I may not be able to maintain this blog for the next couple of weeks because my wife Lita and I are leaving for Europe. I don’t know whether I’ll find internet cafes or the time to report on our travel, so, be patient.
We fly from Seattle to London/Heathrow where we connect by plane for Italy. This will be a test of Heathrow’s new terminal 5 where, after spending millions on a new terminal and baggage system, over 15,000 pieces of luggage were lost when the terminal opened. We are assured they have solved all the problems, but who knows?
From Heathrow we fly on to Rome and then are driven to one of my favorite small hotels located just outside Rome on the ocean. We have stayed at the Hotel La Posta Vecchia a number of times. This wonderful hotel was once the home of the oil multi-millionaire J. Paul Getty, who was at the time, one of the richest people in the world. Located on the Tyrrhenian Sea it is filled with art treasures collected by Getty from around the world. Carara marble, Venetian lamps and sculptures make it a museum as much as a hotel. An underground museum has a collection of Roman artifacts which were discovered when they were digging during construction. The food at the hotel restaurant is excellent and views of the ocean extraordinary. We have stayed here many times before. My choice of rooms is Getty’s former master bedroom which we are not staying on this trip because we are there only one night.
After spending the night to rest up at La Posta Vecchia we will be driven to the Almafi coast of Italy and the town of Ravello. Here, in this village of about 2500 people, we will spend a few days at the Hotel Caruso. This small 48 room hotel is located at the highest point of Ravello on a cliff about 1000 ft above the sea. The town was built in the 6th Century. It was an important part of the maritime Republic of Amalfi between 839 and 1200 AD. The impressive cathedral Duomo is dedicated to San Pantaleone whose blood is said to liquefy each year. From this village other interesting coastal towns are within easy driving distance. Sorrento, Positano, and a boat to Capri are all nearby. Lita and I renewed our wedding vows several years ago at the small Hotel San Pietro, built on a rocky cliff over the ocean close to the town of Positano. We have stayed at and visited this hotel many times. Almafi is the area of Italy we enjoy the most and visit the most often on our trips here.
From Ravello we will be driven to the fishing village of Savelletri di Fassano in the Puglia region of the South of Italy where we will spend a few more days at the wonderful hotel Masseria San Domenico. This area is known for its seafood. The hotel was an ancient watchtower dating back to the 15th Century and built along the coast between Bari and Brindisi. The hotel is surrounded by thousand year old olive groves and has a private beach. There is an unusually shaped salt water pool on the premises and is one of the finest hotels in the area. We have not spent much time in the South and none along the Italian Adriac sea so we are looking forward to seeing this part of Italy and enjoying the Southern Italian food.
For several thousand years the Puglia area was invaded and occupied by every Mediterranean power around including the Greeks, Romans, Normans and Spanish. Here the Knights of Malta defended themselves against the Ottoman attack. The area is famous for it’s olives and wine as well as an ear- shaped pasta called "orecchiette." It is an agricultural area with vineyards, and fields as well as rows of olive trees. This area is also where the "trulli" are located. These conical shaped buildings are used for both storage and living space. Not too far to the South is the town where dad was born. Reggio (Calabria) is located right at the toe of Italy and across from Sicily. The official name of his town was Reggio nell’Emilia, but is called Reggio. We will tour the nearby towns and area during the few days were are there.
From Puglia we fly to Paris and the elegant Hotel George V located on the Champs-Elysees. This wonderful hotel cost $31 million to build when it was opened in 1928. During the liberation of Paris in World War II, General Dwight Eisenhower was here and since then every famous person in the world has stayed here. The hotel was purchased by Saudi Prince Al Waleed who spent two years and $125 million renovating the hotel and reducing the rooms from 300 to 245. Now a Four Seasons hotel, the interior reflects the vast amounts of money spent in the renovation. For example, the marble columns and floors feature flower arrangements from California floral designer Jeff Leatham. New floral arrangements are created each week with 23 major arrangements and 150 smaller bouquets, located throughout the hotel, using 10,000 blooms ordered from Holland. Some 600 employees care the guests. It’s main dining Le Cinq, is a Michelin three star rated restaurant. This is probably one of the most beautiful and elegant hotels I have ever stayed at.
After a night’s rest in Paris we will be driven to the small coastal town of Honfleur, population 8000 people, located in lower Normandy. This beautiful harbor town had a role in the impressionist movement. Claud Monet and other impressionist artists came here to paint. Here we will visit the Sainte-Catherine church is the largest church made out of wood in France. It is a quaint and lovely small town on a beautiful harbor we have visited before. From Honfleur we will take a day trip to the Normandy American Cemetery and memorial. In June of 1944 the U.S. First Army established the temporary St Laurent cemetery for the American dead. France later granted the U.S. a perpetual concession to the land now occupied. It is managed by the American government. The cemetery is located on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach and the English Channel. It covers 172 acres and has 9,387 American military buried here. Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan has scenes taken at this location.
After spending a few days in Honfluer we will be driven to London. Our route will be through the Le tunnel sous la Manche or "Chunnel" a 32 mile undersea rail tunnel from France to the United Kingdom. Three side by side tunnels run from the Strait of Dover connecting Coquelles near Calais in Northern France. Construction began in 1987 and 15,000 workers took seven years to complete it. It is some 150 feet below the seabed and cost $10 billion to build. You drive your car on a special train and the crossing takes about 20 minutes. It is the second longest undersea tunnel in the world after Japan’s Seikan Tunnel.
In London we are spending the night at the Goring Hotel located adjacent to Buckingham Palace. A small 74 room hotel, it was opened in 1910 and was the first hotel to have central heating in London. We have never stayed in this hotel, but prefer London’s small hotels. After spending the night in London we will return home in early June. If I have an opportunity, I will report our travel progress.