Great Food in Athens, Greece

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Everything’s betta with a little feta—El Greco

 

Mrs. Big Surf and I make our travel plans based on what food we like to eat.  We love Greek food…so you can do the math.

We spent four days in Athens and I ate about two weeks worth of food.  This was the best Greek food I have ever eaten, tasted so authentic…oh.

If you can get past most menus looking like a fraternity/sorority talent show lineup, ordering food wasn’t too difficult. Most menus have English sub titles and most of the waiters and waitresses speak English. Of course if you don’t speak Greek or English I don’t have any advice for you.

We began our foraging through Athens on our arrival at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel.  We arrived late and we asked the desk clerk for a recommendation and he steered us to a very close 24 hour restaurant, called 24oro .  He said it was good Greek food and he was right.  My advice here— don’t go by the names as we do in America where a 24- hour joint is probably not the best choice unless you are hungry at 3:00 AM.

Since it was late, we split a moussaka and we also began our four day love affair with fried feta drizzled in honey.

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Moussaka at 24oro.

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The fried feta, drizzled with honey and sesame seeds was our go-to appetizer in Athens.

 

I began the next morning with a short walk to the Acropolis Museum to get tickets for the day. I stopped by Terra Carpo for a cup of Americana coffee.  This may have been the best coffee I have ever had. This was my coffee stop for the next three days.

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After coffee each morning, we would eat breakfast at the hotel.  Our usual custom when we stay at hotels in cities is to get breakfast in cafes or bakeries  to maximize our time finding good food. However our breakfast at the Acropolis Museum Boutique Hotel was included, so we took advantage of this.  These breakfasts, with Greek delicacies, gave us a good start each day as each one was so good.

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This was our typical breakfast each day.

 

After a morning at the Acropolis Museum and a walk through the charming Anafiotika neighborhood, we had lunch at Klepsidra Cafe. 

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At Klepsidra Cafe, we had our first stuffed grape leaves, tsatziki, a Greek salad and sampled some ouzo.

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Yogurt with nuts and dates and drizzled with honey was also one of our favorites at Klepsidra Cafe.

 

Later that night, we dined at Strofi which was a short walk from our hotel. Our food was good but it wasn’t our favorite meal. However my appetizer of fresh anchovies marinated with spices, olive oil, and lemon was one of my favorite dishes of the stay in Athens.

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I hope you are lucky enough to get this view at Strofi.

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The marinated anchovies were delicious at Strofi.

 

The highlight of Day three in Athens for me…lunch at Diporto.  This is a very unique experience that I found on Youtube.  It is near the central market, has no sign and is below the street.  There is home cooked Greek food, homemade wine, and an intimate atmosphere, where the owner invites you into the kitchen to see what he is cooking for the day.  Don’t let the less than pristine appearance dissuade you from dining here when you descend under the street level through graffiti-marred doors, you will love this dining experience.

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One of the two entrances into Diporto.

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Our view of the street at Diporto.

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Three dishes with bread and homemade white wine was brought to our table.

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The grilled anchovies at Diporto may have been my favorite dish in Athens.

 

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Intimate dining at Diporto.

 

We had an unforgettable view of the Acropolis at Hotel Thissio. We stopped for another fried feta with some red wine and watched the sunset turn to the night sky over Athens.

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We had a great view of the Acropolis and Athens at Hotel Thissio.

 

We headed over to souvlaki row off Monastiraki Square and split a Greek salad and souvlaki at Savvas and had an outdoor table on the busy pedestrian street.  This wasn’t the best souvlaki that we had but it was still good.

 

The following day, our last full day in Athens, we toured the Acropolis and walked over to the old neighborhood of Plaka and had lunch at Estia Taverna.

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Our lunch at Estia Taverna in the outdoor part of the cafe was very enjoyable.  It was a nice sunny day and we shared a different fried cheese, called saganaki, named for the pan it is fried in. We also had some really good french fries which are popular in Athens.  We had a nice red wine that complimented this simple meal and were refreshed for an afternoon shopping in the shops of Plaka and of course finding more things to eat.

 

A few hours later we headed over to the steps of Plaka and found a table at Anafiotika Cafe.  It was a lively time on the steps, so we partook of some more ouzo. I really encourage anyone going to Athens to find these small cafes and eat on the steps.

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Afterward, Mrs. Big Surf was in the mood for a chicken crepe and she found one at a creperie on Souvlaki Row on Ermou Street and I went into O Thanasis for a souvlaki for take-out.  We took our purchases over to Montesoriki Square and found a spot to enjoy our simple meal in the midst of this lively and entertaining gathering place.  I loved both of our dishes.

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I thought this chicken crepe was very good, Mrs. Big Surf thought less of it but still liked it.

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I loved this souvlaki from O Thanasis.

 

The final stop for the evening was a rooftop bar overlooking Athens. We found a wonderful spot atop the A for Athens Hotel. The rooftop bar for a nice glass of red wine was a perfect spot to enjoy our last night in Athens.  The view is incredible and if you can get a seat at sunset, this would be a minor coup.  We were able to accomplish this,and let me tell you, it was hard to leave this view.

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We had a beautiful view from the A for Athens rooftop bar in the late afternoon sun and into the night.

 

We had an afternoon flight scheduled for Istanbul, so this gave us some time to head back over to the shops in Plaka.  While my lovely wife shopped, I of course looked for more food and was drawn to the small cafes on the steps one last time.  I had a very nice spinach pie with some jasmine tea (see cover photo). This was a great place to reflect on my stay in Athens and enjoy my last few minutes.

 

An addendum to this food story is our trip back from Turkey where we had a connecting flight out of Athens.  We had some time to kill so we headed over to the Sofitel across the street from the airport.  This turned out to be a very good decision. We shared a delicious assortment of Greek appetizers and a lemon tart with berries and a raspberry glaze.  The red wine complimented it very nicely.  This gave us a good send off from Athens.

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The plate of appetizers at Sofitel, a good choice if you have to kill some time in the Athens airport.

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The lemon tart was a nice treat also at Sofitel.

 

I look forward to the possibility of more good food in Athens if I ever get the chance again.

Athens, Greece

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How great are the dangers I face to win a good name in Athens—Alexander the Great

 

Evidently, Alexander the Great had a different experience in Athens than my wife and I.  The only dangers we faced in our four days in Athens were gluttony,  over-stimulation of the senses, and sunset fatigue.

Athens is a beautiful city that is easily navigated by foot.  We are not planners, we are plodders.  We walk a while, rest a lot and eat a while, rest a lot…you get the picture.

So when we were able to plan a side trip to Athens on our way to see some family in Turkey, we jumped at the chance.  It is an easy city to explore on foot and four days was plenty of time for us to see what we wanted in a relaxed visit.  The ancient sites and neighborhoods were an easy walk from our stay at the Acropolis Museum Boutique hotel (a 40 Euro cab ride from the airport).

We went to Athens in the middle part of April. We had some rain at times and some cool nights.  When it wasn’t raining, a tee shirt and long pants were very comfortable.  My wife wore some sleeves and we both had light rain jackets.  We still had pleasant evenings and saw some wonderful sunsets.

I will apologize for the many, many photographs.  I had a hard time editing.

The following are scenes of the Acropolis  with the Parthenon and other sites.

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I was mesmerized by these lovely ladies, possibly supermodels of ancient Athens.

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The Theater of Dionysus.

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Sunburst over the Temple of Athena Nike.

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The Parthenon.

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The Erechtheion.

 

There are some incredible views from the Acropolis looking out over the city of Athens.

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We climbed up to Mars Hill for a late afternoon view of Athens and joined the sunset seekers awaiting the show.  I think we were the oldest folks there.  Don’t despair for it is an easy climb up to Mars Hill.  I was more interested in being in the same place where the Apostle Paul introduced the Gospel of Christ to the Athenians.

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The trail up to Mars Hill was decorated with wild flowers. It is a very rustic path to the top.

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The view of the Acropolis from Mars Hill.

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Athens view from Mars Hill.

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Mt. Lycabettus seen from Mars Hill.

 

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The Panathenaic Way in the Ancient Agora.

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Ancient column top or pedestal in the Ancient Agora with the Temple of Hephaistos in the background.

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Temple of Hephaistos in the Ancient Agora.

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Columns of the Temple of Hephaistos.

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Hadrian’s Arch seen from inside the Temple of Zeus area.

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Temple of Zeus.

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Hadrian’s Arch seen on one of our night walks.

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The Panathenaic Stadium, all marble.

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Inside the Zappeion building.

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Guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier outside of the Parliament building.

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The beginning of Ermou street, a pedestrian only shopping street beginning across from the Parliament building.

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As you walk down Ermou street, you will come upon the beautiful small church of Kapnikarea.

 

The following are scenes around Hadrian’s Library.

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Outside tables of the small cafes on the steps of Plaka.

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One of the narrow paths between houses in the Plaka neighborhood at the base of the Acropolis.

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A colorful graffitied path in the Plaka neighborhood.

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Lively Montistoriki Square.

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The market near Montistoriki Square.

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This is the terrace of the Acropolis Museum. It looks like a great place for coffee or lunch.  It was rainy this day, so it was the day we picked to go to the museum. It is a fascinating museum of sculptures and statues and to learn about the Parthenon which can be seen atop the Acropolis.

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One of the ancient sculptures in the Acropolis Museum, Hercules wrestling a sea creature.

 

The following are colorful street scenes in Athens, a great city to explore on foot.

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One last look at the sun-drenched city and I will say good-bye.

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Public Service Announcement for French Tourists

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Well, it’s a rainy night in Paris and I’m sitting by the Seine

It’s a pleasure to be soaking in the European rain.

Now my belly’s full of fancy food and wine

Oh, but in the morning there’ll be hell to pay

Somewhere along the line.—Billy Joel from “Somewhere Along the Line”

 

The above lyrics are from one of my favorite Billy Joel songs.

On our recent trip to Paris, I ate wonderful food.  So what could be the problem that would elicit a public service announcement from Big Surf Daddy?

Now we didn’t have any rainy nights in Paris and with three toddlers, we didn’t sit by the Seine.  We didn’t eat much fancy food, but we did have some good wine.  It’s the next line that matters…

If you aren’t accustomed to eating rich cheeses and breads in your diet, you may need to introduce them into your stay in France gently.  I ate as much bread and cheese as I could the first few days.  Well “Somewhere Along the Line” came pretty quickly.

I had to make a stop at the local pharmacie in Brunoy, where we were staying for the week.  You see, cheese has a binding property in your digestive tract…you get the gist of this problem.

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The local pharmacie had the answer.  I was eating cheese and bread the next day.

Enjoy the cheese and bread in France, just don’t cram it in like I did.  France has been making great breads and cheeses for centuries, so they will be there tomorrow.

 

Eating in Paris…Deuxième Partie (part two)

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How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?—Julia Child

 

I know Julia Child was NOT talking about France when she said this.

We recently spent a few days in Paris over the Christmas holiday with our immediate family.  We met up with my son, his wife and two year- old daughter.  My daughter-in-law is going to be a mother again in about three months.  So “bun in the oven” continues in the bread theme here.

We also traveled with my daughter and her husband and her two children, ages two and one.

So based on what you know for now, if you tuned in to an episode of fine French dining experiences on these pages, you may be disappointed. Parisienne dining “adventures” may be more apropos for our days in Paris.  Afterall if you want to have a fine dining triumph in Paris, sharing it with three toddlers is probably not the way to go.  However we did eat some really good food. Of course, it goes without saying that our breads, wines, and cheeses were good everywhere.

The photo above is a nice cafe decorated for the Christmas season.  We did not eat here.  Are you kidding?  Look at those lights on the tables, how long do you think those would last?  But alas, you can dream in Paris can’t you?

So let me give some advice to those who want to go to Paris with small children.  It’s good to research cafes and restaurants before you go, but be ready to chunk those plans and make decisions on the run, depending on the mood of one of the children.  So most of our restaurant choices depended on who could accommodate a double stroller and a single stroller and where would be the least likely place to start an international incident.

Our first meal was a late lunch in the Latin Quarter, Cafe St. Victor.  We were ready to eat and did not want to walk anymore and they met all of the above criteria for our group.  The bonus for us… the service was really good and the waitress was so good and patient, especially with teaching me how to eat escargot with meat hooks for hands.

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Cafe St. Victor, near Notre Dame in the Latin Quarter.

 

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We shared a good assorted cheese plate for starters.

 

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I loved the escargot even though the utensils were quite cumbersome for me.  My dissection skills were long forgotten from college biology. In the end our waitress brought me a toothpick and said this may be better.  Just dig them out.  She was such a good soul.

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Mrs. Big Surf, had one of her favorite dishes, French Onion soup.  I wonder if they just call it onion soup over there.   Anywho, she loved it.

 

Our next stop was a real treat for me. We found Odette on Rue Galande in the 5th arrondissement in the Latin Quarter.  We bought some of their famous choux a la cremes.  This was a very good decision for all involved.

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So we had to wash down these lovely cream puffs with some hot chocolate and we found it at Shakespeare and Company Cafe.

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The hot chocolate was really good but it wasn’t the best we had.  This cafe is across from Notre Dame, with a good view of the famous cathedral.

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This was the best hot chocolate and some say the best in Paris.  Angelina is a famous tea room and cafe with a history as rich as its hot chocolate.  Ask for the African hot chocolate and as an additional treat get some of their memorable Mont Blancs.

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These are the Mont Blancs.  6 Euros each.

 

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Angelina is across from the Louvre so there are lots of people in the area. There will be a long line outside, but if you want to get your hot chocolate and Mont Blancs to go, you can circumvent the line and go on in to the bakery. We made the mistake of standing in line for about 45 minutes before we figured it out.  You’re welcome.

For the best meal, I went against my general rule of dining in famous cities, don’t eat near popular tourist stops.  I try to go at least two blocks away, however there are always exceptions to the rules, again especially when the children are ready to get out of the strollers.

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Our most memorable meal in Paris for the week was Le General cafe.   The Arc de Triomphe could be seen from the outside tables.  We dined for lunch here before going to the aforementioned Arc.  We were so thrilled with this meal. We ate outside. The heaters were going and I even took my coat off, it was really pleasant to eat outside in December.

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You can see the Arc de Triomphe from La General.

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Mrs. Big Surf and I, and my daughter, ate this wonderful dish of scallops on a bed of risotto made with squid ink.  This was my first experience eating squid ink and I must say, this was the best dish I had all week.

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Since this was an early afternoon meal, my son and daughter-in-law has this good-looking and tasty dish.

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My son-in-law had the chicken fricassee with linguine.

 

Later we stopped into one of the many creperies in Paris.  I was not in the mood for a crepe so I had some good coffee.  Most of our group had a sweet crepe here and loved them, my wife ordered off the menu for a chicken crepe and she did not like it, but in the defense of the creperie it was not the chicken crepe on the menu. They had a spicy chicken crepe that she wasn’t in the mood for.  All-in-all a success … since the children liked it.

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After spending some time at the Eiffel Tower on our last night in Paris, we decided to walk over to Rue Cler for our last meal in Paris.  We found a small cafe called L’Eclair.

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We loved this cafe.  They were very accepting of our children even though it was fairly crowded.  We all had good food and a very enjoyable time here.

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My wife and most of our group had the classic French sandwich called a Crouque Monsieur, kind of a toasted ham and cheese sandwich.  Some of our group had a variation served with a fried egg on top called a Croque Madame.

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I had a flank steak with a sauce made from olives and capers.  So tasty.

 

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At L’Eclaire, we dined under the glow of this neon sign saying, NO BAD DAYS.

This seemed to sum up our time in Paris, there were no bad days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brunoy, France…A Charming Stay Outside Paris

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Je suis sous le charme…I am under the charm.

 

I fell under the charm of Brunoy (pronounced Broon-wah), a community southeast of Paris, France. It has a long history of residences and the town developed during the Gallo-Roman era.

We reunited with part of our family for Christmas and spent a week in this lovely, mainly residential burb, about a forty minute train ride outside of Paris. We rented a lovely house about a ten minute walk from the train station. We were six adults and three children ages two, two, and one.  Yeah, I know what you are thinking…

Immediately we fell in love with the house and the surrounding neighborhood.

Our walks into the town center and the train station were very pleasant (or as pleasant as could be with three toddlers). We ate a few meals in Brunoy restaurants and we took “take away” meals back to our house.  Mainly it was our haven from the busyness and a respite from our days spent in Paris.

My wife and I had been to Paris last year and you can read about that trip in previous blogs here. However, here in Brunoy, I had the pleasure of experiencing a French community with genuine hospitality and friendliness.  The shop owners and workers were so nice and I felt they went out of their way to help us when we needed it.

So if you have the opportunity to stay in Brunoy and visit Paris, I highly recommend it.  The prices in Brunoy are cheaper than Paris, the food is good, the people are friendly, and it is an easy train ride into the city center.  We caught the RER D and rode it to Gare de Lyon and made easy connections from there.  The only issue we encountered was two strollers and many stairs.  But we had six adults and on one occasion a very helpful Brunoyen to help out the ladies when the men left them after a very rare miscommunication.

The following are photos of this charming town.

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A street in Brunoy with Christmas lights.

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This is the front of our rental house from Airbnb.  It was an excellent place to stay.

 

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Saint-Medard cathedral. Parts of this building has remains from the 12th century.

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Sidewalk on Avenue du President Kennedy.

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A skating rink in place for Christmas in front of the city building in the town center.

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This was our favorite restaurant in Brunoy.

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Eating in Brunoy, France

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In a cookie cutter world, be a macaron…

 

If you are staying in Brunoy, France for any amount of time, don’t worry…you will find good quality food.

We stayed in this small community, outside of Paris for a week between Christmas and New Year’s Day.  The only time we were limited was on New Year’s Eve.  Since it was on a Monday, a lot of the restaurants were closed as is customary in the Paris area.  However, all of the bakeries and cheese shops were open.

This writing is just about the eating in Brunoy.

Now we had three small children, ages two, two, and one.  As you can imagine, sometimes eating was a challenge and most of our meals were carry out, or as they say in Europe, “take away”.

So here we go…

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My first purchase was a baguette baked with cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.  Good start to the day as we made our way to the train station to go into Paris.

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Our best meal in Brunoy was at La Rotisserie, a classic French restaurant.

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Our first course at La Rotisserie was a truffle-stuffed ravioli with a white sauce and drizzled with a balsamic reduction.  This could have been the meal.  It was so good and rich. However, there was more food to eat, as seen below.

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At La Rotisserie, I had a duck confit with green beans.  This was a really good dish but not my favorite of the night.

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My wife had the best tasting dish at La Rotisserie, duck breast with raspberry sauce.  This may have been the best thing I tasted all week.

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Our mornings usually started with someone doing the eight-minute walk into the town center and getting fresh breads, pastries, and cheeses.  All of these boulangeries (bakeries) and patisseries (pastry shops) make their breads and pastries fresh.

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Almond croissants, chocolate au pains, round loaf of bread, baguette, and a ham and cheese baked bread, all bought from the local shops.

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We had good Mediterranean food from Chez Dada.

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We took home Thai food from Chez Lin.  While waiting for our food, they brought us some assorted pickled vegetables of radishes, carrots, and cucumbers.  A nice touch.  I loved the shrimp in a red curry sauce.

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This was one of my favorite stops in Brunoy. Nice and friendly with tasty breads and pastries.

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We visited here often also.  We found some nice chocolate treats.

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I loved stopping in this cheese shop.  The people were so friendly. When I couldn’t find the restaurant where I was meeting my family, one of the employers walked me to the restaurant.

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When I had a chance for a little Big Surf Daddy time, I ducked in for a cafe au lait and a chocolate au pain at the Tabac across from the train station.  This appeared to be local gathering spot for the men of the town.  I also got some cigars here to smoke one night.

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We had excellent sushi from Okayama.

 

The following are just some of the displays in Brunoy.

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I don’t even know where this salmon slider came from but it was so good.

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A very good wine shop.

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We ordered take out from Restaurant Tajmahal.  We had butter chicken, rice, curry vegetables, stuffed bread, and lentils.  All were delicious.

On New Year’s Eve, the only restaurant we could find that was open was Lotus Bleu. It was a good find because it was so tasty.

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For New Year’s Eve, I stopped for some wine, bread, and cheese.

The macarons above are from Delices et Gourmandises in Brunoy.

As I said earlier, if you find yourself in Brunoy, France as we did, there is a really good selection of good food choices.  We had French, Mediterranean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Indian.  One night we also ordered pizza and guess what?…it was good, too.

This doesn’t even include what we ate in Paris.  That will be a later blog.  Right now I am trying to get my digestive tract to accept southern food from the USA.  Au revoir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomatoes and Flames…Mt. Sterling, KY

 

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You better cut the pizza into four pieces because I am not hungry enough to eat six—Yogi Berra

 

I love pizza.

I know many of the few who read this blog will say the same thing.

Lately the lovely missus and I have been trying to make good pizzas at home.  So inevitably we go out to find good pizzas.  Not that we are totally incompetent in the kitchen, we just haven’t gotten the final result we want just yet. The only way I can get the pizza dough to cook at 800 degrees is to stick it in a pile of burning leaves and that just leaves it a little too smokey.

So we decided to go to the old country to find good pizza.

Now for us the “old country” turns out to be Mt. Sterling, KY. This picturesque small city was established in 1792 and if you know your Kentucky history, you will remember that this was the same year Kentucky became a state.  Mt. Sterling is one of the oldest towns in Kentucky.

A friend of mine told me about the pizza he and his wife had eaten at Tomatoes and Flames in Mt. Sterling.  Since I valued his opinion very much, we decided the hour drive would be worth it for good pizza.

 Tomatoes and Flames  is in a small intimate setting in an old building with bright yellow paint.  Most of downtown Mt. Sterling buildings are old, or historic if you prefer that term.  Just like the “old country”.

We had the Pizza Margherita.  We loved our pizza.  The Margherita pizza is simple in its ingredients and complex in its flavor.  It is so good when done right.  Let me tell you, this was done right.  It looked like the same thing we ate in Rome and it’s taste was the closest to the pizza in Italy we have had anywhere in the US.

The dough was wonderfully thin and crusty and the sauce was so good.  So simple, yet so remarkably delicious.

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The Pizza Margherita is a classic Neopolitan pizza and prepared to perfection at Tomatoes and Flames.

The bonus was being able to eat Crank and Boom ice cream that was sold in the restaurant…the icing on the pizza.

Pizza Margherita has a history that dates back to 1889 when King Umberto I and his Queen Margherita of Savoy visited Naples shortly after the unification and formation of Italy.  Legend has it they were tired of hoity-toity French cuisine and asked the most famous pizza maker for some common street food.  He provided a pizza made from tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves, which just happened to be the colors of the newly formed Italian flag (red, white and green).

The alternative theory is it was named after the Italian word for “daisy” which is margherita.  Evidently the shape of the pizza with the toppings resembled a daisy.  I’m going with the first theory.  That is what was told to us in Rome when we had our first Margherita pizza.

I am so thankful that we can get old world pizza within an hour drive at Tomatoes and Flames.

Mt. Sterling’s downtown is very picturesque and I enjoyed strolling through the streets.

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The brick oven at Tomatoes and Flames.

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You order at the counter.

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Cool door with windows.

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We never pass up Crank and Boom ice cream.

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I had a wonderful chocolate latte here at Spoonful of Sugar.

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Istanbul…in Bloom

 

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If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.—Alphonse de Lamartine

 

I don’t know if Istanbul is the most beautiful city I have ever seen, but on this day in Goztepe Park (above photo) with the tulips in bloom, it was surely one of the most memorable days I have spent abroad.

April in Istanbul is truly beautiful.  Flowers are in bloom all over the city.  I saw daisies, hyacinths, the most impressive wisteria blooms I have ever seen, and of course tulips.

We were in Istanbul in early April of this year.  We spent a lot of time in parks since we were babysitting our granddaughter while her parents were in language classes.  Leslie Knope’s head would be spinning with the landscaping budget that Istanbul procures for their parks.  I have never seen such beautiful parks in a city, so colorful with all of the flowers in bloom.

Their were two places where tulips were the most impressive. The Sultanahmet Square outside of the Hagia Sophia which has the largest bed of tulips in the world and the previously mentioned Goztepe Park.

If you love spring blooms, especially tulips and wisteria, visit Istanbul in early April.

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Blossoms outside the Blue Mosque.

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Tulips and minaret outside Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips in bloom outside the Blue Mosque.

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Wisteria and redbud blooms in one of the parks in Kadidoy.

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Landscaping in a Kadikoy park.

 

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Flowers for sale from a street vendor.

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The largest tulip bed in the world at Sultanahmet Square, outside the Hagia Sophia.

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Tulips and daisies around a fountain near the spice market.

 

The following photos are of flowers in Goztepe Park in the Kadikoy section of Istanbul.

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Mrs. Big Surf strolling and wishing for a bigger tulip budget.

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Hoscacal, Istanbul.

 

Big Surf Daddy’s Seafood Bender…Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia

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Unlike wine or water, or even Coca-Cola, sweet tea means something. It is a tell, a tradition. Sweet tea isn’t a drink, really.  It’s culture in a glass.—Allison Glock

 

Big Surf Daddy is most at home on a southern beach and lately, Tybee Island is becoming his favorite southern beach.

This was my second visit to the laid-back island beach community just a short drive from Savannah, Georgia.  The beach is wide and the food is good.  And nothing gets me off the beach, except to eat.

This was a good eatin’ week for Big Surf.  There are many good restaurants on Tybee and in Savannah.

Savannah is on many travel lists as one of the top cities in the US.  All you have to do is go there to see why.  It is easy to get around. Most of the historic center of town can be seen on foot… unless it is one of those Georgia summer days when it feels like you could fry a green tomato on your head.  Then you can take one of the many wheeled tours about town.

Savannah is a graceful and charming southern lady with a sheepish grin that makes you wonder what she is hiding.  Tybee Island is her less sophisticated younger cousin that wants to skip class today and hang out with her friends.

To me it is a perfect beach vacation spot, laid back and not too crowded and though Tybee isn’t known for world-class restaurants, many are very good.  You can find those world-class restaurants in Savannah.

After all, all Big Surf Daddy needs is a beach and good food. And both are available on Tybee Island and in Savannah, Georgia.

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Just another serene morning on Tybee Island.

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I love the morning reflections off the water.

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Normally, I am not a morning person, but I made an effort to watch the sunrises from our balcony on this trip.

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The Cockspur Lighthouse was built in 1855 and stands 46 feet high.  It survived a Civil War battle and is now part of Fort Pulaski National Monument.

Now that we have all those annoying beach scenes out of the way, lets talk about food and sweet tea.  I love sweet tea in the south and I had it with most of the evening meals. I’m’ sure there are some who ask, “Why not every meal?” I have no answer for that.

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I bought some real good shrimp for a low country boil from Scuba Steve’s Seafood Market on Tybee Island.

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Good coffee and friendly service at Tybean Art and Coffee Bar .

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AJ’s Dockside Grill, has sunset dining and great food.

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The crispy scored flounder with sweet chili glaze at AJ’s Dockside Grill  may have been the best meal I had all week.

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My wife had the crab stew and shrimp and grits at AJ’s.  Both were very tasty.

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Current Kitchen and Cocktails serves very high-caliber food on Tybee Island.

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I am still thinking about these turmeric mussels at Current Kitchen and how delicious they were. I want to desperately repeat this dish somehow.

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The fish taco’s at Current Kitchen are made with mango salsa, chipotle, and avocado. I enjoyed these very much.

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My wife had Snapper Risotto at Current Kitchen. It looked good and tasted good.

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The Sundae Cafe on Tybee Island is another high quality restaurant with excellent food.  The exterior in a small strip center may be off-putting to some, but don’t let that dissuade  you from going here to eat.  I enjoyed this restaurant a lot.

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One of the highlight dishes for the week was the Seafood Cheesecake at the Sundae Cafe. You need to taste this at some point in your life unless you are allergic to seafood, then I would avoid it.

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I can never get enough bisque of any kind and this seafood bisque at Sundae Cafe did not disappoint me.  So rich and tasty.

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Southern Oysters Rockefeller at Sundae Cafe.  Oysters, shrimp, smoked bacon, creamed collard greens with tasso hollandaise sauce…what could be finer in this diner?

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This dessert was a special for the night at Sundae Cafe, the four of us shared it.  It had a doughnut, apple, ice cream, caramel, and topped with whipped cream.  So decadent.

 

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Pearl’s Saltwater Grille was a good find.  It is a little out of the way but only a twenty-minute drive from Tybee Island and downtown Savannah.

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The view from our table at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille.

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You can’t go south and not eat fried green tomatoes.  Pearl’s Saltwater Grille has excellent fried green tomatoes and hush puppies.

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Sophisticated southern dish of parmesan and herb crusted grouper with lump crab meat served over roasted orzo and finished with Chardonnay butter and for a little touch of the south, collards on the side.  I loved this dish at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille.

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Savannah she-crab soup at Pearl’s Saltwater Grille was rich and creamy and full of crab, so it had to be good.

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Jimmy’s Seaside Sweets is a great stop for gelato and candy.

 

LET’S VISIT SAVANNAH…

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The gold dome of Savannah’s City Hall.

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Statue of Johnny Mercer, one of Savannah’s most famous residents.  He was a prolific song writer.

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Very entertaining street musician.

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We stopped in Savannah’s Candy Kitchen in City Market, a must-stop when walking in historic downtown. Get some pralines.

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You can’t pass up Paula Deen’s Store.

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This vase on this table in Goose Feathers Cafe caught my eye in the afternoon sun.

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This is the coolest door.  The honey is pretty good also at Savannah Bee Company.

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We didn’t go in here but I loved the sign.  Later I found out that I should have gone in here for some good oysters.

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Jazz’d is a really good tapas place.  I highly recommend this place for food but especially if Trey Gurley is singing Sinatra that night.

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Oysters in the half shell at the River House . I had been reading a book by M.F.K. Fisher called Consider the Oyster,  so I was in the mood.  The River House is in an old cotton warehouse building on River Street.

 

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After spending the afternoon in Savannah, we ate at The Olde Pink House. This is an elegant restaurant in an old mansion, built in 1771, in historic downtown Savannah.

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Beautiful decor in the Olde Pink House.

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Of course an appetizer of fried green tomatoes and my only salad of the week. The Olde Pink House knows their way around this southern delicacy. It was a good start to the meal.

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I can’t begin to express how delicious the flavor of these sautéed jumbo scallops in herb butter at the Olde Pink House.  They were plated with mixed beans and mashed potatoes. It was like eating at home, if your mom was a world-class chef and you lived in a 250 year-old pink mansion.

 

The east coast of the United States has some wonderful beaches for a vacation, but for my experience on Tybee Island and the nearness to Savannah, this Georgia location is hard to beat.  Pour yourself a tall glass of sweet tea and you are almost there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Istanbul…Heybeliada Island

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I feel we are all islands in a common sea—Anne Morrow Lindbergh

 

If you are in Istanbul and want to take a break from the sightseeing and want to relax, then hop on a ferry and head over to Heybeliada Island.  This is one of the Prince Islands, the second largest one in fact.  It sits off the coast of Istanbul in the Sea of Marmara,about a thirty minute ferry ride away.

Heybeliada Island is a wonderful  place to meander through the streets at your leisure.   There are no cars, except for service vehicles.  The late afternoon sun gave us wonderful lighting to explore this island of wooden houses and store buildings, many built during the late nineteenth century.

I was drawn to a bygone time as I walked the hilly streets and thought of all the families that summered there away from the big city.  I thought about how much I have in common with these folks that desire to live on this island, where the cares of life seem far away.  The feel is definitely more relaxed here on Heybeliada Island and worth a day away from the city.

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Leaving the city of Istanbul behind for a relaxing afternoon.

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The Greek Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, built in 1857.

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Orange Tree

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Sandal Market

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A shop now occupies one of the old houses.

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Flower market.

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Beautiful architecture of old houses. Many are now shops.

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Taking a break to check out the activity on the street.

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In April on Heybeliada, wisteria was in full bloom.

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See the cat hidden behind the molding?

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A welcoming chair and table awaits on a deck.

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A ferry awaits to traverse the Sea of Marmara.IMG_2751

We had a late dinner on the pier before heading back to the Asian side of Istanbul.