Opera at the Spanish Steps in Rome

Every now and again you unexpectedly come across an event which excites. One such occassion was at the Spanish Steps.

Was it the atmosphere or was it a great performance? I suggest both.

The first performance was from a dance group. They were fantastico.

They were followed by four fabulous opera singers who sang wonderful renditions of some of our favourite songs.


Provence – France

Provence is one of the treasures of France. A great area to visit and enjoy.

The main street of Cours Mirabeau in Aix en Provence.

Just an interesting photo outside an antique shop in Aix.

Street market every day at Place Richelme in Aix en Provence.

Fresh colourful fruit and vegetables.

And even the odd sunflower.

Aix En Provence is famous as the home of Cezanne. This is the studio where he was actively painting at the beginning of the 20th century.

Garden surrounding the studio.

Restaurants in Aix were excellent. Food superb.

Here we are with the chef/owner of Le Formal restaurant in Aix situated at Rue Espariat

The country outside Aix en Provence is a combination of mountains and valleys with rugged outcrops.

Of course, the lavender fields near the “lavender town” of Sault are beautiful.

Many interesting towns in Provence. This one is Monts de Vaucluse.

This town has an amazing spring which is reputed to be one of the most powerful springs in the world.

The spring emerges at the foot of a cliff and from this a beautiful river with cold crystal clear water emerges. The spring comes from a number of mountainous sources covering over 1100 square kilometres and this is the only outlet for those sources.

The spring emerging as a river in the town.

Town centre with the crystal clear spring waters.

Another interesting town was Rousillon which is surrounded by Ochre hills, a colour typical of the region. This area was mined until more recent times. It is now a conservation area. Brilliant colour.

Another town was Beaux which was an old fortified town that was the military centre of the region for some time. Old turrets, and military equipment still exist.

Well, that’s all on Provence, for the time being anyway.

Burgundy, Beaune and wine

Burgundy always exceeds my expectations!

Beaune, the capita of the Burgundy region is just a beautiful town.

Beaune is one of the key wine centres in France. Indeed their annual wine auction is the biggest in France. One of the most fascinating buildings in Beaune is the Hospices de Beaune which was founded in 1442 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy. The Hospices were a charity running hospitals and services for the needy. The feel and style of the hospice has been recreated internally and the exterior superbly maintained.

Also known as the Hotel Dieu, it was created after a 100 year war which was particularly hard on the people of the region.

The roof tiles are set in a stunning pattern and in very good condition.

Hotel Dieu functioned as a hospital all through the period up to 1970. It was run by an order of nuns.

The main ward in the hospital.

Beds ran head to toe both sides of the ward.

The hospice had all necessary facilities including a fully functioning kitchen……

…..and a pharmacia for drug production.

And every night they have a fabulous light show on the building exterior.

Wine and viticulture dominate the region. Just beautiful scenery and so extensive. It stretches from Dijon in the north to Lyon in the south.

Burgundy is made up of a number of different areas including Chablis, Cote de Nuit, Cote de Beaune, Cote Chalonnaise, Maconnais and Beaujolais.

Its’ primary red wine is made from Pinot Noir and the white from Chardonnay. They produce just under 200 million bottles per year from 25,000 hectares of vines.

Famous names include Romanee Conti, Gevrey Chambertin, Nuit Saint George, Pommard, Pouilly Fuisse and Chablis.

It is appellation controlled with gradings of Grand Cru, Premier cru, village and regional with the best being designated Grand Cru.

Wine tastings were very, very good. Sometimes a charge is made but on all occassions very generous with plenty of explanation.

A number of wine tastings were held in caves (undergound cellars) where you go from one barrel to the next with a bottle on each barrel and a description of the wine on the wall and you help yourself…..oops I’ve poured too much vino! Great fun!

Most winemakers are small which is a welcome change from the big conglomerates. Here are a couple of the winemakers

Patrick Bize of Domaine Simon Bize et fils from Savigny-les Beaune

Gerard Quivy owner and winemaker of Les Corbeaux in Gevrey Chambertin. A Grand Cru winemaker

Forte Dei Marmi – Tuscan Coast

Forte dei Marmi is located along the northern Tuscany coast. It is noted for its sandy beaches with upmarket beach chairs, lounges and shelters. It is popular with the northern Italians along with international visitors

Beach volley ball with a difference

The town is a “label” shoppers paradise

The town of Pietrasanta is close by and well worth a visit

Main square in Pietrasanta

And further south you will find many attractive beach havens such a Viareggio

Rocca D’Orcia – Hilltop village in southern Tuscany

Rocca D’Orcia is a hilltop village situated just south of Montalcino. It was first mentioned as a fortified place back in 867 and was very strategic overlooking the Val D’Orcia. It was particularly strategic for Siena protecting it from southern raids.

It is a quiet quaint village well worth a look around.

Just above the town is Rocca a Tentennano an impressive rock fortress which dominates the valley. During Spring and Summer many Works of Art are shown. It’s worthwhile visiting.

The imposing fortress

The central well of the town

The central well of the town

A quality restaurant in the town

Sights of Rome

Sights of our favourite places in Rome.

The Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon

The Pantheon dome

Near the Pantheon

Interesting entrance and light

Piazza Navona

Bernini’s famous fountain in Piazza Navona

Movie making in Piazza delle Pace

Piazza delle Pace

Vittorio Emmanuelle monument

St Peters and Vatican city

The Roman Forum

Victory gates to the Roman Forum

The Colleseum

The Tibur

Largo di Torre Argentina hosts four Roman temples, and the remains of Pompey’s theatre. Julius Caesar was reputedly assassinated here.

Montisi, Tuscany

Montisi is a beautiful small town in southern Tuscany. Quite but just fabulous to walk around and immerse yourself in a typical southern Tuscan town

Even the residents will come out to greet you

Not happy?

It is a proud town with some wonderful floral displays

A great wine bar

One of the Montisi streets. The one on the left runs right through the town

Walking and just enjoying the tranquillity and ambience of the town

A very good organic restaurant, Da Roberto in town