A mere 40km north-east of Milan, the old city of Begamo is nestled atop a steep hill with narrow, cobble-stoned pathways. It feels ancient. It is just the bustling tourists and ubiquitous Vespa motorcycles that remind one that it is a 17th century city still standing in the 21st century. We sat to have pizza some non-descript little pizzeria. We were lucky enough that they were even serving lunch, or late lunch, as we discovered that most places close after 2pm and only re-opne for dinner from around 7pm. Again, best pizza ever! Then we walked around the ancient city.
We walked in without reservations, and were fortunate enough to beat the lunch time crowd. Minutes after we were seated, the restaurant had filled up. Without reservations, lunch on the terrace was a far-fetched dream. It’s no wonder, the view from the restaurant’s terrace is stunning. It felt like another world as residents (or perhaps tourists with rented boats) drove up with their boats, moored them below the restaurant and came upstairs for lunch.
A friend had warned me that two days in Milan would suffice, and this was accurate advice. Thanks Silvia. Milan is a large enough city, but even with the various monuments and abundant art galleries, there is not enough to keep one busy for days on end. More famous for its fashion scene, which was of very little interest to us, we decided to explore beyond its immediate borders. We stole away to Lake Como one day for Tremezzo.
Bianco Latte became our go-to place for the great good coffee and creamy gelato (it sounds so much better calling it gelato and not ice cream when in Italy) during our stay in Milan. We weren’t the only one charmed by the easy dining concept where we could either have our coffees and croissants at the counters or sit for a full meal in the restaurant. Stark white walls with charming additions of children’s artwork on the walls – the owner’s own perhaps? It was busy mostly in the mornings with the locals passing by for their coffee and croissants on -the-go and a smattering of tourists like us.
The Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) is a sight to behold. Europe and its cathedrals: each with its architectural history; with its blunders in poor management; with its anecdotes that have now become urban legend (and part of the history); and with its dedication to one saint or other. It’s in the travels I am making on the continent that I see the role that religion played in the continent’s history.
We stayed in Chamonix overnight on our way to Milan. I love road trips, but with kids they require a bit more planning to make them stress-free.
Wine by One: Bar à vins, Caviste, Club de dégustation. We went for late drinks tonight and stayed for longer. If you enjoy your wines, try Wine by One. It is a wine bar, with a wide array of french wines, and a few very good South African wines on offer. A great concept that allows you to taste some of the best offerings in french wines and champagnes. The bar gives you a card that allows you to sample every wine in the house – with tasting size amounts or full glasses dispensed by the machines, according to preference. So if there’s that 800 euro (!) bottle of wine you’ve been coveting – you can drink it, at a fraction of the price at Wine by One.
La Mère Poulard’s speciality is omelettes. The egg whippers sous chefs make quite a show of whipping the eggs that go into the famed omelettes. The egg whipping draws crowds. Seriously, a crowd gathers just within the entrance of the restaurant watching and photographing. Every now and then the maitre d’ comes out to ask people to move outside.
We had lunch there on our last day in Mont Saint-Michel. The restaurant has a children’s menu that serves a small sized omelette or roast chicken. My children had the chicken and roast potatoes and I tried the omelette with scallops. Okay, it was a good omelette; the eggs had been beaten into submission by the sous chefs, and it was fluffy and tasty. It was a good experience, but value for money? Not quite.