I am tongue-tied. The thought of rewriting my experience has me at a loss, for words always fail me when I depend on them to relay what my eyes have seen, ears have heard and tongue has tasted. Alas, I will give it a meager go, and tell you a story about my time here in Switzerland…(well, mostly in Switzerland).
It began with a horrid transatlantic flight, where babies were screaming, a fifteen pound bag fell on my head, the earphones were blasting to a high volume every 45 min or so to be sure I was sufficiently damaged by arrival and a couple sleeping pills that not only failed at their only purpose in life but rather left me extremely anxious searching for the nearest exit when at once I remembered I was 5 miles high for the next seven hours. Tap, tap, tap…
Two hours of sleep and a transfer in London, I arrived in Milan a sight to sore eyes. But I could care less. There is no amount of awful travel that will keep me from an adventure. Really, it wouldn’t feel as gratifying if it were so easy. Right?
We hit up one of Jonathan’s favorite Italian restaurants the first night: Dal Bolognese. It was right next door to our hotel: Principe di Savoia. Walking in, you might have thought it wasn’t such a brilliant find. We were there alone in an overstaffed restaurant. Music was nonexistent. The waiters watched like hawks for our next move. ‘You ready is order?’ ‘You need a water?’ ‘You are have question?’ Yeesh. I was paranoid while eating my caprese to use the funny looking balsamic vinegar pourer-thingy for fear I would pour it incorrectly or too much… and they would see it and correct this ugly american.The caprese was mediocre at best this time of year, but I should have known better. For one thing, the waiter gave a disapproving look, yet couldn’t find a way to explain. For another, who has heard of fresh tomatoes in January. For the life of me, though, I couldn’t read their menu! And they could scarcely translate. It was safe.
By the time the next course arrived–their famous tagliatelle bolognese–I understood why it was Jonathan’s favorite. Wow. It was amazing. Perfect proportion of meat to sauce to noodle. Deliciously al dente. I looked up and saw that, as if with the snap of a finger, the large room was full of people. Many business men in suits carrying on their meetings with a meal as well as couples, girlfriends, etc. It was a happening place. Now, I couldn’t wave down a waiter if I was topless.
We washed it all down with a 2006 Castello Romitorio Brunello di Montalcino. It had been a long time since we had wine from this lovely Tuscan region. A hearty Sangiovese seemed like a perfect idea with our hearty bolognese. And it was. Though it smelled of infanticide with a hint of potential first thing out of the bottle, it opened up a bit with some time bringing on alpine notes of red berry fruit, a medicinal throw nack to luden’s cherry cough drops and even a little minty. This and the likely suspects of leathery, tart cherry, cocoa dust.
At the Gare Centrale di Milano, we waited for the train to Geneva and munched on a ham and cheese sandwich at the cafe. It was 7:30a and coffee was a non-negotiable. A few bites in, I politely reminded the server of my coffee. But he had not forgotten. It was apparently not appropriate with my savory option, so I had to wait until I finished. I wolfed it down fairly fast. However, my sweet fiancee took his sweet time (he is NOT a coffee addict). Apparently, I also had to wait until he was done as well. So all I succeeded in doing was getting a belly ache and a disgusted look from the staff. Alas, I was finally given my heroine.
We passed by some incredible little towns. One of which, Stresa, I have concluded I must return to one day. It was a quaint hillside village overlooking the alps and Lake Maggiore. Apparently it is home to some noteworthy jazz festivals, gardens and religious monuments.
Coming up on Geneva, with Lac Leman off to the left, I saw a lonely swan floating along. What was she doing there? I searched, suddenly determined to find its mate. But there was no other. A little research, and I learned most swans, the largest of the duck family, travel in flocks. Not this one.
A light lunch at the world’s weirdest hotel out by the airport and near the large sports expo center–The Starling–and I learned the meaning of the expression ‘wine is cheaper than water in Europe’, as I begrudgingly handed over $46 for a salad, a cup of soup and water (the water alone at $7). Yep, at an airport hotel.
Walking to dinner, we passed through an awesome little street in downtown Geneva–Rue Chapponiere. If you should ever visit this grand city, I recommend you check it out. I know I surely will! A little wine shop and delicatessen with meats hung high sits on the corner. It is called Il Monte Bianco. And it is my dream shop. If only we could sell meat and wine under one retail roof in Denver without all the rigamaroo. Across the street is an adorable regional restaurant called Au Petite Chalet. A couple doors down we watched some people dig into some traditional grub at La Trois Fondue, and we eye-balled the yummy fare at Post Cafe. An idyllic street we were happy to stumble upon.
We decided to play fancy and have a cocktail at the Four Seasons. Fancy it was. I decided it needed 2002 Laurent Perrier to pair the moment. Heavy laden with wood, diamond-covered women and Patek Phillipe watches on wrists (hell, even the dogs wore fur), it was candyland for the untrained eye.
We went to one of our favorite spots for a bite: Bistrot du Boeuf Rouge to get back to reality and find that the sub $50 wine bottle still exists. We enjoyed oysters, beef tips and perch from Lac du Monde. This is a cozy place full of black-rimmed intellectuals, laughter and laid-back hearty fare.
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