Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Richard Foxall

Europe Bound, Give Me Your Expert Recommendations

Posted by Richard Foxall, May 1, 2012.

So, when we found out we would not be sending our older daughter to private school, we decided to celebrate by taking a long trip to Europe this summer.  Our flights put us in Amsterdam June 29 to July 1 or so, then we land in Rome.  We depart from Paris July 19 or so.  The rest is left to be filled in.  It'll be my first trip back since '88 (ouch!), when I spent 4+ weeks in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France.  No Italy in there; went to Avignon and could consider returning, but not an absolute must.  Also did Epernay and Reims that trip, and probably could save the return to Champagne-land for another time, too.

We're traveling with two pre-teen kids, so extended wine tasting is not in the picture.  But planting ourselves in the countryside for a week somewhere along the way is.  (Tuscany? Piemonte? Umbria?) And somewhere in there, we'll stop in Switzerland and visit a few friends.  (Guess I better try some Chasselas soon.)

So, wine-loving, world-traveling Snoothers, throw some ideas my way.  Where to eat, stop for wine, cities you would see more or less on that route.  Keep in mind that we will try very hard to NOT have a car, using trains and walking as much as possible. Pretty broad mandate, but ask questions and I can narrow a few things down. 

One thing I am strongly considering is ambling through the Loire--I know, kind of touristy--so recos on places to stay and ways to get around (probably not bicycles unless it's really short each day) are especially welcome.

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Reply by napagirl68, May 4, 2012.

Foxall... I hate you... just kidding.  I'm jealous.  I am not one to advise, hope others will.  There was a woman on here about a year ago living and making wine in the Loire.   when i was supposed to go to France to meet my sis, she offered housing for me.  The trip did not pan out, but I have to say, I am soon to be Loire-bound, especially because of my love of Vouvray.  I would be interested in hearing about your trip afterward.  Sorry I cannot put forth any ideas, but I am currently in your shoes.  :-)

I have liked Huet sparklers:

Reply by JonDerry, May 4, 2012.

Holy crap, that's awesome and you have a good chunk of time. How about Provence or the Languedoc? I'm sure the kids would love a day spent in Cassis by the gravel beach, cafe's, and even an unobtrusive wine parlor serving up fresh local offerings.

By the way, I love this line from wiki re: Cassis - "Local consumption has outpaced supply and has limited the amount of Cassis wine that could be exported. Local laws are being developed in the region to protect vineyards from being overrun with commercial and residential development from the city of Marseilles" totally fits, too. Only way to try is to visit, and the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc I sampled when I was there last was pretty damn great.

Not sure what the neighbor of Bandol is like for traveling, but the wines are better known. Obviously, Domaine Tempier gets a lot of ink, and if you bought direct you might have the pleasure of bypassing your favorite importer, Kermit Lynch.

Reply by madmanny, May 4, 2012.

One of my favorite spots is Lake Annecy.

Depending on your route, Lake Annecy in France would be a great stop with kids.  Not far south of Geneva - about an hour by car.  It's a beautiful, clear lake nestled in the middle of the Alps.  There are lake type activities, hiking near the lake and mountainside restaurants that specialize in raclette and tartaflette.  (We went to one on the SE side of the lake, near a spot where people do parachute/skydiving.  They literally drift down in front of you while eating.)  Great spot for adults and kids alike.  Picturesque town with "canals" running through it. 


Reply by Richard Foxall, May 4, 2012.

Okay, we're getting some great ideas here.  Marseilles with kids... I always think of Marseilles as a gnarly sailors and gangsters town. 

Manny, nice to see you posting.  That's an interesting suggestion, although if it gives my kids a but for skydiving, I could be sorry.  Sounds really unusual and fun, which is what they like.  (Elephant rides? So five years ago.  Let's do something new!)

Reply by Mike Madaio, May 11, 2012.

Tuscany (or Umbria) is a great place to relax for a week, but I would advise against doing it without a car. The greatness of this area is travelling to all the little hill towns that dot the area, and you really can't do that via train. I suppose you could set up home base in Florence or Siena and take some group or private tours to visit the hill towns, but staying in a city is certainly not the same thing as planting yourself in the countryside.

In particular I love Southeastern Tuscany, near Pienza/Montepulciano/Chiusi. This is the Val D'Orcia, the Tuscany of postcards. This is also Vino Nobile di Montepulciano country, which is the least known/understood of the Tuscan sangio-based wines, but perhaps the most fun (and though it may not reach the levels of great Brunello, the recent releases of VN will be much more approchable than the Brunellos while you are there!)

Parker Villas is a great resource for vacation rentals in Italy - it's aimed at Americans and we had a great experience with them.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 11, 2012.

Thanks for that lead.  I do think we might need to break down and drive, but I want to get the heck out of the cities before I get behind the wheel.  We do like our sangiovese, so that's a consideration.

Reply by Mike Madaio, May 11, 2012.

No prob. We rented our car at the Rome airport and dropped it off in Chiusi (there's a Hertz and I think an Avis near the train station) so we never actually drove in Rome proper.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 11, 2012.

I like the idea of spending some time in Rome (where we land), then taking the train to the countryside and getting the car there.  Sounds quite feasible. Avoiding driving near the airport would be a bonus, if it's anything like driving near, say, JFK in NY... or most other airports.

Reply by Mike Madaio, May 11, 2012.

If you have not been to Rome before, DEFINITELY spend some time there. One of my all time favorite cities. Nothing exciting from a wine standpoint, but lots of great food, and probably the best city ever to just wander around. And you can easily take the train up to Orvieto or Chiusi and grab a car there.

Reply by JonDerry, May 11, 2012.

Rome definitely has the wow factor, but I wouldn't say you need more than 2 days in rome, heck 1 day is enough for me to see as much as I can and move on.

Have heard great things about Sienna.

Just to clarify Fox, I've been to Cassis and it's totally kid approved. Marseilles is some 25-30km off to the north west. Of course, it's more accessible by boat, but if you commit to Provence, definitely try to plan a day in Cassis.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 25, 2012.

Okay, we're out of here in two days.  Thursday we get on the plane and head for Europe.  Here's how it shook out:

First three days in the Netherlands, staying in Leiden and taking trips to Amsterdam, Delft, maybe the Hague. 

Then, fly to Rome, where we spend about 4 full days.  No shortage of things to do, and the kids are up for Sistine Chapel, Via Appia bus, Crypt of the Capuchin monks, for a few.

Then, train to Lago Maggiore, where we will spend 4-5 days just relaxing, riding the boats and funiculars, visiting the Borromean Islands.

Train through the Alps to Geneva, where we will meet up with some friends, look at overseas opportunities, work options. 

Last stop Paris, where we will arrive on Bastille Day at 5:00 pm.  We should have a decent view of the fireworks.  Versailles, Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tour, lots of walking on the Left Bank, playing in the Luxembourg Gardens for the kids.  Then a return to the home base.

Sadly, no time to spend in wine country, except on the edge of Piedmont while at Maggiore, but still not really in wine country.  We'll do our drinking in the restaurants, and save a more wine-oriented trip for another time.

Reply by JonDerry, Jun 25, 2012.

Sounds like a nice itinerary, too bad about the wine regions but look forward to hearing about all the wines you'll be trying while dining. Who knows, maybe you could somehow sneak out to Burgundy for an afternoon while in Paris.

The Alps to Geneva stop would be one of my priorities next time in Europe, but there's so much to do there it's hard to prioritize.

Reply by outthere, Jun 25, 2012.

When in Rome do as the Romans do. Hold your wallet and purse tightly. Pick-pockets galore. Especially on the trains. Be vigilant. 

Have fun!

Reply by Mike Madaio, Jun 25, 2012.

Some quick (edit: rambling) Rome food tips:

  • Pizzeria da Baffetto: very well known, but the pies are outstanding (super-thin Roman-style crust). Try the Quattro Formaggio. Service sucks, wine sucks, it's crowded, but it's worth it. Go on a weekday.
  • As a 'za alternative, Acchiappafantasmi ("Ghostbusters") is quite good too, and they're shaped like ghosts! It's a Calabrian place, so the wine list is heavy on Calabrian wine, a rarity.
  • Roma Sparita is over in the Trastevere (cool neighborhood to walk through). If you're a Bourdain fan, this is where he eats the cacio e pepe that's served in a bowl made of Parmigiano. It was far better than the other cacio e pepe dishes I tried. (Rumors say this place is a bit more touristy now that it's more well-known).
  • Giolitti: For my money, the best gelato ever. I'd heard it had gone downhill, but I went back and it had not. If you like chocolate, the cioccolato fondente (dark chocolate) is an absolute must.
  • Aristocampo: Somewhat cheesy/touristy bar on one corner of Campo de' Fiori. Would never have gone here if not for just having had a really long day and needing a close-by drink. We were blown away by their Porchetta Panino, which is just porchetta and bread. It was incredible... and I'm from Philly (we eat a lot of porchetta).
  • Open Baladin: Resto/Bar that only serves beer. If you're into beer too, go here! Great selection of Italian craft brewers. We just had snacks to eat.

Lastly, make sure you get some Burrata cheese over there. You can find the stuff here now, but there's just something about it there that's better. (I know, a cliche).


Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 26, 2012.

Thanks, Mike, that's some great info.  We're going to do some touristy things, so the kids can go back when they are older and do the more interesting things.  But eating decently is a must! 

We live in Oakland, CA, home of a Calabrian cookbook author, so we've got some interest in Calabrian food and wine, so Acchiappafantasmi sounds weird but worth a visit.

Reply by duncan 906, Jun 26, 2012.


When you are in Paris just go to the local supermarket and check out the selection and the prices of the wines.The Auchan chain in particular have a massive range of wines to suit all tastes and budgets.I am not sure how much you will be able to take back to America [remember it must be in your checked baggage] or what the rules are in America about importing wine.There is also a wine shop in the departure lounge at the airport but that does not carry the range nor is it very competitive on price

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jun 26, 2012.

Thanks, duncan, I seem to remember you bought wine right before getting on the train or ferry or something.  Some great deals there.  Paris is probably the only chance I will get to buy bottles that I might bring home--would have to get a carrier, too.  Otherwise too much to lug.  We come thru customs in Salt Lake, so that would be kind of funny.  Since we have an apt in Paris and will probably cook for ourselves a few nights, I expect I will buy things at the supermarkets.  Yum.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 10, 2012.

Wanted to update a little on the trip.  We followed Mike Madaio's recommendations to a degree. Traveling with the kids means not too many fancy dinners--we have a babysitter in Paris, so we'll go somewhere nice there (recos for something good, not predictable, reasonable with an interesting wine list would be appreciated!) 

Giolitti was in a class by itself. The intensity of the flavors was out of this world. My younger daughter loves mint, but it was a bit too much. Her caramel put our homemade dulce de leche ice cream far out of contention. The older girl had the cioccaloto fondente both times we went. A great incentive when we needed to get them to go on a long walk.

We tried to go to "ghostbusters" but got there too early and the girls couldn't wait, so we went to da Baffetto. We had thin crust pies that were terrific and later learned they cure their own meats. We would go back for the antipasti and salumi next time. 

Okay, all, recos for Paris, s'il vous plait.

Reply by JonDerry, Jul 10, 2012.

I just e-mailed a family friend who's from France...hopefully she'll have some good rec's for you.

Reply by Mike Madaio, Jul 10, 2012.

Glad you got some use out of my recs!

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