I've got very little bandwidth here so no photos for the moment...if things get better I'll re-post. sorry!
I think I should just skip over our final week in Paris, packed though it was with Paulette’s visit, Gene’s birthday dinner on the terrace at Le Saut du Loup in the Tuileries Garden, the super exhibition of the fantasy furniture of Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, the Willy Ronis photography exhibit, and several “goodbye visits” to le Comptoir du Relais and l’Avant Comptoir with bises and handshakes all around. We were able to congratulate the charming and talented Dai at l’Avant Comptoir on his promotion to the kitchen at le Comptoir itself.
No, I’ll skip to our poor choice of a weekend to spend in Milan. We arrived late on the Friday of May 1 weekend, when the entire city shuts down until Monday afternoon. Our train out of town left at 1:15 on Monday. Suffice it to say my planning skills failed me nearly completely on this one. We did have a few successes however. The Poldi Pozolli Museum was open all weekend and we visited twice to see this entire house museum and collection built by a very wealthy 19th century Milanese. And we had several very good meals, the highlight of which was at Bebel’s in Brera.
Run by the amiable Sergio, Bebel’s is apparently patronized by the well-to-do, bling-clad Milanese, but it was the least expensive and best meal we had. Sergio simply asked us what we wanted, suggested a few things, offered half-portions, switched the wine mid-bottle so we could taste a local one and generally treated us as if we were longtime patrons whose pleasure concerned him intimately. We wound up chatting with our next-table neighbors, a Venetian couple often in Milan to visit their grown children, who were indeed regulars, bises and all, and exchanged contact information for when they are in Paris or we in Venice next fall.
And so the train to Panicale, where we are staying with Paulette at her apartment built into the walls of the medieval cittá. Had we not run into a traveling Australian family with a strong son we might have been sitting between cars on our suitcase. There are no longer spaces at the end of railroad cars to put your luggage; everything must fit in the overhead slot. When you are me and traveling for a month, the suitcase isn’t light. Gene has been doing back exercises on the floor for the last two days. Suffice it to say it wasn’t fun.
Transferring in Florence to a local train, we watched a young woman miss her station because she couldn’t open the railroad car door, which apparently requires you to push an unmarked button on the side at the same time you tug a reluctant handle on the door itself. None of this is explained in any language anywhere near the exits. Neither is the name of the upcoming station. Getting off, and at the correct station, was a test of coordination and agility which we barely passed.
A wonderful dinner in the village trattoria with Paulette and her friends made up for it all. Tiny gnocchi with truffles, papardelle with white ragú, chicory with garlic and oil, roast pork with porcini…happy travelers.