s this, a mixed drink? Actually we had been to this bar at Christmas last year and the owner had fixed a complimentary negroni. This one is entirely different, though. We find out later that there are variations on this theme. The one that John gets has gin in it. The one we had last year had champagne instead of gin.

Meat? and egg sandwich on white bread

Meat? and egg sandwich on white bread


John and his very bitter negroni

John and his very bitter negroni


Later in the evening at proper European dining time, we go out to dinner at Agli Alboretti, a restaurant we’ve been to many times before. Amazingly all we hear is Italian. Usually there are Americans everywhere.
The dinner is okay, not great. It’s a little too nouvelle for my taste. I was hoping for something a little more traditional. We look at the menu and order. All around us the Italians carry on long conversations with the waiters concerning the food and the tweaking of dishes and where the products come from. We are not brave enough to do this.

Finally we walk home through the silent passageways.
Our canal at night

Our canal at night

October 30-31, 2014 – The long trip to Venice

I am trying to decide what is worse – flying in coach to Europe or being given such a horrible routing with an award ticket for business class that your layovers are longer than the flights. Hard to say.

Our flight for Seattle leaves at 6 AM (United also has flights to Seattle that are at 7, 8, and 10 but none of those are available to us) which means we have to get up at 2:30AM to get to the airport. After hassling with the agent about a misspelling on my ticket, we board and arrive early in Seattle at 7:45AM. Our next flight leaves at 3:05PM for Frankfurt. We wander around the airport. We eat lunch. We play on our iPads. I put my head on a table and go to sleep.

At last it is time for the flight to Frankfurt. The seats are fairly Teutonic in their comfort. We have dinner and fall asleep briefly. Then we watch movies until breakfast. It is all fairly uneventful.

After landing in Frankfurt we have a three hour layover. We are so tired. I wish there were rent-a-beds.

It is time for the last flight from Frankfurt to Venice. We get some lunch. It is probably the best airline food so far. Out the window I see the Alps.

The Alps out the window of the flight to Venice

The Alps out the window of the flight to Venice


Once in the Marco Polo Airport we buy our tickets for the water bus (Alilaguna) to our stop, Zattere. Marvels of marvels our telephone works and we call Truly Venice who is arranging our stay. They will meet us at our stop. Venice airport is so cool with the ferries docking right at the airport.
jet age/boat age side-by-side at the Marco Polo Airport

jet age/boat age side-by-side at the Marco Polo Airport

Although the water taxi is faster we are taking the Alilaguna (water bus) over to Venice. Depending on the tide it can be difficult to get into the water taxis as there are no ramps just a box to step on as you descend into the boat. I am concerned that between my knee and John’s hip, boarding might be a misadventure.

A water taxi zooming by

A water taxi zooming by


Our boat is so slow and I am so tired. I keep falling asleep although I am sitting straight up in my hard seat. There’s no fighting it. I am only aware that I’ve fallen asleep when I wake up. There’s some stuff to look at. It appears that some islands in the lagoon are privately owned. We also pass the island of Murano where there are many tourist excursions in the hopes that you will buy some Venetian glass.
Somebody's private island

Somebody’s private island


The island of Murano

The island of Murano


After about an hour on the boat we see Venice. John snaps a picture of gondolier with his payload of Japanese tourists. They are about the only ones you see in the gondolas. Also the doge’s pink palace glows in the setting sun.
Gondolier plying his trade

Gondolier plying his trade


The doge's palace on the right

The doge’s palace on the right

Our trip is almost over! After an hour and 45 minutes on the boat and over 30 hours traveling since we got up on Thursday we have arrived! Our host from Truly Venice meets us at the dock and we walk to our apartment. Last order of business is to find a grocery store and buy some supplies for breakfast. That done, we unpack and fall asleep.

October 25, 2014 – Jim Kendall’s 70th birthday party

It’s hard to believe that our friends are turning 70. It is not too far down the road for John and me as well. Luckily 70 is the new 50 and we are all eager to continue with our lives at a high level.

Ali and Van have planned a lovely party for Jim’s birthday. Sara and Wouter have flown over from Europe and many friends new and old are in attendance. We all have a nice walk down to the overlook of the Golden Gate bridge, have a delicious dinner and listen to Jim rock out some of his hits accompanied by his ubiquitous guitar.

Eli and his new sister, Vea, are up for the party and are as cute as ever!

Jim grabs a beer and it's party time!

Jim grabs a beer and it’s party time!


Wouter and Kelly deep in discussion

Wouter and Kelly deep in discussion


Eli has a snack with his friend, Jones

Eli has a snack with his friend, Jones

The view from the nearby overlook

The view from the nearby overlook


Vea and Eileen enjoying the outdoors

Vea and Eileen enjoying the outdoors


Jim with Ali and Sara

Jim with Ali and Sara


Jim rockin' it out

Jim rockin’ it out

October 22, 2014 – Mustaches!

Since John and I have been away and are going away again, we want to get over to see Nathan and Sam. I accomplish this by inviting ourselves over to dinner at Jon and Ryan’s. John is working today so I spend the day doing some shopping, having lunch with Sarah, and chilling in her apartment before it is time to go over for dinner.

Jon is home when we arrive. It is apparent that he has gone to some trouble with our dinner. He has made red beans and rice as the main course and his delicious chicken liver pate for before-sies. Wine is chilling in the refrigerator and the table is set. What a sweetie! We’ve brought along a salad and some Halloween goody bags for the kids.

When the rest of the family arrives home, we are greeted with hugs. John and Sam have a long discussion about our upcoming trip, looking at maps and even playing a map game. Nathan is still very excited about characters in his video games and talks about them as if they are real.

We have a nice dinner. Sam even eats some of the superfood salad. Then after dinner they open their goody bags. There is Dove candy which they zero in on right away but also some squirt string, glow-in-the-dark fingernails and a selection of mustaches.

We all enjoy the mustaches and take pictures of ourselves with them on.

Ryan, Jonathan and Leigh sporting mustaches

Ryan, Jonathan and Leigh sporting mustaches


Sam joins in the mustache fun although it looks like he is going for a mono-brow

Sam joins in the mustache fun although it looks like he is going for a mono-brow

John and I in our silly mustaches

John and I in our silly mustaches

October 10-17, 2014 The rest of our visit to St. George

The rest of our visit to St. George entailed traveling back from Las Vegas via the route around Lake Mead, more tennis playing, a trip to Springdale for shopping, lunch, and Zion views, packing up, cleaning the house, and the trip home which we made over two days. Here are some pictures…

The water in Lake Mead is very low. The drought is impacting water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.

The water in Lake Mead is very low. The drought is impacting water for drinking, agriculture and recreation.


Where the white rock stops is the old high water mark.

Where the white rock stops is the old high water mark.


We take a trip into Springdale where we always have lunch at Oscar's.

We take a trip into Springdale where we always have lunch at Oscar’s.


I order a chicken sandwich which I have to take apart since there is no way to fit this into my mouth!

I order a chicken sandwich which I have to take apart since there is no way to fit this into my mouth!


The views of Zion N.P. are beautiful.

The views of Zion N.P. are beautiful.


Another view

Another view


We leave for home on October 16. We are catching our first view of Las Vegas as we head south down I-15. The air in Las Vegas is hazy as usual.

We leave for home on October 16. We are catching our first view of Las Vegas as we head south down I-15. The air in Las Vegas is hazy as usual.


We change drivers in Baker, CA but do not stop at the Mad Greek for lunch.

We change drivers in Baker, CA but do not stop at the Mad Greek for lunch.


It's a good chance to take a picture of Baker's claim to fame, the world's largest thermometer. It is finally working again after being out of commission for at least five years.

It’s a good chance to take a picture of Baker’s claim to fame, the world’s largest thermometer. It is finally working again after being out of commission for at least five years.


What's not in commission is Rock-a-hula, a defunct waterpark. The faded coke can and a few derelict buildings are all that's left.

What’s not in commission is Rock-a-hula, a defunct waterpark. The faded coke can and a few derelict buildings are all that’s left.


The CA ag station waves us through. I still don't know if groceries bought in Utah count as contraband. After all, the produce probably was grown in California.

The CA ag station waves us through. I still don’t know if groceries bought in Utah count as contraband. After all, the produce probably was grown in California.

Nothing much ever changes along the ride home but here's something new. Bravo Farms is a fairly large complex at the Kettleman City exit. Wonder how long it will last.

Nothing much ever changes along the ride home but here’s something new. Bravo Farms is a fairly large complex at the Kettleman City exit. Wonder how long it will last.

We make it home around noon on Friday and get ready for visiting with family and friends in the two weeks before we are on our way to Europe!

October 9, 2014 – Dinner at Sage, Aria, City Center, Las Vegas

Jon, John, and I make a reservation at Sage, a restaurant at Aria in City Center, Las Vegas. We do this by a complex series of eliminations. Sage has made the short list once before and we decide to indulge ourselves with the shorter of the two tasting menus. Really, it’s a bargain at $89. Before I get into the dishes we eat, I’d like to say that this is one of the best dinners ever from a savory food viewpoint. The parts that are disappointing are the service which is very off-hand and not gracious for a fine dining restaurant and the desserts which are not good. My dessert is basically inedible but I don’t really care because I am not a dessert person. The rest of the dinner is really, really good and more than makes up for the bad desserts.

So the food –

First we get the fancy butter plate

First we get the fancy butter plate


This followed by the roll guy who comes around offering different breads

This followed by the roll guy who comes around offering different breads


Then there's the amuse bouche which is pork pate with citrus and caviar (it is merely okay since the pork has an offputting texture

Then there’s the amuse bouche which is pork pate with citrus and caviar (it is merely okay since the pork has an offputting texture

I think I order best. This dish is the star of the show it is a Foie Gras Custard Brulee, with Apricot Chutney/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche. It is fabulous.

I think I order best. This dish is the star of the show it is a Foie Gras Custard Brulee, with Apricot Chutney/Toasted Cocoa Nibs/Salted Brioche. It is fabulous.

John has Vancouver Island Kushi Oysters with piquillo pepper and tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette

John has Vancouver Island Kushi Oysters with piquillo pepper and tabasco sorbet and aged tequila mignonette

Jonathan rounds out our first courses with Wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached eggs and crispy chocolate

Jonathan rounds out our first courses with Wagyu beef tartare with crushed caper aioli, slow poached eggs and crispy chocolate


Of all the starters mine is best by far it is all I can do to let anyone even have a taste.
For the second course Jonathan and I have scallops with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms and salted caramel reduction

For the second course Jonathan and I have scallops with braised oxtail, wild mushrooms and salted caramel reduction


John has grilled octopus with garlic puree and beech mushrooms, chorizo and bell peppers. He thinks it is cosmic.

John has grilled octopus with garlic puree and beech mushrooms, chorizo and bell peppers. He thinks it is cosmic.


John and I both have the 48 hour beef belly with root vegetable puree, pickled sweet onions and buckwheat polenta. It is melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.

John and I both have the 48 hour beef belly with root vegetable puree, pickled sweet onions and buckwheat polenta. It is melt-in-your-mouth-delicious.


For his third course Jonathan has a flat iron steak with foie gras roasted chanterelles, creamy potatoes and a red wine bernaise sauce. It is good but not as good as the 48 hour beef belly.

For his third course Jonathan has a flat iron steak with foie gras roasted chanterelles, creamy potatoes and a red wine bernaise sauce. It is good but not as good as the 48 hour beef belly.


Now dinner comes to a grinding halt. We wait and wait but dessert does not appear. They offer us more wine. Still we wait. Finally a course that is definitely not worth the wait.
Milk chocolate and earl grey panna cotta with madeleines  and blackberry scalded milk gelato. Both John and Jon say this is meh.

Milk chocolate and earl grey panna cotta with madeleines and blackberry scalded milk gelato. Both John and Jon say this is meh.

My dessert is a ricotta cheesecake with smoke graham crumbs, white chocolate pearls and blueberry basil gel.  This is a really odd dessert. It is salty and not sweet. The texture is off. I cannot eat it.

My dessert is a ricotta cheesecake with smoke graham crumbs, white chocolate pearls and blueberry basil gel. This is a really odd dessert. It is salty and not sweet. The texture is off. I cannot eat it.


Would I recommend this restaurant? Yes, yes, yes. The savory courses are great and if you don’t really care about dessert it is well worth the tasting menu price. If I were to go back, I would probably just order the foie gras brulee and the 48 hour beef belly and call it a night.

It is really a great night for the three of us. In the morning we take Jonathan to the airport and he flies off to North Carolina for SoJam. John and I make our way back to St. George for another week before we leave for home.