A Find in Amalfi

On our recent trip to Italy we spent 3 nights in the town of Amalfi, a delightful Oceanside town of about 5000 folks. There seems to be only one street in Amalfi,  a narrow one that runs up the middle of town with all manner of people and vehicles on it. Traversing it by  car as we did is an interesting experience. 

We found a charming hotel located just off that street and just up this alley. At the end of the alley was a small food market and the entrance to our hotel, The L’ANTICO CONVITTO. 

This charming place has only 15 rooms but it is wonderful. Our room was large with a queen bed, a large couch, a table with 2 chairs. It had a stunning domed ceiling and beautiful ceramic light fixtures. And a polished pale yellow tile floor. Perfectly done. 

In the morning we found the breakfast room which featured  a wide array of choices including outstanding croissants. Espresso, Cappuccino or Americano was made to order by a friendly young lady.

The hotel has a roof top patio with a view so up the elevator we went with our breakfast tray. A spectacular view of the town, the hills, and the ocean. 

Within walking distance from the hotel are lots of shops, restaurants, gelato shops, etc. More than you need. It’s all right there. 

We enjoyed this boutique hotel so much we would go back anytime. A real find right in the centre of things. 

If you ever go to Amalfi,  LAntico Convitto would be a great place to stay. Check it out here https://www.lanticoconvitto.com

Just saying…

Tuscan Dinners

Recently we spent 9 days at IL BORGHETTO a villa near San Gimignano in TUSCANY. It’s a delightful place to stay made better by the wonderful Tuscan dinners served 3 times a week. 


The kitchen is managed by ‘MAMA’ the owner’s mother who, with a small staff turn out amazing food served in the dining room or outside depending on the weather. 

A menu is posted in advance near the office along with a sign up sheet. Each dinner is a four course set menu but you may choose only some courses if you wish. But why would you? 

The dining room is a delight, especially the little cave room. 4 tables only in this dome ceiling room. It feels like a wine cellar. 

Here is one of the Antipasto dishes. 

This was the best Lasagne I have ever tasted. Just wonderful. 

Roast Pork was the entree one night, Stuffed and Rolled Turkey on another. The Turkey was filled with Spinach frittata, Ham, Cheese, & Herbs served on a bed of  puréed peas along with Roasted Tomatoes. 

Desserts were not to be missed. A Creme Brulee custard topped with chocolate and raspberries. Puff pastry slices with a lemony sauce between. 

Il Borghetto dinners! Wonderful, memorable. The owners are the Hosts and Servers. Nicola is a most entertaining host and a pan accomplished Sommelier. If you are considering a trip to TUSCANY you must consider staying at Borghetto so you too can enjoy the fabulous Tuscan food. 

Just saying…

Harry’s Bar

                  One of the highlights of our time to Italy was a visit to Harry’s Bar in Florence. It is famous! Harry’s opened in 1953 and was inspired by the Harry’s in Venice. Giuseppe Cipriani, patron of the already famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, gave them some suggestions: the Cuisine – the gratin noodles, the carpaccio, the shrimp curry, the tartare, the flambéed crepes Grand Marnier, the American Bar – the Bellini, the Martini, the Negroni.

This was my second visit to the institution and we stopped in for lunch on a Sunday without a reservation. Sorry, the dining room is all reserved but you are most welcome at the bar. Perfect! That’s where I wanted to sit anyway. It’s a small bar with only about 8 stools. Once perched we met the new bartender( the many decades old bartender has retired).  The new young guy was friendly, charming and superbly efficient.  Amazing to watch. Not only could he mix fabulous cocktails, we watched him prepare an order of  Steak Tatare table side with  precise skill and showmanship. 

We ordered drinks to start and Sheila chose a Vodka Martini (2 olives please). A Negroni was the right choice for me. Delicious to be sure. 

Our bartender recommended the Chicken Club Sandwich which we shared along with a small Chicken salad. One order of fries but No ketchup here. Lemony Mayonnaise is the routine here. So good. 

The sandwich, no crusts on this very thin toast was, perhaps, the best we’ve ever had. Simply wonderful. 

Not only was our bartender entertaining but a family group of 8 stood near us at the bar enjoying a pre lunch libation. Italians are amazing. They all talk all the time and at the same time. Not sure If they listen but the dialogue amongst this group was worthy of a blog on its own. 

Sitting on the bar near us was a photo of Elizabeth Taylor, one of many famous patrons of Harry’s. 

This bar has it all. History, great drinks, superb service, fabulous food and excellent people watching. 

Going to Florence? Check out Harry’s. It’s just two blocks from Ponte Vecchio on the river. 

Just saying…

A Treasure in Tuscany

This is the fourth visit to Il Borghetto, a Villa in TUSCANY just 4 kilometres from the famous hill town of San Gimingnano. Why so many stays and why do so many others make repeat visits? 

First of all Il Borghetto is a delightful place to stay. It is a Tuscan home at least 600 years old. The Bimbi family bought it over 20 years ago. It was abandoned and they saw potential. It was gutted and rebuilt to include 11 apartments all done in the Tuscan style. Beamed ceilings, tile floors, Tuscan rustic furniture. 

It’s not the Four Seasons but is a truly Tuscan experience. All the apartments are different, some one bedroom, some two. The building is situated in the midst of vineyards and olive groves with stunning views of the countryside. 

Each apartment is equipped with a full sized fridge ( you do need to chill the wine), a gas stovetop and a microwave. Lots of glasses, dishes, etc. are included. If you plan to cook you will need your own condiments. By the way,  Cooking Classes  are available. We missed one by one day. 

There is a lovely piazza on which to enjoy the afternoon sun and a glass of local wine. There is a pool amongst the olive trees and there is a dining room serving Tuscan dinners 3 nights a week. Some of the apartments have their  own patios too. 

The owners are wonderful. Sandra & Nicola, Simona & Ricardo.  The girls are sisters and they manage the property. The boys do all the maintenance. Their mother overseas the kitchen and staff. They are most helpful in arranging wine tours, Museum Visits, dinner reservations etc.

Interestingly, most of the guests are Canadian and American. 

This week we met folks from Nova Scotia, Denver, Kansas, Austria, and the Chech Republic. 

Since my last visit in 2014 they have added a light breakfast service offering coffee and croissants every morning. Perfect way to start the day in my opinion. 

Il Borghetto is only 40 k from Florence, 25 from Siena and there are many charming towns to visit in the area. A great location. One caveat! You must have a car. It’s in the country and Taxis are expensive here. Driving is easy here, in fact, quite wonderful. So many twisty two lane roads through the countryside. If you enjoy driving, as I do, you will love driving in TUSCANY. 

The dinners here are epic. Served outside or inside depending on the weather. The dining room is charming and the service offered is top drawer. More on the food in a later blog. 

If you are planning a trip to TUSCANY you must consider Il Borghetto. I have stayed here 4 times for a total of 8 weeks. 

Here is the website. Browse it and learn this history of this villa. 


Just saying…

European Train Travel

Recently we experienced Train travel in Europe and it was most enjoyable and cost effective too. We took the Italian Fressciarossa high speed train from Paris to Milan and the next day Milan to Florence. 

We boarded at Gare de Lyon in Paris. Train travel is simple. No security. No baggage problem..you just take it on board. Lots of places to put it. No two three hours advance arrival. 20 minutes will do. Find your train’s platform and board. Simple. 

We chose Business Class and the fare for two for a 6.5 Hour trip was $232 CDN. That is a bargain. Economy is even less. Business included very comfortable leather seats with a table between us. USB charging plugs are in the seat and wifi is available. Coffee, juice, soft drinks and a snack was included. In the next car was a snack bar and we purchased a Panini and a small bottle of Prosecco for lunch. Reasonable and good. 

This train has a top speed of 300kph and it ran that fast from Paris to Lyon. After Lyon we headed for the mountains at a slower pace passing not far from Grenoble and then into Turin and on to Milan. 

We stayed at a very nice hotel only a 5 minute walk from Milano Centrale Station and the next day boarded another train to Florence. Two hours. Very fast. The train hit 301kph at one point. Using my Garmin GPS I recorded 300kph. Fast. The route took us through the city of Bologna. Saw nothing. Long tunnel into the station and out. 

This train was newer than the previous. More comfortable seats. We loved the Frecciarossa! 

Arrived on time in Florence Santa Maria Novella Station. 

Train travel in Europe is fast, convenient, comfortable and cost effective. We recommend it! 

If you want to know more I recommend this fantastic web site. https://www.seat61.com

It has all the information you will ever need.  

Just saying..

Paris Revisited

This was my fourth visit to Paris, the last one was in 2006.  There are some notable changes is the city. Paris is much much busier that I recall. People are everywhere. Bistros are mostly full to overflowing and the sidewalks are crowded. 

One thing stands out. Not as many smokers as previously seen. Especially fewer women are smoking. Still lots of smokers compared to Canada but dramatically less than in previous visits. 

Paris has excellent Taxis! Full sized cars including Toyota Camry’s, MERCEDES, Hyundai and Scoda. All Black. Mostly hybrids. Clean comfy and efficient. No Prius cabs here. There are also a few electric TUK TUK’S, which are silent unlike those in Asia. And one can even take a tour in a classic Citreon de Chevue.  

Paris has not gone to the dogs. There seemed to be fewer than I recall and there was little evidence of poop on the sidewalks. However, grafitti is rampant particularly coming into town from Charles DeGualle Airport. 

The French do eat some strange food. In one bistro I ordered scallops. The were presented IN Mashed Potato. No vegetables just potato. In another it was delicious Duck served with excellent scalloped potatoes. No other vegetables. Bread is always served but no sign of butter, ever. And French Fries are served with almost everything.

Disappointing that we did not see a menu which included Liver or Sole Meunière, two items we were expecting to enjoy. We did enjoy the professionalism of many waiters. Very gracious and very efficient. They know their stuff. 

Strong coffee and a Buttery Fresh Croissant is the standard French breakfast and we thoroughly enjoyed that in a bistro near our hotel. Delicious. 

We did not see much sign of homelessness but apparently there is,  just not in the touristy areas. 

Paris is still a wonderful city in which to walk and we did. But it’s harder work at our age. Did we do any museums? No. Been there done that. But we did park ourselves in many sidewalk cafes to enjoy a glass of wine and the ambiance of this grand city. 

If you have not been to Paris, you must go. For me , 4 times is probably enough. 

Just saying…

Paris Bistro

While in Paris we booked a reservation at a Bistro recommended by our hotel. Just a 3 or 4 minute walk. 8:30 PM was the earliest we could get in at BISTRO D’HENRI. This was a rather small joint with room for perhaps 30 patrons. The tables were so close together you could share with your new neighbours. Perhaps 8 inches between. Not unusual in Paris, of course. 

After viewing both the French and English Menu Boards,

we began with a bottle of  icy cold SANCERRE White Wine which was excellent. A Rocket Salad with Parmigiana was shared. My first Rocket and I loved it. Sheila, not so much. Sheila chose Roast Chicken in a Mushroom sauce accompanied by outstanding scalloped potato’s. It was a half chicken and was excellent.

I ordered Roast Duck which also arrived with the scalloped potatoes. The duck was wonderful, perfectly cooked, sliced and resting in a simply delicious red sauce, a sauce I’d like to replicate. No other vegetables were served with either dish. Odd! Of course there was a sliced baguette but no butter in sight. What would Julia Child think? 

It was a truly delicious meal but this joint was crowded and noisy. Oh my, the French do like like to talk.Loudly.  And wave their arms! Most of the patrons were French but we chatted with two sisters from the USA and a couple from Brazil. 

Bistro Henri was a real French Bistro experience. Grreat food, good wine, local ambiance. 

Just saying…


If you are ever presented with the opportunity to attend a College Football Game at a major US College, DO IT! 

Last weekend my Grandson, Maverick, high school football player at Mount Douglas Secondary in Victoria,  and I flew to Columbus, Ohio to watch the Ohio State Buckeyes destroy the University of Wisconsin Badgers. 

Son Jackson and daughter in law Josee joined us from TORONTO For the weekend as well. It was a once in a lifetime trip made possible because of the generosity of my Niece Sheila and her husband Gene Smith, the Athletic Director of The Ohio State University. As a result we had seats in row 8 on the 50 yard line behind the Ohio bench. The game was great made all the better by the crowd of 106,000 in Ohio Stadium,  aka the Horseshoe.  The crowd noise was unbelievable. It was a ‘black out’ pub night so virtually every fan was wearing black, with Buckeye logos, of course, as was the team. And then there is the Ohio State Marching Band, ‘THE BEST DAMN BAND IN THE LAND’. It’s more than a band, it’s a drill team. Before the game they play and March on the field culminating on spelling Ohio and ‘Dotting the I’.  If you have never seen this enormous band search on YouTube. 

Our VIP passes included access to the famous ‘SKULL SESSION, held in a basketball/hockey arena. The band is introduced and play a medley of numbers. Finally the football team march in in street clothes much to the delight of perhaps 20,000 fans. 

Our passes also included the opportunity to go on the sidelines for the warm up which was a thrill for the Canadian Running Back. Great seats, great game, great crowd. 

However, the experience is much more than the game. The atmosphere in Columbus for a home game weekend is Mardi Gras, July 4th and Super Bowl wrapped into one. Outside the stadium is the famous tailgate area where there are tents set up in the parking lot for fans. All manner of BBQ’s, coolers, flat screens etc. it’s is like a carnival. It’s difficult to describe the atmosphere. You really have to be there. Near our hotel was a commercial area with food trucks, outdoor wine gardens and including TWO Jack Daniel‘s trucks, a Corona Beer truck. Live  music was all over the place. Shops selling all manner of Buckeye gear were packed with shoppers.  One can purchase everything from a T Shirt to a front door mat to a Buckeye Bedspread. it is amazing. And everyone is is wearing Ohio State clothing. 

It’s not just a football game. It is a grand SPECTACLE. We loved it all. And you would too. 

We took part, enjoyed and survived a truly Great American Experience.  

oJust saying…

Bistro/Pub in Mill Bay

Met some great old friends, Mike & Alice, for lunch at Bridgeman’s Bistro at the Mill Bay Marina yesterday and had a wonderful time. 

Bridgman’s is located right over the marina and has a great view of Saanich Inlet. They serve up typical Bistro/Pub fare and do it really well. 


A very charming server arrived at our table and we chose a bottle of Chardonnay to share. It was cold, crisp and very good. We don’t often drink Chardonnay so it was a nice change. Choices were made including a Burger with Blue Cheese, Fish Tacos, Clam Chowder with fresh clams and a Spanish Carbarnara. Everyone was pleased with their choice although I found the Taco Shells too soft causing me to resort to  the fork. Still delicious. 

The Bistro has an attractive open bar, a patio and also does takeout. If you are in the Mill Bay Area, Bridgeman’s Bistro would make a good stop. 

After lunch we dropped our friends off at the Mill Bay Ferry so they could return home to North Saanich. 

Then, Sheila and I decided to take the slow road home and, no surprise, stopped at some wineries. We Checked out CHERRY POINT Winery just to see if the had a restaurant. They do, a nice Bistro on the patio. ENRICO WINERY was next. It’s just down the road from Arbutus Ridge Golf Course and looks delightful with an indoor/outdoor tasting room. A must stop. Being short of time we didn’t stop. Another day for sure. 

However we did stop at DAMALI VINEYARDS (http://www.damali.ca):where they grow both Grapes and Lavender. We must return in July when the Lavender is in bloom. A nice tasting room has wine and various presentations of Lavender for sale. We tasted the Pinot Grigio and then their award Winning RHUBE LAVANDRE, a PINOT GRIGIO blend with Rhubarb and Lavender. We loved it and left with 4 bottles.

These folks encourage picnics on their patio.  DAMALI is just a few yards from Arbutus Ridge Golf. 

The wineries in and around the Cowichan Valley are well worth visiting.  If you have not done so consider taking a day and visit two or three. Have lunch at Cherry Point or Unsworth. Or take a picnic to Damali or Averill Creek Wineries.  You will love it! 

Just saying…


Every once is a while an unexpected good thing happens and this week was one of those times. I had an amazingly good experience with a service provider.

A few weeks ago my right front wheel came into violent contact with a bike lane curb in Vancouver. My beautiful Alloy Wheel was torn asunder. I thought it was possibly un fixable. After getting a quote on a new wheel from the local Acura dealership. Yes they are available at $685 installed. Yikes. Repair must be an option. 

Here is the damaged rim.

On line I found ALLOY WHEEL REPAIR a Vancouver based company. They advised that they had a mobile guy on the island and gave me his contact number. I called and made an appointment. He said they will come to your home but not to a townhome. Too many noise complaints. So I met the truck beside the Toyota store in Nanaimo. 

What a great experience! A very pleasant young man, Hayden Barnes met me at the truck. In seconds the car was jacked up and the wheel was off. It’ll take about an hour said Hayden. While I went for a walk while Hayden ground the rim, primed it, painted it (He had the matching paint) dried the paint and reinstalled the wheel. 65 minutes! $150!  PERFECT JOB.! 

Finished product

Need a wheel fixed? I sure do recommend ALLOY WHEEL REPAIR. What a great service! 

Just saying…