We have been to Europe many times and visited every country on the continent. These notes are limited to our last few trips and include Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, San Marino, Malta, England, Scotland and Iceland.
Spend your time in the Temple Bar area, very lively.
Try Gallagher’s Boxty House for a typical Irish dinner. Great traditional Irish food, friendly people, great service.
For desert, try the Queen of Tarts Pastry Shop Café The best tarts ever – strawberry rhubarb crumb/ plum/ apple-blackberry crumb
A Beautiful fishing village in Wicklow County with a cliff to walk/ run the Bray.
Stay at Slievemore B & B
Stay at the Hotel Regina (the best hotel right in the heart of everything)
Eat at the Michelin 3 star Taillevent Restaurant, one of the best rated restaurants in the world.
Brasserie Balzar (a small brasserie for a typical Parisian meal)
Chez Francis Paris restaurant w/ view of Eiffel Tower – good muscles and sole.
Eat at Le Safari ‘au feu de bois’ Try the speghetti a la mare
Stay at the Hotel Majestic
Eat at La Belle Epoque Fantastic chateaubriand and fries near hotel
This is a small relatively unknown fishing village in Southwest France where the french vacation.
Stay at the Hotel des Dunes. This charming hotel is located just off a relatively deserted dunes
Eat the best seafood anywhere at Le Bouchon du Ferret
Chez Boulan Ostreiculteur Oyster bar overlooking the bay – heaven.
Capital city of the Basque country
Stay at Le Grand Hotel Beautiful old hotel in the heart of the city
Famous beach resort in southern France.
Eat at Chez Kako Fun little restaurant on a small street near the beach
(We biked through the Burgundy region of France and below are some of the best hotels and restaurants from this trip)
Les Millesimes Fabulous, 2* Michelin Restaurant – in a cave.
Chateau Le Clos Des Tourelles (beautiful castle to spend a few nights in)
Hotel de Greuze Excellent hotel/ restaurant
Le Rempart Yet another excellent hotel/ restaurant
Chateau de Pizay What a wonderful setting – highly recommend
We spent a week in the Dordogne River Valley biking around the area.
We rented bikes from Robert at Aquitaine Bikes Outstanding. Great bikes, great service and wonderful recommendations about where to ride, stay and eat. Be sure to take a boat ride down the Dordogne River.
We stayed in the hotels below:
Hotel le Foret (excellent small hotel with a good restaurant in a cute little town)
Hotel de Bordeaux (small hotel highly recommended)
Le Vieux Logis (a splurge hotel with beautiful grounds and a Michelin * restaurant)
Le Cro Magnon (hotel built into the mountains near the famous Cro Magnon caves)
Hotel Clement V (small hotel – highly recommended)
Cadouin Perigord Noir
Villa Marguerite (small B&B, the owners treat you as family – a beautiful and economical place to stay while exploring the region)
*Be sure to visit the Grotte de font de gaume.
Hotel de Selves Elegant hotel near old city of Sarlet
Villa in Sarlat We rented a villa in Sarlat for a week, and can highly recommend it. 4 bedrooms with a pool, overlooking the town of Sarlat with a 5 minute walk into town). Sarlat is a great place to spend a week. We rented the villa from French Affair. Unfortunately, Affair Travel has since gone out of business.
Le Présidial, 6 rue Landry. Wonderful restaurant in Sarlat in the heart of the old town.
Hotel d’ Europe Gastronomic dinner at Hotel restaurant, very good.
Crillon de brave
Hostellerie de Crillon de Brave Great views of Mt. Ventoux, the Vaucluse Plateau and Crillon-le-Brave.
La Bastide de Gordes Great location in the heart of the town.
Andorra is a small independent republic situated between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains. It is known for skiing and shopping.
Hotel Coma (great ski lodge, no wifi in room)
Bike tours Barcelona – great way to see the city
Hotel Balmes (good location, upscale, excellent for Barcelona. No wifi in room)
Mason Castilla more modest and economical hotel in great location 2 blocks form Las Rambles for a very reasonable price.
Teo’s Restaurante-Cafeteria – great tortilla Espanola near Hotel Balmes
Can Mayo in Barceloneta -best seafood paella in Barcelona
Marina Moncho’s – great seafood lunch (muscles, calamari, lobster) in Barceloneta
Cerveceria Catalania – fabulous beer bar and tapas restaurant. The best tapas bar on the planet
Sagardi – great tapas bar for lunch
Gay friendly town on the beach just south of Barcelona, you can rent chaises on beach under a cabana and watch the passing parade.
Hotel Romantic Inexpensive fine place to stay (lived up to its name)
Mare Nostrum – the best seafood and great atmosphere on beach, highly recommend
Fragata – great seafood paella on beach
Hotel Mar I Vent In a small traditional town with great view of Meditaranean.
Three great restaurant choices in Banyabufar are:
Restaurante Son Tomas – great restaurant with Campillino. Try the paella and rape with a bottle of Rioja
Restaurant Es Trast – beautiful enclosed garden setting
Ca’n Paco – traditional restaurant. Great rape again and squid.
Hotel San Lorenzo In old city, sweat but in the morning we had no water. Hopefully the problem has long since been resolved.
Mallorca is a bikers paradise. You can rent bikes and pedal around Palma or the entire island. Check out Bike Mallorca
Ada Palace Good hotel well located.
Walk around the Plaza Santa Ana at night and stop by for tapas at Meson Cinco Jotas
Rent bikes at Bike Spain
Hotel Niza Right on beach with fabulous view
Hike up to the status of Jesus, Monte Urgul
Rent a bike at Bici Rental
Have a delicious fish lunch at Bernardo Etxea in a fabulous old city restaurant
Have breakfast on the beach at Café de la Concha
Pintxos crawl at night – sample the delicates in the local bars:
Bar Txepetxa Specializes in anchovies with 20 different toppings
Bar Ganbara Specializes in wild mushrooms
La Cepa Temple to pata negra ham from Jabugo. Eat all with a glass of txakoli, a fizzy white wine poured from theatrical heights.
Branka, Specializes in seafood.
Hotel Historic Small romantic boutique hotel in the heart of the old city, right next to the Cathedral (that means lots of bells going off at odd hours!) Lance Armstrong used to stay here while training for the Tour de France.
Draps Excellent typical Catalonian food
Casa Marieta Another great restaurant choice in Girona.
Divinum The best place for tapas in Girona
Sant Feliu de Guxols
Hotel Sant Pol Right on the beach with great view and fabulous restaurant)
Calella de Palafrugell
Hotel Garbi Fabulous view of city and sea, fine hotel.
Have a big bowl of mussels on the beach at Restaurant Tony’s (Carrer les votes 9 Cabella) with an incredible view of the sea and the boats.
Torroella de Montgri
Hotel Moli del Mig Old mill with lots of charm and upscale restaurant.
Hotel Mirallac Great location on lake but not 4*.Don’t eat at the hotel restaurant. Eat out!
Hotel Can Blanc Beautiful hotel with wonderful grounds. Lots of land around, and next to a great volcanic cuisine restaurant
La Deu Fabulous volcanic restaurant, tables outside across from our hotel Can Blanc.
Parador de Ubeda Very comfortable parador in old city
El Porche Restaurante Walked to new city in Ubeda for an excellent typical restaurant.
Hotel Huerta de las Palomas Good hotel, Scottish woman owned it with her Spanish husband
La Bobadilla – 5 star resort. Sherry tasting in El Cortijo courtyard and private dinner on the patio – splurge hotel.
Hosteria del Laurel Nice little hotel in great location
La Alicantina Tapas bar, nice outdoor restaurant, had mushroom paella and little shrimp
Hotel America This is in the Alhambra, right next to the Parador de San Francisco; small cozy hotel, highly recommend.
Carmen Mirador de Aixe In old city, great view of Alhambra, wonderful restaurant. Long walk to the restaurant from Hotel America but pleasant along romantic most walked street in Europe.
Carmen de San Miguel Near Alhambra Palace Hotel, nice view of new city; great food, highly recommend.
We rented an apartment and took Spanish lesions in Nerja for two weeks
Ayos Famous for paella on the beach, also has great atun (tuna) salads.
Pepe Rico Slightly more fancy than Ayos, try the gambas pil pil
We traveled from Madrid to the Northern Coast of Spain, stopping at “Paradores”. These are historical buildings such as monasteries and castles, taken over by the Spanish Government, renovated, and turned into luxury hotels. Parar means to stop, halt or stay. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling in Spain (we love Spain, one of our favorite countries), consider applying for “amigos” status, which gives you discounts and special offers at all of the paradors. Information is available on their general website www.parador.es/en/
Below are a few of the best paradors we stayed at (and some restaurants):
Parador de Toledo This Parador has the best view ever. Make reservations early, at least 6 months in advance.
Hostel del Cardenal Wonderful food in a garden setting, has the tipico Perdiz (Partridge)
Great old walled city, steep hills, famous “hanging house” old buildings
Parador de Cuenca Convento de San Pablo
Meson Casa Colgadas In the “hanging house” fabulous lunch
Parador de La Granja. Great spa, summer palace and gardens.
Asador Gasolina Excellent restaurant in Palencia. Great veal steak and pork loin with fries
Parador Santillana Gil Blas Luxury Parador, one of the best.
Restaurant Gran Duque Highly recommended restaurant in Cantabria
El Retiro Restaurante Local fish restaurant
Hotel Palacio Sonanes Great castle turned into a hotel.
La Guxia Small country restaurant near Llanes
Mirador de Toro, (Avda. De Toro, 33500 Llanes). Fancy fish restaurant on beach with view – try the almejos marinara.
Beach suburb of Santander
El Cuadrante Posada Like a B&B, very comfortable
La Alberuca Small restaurant near hotel, wonderful.
Town famous for paellas –BEST paella.
Meson La Casuca, Avda. Benedicto Ruiz, n. 561, 39170 Ajo, Cantabria
Parador Hondarribia Top parador, on hill, fabulous view of ocean, and town.
Drove to Rioja wineries:
Eat at restaurant Biazteri Laguardia
Santa Margherita Ligure
Hotel Laurin Excellent! Best view of the water and the boat harbor
Ristorante Bar Pizzeria daGiovanni Great pizza and muscles.
Take the train from Santa Margherita Ligure to Monterosso. Walk through all the villages of the Cinque Terre then return from Riomaggiore to Monterosso then home to Santa Margherita Ligure.
Gambero Rosso ristorante Fabulous restaurant after our hard walk – in one of the cinque terre towns
Trattoria “Da O Battj” Fabulous for scampi/ spaghetti w/ olives
Tenuta Moreno The Tenuta Moreno is a beautiful Resort built around a typical 18th century farmhouse called the Masseria.
La Locanda di Messapi Fabulous restaurant
Torre Coccaro This masseria was built in the XVI century. 5 Stars (fabulous – best hotel we stayed at in Puglia)
Hotel Sovrano Adequate but we recommend staying in a Trulli house in old city instead.
Casa Isabella Casa Isabella is the exclusive “Dimora” created out of the old interiors of the San Basilio Mottola Ducal Palace, an important centre of art with origins dating back to the ancient Magna Graecia.
Lunch at olive oil factory Azienda Agricola
Locanda di San Martino An 18th Century hotel situated in a quiet area of the city center with superb views of the Romanesque Cathedral and Sasso Barisano.4 Stars (excellent – built into rocks of the old city)
The 9th Hole – wine tasting
Hotel Luna Convento Great location beautiful view of ocean and Amalfi from room – recommend
Ristorante Villa Maria (Salerno) Restaurant is in an old building on a hillside with incredible views of Amalfi and the coast. The food was excellent.
Hotel Antiche Mura Great location in center of Sorrento, excellent
Ristorante Zi’Antonio Great pizza and lobster ravioli
Ristorante La Lanterna Outside patio, off main street, and great food
Ristorante Vecchia Roma Fantastic – great pasta and seafood
Castellina in Chianti
Riva Del Garda
We stayed in the center of the old town at Art Hotel Commercianti – a wonderful hotel off the main plaza.
There are gourmet trattoria’s all over town serving mouth watering fresh pasta dishes:
Trattoria Gianni –great pasta with Bolognese sauce
Da Nello “al Montegrappa” – great lasagna.
In Naples Stay at the boutique hotel La Ciliegina Lifestyle Hotel – a small hotel near the harbor with art deco rooms and wonderful service.
If you’re in Naples you must sample the pizza some think is the best in the world. We ate at the newly opened pizzeria of top pizzaiolo, Gino Sorbillo, Lievito Madre al Mare
Another pizzeria with excellent pizza close to the hotel is Trattoria Pizzeria Ciro a medina
If you really fall in love with Naples style pizza, here is a webpage where you will find Naples style pizza in many cities throughout the world www.pizzanapoletana.org
Catania is the second largest city in Sicily and a stepping off point to see many of the sites and ruins in Sicily. We stayed at the Hotel Katane Palace in the heart of the old city. Primarily a business hotel they have a great bar and a really helpful staff.
Great Sicilian food is everywhere. Try Taverna dei Conti for an informal meal at a typical taverna with bright lights, they even entertain you will an Italian singer.
For a more romantic setting, try Trattoria Catania Ruffiana The seafood is amazing but beware of big portions.
Up the coast a bit from Catania is Aci Castillo, the sight of a castle on the sea. You can have cappuccinos at “Blanca Bar” (P.zza Castillo, 17/18 Aci Castillo) on your way up north to Taormina, the sight of the impressive Roman ruins and ancient theatre overlooking Mt. Edna and the coast.
You can take an hour train ride from Bologna to Rimini and then board a bus for another hour’s ride to the Independent Republic of San Marino.
Stay at Cesare Hotel a sweet hotel right in the old town. Their restaurant is also excellent
Eat at Ritrovo dei Lavoratori – a restaurant with a grand view and great pasta, and steak with truffles
Righi (P.zza Liberta)– also a great restaurant choice, more formal than Ritrovo.
We stayed at the impressive 5 star Hotel Phoenicia, a beautiful old hotel with a great view just at the edge of the old town. The lounge is elegant and the staff of the hotel in general is magnificent. Well deserved five stars.
Two exceptional gift shops:
First, the gift shop in the Casa Rocca Piccola, 72 Republic Street, Valletta, for upscale gifts, art, cds featuring local musicians and Ghana, the traditional Maltese folk music, and books. (Also truly gracious and generous staff members for advice and consultation.)
Second, for a great kitschy souvenir shop run by a true Maltese character, (Mr. Chandru N. Mohnani) who will pose for pictures if you only ask; you will find him at 34 Melita Street, Valletta.
For a great dinner in an informal family run restaurant off the main drag, try Stupor Mundi 64, Republic St. They have wonderful seafood, excellent homemade pasta, a good (modest) wine list and a British classical guitarist played music for us outside, great experience.
For breakfast go to Kantina Café & Wine on St. John’s Square. The food and people watching can’t be beat. This is where you can get an excellent and authentic French croissant and great cappuccinos.
And do not fail to eat the Malta specialty, Ftira bread, something like a pizza only better! By far, the best Ftira in town is at Nenu the Artisan Baker – don’t miss this. Ask if the boss is around and shake the hand of “the man” – such a charmer. If it isn’t crazy busy, (but it almost always is, so try to go early), you might get to see the pizza oven. It’s big enough to climb inside, but…(disclaimer) Desto3 thinks that’s a very bad idea and we take no responsibility for those who try.
We enjoyed a week-long bike trip on 2 beautiful Greek islands, Lesvos and Chios. We took an overnight ferry from Athens (Piraeus port) to Lesvos (7PM to 7AM)
Molivos (or Mithymna)
Olive Press Hotel Simple room directly on the sea.
Captian’s Table Seafood restaurant on the small harbor. Excellent!
Go to the famous healing hot springs from the sea! Visit the Genoan castle built in Byzantine times
Hotel Kyma in Skala Eressos is right on the beach, simple but great view
Soulatso and Adonis – two great seafood restaurants on beach.
Hotel Pasiphae Good hotel with pool near the beach.
Medusa restaurant Directly on the port, good seafood
Visit Agiassos, a beautiful traditional town, for great lunch and photographs.
Hotel Pyrgos Mytilini An old Victorian mansion, best hotel in city.
Go to Ermou street for sight seeing and dinner. Two good restaurant choices are Sunjibal and Epnoy.
Visit the bazaar in Ayvalik and the ruins in Pergamon.
Go to Plomari, the town where ouzo was born.
We took a ferry from Lesvos to Chios.
Chandris Hotel A modern hotel on harbor with great view
Perlaes Mansion in Kambos Wonderful hotel within walled city.
Talini Taverna in Thymiania. Great food in traditional town.
Go to Roustiko Taverna for dinner (more formal, and also wonderful). Had imam baldi Turkish eggplant specialty.
Visit the picturesque Mastic villages. Pyrgi (beautiful paintings on walls), Olympi and Masta.
We splurged on the St. James Court Hotel, a luxurious hotel right next to Buckingham Palace. No regrets.
Breakfast in the hotel runs about twenty five GBP a person but there’s plenty of stuff around the corner way, way cheaper. For breakfast and sandwiches next to the hotel, try the Royal Quarter Café
For a very typical English pub experience you might try the Phoenix Pub. The atmosphere is just what you’d expect from a pub and the food, well, it’s pub food! Excellent fish and chips. Great draft beers and ales. Reasonable prices for London.
If you find yourself needing to catch an early flight at Heathrow, we can heartily recommend the Holiday Inn London Heathrow. Outstanding for an airport hotel, convenient, quiet, dark, and has a spectacular restaurant with great chicken curry, excellent chicken sandwiches, good chips, nice, helpful people, and made to order breakfasts. This experience changed everything I used to believe about hotel restaurants.
The best car service in London is Beaumonts. Fast, efficient, helpful with airport transfers at the last minute and super nice.
Walk around old city in the evening, and take a stroll through the Princess Gardens. The Edinburgh Castle and buildings in the old town are lit up and the city looks like a fairy tale city!
Have lunch or afternoon tea or coffee at Ryan’s pub. We had beef, bacon and mushroom pie with mashed potatoes while waiting for the rain to stop – it is always raining in Scotland ☺ Also free wee-fee!
We recommend a beautiful traditional Scottish restaurant in the old town called Angels with Bagpipes
When in Scotland one must try the traditional “whores’ food”, haggis. (Everyone makes this dish slightly differently so if you don’t like one version, try a couple more. It’s best if you don’t know too much about what’s in it.) Angels with Bagpipes is a good place to sample them as a starter.
We rented a car and drove from Edinburgh to Inverness with a stop for lunch and to see the castle and church graveyard in Stirling. The drive was about 4 hours.
Lunch at a cute coffee shop called Cisco’s in Stirling (70 Port Street). Have a haggis and mozzarella Panini. The pastries looked fabulous but we resisted. I regretted my restraint instantly. The caps were good though.
We stayed at the Glenmoriston Town House Hotel, a fabulous hotel on the river.
Have dinner at one of the two hotel restaurants. We ate at Contrast (the other was more formal, both wonderful). The mussels and the sea bass with Thai coconut milk were grand.
We drove up to the Isle of Skye, a 2 hour drive.
We stayed at the Duisdale House, a beautiful small hotel with an outstanding view and elegant room. Included in the very pricy price of the room was a “fine dining” dinner and great salmon and eggs breakfast.
Of all places we visited in Scotland the Isle of Skye was the best. Skye is the place to go in Scotland. Beautiful, no bugs, and relatively remote. Book a day sailing on the private yacht of the Duisdale House for 145 GDP per person.
Next we drove about 4 hours to the Trossachs and stayed at a B&B on Loch Lomond called Loch Lomond Country House in Tarbet. The B&B was run by a very friendly woman and had an unparalleled view of Loch Lomond, but this was ‘midge’ season so millions of tiny bugs were waiting outside anxiously hoping we would step outside so they could eat us alive, making this a very hard to enjoy destination.
The local church turned into a restaurant/ pub is a superb spot for a pint and internet session. Called Slanj, some may appreciate the traditional garb. (The waiter was wearing a kilt.)
Dinner at The Village Inn, an informal inn on Loch Long, had great fish and chips and rhubarb crumb pie.
We stayed at the Icelandair Reykjavik Marina Hotel. The hotel was in the best location in town, right on the marina, and had a view of port. The rooms were quirky and small but charming, and the breakfasts were wonderful. They could certainly use darker shades on the windows since the sun never went down when we were visiting (in June).
We had dinner at Icelandic Fish & Chips in the Volcano House. This was by far the best fish and chips ever! Sorry, Great Britain!
We highly recommend exploring the city with the Segway tour. (Find them in the marina next to the whale watching tours.) The tour lasts for 2.5 hours and costs $250 for 2 persons. Lots of fun.
If you like musical instruments, we stumbled upon a music shop with instruments from all over the world www.sangitamiya.is
Have the best lobster soup of your life at a small family run restaurant on the marina called Saegreifinn
Eat dinner at: Prir Frakkar A good restaurant, charming, small and wonderful seafood. For the more adventuresome one can try horse, raw shark, and sea bird. But the seafood is fresh and fabulous here also. Try the cod in mustard sauce or the mussels and arctic char.