41 best of Paris photos and 48 best of Tuscany photos
with captions on Facebook
Disappointed that our scheduled tour of Jordan planned for this fall was canceled after too few people signed up, we needed an alternative to fulfill our quest for adventure. Italy, being our favorite foreign country, continues to beckon us to return. So we began to custom design a trip to beautiful Florence, one of our favorite cities. After we discovered we would need to change flights in Paris, we decided to include a few days there to revisit some of our favorite sites. We shared our plans with Now Journey and were delighted with the detailed itinerary they created for us in Paris and Tuscany.
Shortly after security clearance in Fort Smith, we were delighted to discover our friends, Chuck and Ann Combs, were flying in the row immediately in front of us to Dallas, on their way to Athens and Israel. Before and after boarding, we enjoyed sharing tales of where we all had been and where we someday hope to go.
Our American Airlines flight left Fort Smith about 10:25 a.m. We landed at Dallas-Fort Worth airport about 11:15. Our daughter, Angelique Moses, who lives about an hour west of the airport, met us outside the terminal. She drove us to a nice Neapolitan restaurant for pizza, then to a gelateria for real gelato before returning us to the airport.
We departed a bit late at 5:45 p.m. on a Boeing 787 with American Airlines. We were served supper at 6:30, then immediately took sleeping pills and reclined for a few hours rest.
Wednesday, 27 September 2023
We were awakened for breakfast about 1½ hours before landing in Paris, France. Our plane touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport about 9 a.m. After clearing immigration, retrieving our bags, and passing through customs, we were immediately met by our driver for transport to Hôtel Bel Ami in the middle of Paris. It was about an hour and a half trip due to heavy traffic.
We knew our hotel cost had been paid as part of our tour package, but the hotel staff insisted that they had not received payment. With no other option, I allowed them to charge my credit card. They had to rescind the charge as soon as our tour company representative arrived and pointed out their mistake.
Now Journey is the travel company that we continually turn to. For several years Mark Story and his experienced staff have never ceased to amaze us with their talent to convert our rudimentary travel ideas into glorious itineraries that never disappoint us. When we missed the start of a tour five years ago when Michael had to have heart valve surgery, Mark Story was on the scene helping Jeannie in Venice. Also at that time Pascal Locatelli, Now Journey’s European expert, was continuing to graciously help with numerous problems Jeannie and our daughter were facing.
Shortly before we departed on this trip to Paris and Tuscany, we were exuberantly delighted to learn that Pascal would serve as our tour captain, making sure everything went as planned throughout our 2 weeks in Europe. He knows that we have years of experience living and traveling in Europe. Even though we could independently handle anything that might need attention, it made our vacation a lot more relaxing, knowing we need not get anxious about anything at all with Pascal around.
As soon as Pascal fixed our Paris hotel bill, we followed him on a walking tour around the immediate area. We enjoyed our discussions as we ate lunch with him at a sidewalk cafe. We returned to our hotel where we waited another 20 minutes for our room to be ready. Then Pascal went his way to whatever mysterious activity was required of him.
We were still wearing the clothes we were dressed in when we left our house the previous morning. We cleaned up a bit, unpacked, rested, and barely avoided falling asleep. Needing to move to ward off jet lag and desiring a snack, we went out looking for crepes at 4:30. We found some delicious ones just a couple blocks from our hotel. It seems the best crepes are in Paris.
Our first evening meal in France was at 7 o’clock at an Italian restaurant, L'Oliveto, a few blocks from our hotel. We can read Italian menus, but those written in French are totally incomprehensible. Besides, why would we want French cuisine when we believe every Italian dish is better?
After returning to our hotel, we each took a sleeping pill and enjoyed a long rest to fight jet lag.
A hired driver took us to Versailles, where we arrived about 9:15. Since we were too early for our tour, Pascal led us to a coffee shop where we all enjoyed French croissants.
At 10 o’clock we met our local guide, Anna, who drove us around the huge gardens in a golf cart. She then gave us a grand walking tour of the Versailles palace. When we were here in 1985 we spent most of our attention on our 5 and 3 year-olds instead of enjoying the history, art, and architecture.
The two of us ate lunch outdoors at nearby Chez Molly, suggested by the guide. Then we met up with Pascal and our driver at 2 p.m. for our return to Paris.
Between 8:30 to 11:00 p.m. we were on board a Seine River cruise where we enjoyed an exquisite meal. Our table for two was near the front of the boat and provided excellent views of many famous landmarks along the Paris riverfront, including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
It was after midnight before we could get into bed back at our hotel.
We met our local tour guide, Wei, who was born in China. He spoke excellent English. He led us around the museum from 10:30 to 12:30. In one of the rooms we were pleasantly surprised when we were briefly greeted by Anna, our guide from the previous day at Versailles, as she was leading a couple through the Louvre Museum. What should be considered random coincidences seem destined, as we have experienced many in our lives.
After our visit to the Louvre, Pascal led us a block beyond our hotel to Les Deux Magots, where we ate lunch. Though the name of this Paris restaurant is not at all appetizing to English-speaking tourists, it is a famous café where the literary and intellectual elite of the city hung out in times past.
At 3:30 we departed for our scheduled tour of the Eiffel Tower. We were below or in the tower from 4:30 to 6:30. When we were here in 1985, we were only able to visit the second floor, but this time we got to go all the way to the top, almost 1,000 feet above ground.
At 7:15 we walked to L’Oliveto, the Italian restaurant we enjoyed our first night in Paris. We briefly returned to our hotel room. Then we walked a couple blocks to the Church of Saint-Germain des Prés and enjoyed a Vivaldi and Mozart concert which started at 8:45. We were back in our hotel by 10.
We met our driver at 11:30 and rode 50 minutes to the airport. Checking in for the flight was confusing in French. The entire process involved no humans except for the many people we asked where were we to go next. We were on our own since our tour captain flew to Italy the night before; but we’re not helpless travelers in a foreign country.
We got overpriced sandwiches for lunch at an airport cafe. Then we looked through some shops, having plenty of time before boarding our Air France flight at 3 o’clock.
We landed on time in Florence, Italy, before 5 p.m. Our driver transported us to the Grand Hotel Cavour where we were greeted by Pascal, who handed us our hotel key cards, having already checked us into our room. Shortly before 7 p.m. we walked with him a few blocks to Ristorante La Giostra, where the two of us enjoyed a very nice meal. We texted Pascal when we finished and he led us back to our hotel. While Jeannie took a shower, Michael went exploring near the hotel. He found a gelateria and purchased a cup of delicious Italian gelato.
We were hoping to go to lunch at a pizzeria recommended by our daughter, but we could not find transportation to get there and back in time for our scheduled afternoon tour. Instead, we rode the tram, getting on near the church site. We got off at the main train station and began walking toward our hotel. We came upon a Vera Napoletana pizzeria and enjoyed a very tasty pizza Margherita con prosciutto at Giotto Pizzeria.
After lunch we walked several blocks to our hotel, arriving shortly before time to begin our "Heart of Florence Walking Tour" at 2:45 with Francesca Marucci, a local guide. She was very knowledgeable about the history and architecture of everything we passed. After the tour ended at 4:45, we rested briefly in our hotel room, then headed back to the jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio. Jeannie found a beautiful necklace and earrings that we decided needed to be taken home with us.
At 7:50 we met Pascal in the hotel lobby and walked with him to Osteria dei Baroncelli where the two of us had a dinner reservation at 8 p.m.
We arrived at 10 a.m. for horse riding at Hotel Rifugio Pratediano near the town of Montieri. It was a new experience wearing riding helmets and sitting in English saddles. Our skillful and friendly guide, Zoe, was from Germany. It was only the three of us on the 6 kilometer trail through the Tuscan hills. Upon our return to the stables after 2 hours, we enjoyed lunch with Pascal at the hotel.
Our next stop in Tuscany was to visit what remains of the Abbey of San Galgano near Chiusdino. Six months before this trip we enjoyed "The Journey," a movie which included a song performed in the ruins of this abbey by the famous blind Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli. We then walked a long distance up a steep hill nearby (that we should have gone up by car) to see the sword in the stone below the rotunda of the Montesiepi Chapel. Galgano Guidotti gave up his knighthood to become a monk in Tuscany in the 1100’s. Rejecting his former vocation, the story is told that he thrust his sword into this rock and no one could pull it out. We had to see the sword to believe it, but we can’t explain how it could be possible. (Historians believe this is the source of the legend of King Arthur being declared king after pulling a sword from a stone.)
We arrived at 4 p.m. at the resort hotel, Villa Dievole. From our room we had a breathtaking view overlooking the Chianti Classico hills and the Chianti Mountains. At 7:30 we were met by Pascal who drove us into the nearest town for our evening meal. On the way back it was exciting to see a wild boar run across the dirt road in front of the car as we neared the hotel.
At 9:30 we met Claudio, our driver for the day. (Pascal was no longer accompanying us, having duties in Venice.) Our first stop was at San Gimignano about 10:30. We explored this medieval city and a great number of its tourist shops. We ate gelati from the world famous Gelateria Dondoli in Piazza della Cisterna. At 12:20 we departed for our next adventure.
From 1:30 to 3:45 we visited a winery, Le Fonti in Lucignano d’Arbia, where we had lunch and learned about Tuscan vineyards and wine making. This was not our first time to visit a winery in Italy, but it was the most enjoyable because the owner and his interpreter were so enthusiastic about the business and they showed great eagerness to please. They were positioned on our arrival as if we were important dignitaries who were blessing them by our visit. It was a splendid welcome that served to impress us from the very start.
Our driver returned us to our hotel about 4:30. We ate supper outdoors at our hotel at 8 o'clock. Jeannie ate cappellacci ripieni di parmigiana di melanzane, pomodori arrosto e fonduta di parmigiano (cappellaci stuffied with aubergine parmigiana, roasted tomatoes and parmasan cream). Michael ate tortelli dolceforte al cinghiale, topinambur e funghi (tortelli dolceforte with wild boar, topinambur and mushrooms), followed by faraona arrosto con soufflé al tartufo, cicoria e fichi (roasted guinea fowl with truffle souffle, chicory and figs).
Chef Andrea arrived at our hotel at 4:30 and drove us about 10 minutes to an old villa beside a winery that his cousin owns and operates. Andrea’s wife and sister-in-law, who are twins and don’t speak English, quickly put us to work preparing the evening meal. Then as the Tuscan sun was setting, Andrea’s cousin gave us a quick tour of his winery before the two of us sat outdoors where our meal was served. We were returned to our hotel by Andrea’s wife around 9:15.
At 11 o’clock we were met by Francesca Marucci, the same tour guide we had on Sunday afternoon in Florence. She led us to the Galleria dell'Accademia and guided us through while sharing with us incredible detail about the art and musical instruments on display. Michelangelo’s “David,” the most famous statue in Florence, is housed here.
We stopped for a delicious lunch at 1 o’clock at the Sofia Loren restaurant per our guide’s recommendation. At 2:00 she led us to the Uffizi Gallery, where we stayed till 4:30. We learned so much more about the art there than is possible without a guide.
We were excited to briefly visit with Pascal as we passed through the hotel lobby on our way to supper. We walked several blocks to La Ménagère for supper. We were surprised to discover that our 7:30 p.m. reservation was at a French restaurant.
The 7½ hour flight on Iberia Airlines to Washington, DC, departed about 12:30 p.m. We landed an hour early. Sadly, our luggage did not arrive with us. We left for Dallas on American Airlines about 5:30 p.m. for the 3-hour flight to DFW. We departed Dallas around 11:00 and landed in Fort Smith at 11:50. Our luggage arrived 3 days later!
|Living in Italy in the mid-1980's gave us a special appreciation of a different lifestyle. It continues to influence our interest in world travels. We recognize that God has immensely blessed us in allowing us to visit locations that most people we know will never have an opportunity to experience. We hope our travelogues share some of the knowledge we gain while we continue to explore foreign places and cultures.|
41 best of Paris photos and 48 best of Tuscany photos
with captions on Facebook
Italy letters table of contents | previous Italy trip