Northern Italy, Southern France, and Northern Spain by car

We were looking for a wonderful two week vacation that was Zika virus-free.  In fact, we had to cancel our last vacation to Panama because it has become such a pandemic!  So, we researched and landed on a lovely European vacation via car!  A lot of it was based on the reservations we could land using the Top 50 Restaurants in the World.  It was an incredible way to see the countryside and try some wines as well as have some spontaneous adventures along the way!  This would be a fantastic honeymoon (in fact, it was our “pre” honeymoon!).

Our Itinerary:

Friday, May 13

FLIGHT INFORMATION:

Day, Date Flight Class Departure City and Time Arrival City and Time Aircraft Meal
Fri, 13MAY16 UA370 X SAN DIEGO, CA 
(SAN) 3:20 PM
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 
(SFO) 4:57 PM
737-800
Fri, 13MAY16 UA926 X SAN FRANCISCO, CA 
(SFO) 7:00 PM
FRANKFURT, GERMANY 
(FRA) 2:55 PM (14MAY)
747-400 Dinner
Sat, 14MAY16 LH302 X FRANKFURT, GERMANY 
(FRA) 4:25 PM
TURIN, ITALY 
(TRN) 5:40 PM
ERJ 190
Flight operated by LUFTHANSA CITYLINE.
Saturday, May 14
5:40p arrive Turin, Italy
Pick-Up
HERTZ
May 14, 2016 – 18:30
TORINO CASELLE AIRPORT
DESK IN TERMINAL
MUST HAVE FLIGHT INFO – TORINO , IT
Tel: 39 011 5678166
No. 65, combal zero, rivoli Italy — http://www.combal.org/en/
Sat, May 14 8:30p

PIAZZA MAFALDA DI SAVOIA 10098 RIVOLI (TO)

TEL +39 011 9565225 – FAX +39 011 956524

Expedia:
Via Monsagnasco 10, Rivoli, TO 10098
39 (011) 2631523
Check in ends 8p – guaranteed late arrival
1 double bed, wifi, breakfast, parking
Tour at University of Gastronomical Science (Piedmont)
—————————-
Sun, May 15
48h confirmation for Piazza Duomo
Cinque Terra
3 hour drive from Rivoli
Hotel Carla, Levanto – May 15
Via Martiri della Libertà 28, Levanto, SP, 19015 Italy
Booked through Expedia
May 15, 2016 – May 16, 2016
Check-in time
12:30 PM
Check-out time
10:30 AM
Check-in policies
Check-in time starts at 12:30 PM
Check-in time ends at 9:30 PM
If a late check-in is planned, contact this hotel directly for their late check-in policy

Evernote Camera Roll 20160421 133833

Before you go watch Barolo Boys on iTunes to get context. Only 1 hr long! 
Barbaresco:
Gaja…..one of the absolute biggest names in wine period. Modern Classic. Go. Will email John Rielly.
All you need is the equivalent of 600€ charitable donation from charity you have already donated to (for Gaja):
From John: 
They don’t need to pay anybody and Gaja doesn’t touch the dough.  It’s all about philanthropy so if they’ve already donated to anther charity this year that would work or they could pick one of the Italian charities suggested by the winery.  Just need a receipt or invoice.

In Serralunga for hotels the Il Boscareto is decadent right in the amphitheater of vineyards.
In the same town Centro Storico is where I would go for a really authentic experience.
Wines from the owner’s friends that we’ve never heard of, tableside prosciutto carving,   and so reasonable $$.

In Barbaresco town, send them to Antica Torre at the top of the hill past the Gaja Winery.  Lunch or Dinner.
Order Tajarin, the famous egg yolk pasta or anything else and they’ll be stoked.  Once again, reasonable $$.

Over towards Bolgheri, Il Doretto is a killer low key restaurant in a person’s yard basically.  Lunch or Dinner.

In Montalcino, Il Giglio is great.  Dinner.

In Sant’Angelo en Colle near Il Poggione Il Pozzo is a great lunch spot.
Ruche wine: After tasting all Ferrari has to offer, consider a stop in the center of the small town Ferrari’s winery calls home, Castagnole Monferatto. There’s a quaint church, picturesque views and Restaurant Da Geppe, a humble place to have a delicious lunch and a few more glasses of wine.
 BOOK this hotel: http://www.barolomeriame.com/eng/agriturismo.html
 Book this dinner: http://www.trattoriadellaposta.it/indexeng.html
Book this winery: http://www.sobrerofrancesco.it/index.php?idLinguaSel=2
 Book dinner (request hillside): http://www.villatiboldi.com/en/ Can also choose to hotel here.
Winery, hotel: http://castellodiverduno.com/
Barolo:
Winery visit: (no ressie needed): http://www.cantinedamilano.it/en-eng/
—————————–
Mon, May 16
1 week email confirmation for Arzak
Antico Podere Tota Virginia
Località Baudana 69, Serralunga D’Alba, 12050, Italy – Show directions
Phone: +390173613026Serralunga D’Alba

Check-in Monday, May 16, 2016 (2:00 PM – 12:00 AM)

Check-out Wednesday, May 18, 2016 (11:00 AM – 12:00 PM)
Free cancellation: Until May 11, 2016 11:59 PM
Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis – May 16 at 10:00 a.m.
Traditional:
Cavalotto: traditional, ageable (I think mandatory) wines to put away and drink on a far future anniversary if you cellar it PROPERLY. Tend to be a bit tannic and tight young but with age holy shit.
Cavallotto Tenuta Bricco Boschis
12060 Castiglione Falletto, Piemonte, Italia
tel. +39.0173.62814
fax.+39.0173.62914
info@cavallotto.com
http://www.cavallotto.com
Centro Storico
Also in Serralungo: Centro Storico is where I would go for a really authentic experience.
Wines from the owner’s friends that we’ve never heard of, tableside prosciutto carving, and so reasonable $$.
(Note – this is a 4 min drive from our hotel! But closed Mondays??)
We Must Go Here for lunch or dinner!!!
La Spinetta – May 16 at 3:00 pm
Giorgio Rivetti. Modern style Nebbiolo. Even affordable Barberas (Ca d Pian!) are very good in addition to the revered Barolos and Barbarescos. The moscato di Astis are prob some of the best made even though somms make fun of people who drink moscato.
http://www.la-spinetta.com (Note, Castagnole Lanze is located just northwest of Barbaresco)
We will be very happy to have you visit us and would like to suggest the  16th of May at 3 p.m. at our main Castagnole Lanze winery, outside the little town of Castagnole Lanze.

Please note that we only consider this appointment booked, if we receive an e-mail from you affirming the date and time.
You will then receive a PDF document with the directions to our winery. 
Please print this document and bring it along to your visit.

The tasting and tour, of course also depending on your interest, take about 90 minutes and can be held in English or Italian.

Since we take our time with you and since we always make sure one can taste the best (e.g. we will open a bottle also just for your visit), please understand that we have to charge 15,00 Euro a person to taste 4 different wines and 20,00 Euro a person to taste 6 different wines. However, if you purchase wine for more than 50,00 Euro a person, the tasting fee will be covered by us.

Trattoria della Posta – May 16 at 20:00, 8:00 p.m.
OK PRENOTAZIONE PER 2 PERSONE PER LUNEDI’ 16 MAGGIO ORE 20:00.
SALUTI.
RISTORANTE TRATTORIA DELLA POSTA

http://trattoriadellaposta.it/indexeng.html

E-mail: info@trattoriadellaposta.it
Tel.: +39/0173/78120 
Fax.: +39/0173/78120 
Indirizzo: Località Sant’Anna, 12065 Monforte d’Alba, Italy
Barbaresco:
Pickup food in Alba before exploring Barbaresco wineries.
Book
Winery visit: http://cigliuti.it/en/
Winery visit: Socre
WINERY visit: Gaja — most famous Barbaresco producer
In Barbaresco town, send them to Antica Torre at the top of the hill past the Gaja Winery.  Lunch or Dinner.
Order Tajarin, the famous egg yolk pasta or anything else and they’ll be stoked.  Once again, reasonable $$.
(Note, right next to Produtorri Barbaresco winery)
Over towards Bolgheri, Il Doretto is a killer low key restaurant in a person’s yard basically.  Lunch or Dinner.
    (Above looks south of Livorno, too far southeast)
In Montalcino, Il Giglio is great.  Dinner.
     (Above also far, south of Florence)
In Sant’Angelo en Colle near Il Poggione Il Pozzo is a great lunch spot.
    (Same)
OK to bring up to 12 bottles of wine in suitcase.
—————————-
Tues, May 17
Paolo Scavino: May 17 at 10:00 a.m.
Modern style Nebbiolo that drinks younger but great examples of the style. Silky. You might be parents sooner than you expect though 😳 (located just northwest of Barolo)
Az. Vit. Paolo Scavino • Castiglione Falletto (CN) • Tel. +39 0173 62850 • CF/PI 01799950041 •

It will be a pleasure to welcome you at Paolo Scavino. Our only availability is for Tuesday 17th at 10:00am together with some other guests. If it works for you, I kindly ask a phone number in case of any communications.

(Confirmed via email with Roberto)

Roberto Boggione  
Azienda Vitivinicola Paolo Scavino
Via Alba-Barolo, 157 – 12060 Castiglione Falletto (CN)
Phone  +39 017362850 | Fax  +39 0173 462042
roberto@paoloscavino.com  www.paoloscavino.com

Piazza Duomo: May 17 at 12:30 pm
No. 27,

piazza duomo, Alba, Italy —
Tues, May 17 12:30p

Ristorante Piazza Duomo 
P.za Risorgimento 4, 12051 Alba (CN)
Tel. 0173- 366167 
Les Grandes Tables du Monde - Le Soste

Dress code:smart casual


Socre – May 17 at 15:30
Perfetto!!!
At 15,30 May 17th.
Ciao,
Marco
Marco Piacentino
Socré
> Strada Terzolo, 7
> Barbaresco
> mobile +39 348 7121685
Cigliuti – May 17 at 6 p.m.
Confirmed with Claudia via email
AZ. AGR. F.LLI CIGLIUTI
Via Serraboella, 17    I-12052 NEIVE (CN)
Tel +39/0173/677185   Fax +39/0173/67142
E-mail   info@cigliuti.it    www.cigliuti.it
Produttori di Barbareso – No Res Needed, see Hours Below
Uber traditional style barbaresco.  Ageable. Good value for wines that can go the distance. A favorite for classic style that is well made and you can even buy it at Costco.

Hello,

you are more than welcome to come and taste our wines.

We have a tasting room open every days from 10 to 13 and from 14 to 18, also Saturdays and Sundays

You can come when do you prefer, no reservation needed, and the tasting will be free of charge.

Sorry but we don’t give tour of the winery but just tastings.

Thank you so much

See you here in Barbaresco

Best regards

Luca Cravanzola

Produttori del Barbaresco

Via Torino 54

12050 Barbaresco (cn)

tel:   +39 0173 635139

fax:  +39 0173 635130

luca@produttoridelbarbaresco.com

www.produttoridelbarbaresco.com

———–

Villa Tiboldi – May 17, 7:30 pm

We are very glad to inform you that we have reserved for you a table for 2 people at our restaurant for dinner on 17 May 2016.

The service starts at 7.30 pm.

ATTENTION!

The correct address for you GPS device is:

Via Santo Stefano Roero, 75 – 12043 Canale (CN) – Italy (this is not  our address: drive about 40 meters  on and you will see our sign) (please note that in the area there are 2 villages with the name Canale. The correct one is located 15 km far from Alba, while the other one – the wrong one – is located a 80 km far from us!!)

GPS/Navigator coordinates

E   7° 58’ 32. 79”

N 44° 47’ 44. 62”

VILLA TIBOLDI

Case Sparse Tiboldi, 127

12043 CANALE – Piemonte – Italia

tel: +39 0173 970388  – fax: +39 0173 959233

www.villatiboldi.it

GPS:  N 44° 47’ 44. 62”  –   E 07° 58’ 32. 79”

Centro Storico – May 17, dinner (7:30 or 8:00)
Alessio confirmed available for dinner
—————————-
 
Wed, May 18
 
Verduno Pelaverga DOC…I do recommend these wines for delicious factor…might be nice to taste something lighter after all of these tannic nebbiolos below

Producer: Burlotto. Importer Estelle imports http://www.burlotto.com/it/
Producer: Castello di verduno http://www.cantinecastellodiverduno.it
Castello di Verduno – May 18, 9:00 a.m. (awaiting final confirmation)

The winery is open for visit and tasting from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 1 pm and from 2pm from 5pm. Sunday only in the morning from 9am to 1pm. Visit at the cellar and tasting of 3/4 wines is free of charge.

Please to tell me when you would prefer to come.

Cordialmente

Marcella Bianco

Via Umberto I, 9

12060 Verduno – CN

Tel + Fax    +39 0172 470284

E-mail:info@cantinecastellodiverduno.it

www.cantinecastellodiverduno.it

Italian Riveria
San Remo?? Best spots between Piedmont and Menton??
 
 
No. 11 Mirazur, Menton, France —

May 18 8:15p

 

Best Western Prince de Galles
4, avenue du Général de Gaulle, Menton, 06500, France – Show directions
Phone: +33493282121

Your reservation 1 night, 1 room Change
Check-in
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

(from 4:00 PM)

Check-out
Thursday, May 19, 2016

(until 12:00 PM)

$139 euro

Cancellation policy
If canceled or modified up to 7 days before date of arrival, no fee will be charged. If canceled or modified later or in case of no-show, 100 percent of the first night will be charged.
Any cancellation or modification fees are determined by the property. Additional costs will be paid to the property.
Cancellation cost
  • Until May 10, 2016 11:59 PM [Menton]: € 0
  • From May 11, 2016 12:00 AM [Menton]: € 139
—————————-
Thurs, May 19
French Riviera – leave Menton – Nice, Cannes, Others??
Email Mugaritz to confirm ressie
Hôtel Provençal
25 rue des Écoles, Bandol, 83150, France – Show directions
Phone: +33494295211
Make changes to your booking
Your reservation 2 night, 1 room Change
Check-in Thursday, May 19, 2016 (3:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Check-out Saturday, May 21, 2016 (7:00 AM – 11:00 AM)
Parking included: 9 eur/night — we have 1 space reserved for 2 nights.
—————————-
Fri, May 20
 
french-wine_50a4057b5bca7_w1266.png
Bandol: just go hang out on the wont and drink rose and eat flan and octopus for lunch. 
 
Domaine Tempier: May 20 at 10:00 a.m. (awaiting final confirmation)
Bandol: domaine Tempier. Best dry rosè in the world.
Enough said. Also Funky meaty reds to drink with funky cheese.  Do it.
Importer: Kermit Lynch
 

Domaine de Terrebrune: May 20 at 17:00

Bandol: Domaine de terrebrune. Second best dry rose in the world. Guzzle it.

Importer Kermit Lynch

Our domaine is open from 9h30 to 12h30 for the visit and from 14h30 to 18h.

Thank you to come one hour before we close.

See you on the 20 th May.

Thank you for the interest in  our wine.

Best regards

Camille

Domaine de Terrebrune
DOMAINE DE TERREBRUNE
724 Chemin de la Tourelle
83190 Ollioules
France
Tél. : +33 (0)4 94 74 01 30
http://www.terrebrune.fr
Coordonnées GPS 43°14N 5°83E
 
Hôtel Provençal
25 rue des Écoles, Bandol, 83150, France – Show directions
Phone: +33494295211
Your reservation 2 night, 1 room Change
Check-in Thursday, May 19, 2016 (3:00 PM – 9:00 PM)
Check-out Friday, May 21, 2016 (7:00 AM – 11:00 AM)
Property Details

Property name Hôtel Provençal
Address 25 rue des Écoles
Bandol, 83150
France
Phone +33494295211
Fax +33494296757
Email 541239187-znau.tqcb.sgk4.qvku@

property.booking.com
Travel information Show directions 
Your reservation details

Check-in Thursday, May 19, 2016 , check-in 3:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Check-out Saturday, May 21, 2016 , check-out 7:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Your reservation 2 nights, 1 room
€ 224 Please note: additional supplements (e.g. extra bed) are not added to this total. 
VAT (10%) included 
City tax (€ 0.99 per person per night) not included
———————————————————
Sat, May 21
Dave Phinney winemaker, in Maury??
Provence Chateau Pibarnon – May 20 OR May 21 (can fit at 2:00 pm on May 20)
Wine nerds love this shit as well. Google pics of this joint
Per website, open Sat and res not needed

Hi,

Thank you for your mail.

We will receive you during your trip in Bandol on May 20 or 21.

It’s not necessary to have a reservation if you are only 2 persons.

We are open Morning : 9 – 12h / afternoon : 14 – 18h

Best regards

Benoît RICHET

Responsable Commercial

Tél : +33 (0)4 94 90 12 73 / Fax : +33 (0) 4 94 90 12 98

www.pibarnon.com

logo pibarnon pour signature

Chateaux Pradeaux
Provence: saint cyr
Chateaux Pradeaux
Just google for hours and contact info. Wine nerds love this shit.

(Per email, no availability May 20 or 21 (possibly an event, Le Salon Du Vin but ref Paris??)

Marseille

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g187253-d2630035-Reviews-Stade_Velodrome-Marseille_Bouches_du_Rhone_Provence.html?m=19904

Hotel du Parc

Check in: May 21
Check out: May 22

Address: Hotel du Parc
8, rue Achille Bege
34090
France

Classic Double Room – Non-refundable
2 adults

—————————-
Sun, May 22
Lac de Bouillouses
Foix

Inter-Hôtel du Lac
Le Couloumié, lieu-dit Labarre, Foix, 09000, France – Show directions
Phone: +33561651717
Can't see this map? Click here to view location and directions. Hotel info
Your reservation 1 night, 1 room
Check-in Sunday, May 22, 2016 (4:00 PM – 11:00 PM)
Check-out Monday, May 23, 2016 (until 11:30 AM)
—————————–
Mon, May 23
Cirque du gavarnie
Sanctuary and grotto of Lourdes
Lourdes

Your reservation is confirmed.
Your hotel reservation at Hotel Atlantic is confirmed.
partner_logo
Hotel Atlantic
224 Reviews 
2 Boulevard de la Grotte
+33 5 62 94 02 33
—————————-
Tues, May 24
 
13:30p – Lunch at No. 17 Arzak!
Rerservation Number: 242907
Restaurante Arzak

Avda. Alcalde José Elosegui, 273
Tel: 943 278465
Fax: 943 272753
20015 – San Sebastian
Call or email 1 week before ressie.
Walk around San Sebastián.
NH Collection San Sebastián Aranzazu
Vitoria-Gasteiz, 1, Antiguo, San Sebastián, 20018, Spain – Show directions
Phone: +34943219077
Make changes to your booking
Your reservation 1 night, 1 room Change
Check-in Tuesday, May 24, 2016 (from 3:00 PM)
Check-out Wednesday, May 25, 2016 (until 12:00 PM)
—————————-
Wed, May 25
Day in San Sebastián. Tapas on the famous street!
Bike ride. Minimal surf. Shops closed from 2-4p
 
8p No. 6 Mugaritz dinner
     Date:        25th May 2016   Hour   : 20:00
     People  :    2
We finally ask you to confirm your visit 5 days in advance by calling +34 943 522 455 or by email at reservas@mugaritz.com.

Please remember our cancellation policy; rest assured that no charges will be made to your card even if you cancel your reservation up to 3 days in advance.  If the reservation is cancelled in the last 48 hours, a fee of 117€ per person will be charged to the card.  If the reservation is cancelled on the booked date, or if the guest does not arrive, a fee of 185€ per person will be charged to the card.

How to get here http://bit.ly/1x1BhOL

 

Añarre Zarra
Carretera Gi 2132 KM 12- 13, Rentería, 20100, Spain – Show directions
Phone: +34943523751

our reservation 1 night, 1 room Change
Check-in
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

(from 1:00 PM)

Check-out
Thursday, May 26, 2016

(until 12:00 PM)

$48 euro

Cancellation policy
If canceled or modified up to 30 days before date of arrival, no fee will be charged. If canceled or modified up to 15 days before date of arrival, 40 percent of the total price of the reservation will be charged. If canceled or modified up to 7 days before date of arrival, 60 percent of the total price of the reservation will be charged. If canceled or modified later or in case of no-show, the total price of the reservation will be charged.
Any cancellation or modification fees are determined by the property. Additional costs will be paid to the property.
Cancellation cost
  • Until April 24, 2016 11:59 PM [Rentería]: € 0
  • From April 25, 2016 12:00 AM [Rentería]: € 19.20
  • From May 10, 2016 12:00 AM [Rentería]: € 28.80
  • From May 18, 2016 12:00 AM [Rentería]: € 48
—————————-
Thurs, May 26
Email Extebarri for 48h confirmation
Basque Country
Ameztoi
Lugar Barrio Eitzaga, 10, 20808 Eitzaga, Gipuzkoa, Spain
High acid seafood friendly whites reds and rose.

(Emailed, no availability)

Day in St Jean de luz: day hike
Surf in Biarritz
—————————-
Fri, May 27
San Sebastián walked around. Had more pintxos. Tried keler beer.
 
No. 18, azurmendi, larrabetzu, Spain —

May 27 8:30p

The restaurant is at the EXIT Nº 25 of the Txorierri motorway. E70/N8. Once you get to the first roundabout you should turn to your right, then after 300 meters you would find a bridge on your right were you should pass through and just at the end of the bridge take the first one to the right.
CANCELLATION POLICY With the purpose of improving our services, and in case you cannot attend the day of reservation, we beg you to contact us by e-mail to reservas@azurmendi.biz, otherwise by telephone to +34 94 455 88 66, as soon as possible. In case that the cancellation takes place 24 hours prior to the reservation time, or you do not attend to the restaurant, we will charge you 100€, plus the 10% by way of VAT per person, to the credit card or debit card provided for its case.
 

Get the print version
Paperless confirmation
Casa Rural Miamendi
Barrio Legina, 1, Larrabetzu, 48195, Spain – Show directions
Phone: +34944557084

Your reservation 1 night, 1 room Change
Check-in

(4:00 PM – 9:00 PM)

Check-out
Saturday, May 28, 2016

(until 12:00 PM)

Cancellation policy
If canceled or modified up to 3 days before date of arrival, no fee will be charged. If canceled or modified later or in case of no-show, 100 percent of the first night will be charged.
Any cancellation or modification fees are determined by the property. Additional costs will be paid to the property.
Cancellation cost
  • Until May 23, 2016 11:59 PM [Larrabetzu]: € 0
  • From May 24, 2016 12:00 AM [Larrabetzu]: € 68.75

—————————-
Sat, May 28
Walked around Bilbao. Saw Guggenheim. More pintxos.
No. 13

Asador Etxebarri, Atxondo, Bizkaia, Spain — May 28, 8:30p (email confirmation 48 h prior to ressie)

Gran Hotel Durango
74 Reviews
Bolshaya Yushunskaya str., 1 A, bldg. 2

Check in: 5/28/2016
Check out: 5/29/2016
1 night
1 room
2 guests
Total Price: 107.33 USD
Cancellation Policy: We understand that sometimes your travel plans change. We do not charge a change or cancel fee. However, this property (Gran Hotel Durango) imposes the following penalty to its customers that we are required to pass on: Cancellations or changes made after 6:00 PM ((GMT+01:00) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris) on May 27, 2016, or no-shows, are subject to a 1 Night Room & Tax penalty.
—————————
Sun, May 29
Durango to Bilbao airport: https://goo.gl/maps/8WHPp19nrp62
30 minutes with tolls
Car Rental Drop-Off
HERTZ
May 29, 2016 – 06:00
BILBAO AIRPORT
AEROPUERTO DE LOIU
*** MUST HAVE FLIGHT INFO *** – BILBAO , ES
Tel: 34 944 530 931
OPEN Mondays-Fridays 07:00 AM-midnight
OPEN Saturdays-Sundays 07:30 AM-11:30 PM

FLIGHT INFORMATION:

Day, Date Flight Class Departure City and Time Arrival City and Time Aircraft Meal
Sun, 29MAY16 LH1147 X BILBAO INTERNATIONAL, SPAIN 
(BIO) 6:50 AM
FRANKFURT, GERMANY 
(FRA) 9:00 AM
A-321
Flight operated by LUFTHANSA.
Sun, 29MAY16 UA961 X FRANKFURT, GERMANY 
(FRA) 11:20 AM
NEWARK, NJ 
(EWR – LIBERTY) 1:55 PM
777-200 Lunch
Sun, 29MAY16 UA513 X NEWARK, NJ 
(EWR – LIBERTY) 6:01 PM
SAN DIEGO, CA 
(SAN) 9:09 PM
737-900 Purchase

—————————–
Mon, May 30

An American in Cuba

Fri 8/21/2015

Ross drove Stacy and I down to the Otay Mesa border crossing and we walked over into Tijuana, Mexico and caught a cab over to the airport for $12. Then we had to fill out some kind of Mexican immigration paperwork that was 332 pesos. Then get our boarding passes to go thru to get on our plane. We grabbed a beer at the bar and then caught our plane at midnight and headed to Mexico City. It was such a long and uncomfortable flight (couldn’t sleep!).

———-

Sat 8/22/2015

We arrived into Mexico City pretty early in the AM and we’re pretty exhausted. We decided to post up at the airport hotel NH about $150/night. We rested up from 6a-12p then got lunch and headed to get our immigration passes and boarding passes to Cuba. We then entered security and grabbed a bite to eat. You must get a visa before traveling to Cuba (at least if you’re an American). It was 300 pesos (I think). Then we grabbed some local Mexican craft beer before boarding the plane. Coming into Cuba, it’s extremely lush and green. Farming fields, ocean. After landing we got off the plane and were taken by bus to the immigration terminal. It is humid in August! Once there, you present your immigration paper (given to you on the plane), visa, and passport. My lady was kind and conversational… Even with my broken Spanish. We went thru immigration and then picked up our bags and headed up to exchange money. Roughly 1:1 CUC to USD (add on a 10% royal screwing tax for USD). I picked up about 87 CUC for $100usd. And then gave 7 CUC exchanged into CUP (no one really takes these from tourists; the Cubans all know to only ask for CUC from tourists). We got a taxi. It’s 25CUC into Havana, but our beach villa was about an hour away so that cost us 50CUC.


On the way from the airport to the beach house, I learned a phrase from our Cuban cab driver Francisco when a truck pulled out in front of us on a busy road. He wanted to know how to say correctly “son of a bitch” in English. We died laughing and told him… So he traded and taught me some Spanish.

Hijo de puta – “son of a bitch”

One hour to hotel on a main road and then we got lost circling the property for our casa. It’s a cute lil place on the water… Like steps to the beach on the white sand . Quaint. Gracious hostess. We’re getting the breakfast tmw and it starts at 10am with lobster and crab for 15CUC. She said it’s gonna be big! After that we’re going snorkeling for 15CUC. Such a great deal. Stacy and I finished up the evening grabbing a beer and taking a walk along the beach. You could see a brilliant colorful lightning storm in the background. I can’t believe we’re here. Getting into bed at 11:30p Cuban time (like eastern time). My phone can pick up Cubacel tower… But it won’t give me a signal. So bummed.

——

Sun 8/23/2015

Woke up around 9:15 and breakfast was at 10:00. Our hostess served us jamon y queso, bread, fruit (guyabana, guava, bananas), Cuban coffee, rich mango syrup/jam, and eggs and bacon. It was so delicious! The fruit was incredibly sweet and fresh. The coffee was like no other — potent, flavorful, caffeinated. I will def pick some up for everyone!


After that we had a nice conversation with Jaily (our hostess) re: Cuba, it’s future, her job as a lawyer, her planning for the house, the Cuban takeover of her beach property, etc. she’s a bright girl and has a lot of insight into the future of Cuba. She’s traveled extensively throughout the world. I’m amazed that the Cuban people get only $16/month. Health care is free.


Our catamaran showed up a bit late but we hopped on board and went for a sail and snorkel to a nearby reef. The water was warm, clear, and full of beautiful ocean life. It rivals the Similan islands or Zanzibar… Way better and more alive than the Great Barrier Reef. There were several fish eating away at a tortuga carcass. Sad, but it’s the cycle of life. After the sail, we came back and I played a bit in the water. Then relaxed in the nearby makeshift pool while Stacy took a nap in the hammock. Popito (one of Jaily’s friends and on vacation – he works as a bartender) brought us out cooked turtle and it was delicious. Meaty like chicken but flavored like… Thick swordfish? Poultry? Hard to describe. Goes great w a cold light beer which is what Cubans love.


We then wandered to the local bus stop to see how far it would be to Havana; roughly a mile to the bus stop (enough to give me blisters on my feet from flip flops). After that, we took a walk on the beach. The Cubans are so happy and jovial relaxing and vacationing along the water. Once we got back to the house, Stacy and I had a lil girl talk with some wine. Then our hosts brought us real coconut spiked with rum. It was so delicious! The sunsets here are stunning. I don’t know if it’s the beauty of Cuba or its people… But the sunsets are certainly spectacular.


Dinner was a lovely jamon y queso stuffed into a plantain for an appetizer and then a lobster, crab, and rice and cucumber salad entree. It was delightful. The crab was my favorite. The seasoning was exquisite! I was getting eaten alive by the Mosquitos so I went inside and showered. Dessert was a lovely eclair. It was a perfect beach day.

—————

Mon, 8/24/2015

Oh no, the watery diarrhea started again last night. Woke up three times last night to get up. We had breakfast at 10am… Still heavy. Kaopectate will hopefully work it’s magic. We waited for a taxi and then decided to go out on our own and catch an old taxi for 3 CUC to Havana.


Once in Havana, we wandered around the downtown square and took pictures of the old classic cars. After that we wandered into La Floridita, a bar made famous by Ernest Hemingway. We both got the classic daiquiri. After that, we went down the many random streets and found the museo de revolucion. Very interesting tidbits of Cuba’s history. Heavily focused on Che and Fidel. The humidity and heat drew us to the Malecon wall where we took pics of El Morro and then downtown Havana. It was beautiful. We headed toward Hotel Nacional for wifi (7 CUC) and a mojito.


We went to watch the cannon show and then grabbed dinner at Dom Camillo.

——————

Tues, 8/25/2015

We got home late this morning around 1:00am. The taxi ride was 20CUC back. This time we had a better idea of how to get back home. I went for a dip in the ocean around 9:30am. Enjoying this beach life. Now just lazing in the hammock, working on my tan. 😊
Played some dominoes with Jaily’s boyfriend and Stacy and a neighborhood boy. They were really good and it was Stacy’s first time to play. After that, Stacy and I headed back into the water. About 14 of Jaily’s friends came over for a party/gathering. It was nice to see the Cuban people party and just kickback. It was such a great atmosphere! All the guests bring stuff!
After no real breakfast, Stacy and I were getting pretty hungry so we walked into Guanabo town and ate at Chicken Little. What a cute place! Huge menu selection. I got the grilled chicken and salad. Stacy got the lobster carpaccio, and shrimp in garlic sauce. We shared a flan (it was delicious!). The cafe americano was perfect and Stacy’s cortado (espresso with small bit of condensed milk) was delicious as well. After a really late lunch (4p) we walked further into the town and discovered the electronic stores, markets, butcher, cafes, and park. People are very social here. Men stare a lot as well as make kissing noises to the ladies.  It’s a normal part of their culture and it’s completely harmless. It’s slightyly uncomfortable bc they don’t hide that they’re checking you out. The Cuban women are gorgeous. There’s a lot of beautiful mixes in face and hair. Many people have light eyes. After a decent stroll, we walk back home and the heat and humidity completely zap my energy. I fell asleep in the A/C room.
Woke up around 9p and showered then chatted with Stacy for a bit.  Tomorrow, we’re heading to Havana and to get a hotel there so we’re closer to the action. We had a wonderful time at Brisas del Mar… Interacting with the locals, learning about the culture, enjoying the beach. But it’s time to get into the city and feel the vibe of Havana!

————–
Wed, 8/26/2015

Had a late start to the day. Went into the city around 2p and checked out museo nacional de bellas artes (art museum). The Cuban art museum covered Cuban artists from the colonial times in the 1800s to the current contemporary period. Three floors of artwork. It’s still so hot!


Then we walked down to parque central and picked up a hot pink convertible ford classic car for a tour of Havana. What a kick!! Stacy and I had so much fun waving and seeing the sights and honking the horn! I have to admit that the gas fumes in the city were burning my lungs. My throat is starting to hurt.


After that we stepped into Monserrate for a bite bc we heard a lovely Cuban band. I grabbed a Cuban sandwich and a beer. Stacy saw a guy sitting by himself with an orange Michelin man shirt and invited him to sit with us. He’s from Guayaquil, Ecuador but has been living in Queens, NY and got his American citizenship. The band was great — Stacy was brave and got up and danced with the band! There was def a lot of coaxing before I’d be brave enough to get up there. After a snack we went walking along the Prado just taking in the sights and sounds of Havana at dusk. We then headed to grab a taxi to the famous Tropicana nightclub for a cabaret show.


Dinner at the tropicana was meh at best. Then came the show. We were seated in the middle with a group of people our age from Mexico, Austria, and Germany. The Austrian dude kept chain smoking and his wife urged him to stop. During the actual show, one of the guy dancers brought both Stacy and I up on the stage. I am so shy!! But after I got over my stage fright, it was totally fun! I can’t believe we were on the stage at Tropicana! 😳 after the main show, there was more dancing and fun interaction with the crowd. What a lovely night! After the show, we caught a cab back to Brisas Del Mar. He was totally lost and we helped him find the way to the house. We stopped him at the weird bridge and got out and walked the couple blocks home. $40 was a really good deal from Tropicana. Tmw we will stay in the city.

———–

Thurs, 8/27/2015
Breakfast at Inglaterra hotel. Got an omelet and americano and mango juice for 6.50. Was trying to get the Internet wifi card for $2/hr but they were out!


We headed out to the Partagas cigar factory, but discovered they moved it.

Partagas cigar factory tour $10/hr.

Cohiba – Fidel smoked

Behika – best

Cigar made from 5 leaves. Best leaf inside. Second leaf is flavor. 5th leaf is thinnest and just for outside wrapping.

One worker goes thru 1000 leaves.

Central vein removed. Used for Fertilizer or men’s cologne. Great factory tour. Dulce hooked us up with $15/Behika and $10/cohiba.


Headed to the supermarket and got some items for gifts. It’s still so incredibly hot and humid. Thank goodness my mom taught me how to haggle with a take-no-prisoners mentality. The pedicab to the cigar factory tried to charge us double but we agreed on an original price of $5.


After the cigar factory tour, we caught a taxi to the central market by the water in Havana vieja. I got several souvenirs and then Stacy and I headed to grab a bite in a hotel lobby where we grabbed a beer and bite and I got the chance to practice my Spanish. We walked from lunch back to parque central and got internet at The Hotel Inglaterra.


We retrieved our luggage from that hotel and proceeded up Neptuno to our casa particulares. It was a cute one bedroom, three bed, one bath on the rooftop. It was nestled in local Cuban neighborhood, not in or near a fancy hotel. I loved it! The family was so nice! We napped a bit and then hit the streets to get some dinner. We stumbled upon Mango Habana which was a yummy walk up eatery that we took to go. I got the fried chicken and rice (it was so delicious), salad, fish and a beer. My chicken alone could’ve fed two people! 😝 now I’m stuffed. My legs are sore. And I have a headache. Time for some rest before our last day!

—————–

Fri, 8/28/2015

Woke up around 11am. It was so cold last night in our casa particulares. We decided to stay another night here at a glowing rate of $25/night. I had the remainder of my chicken dinner for breakfast. It was still incredibly tasty! Walked down the street of Neptuno and a Cuban lady with a baby approached me asking for milk for her baby. I couldn’t say no. She walked us across a street to a grocery store and started getting all kinds of groceries. I got annoyed and said Milk only. In fact, my feelings were so hurt I just about walked outta the store. It was $6/bag of vitamin fortified dried milk. I paid $12 for two and left. I can’t stand when people take advantage of my generosity. I already woke up with a raging headache for being so dehydrated — the constant sweating and trying to keep up with hydration has really taken a toll on me. I’m so tired of the mosquitoes, the flies, the tobacco smoke, the heat, the sweating, the car exhaust fumes, the people coming up and offering cabs and services, the lack of cell signal, etc. I’m ready to go home. And for me, that’s a sign of a good vacay. 😊


Stacy met some girls from San Francisco who are just starting out their days in Havana. One is a peds onc nurse at UCSF and the other is in micro finance that offers small business loans to companies/startups. Both were really nice. They’re going from here to Haiti.


——————–

Keypoints (as of August 2015):

– Exchange USD to Euro for best exchange rate (Cuban banks will impart a 10% tax for every exchange from USD and then will make the exchange to CUC)

– Don’t bother with getting CUP the Cuban local currency vs CUC the Cuban tourist currency. Locals will not take your CUP.

– If you visit in August, it will be hot and humid. Bring or buy a hat, sunnies, umbrella, sunscreen to shade yourself.

– If you’re a budget traveler, consider staying in a casa particulares. They’re like the local Cuban version of the U.S. Airbnb but at a better price ($20-30/night). Make sure you find one with AC!

– You only really need 3-4 full days in Havana to experience it’s charm. Must sees: classic car tour of Havana ($30pp), museo de revolucion ($8pp), Partagas cigar factory tour ($10pp), Tropicana night club cabaret show ($75+pp), see the Hotel Nacional, La Floridita (Ernest Hemingway’s daiquiri place of choice), bar/cafe Monserrate (great Cuban music), central supermercado for souvenirs.

– Stay at a beach for a day or two to enjoy the turquoise warm waters and snorkel or sail: Brisas del Mar near Guanabo or Veradero.

– Practice your Spanish.

– Practice your dance moves. Don’t be shy!

– Try the street food and local beers!

– From the U.S., you will not get a cell signal, even if you purchase an international data plan from any of the major carriers. Some of the major Cuban hotels sell a wifi card for 2CUC/hr. Good signal for texting (get Whatsapp for international texting), Internet surfing, social media. Not good for FaceTime videos or audio.

– To get around the city, get the Maps.me which uses your phone’s GPS signal without cell. Great to mark local landmarks and get back to your hotel, etc.

Mexico City, Mexico – August 2015

No. 35: Quintonil
No. 37: Biko
——————
 
Fri, August 14
FLIGHT
6:15am TIJ —> MEX (Volaris 816) 11:45am
HOTEL
  • Paseo de la Reforma #500, Colonia Juarez, Mexico, D.F., 06600 Mexico
  • Tel. 52 (55) 5230-1818, boo
  • 1290552:1
Lunch: Restaurante El Cardenal, one of Mexico City’s treasured eateries since 1969. Let the waiters whip you up one of their famous Mexican hot chocolates tableside, then savor traditional country Mexican fare. A good bet is the pulpotostaditas (octopus atop fried tortilla chips) to start, followed by a heartier dish, such as the mixiote de chambrate(braised beef wrapped in maguey leaf)or the stuffed chicken topped with rich brown Oaxacan mole.
Walk off your lunch by taking a stroll down the peatonal (pedestrian walkway)along Avenida Francisco I. Madero.
Palacio de Iturbide (now known as the Museo Palacio Cultural Banamex) to appreciate the grandeur of the picturesque interior, which was once a palace and home to General Agustín de Iturbide
Continue to the end of the street to find the beautiful gold dome-topped Palacio de Bellas Artes
Zócalo
Catedral Metropolitana
Aztec temple of the city of Tenochtitlán at the Museo del Templo Mayor. A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Mercado de Medellín isn’t the dizzying spectacle of the larger, citywide markets, like the wonderful Mercado de Jamaica flower market or the Mercado de San Juan, where chefs shop.
Diego River Murals (near Zocalo)
Frida Kahlo Museum (looks like closed on Mondays, weekends to be avoided)
DINNER
Specify whether you want table in the living room or terrace (will do our best to accommodate any special requests, but can not guarantee a table or area).
• The reservation is only 10 minutes tolerance.
• Restaurant not recommended for children under 12 years
Newton 55 Col. Polanco 11560 Mexico
Cross Street: Archimedes and Themistocles
5552802680
DESCRIPTION RESTAURANT, MAP, AREA PARKING:
Sat, August 15
Take the morning for a side trip to Teotihuacan , the mysterious city that was the capital of this region at the time of the Ancient Romans, with more than 200,000 inhabitants. Nobody knows what happened to Teotihuacan (the city was abandoned by AD 700), but you may come up with some theories as you gaze awestruck at the Pyramid of the Sun (third largest pyramid in the world), and traipse through painted palaces and past small temples.
lunch: Grab a sandwich, er, torta at La Texcocana . In business since 1936, it’s the perfect stand-up spot for a quick, tasty meal (the barbecued pork could win blue ribbons in Memphis)
Chapultepec Park: Castillo de Chapultepec, Mexico City’s version of Versailles, and the Museo Nacional de Historia.
Mariachi (6-8p):  Garibaldi Square for some early evening people watching and mariachi music. Yes, it’s touristy and a haunt for pickpockets (so guard your purse)
DINNER

It is the restaurant’s policy to secure the booking with a credit card. 24 Hour Cancellation Policy applies with a charge of $1,000 pesos for every person that does not arrive as well as for no-shows.

Should you require assistance please call us at +52 (55) 5545 4111 (and 3507) or by emailreservaciones@pujol.com.mx
Si desea cambiar su reservación, llámenos al Teléfono: 55.5545.4111.

Pujol – Enrique Olvera
Francisco Petrarca 254, Polanco
Ciudad de Mexico DF 11570
Teléfono: 55.5545.4111

Fax: 55.5545.3507
On Sunday mornings, Mexico City’s grand boulevard, the Paseo de la Reforma, is closed to car traffic and becomes a bike highway. Pick up one of the communal EcoBici bikes, which have only recently been made available to tourists (inconveniently, visitors must sign up at the tourism office, which is closed on Sunday, so plan ahead: ecobici.df.gob.mx)
Lunch: Condesa, where you’ll enjoy a scrumptious seafood-focused meal at Contramar amid Mexico City’s fashionable lunch set. (The tuna carnitas tacos, whole grilled fish, soft shell crab and octopus are to-die-for.)
Walk through Condesa’s twin parks, Parque Mexico and Parque España, toward the Castillo de Chapultepec, free on Sundays. On clear afternoons, locals climb Chapultepec Hill to the immaculate grounds of what was once an imperial palace
shopping: shopping on Avenida Presidente Masaryk
Dinner: Maximo Bistrot Local in Colonia Roma; fish dishes (García is an alum of Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Le Bernardin in New York)
La Clandestina in the trendy Condesa neighborhood and let the bartenders guide you on a mezcal tasting of several of the 20-plus bottles mounted on the wall. It’s best to sip the mezcal straight up, followed with bites of fresh orange wedges coated in worm salt.
bar scene in Mexico City: street of Álvaro Obregón
Taquería El Califa (open daily until 4 a.m.) for a couple of tacos al pastor
Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández

Restaurants tackled on the World’s Top 50 restaurants

World’s Top 50 resties — 2014

It took me about 5 years to build up this list.  The amount of work and attention to detail that these restaurants perform is incredible.  In the same trip, I ate at Geranium and Noma.  At the time, Geranium was #50 and Noma was #1.  The two were almost indistinguishable.  2 fave restaurant in the US: Per Se and Alinea.  Bravo to the chefs and staff.  My culinary journey was nothing short of a blessing.

The 2016 World’s Best Restaurants list and with my updated dining list from 2015-2016:

  • (6) Mirazur
  • (7) Mugaritz
  • (10) Asador Extebarri
  • (12) Quintonil
  • (16) Azurmendi
  • (17) Piazza Duomo
  • (21) Arzak
  • (25) Pujol
  • (31) Nihonryori RyuGin
  • (46) Combal Zero