Died and gone to heaven

Saturday 5 October 2013

We have a 10:10 flight from Da Nang to Nga Trang so its boots and saddles early in the morning …. one of the hotel staff ask if they can hitch a ride with us to Da Nang to take her little girl to the hospital.  She is a sweet little girl happily sitting on her mothers lap in the front seat – neither the driver nor the mother and daughter wear their seat belts. We belt up!

The flight to Nha Trang is on a small propeller plane, so we have to boot Howard up with his happy flying tablets to get him on the plane.   Turns out to be the best flight we have had so far … go figure.

Flight VN1943

Flight VN1943

Our hotel pickup fails to turn up but a driver scouting for business rings the hotel for us and arranges to take us there instead.  Twenty minutes later we walk into the most impressive hotel reception we have seen in our Vietnam travels.  Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean is the spectacular Mia Resort.  Nestled in a quiet bay, surrounded by jungle, it has its own beach.

Mia Resort reception

Mia Resort reception

Welcome drink

Welcome drink

We are ushered into the lounge bar and given a welcome drink (sugarcane juice) and welcome desert (cream custard) while we wait for our room to ready.  A short buggy ride along the ridge we are taken to our cliff pool villa.

I will let the photos speak for themselves.

Villa entrance

Villa entrance

Wedding anniversary swans

Wedding anniversary swans

Pool lounge

Pool lounge

Outdoor shower

Outdoor shower



Pool view

Pool view

Private pool

Private pool

We break out the bottle of vodka (and the complementary bottle of champagne) by our private pool and pretend we are in life syles of the rich and famous.

Napping by the pool at dusk

Napping by the pool at dusk

Its Saturday night and they have a seafood buffet down at Sandals Restaurant on the beach.  We brave the steep flight down the cliff to the restaurant and feast on lobster, prawns, clams, mussels, salads, hot dishes and a selection of other dishes to make you cry.

La vie est belle!

Le Coquillage Restaurant

Thursday 6 June 2013

Today is a belated birthday treat from Janet, she has made a reservation at restaurant Le Coquillage in the Le Chateau Richeux Hotel. A beautiful renovated chateau high on a cliff overlooking the bay of Cancale.  Its just a short drive from our hotel and we arrive around 12.30. The hotel is set amidst a beautiful garden, where they grow their own vegetables. There is also a small bakery on site where three days a week the resident baker makes all the bread for the restaurant from organic grains in a wood fired oven.

Le Chateau Richeux

Le Chateau Richeux

The wood fire bakery

The wood fired bakery

Le Coquillage is a slick and professionally run restaurant, ooozing refined charm. We are soon seated at our window table that looks across the garden and the coast as we enjoy a glass of champagne.

Champage, canapes and a view

Champage, canapes and a view

The waiter arrives and explains the menu and suggests a fresh lobster for an additional 39 Euro, how can I resist!  We settle on the Menu Grand Choix de la Baie, plus the lobster and wines to accompany each course.  This takes all the pain away from choosing wine from the list.  I note with interest the number of French couples who share a half bottle!  There are some very elegant people here.

After some ‘amuse bouche’, our entrees arrive.  Janet is having the Tartare de daurade (sea bream tartare) and for me the Pommes de terre nouvelles persil plat et lieu fume le long du four a pain (pollock smoked in their oven with home grown baby potatoes).  Both dishes are amazing.  Simple yet complex with the most amazing flavours.  French cuisine at its finest.  Completed with a fine Sancerre.  Oh and the bread and the fabulous Brittany butter mmmm!

French style fish and chips

French style fish and chips



I knew we were getting serious when the waiter brought out a large bib for my next course. Yes, my homard.  Eight hundred grams of fresh Atlantic lobster.  Unadorned with any excess, gently fire-place grilled with a butter sauce to accompany this masterpiece.  The chef had cracked the shell in all the right places and the claws came out in a single piece. That takes exceptional skill.  It was delicate, sweet, moist – just divine.

Happy howie

Happy howie

Janet has the Blanc de barbue, asperges, roquettes, blettes marine et Poivre des Mondes (brill fillet with asparagus, aragula and marine sea kale).  Superb!  Served with a Saint Veran, its a fine match.



After allowing the main to settle Mathieu brings out his sweet trolley.  Everything on this sugar wagon has been made by Mathieu.  Wow.  Take as much or as little as you wish.  I settle on four or five selections. Well it is my belated birthday lunch, isn’t it?

Sweets tray ... three layers of heaven

Sweets tray … three layers of heaven

Desert 1

Desert 1

Desert 2

Desert 2

We finish the meal with tea and coffee served outside overlooking the bay.  The sun is shining and it has been a glorious afternoon.

Janet swinging in the garden

Janet swinging in the garden

This was a memorable lunch, that every traveller should have the opportunity of experiencing in France.

Septime, Paris

Monday 3 June 2013



After doing some extensive and intensive research I have made a reservation at a well regarded restaurant in the 11th for dinner at 9:00 tonight.  The 11th is not a suburb that is on the tourist map … in fact it is definitely off the map.  It is a suburb that houses the workers of Paris.

I feel a bit over dressed as we get off the metro and navigate to the restaurant.  We are early so we wander down the Boulevard Voltaire and find a cafe to enjoy a pre dinner champagne or two.

Champagne darling?

Champagne darling?

Back at the resturant at 9:00 we are left waiting at the crowed entrance for a few moments before we are seated at a small table right next to the kitchen.  I have a great view of the 6 chefs working closely together in the kitchen that is smaller than mine at home.  The chefs are literally rubbing elbows, each assigned their special dish.

Septime is a bit of a mystery as the website only has the logo and address and a link to make reservations.  The handsome young waiter advises that us that there is no menu.  The dishes are all surprises … chosen for their market freshness.  Do we have any dietary requirements?

After he left to get our glasses of champagne we amuse ourselves by wondering what his reaction would be if we told him we were lactic phobic, vegetarian, celiacs who don’t like seafood or weird vegetables?

It takes a while for our first dish to arrive but wow when it does …

Fresh salmon with zucchini flowers, poached baby leeks and zucchini juice.


Fresh and poached asparagus, fresh cheese and mustard greens.


Salted cod, grilled cabbage, mayo and radishes.


Grilled lamb with artichoke, wild greens and grains.


After that were two divine deserts which were too delicious looking and disappeared before the camera came out.

The food is seriously good and I can’t wait to get back there next year.

At the table next to use are two lovely tiny girls who are getting some special treatment from the kitchen.  They are petite but sure do a great job packing away all the food.  We start chatting to them a find out that it is Siew Mei’s birthday (she got a skateboard and  dinner) and Severine, who lived in Australia for a year, in Raymond Terrace,of all the god awful places to live in Australia.  Like most of the young French people we have spoken with, her English is superb (Severine’s is particularly good), very friendly and either have been to Australia or want to go there.

Severine and Sie Mei and me

Severine and Sie Mei and me

Its well after midnight and we say goodbye to our new friends and take our very full tummies home.

More food and wine …

5 June 2012

We have this ritual when we stay at La Colombiere, every morning – hot, cold, sunny or raining, we go for a walk through the tiny village of Vosne Romanee up to the vineyards that make the village so famous.  And today is no different. We pass Romanee Saint Vivant and stop at the corner to genuflect at the corner of Romanee Conti then continue up the hill past La Grande Rue and then look back down to the village.

Vosne Romanee

It is a beautiful crisp morning and spring is in the air.

Snails having fun

But there is no time to dawdle.  We have to have breakfast with Madame Gros (Anne’s mother) at 9 am. Madame Gros is becoming a bit militant in her old age but a very sweet lady.  She does not speak (or refuses to) a single word of English, and always talks to us like we understand french.  I am afraid that my 1 year of high school french is very inadequate (especially considering the amount of time that I spent in class writing punishment lines).

Then at 10 we have a tasting at Domaine Dujac in Morey Saint Denis.  The wine from the 2010 vintage were quite oily and not my thing at all.

At 12:15 we have a lunch reservation at Le Chambolle  in Chambolle Musigny.

Le Chambolle

This humble little restaurant is an absolute treat. The food is seriously good … I’m putting this restaurant on my highly recommended list.

We start with a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne (burgundy’s sparkling wine) – just to take the edge of this very difficult morning …

We select (of course) the 3 course set menu for €28 (that’s about A$36).

I have:

Oeufs meurette (eggs poached in red wine – sorry no photo – it looked so good)

Then …

Chicken breast with crayfish sauce

Frozen nougat with red fruits coulis

A few select wines are chosen to accompany our meal.

Did we drink all that?

Luckily the lovely Jill is doing all the driving today, so I sip to my hearts content.  Jill  drops us back to Vosne Romanee and we have a little nap.  But Howard cannot remain still for too long so we walk the 2 km of  back roads into Nuits Saint George for a drink and later a pizza and salad at the local pizza joint with B2 and Ele.



La Villa Hotel, Mombarazzo, Piedmont, Italy

This is a gem of a hotel.  This old villa was restored (18 months) 8 years ago by Nicola and Chris.  Inside, great attention to detail has been lavished into the interior providing all the luxuries that most hotels unfortunately miss.  Large rooms, antique furniture, thoughtful room design, soft beds, fluffy pillows a choice between bath and shower.  Many rooms have a terrace or outdoor sitting area.


Outside Nicola has established beautiful gardens around La Villa.  The lushness, variety and sheer number of blooming roses is incredible.  Other colourful perennials also brighten the gardens and the lavender is just starting to bloom.


La Villa offers a number of areas of enjoy the surroundings, at the front is a terrace, a rose garden and lawn area perfect for weddings and other special functions.  At the back is a pebbled courtyard offering tables and chairs in a shaded area as well as in the sun.  Breakfast is often served in this area, and dinner as well when the weather is warm enough.

Breakfast Dining

A sunny pool area with a lovely outlook to the surrounding hills offers lounges for the Europeans that want to bake in the sun and big umbrellas for Australians that want to hide in the shade.


Inside is a small comfy lounge area to enjoy a drink from the bar or just relax.

La Vie restaurant is run by Martin Teplitzky, an Australian chef who has does an outstanding job utilising the fine local produce of the area (see the post dated 31 May for a description of the wonderful meal we enjoyed).  Each night except for Tuesday night a different set menu is available for patrons of the hotel.  No visit to La Villa would be complete without a visit to La Vie.

To complement the meal Nicola has an extensive wine cellar incorporating many of the fine wines of the area.  She has obviously spent many hours investigating the vino of Piedmont – lucky girl.

Chris and Nicola offer a very warm and friendly escape from reality.  On the whole I think that any visit to Piedmont would only be improved by a visit to La Villa Hotel


Donatella, Oviglio, Piedmont

30 May 2012

Donatella is a formal 1 Michelin star restaurant in the village of Oviglio.  Our driver drops us at the gate in a back street of the village, there is a bell to ring and the Maitre D, a stylish slim lady of unknown years, dressed in a gorgeous silk blouse greets us, unlocks the gates and escorts us across the cobblestone courtyard into the restaurant.  It is small room with only 8 tables, plush window dressings and flickering candles.

After perusing the menu we opt for the set menu – traditional for Howard and seafood for me.

First comes the bread, selection of grissini, olive bread, tomato and other rolls.

Then we are both served  an appetiser of poached pike with black beans (looked like black eyed peas).  Beautifully cooked and seasoned.  Delicious.

Poached Pike

Howard’s entree is a poached egg  with creamed Robiola Roccaverano cheese with asparagus

Poached Egg with Cheese and Asparagus

My entree is warm cuttlefish with pea puree

Cuttlefish with Pea Puree

Pasta dish for Howard is green ravoili with thyme sauce and I have cannolo pasta with lobster.

The worlds biggest parmasean grater

Pasta with Lobster

For the main course has to quote “Veal cooking in casserole for a long time, potatoes and friggitelli pepper”.  I have “Frog Fish” with black olive cruse, fennel puree and basil sauce.

Veal with potatoes and peppers

"Frog fish"

Grate your own rock salt

And then there was desert ….

Desert 1

Desert 2

And then as is we had not had enough to eat …

More sweets


The only disappointment for the night is the wine.  White wine is served with the fish menu which is a sauvignon (if I want Sav Blanc I’ll stay at home and drink some of the NZ stuff).  Red wine with the traditional is not unlike a Tasmanian pinot (once again – not what we are looking for).

Recommended Hotels – Greece

We have stayed at 2 hotels in Greece that we can recommend:


Hotel Christiana, Ambelas, Paros

http://www.christianahotel.gr (website won’t help much it is all in Greek – but the photos are good)

* family run, very relaxed and friendly. Michael and Lizabetta are two of the owners children. They both speak Australian and are very warm and helpful

* right on the water on the east side of the island

* 5 minutes drive to Naoussa a lovely little town with lots of small shops, bars and restaurants and a lovely port

* Pool, restaurant, parking, free wifi, apartments and rooms

* the family has it’s own small fleet of boats so fresh seafood is ensured

* they also have their own farm to supply the restaurant with eggs, vegetables, olives and wine (not recommended)

* also have a wood oven for baking bread daily

* we paid €50 for a large apartment (off season), ask to see all the different types of rooms and bargain for breakfast to be included.

Apartment Hotel Christiana, Paros

Hotel Lilia, Pasalimani, Piraeus


* small hotel in Piraeus, Mario and his brother run the hotel. Mario is very helpful.

* short taxi ride to main port for ferries to the islands, so convenient place to stay if you are going out to the Islands

* small rooms, but very clean

* 1 minute walk to beautiful port of Zeas and loads of restaurants and super yachts so gawk at.

* 3 minute walk to bus stop to Athens

* small bar and breakfast is included in the charge

* we paid €45 for a double (off season)

* free wifi

Standard Room Hotel Lilia Piraeus