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Vacations: This vacation (Permalink):

Stockholm & Paris, 2011
From Thursday, Sep. 1st, 2011 till Tuesday, Sep. 13th, 2011
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 23rd, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 29th, 2011 at 7:17 AM
Click on the city names in the calendar to see our blog for the day.

Thursday, Sep. 1st, 2011 — In the air
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 17th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 29th, 2011 at 7:19 AM
We're off on another adventure!

Jonathan & Noosha, Nick's cousin's son and future daughter-in-law, had graciously invited us to their small wedding in Sweden. We decided to include a visit to Paris to see our good friends, Agnès & Jose-Maria, as part of the trip. They, in turn, invited us to join them for a weekend in the Loire Valley to attend a friend's birthday party.

Our plans had expanded into a fun-filled trip!



Our departure, while frantic with a few last minute details, went fairly smoothly. We were picked up promptly by our limo, check-in at Newark was very easy, despite the weight of our luggage full of Nick's camera equipment, and the plane departed almost promptly.
Friday, Sep. 2nd, 2011 — Paris, France
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 22nd, 2011 at 4:07 AM
We were staying with our friends, Agnès & Jose-Maria, at their Paris flat.

After getting a French SIM card for our cell phone, we went to pick up the apartment keys from Agnès at Palais du Luxembourg where she worked. This was complicated by the fact that when we tried to phone her, we got a recording in rapid French telling us the call couldn't get through. We ended up stopping a diplomat going into the building who graciously helped us in connecting with her.

Once settled, we went to Rue Muffetard for lunch. At Le Mouffetard Café we had La Salade de Sud Ouest (duck liver). The woman at next table was from Norwalk.

We ate dinner with our friends at their flat. We had a quiche and a cherry tart for dessert.
Saturday, Sep. 3rd, 2011 — Loire Valley (Vendôme)
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Sunday, Sep. 25th, 2011 at 12:01 PM
In the morning Jose-Marie took us to the open air market on Boulevard de Port Royal, where the locals go, to pick up tomatoes & mozzarella for lunch. We admired the long tables of fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, breads, and chocolate.

That evening, we would be attending the birthday party of a long time friend of Agnès, who was the mayor of Vendôme, a small city in the Loire Valley about 90 minutes out of Paris.

So, in the afternoon, we headed off to Vendôme, with our friends. The reception like party was remarkable. A Moroccan tent, under the stars set up in nearby Azé farmland, was the setting for the appetizers and cocktails. Everyone had to wear something red. A photographer took snaps of each couple holding a red frame—very clever.

We were warmly welcomed by the guest of honor and her family. A daughter had been a nanny back in Stamford, CT.

Dinner, in another tent, was a big catered affair, with endless French food, speeches, and dancing into the night.

Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Dec. 26th, 2012, modified Wednesday, Dec. 26th, 2012 at 1:15 PM
“This is great!” Nick—the author said, because it meant special characters are preserved.
Sunday, Sep. 4th, 2011 — Loire Valley (Blois)
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Saturday, Sep. 24th, 2011 at 2:23 AM
We stayed overnight, in a two bedroom apartment in Vendôme. Jose-Maria picked up eggs & cheese, from the food store, owned by a fourth generation Spanish family. Agnès prepared a delicious omelette for us all.

We wandered around medieval Vendôme. We visited the Cathedral, built around 1,100 and took in the charm of the little city.

After chatting with our very proper English speaking landlady who taught English at a nearby trade school, we headed out to Blois where I had located a hotel central to our chateau hunting, the next adventure on our trip.

We found the inexpensive Hotel Ibis, checked in, and visited the big chateau in town. Wanting to avoid traffic, Agnès & J-M headed back to Paris while we rested our feet. We ate at La Scala, an Italian pizzeria. B had salmon, N had Veal Marsala with a white sauce—more French than Italian.
Monday, Sep. 5th, 2011 — Loire Valley (Blois)
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 22nd, 2011 at 4:10 AM
For chateau hunting you need a car. We took a taxi to the Hertz ("eartz"), just out of town. We noted that you can't rent a car in France if you're over 70. It's getting tight!

For our first stop, we visited Chateau la Chambord, the grandest chateau of the Valley. It's absolutely amazing that this huge and magnificent structure was just built to be a hunting lodge. After taking it in we finished the visit with a fabulous quiche Lorraine and lemon tart at its café.

After lunch, we visited Chateau Beaugard and its famous portrait gallery. It had 327 portraits of kings, queens, princes, popes, cardinals, great captains and writers, scholars, and others who were famous in their day, the 14th & 15th centuries.

Back in Blois we ate country French food at a restaurant called Castelet. B had fondant de porc with apple cider & cream. N had salmon on a bed of lentils, cooked to absolute perfection. Mousse au chocolat for dessert. Fabulous meal—the best of the trip!
Tuesday, Sep. 6th, 2011 — Paris, France
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 22nd, 2011 at 4:16 AM
The last chateau of our trip was Cheverny, considered to be one of the most beautifully decorated of those in the Loire Valley. It is also famous for its hunting dogs, taken out twice a week in the fall for hunts, and its gardens, used to grow flowers and vegetables for the main house. There are 70 hunting hounds of a unique crossbreed raised at the chateau.

The interior rooms were magnificent. The main hall was lined with scenes from Don Quixote, the most popular novel of the day, and flowers were everywhere, of course.

We ate lunch at its café in the orangerie behind the chateau, another quiche.

We drove back to "Eartz" in Blois to return the car and head back to Paris. The only problem was, we showed up at 1:30 PM, but the rental agency was closed from noon till 2 PM in Southern European fashion. We had to park and wait. A quick cab and we got the train back to Paris—an easy trip.

Our hosts were occupied for the evening, so we were on our own for Dinner. We each ate roast chicken, at Le Comptoir Marguery, which did not excite us. The panna cotta with raspberries on top hit the spot, however.
Wednesday, Sep. 7th, 2011 — Paris, France
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Saturday, Sep. 24th, 2011 at 2:27 AM
Our big tourist day for sightseeing Paris.

High on Barbara's list of places to visit were La Sainte-Chapelle, which we'd never seen before, and Notre Dame Cathedral, which we hadn't seen since Carla was an infant.

La Sainte-Chapelle is a chapel with 15 huge floor to celling 15th century stained glass windows depicting biblical stories. Notre Dame is the iconic cathedral that took more than 200 years to build. Although they are both on the IŒle de la Cité, they are very different places of worship.

We ate lunch across from Notre Dame, salad with Spanish ham, quite good for a tourist trap restaurant. We chatted with other Americans enjoying Parisian vacations.

Since Jose-Maria was free to join us, we wanted to visit a sight he had not seen before. Musée de l'Orangerie, near Place de la Concorde, had been recently renovated, and was chock full of impressionistic works. Afterwards, we walked though Jardin des Tuileries, towards the Louvre and a metro back to the apartment, snacking on gelati au chocolat & pistachio.

For dinner we ate together at l'Agrume, highly rated. We shared Spanish ham as an appetizer. J-M & Barbara went for the risotto w/crayfish, while Agnès & Nick had a John Dory fish.
Thursday, Sep. 8th, 2011 — Stockholm, Sweden
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 11th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 22nd, 2011 at 4:26 AM
Off to Stockholm.

We said our good-byes to Jose-Maria and Agnès, thanking them for their wonderful hospitality.

Barbara wanted to get to the airport early, because of flight problems we had had earlier in the year. But Charles de Gaulle Airport was both uncrowded and efficient, so it all went very smoothly.

Before takeoff, we shared a sandwich of sun dried tomato & cheese. Two hours later we were in Stockholm.

We were blown away by the beautiful hardwood floors of the Arlanda Airport and their efficient operation. A 20 minute ride on the Arlanda Express train brought us to Central Station and a quick taxi to the hotel without getting wet from the on and off rain of Sweden in the fall.

The Hotel Stureplan's computer couldn't find our prepaid reservation. When finally found, we were rewarded with an upgrade to a really glorious room that had a king size bed, a huge picture window facing a quiet courtyard, and even a fireplace.

The hotel recommended dinner at Restaurang Prinsen, a very popular upscale brasserie founded in 1897. The only reservation available was at 9 PM. It was a elegant introduction to Swedish cuisine. B had roast veal. Nick had a Swedish seafood specialty punctuated by the ever present boiled potatoes.
Friday, Sep. 9th, 2011 — Stockholm, Sweden
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 13th, 2011, modified Thursday, Sep. 22nd, 2011 at 4:27 AM
Touring Stockholm

The hotel had a really nice buffet for breakfast. Featured were Swedish meatballs, all kinds of herring and salmon, eggs prepared several ways, dried meats, cheeses, fancy breads and fruits.

Rosita & John arrived, bleary eyed from Hawaii, and we sat with them while they ate breakfast and got oriented. After breakfast, we all went on a bus & boat tour of Stockholm—very informative. After the boat trip we had a lunch of salad with shrimp in the park near the dock.

Back at the hotel John and Rosita's room was ready and they wasted no time heading there for much needed sleep. We wanted to see more of Stockholm so off we went on a self-guided walking tour of Gamla Stan, Stockholm's medieval old town. This was their original walled city, so homes and cobbled-stoned streets were compact, around squares having a local well. It was all surprisingly similar to what we've seen in Italy.

Later, Rosita and John had awakened so we were ready venture out again. The concierge at the hotel said all the restaurants we looked up on the Internet were tourist traps. He suggested KB, popular with the locals. The appetizer was a herring ("sill" in Swedish) assortment. Barbara had a seafood stew. John choose lamb. Rosita and Nick both adore calves liver, and as it's is rarely seen on a menu, they ordered and enjoyed that.
Saturday, Sep. 10th, 2011 — Ingarö, Sweden
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 13th, 2011, modified Saturday, Sep. 24th, 2011 at 3:44 AM
Jonathan & Noosha's wedding day.

After breakfast at the hotel, Barbara & Rosita went to Sturegallerian, an indoor shopping mall. They both fell in love with the fur lined children's clothing.

We had lunch at Stureplan Hof nearby. This restaurant is semi-famous having been founded in 1897. The founders of Volvo automobiles met there when they decided to build cars.

It was off to Säby Säteri a "manor house" in Ingarö where all the festivities were to take place. We would be spending the night and would return to Stockholm the next day.

The hotel arranged a taxi for us, about a 40 minute trip out of town. To find the venue, the taxi driver had to ask at a gas station and consult our own GPS. Agneta was there to greet us and get us oriented.

We changed into our wedding attire, Nick set up his video camera and we began to meet Noosha's extended family. They were all very warm and welcoming. Noosha and John wanted a small, meaningful and intimate celebration and that is exactly what it was.

After reciting their personal vows, they were Mr. & Mrs. Jonathan Stolfi! Next was champagne and appetizers on the patio, followed by a very delicious formal four course dinner that included several named wines [look up the menu.] Dancing into the night followed and Barbara & Nick did their best to be involved in all the festivities!

Around midnight as per custom, a smorgasbord of Swedish specialties was set up for all those of us who had built up an appetite from all that dancing including Jansson's temptation, a casserole of potatoes and anchovies with a cream sauce, beet salad, a hash, and sweets. Tired, we went off to bed with smiles on our faces.
Sunday, Sep. 11th, 2011 — Stockholm, Sweden
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 13th, 2011, modified Tuesday, Sep. 27th, 2011 at 1:04 PM
The morning after.

A nice breakfast buffet greeted those who were functioning in the morning. We explored the property, a fruit orchard with a shop for the locals to which they brought their apples for pressing into cider.

Agneta invited the four of us to lunch at her home in the country the following day. The same taxi that dropped us off, picked us up, as the driver now knew how to get there. We enjoyed chatting with him. He had come from Persia and settled in Stockholm. He spoke very good English and had vacationed in Los Vegas.

Lunch again at Stureplan Hof. As it was our last little time in Stockholm, Barbara & Nick walked to the Vasa Museum, which featured the only example left of a 16th century warship, raised from the deep.

At dinnertime, we dove into a drenching rain to East, an Asian restaurant as close as possible to the hotel. Nick had sushi. John had Korean pancakes. Rosita had chicken and Barbara had softshell crap. Thankfully the downpour was over by the time we got out.
Monday, Sep. 12th, 2011 — Stockholm, Sweden
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 13th, 2011, modified Tuesday, Sep. 27th, 2011 at 1:06 PM
A visit to Agneta's house in the country.

John caught an early plane back to Honolulu.

In the morning, we visited the indoor food market, ÷stermalms Saluhall. Yum! We enjoyed the sights of cheeses, meats, fish, and delicacies of all kinds. We picked up some bread and cheese to bring with us today.

We watched a video about how easy it is to use the T-bana (metro). NOT! But we did figure it out and took the subway to the bus that would take us to Noosha's mother's house on an island about an hour east.

The #434 bus, the one to Agneta's in Värmdö, had two destinations on alternating hours. The 11:58 bus we'd planned on, went to the wrong end point, ÷verby brygga. We had to catch the next one, an hour later to Sollenkroka brygga. We did have a beautiful ride through the Swedish countryside on a very comfortable bus.

Agneta picked us up at the last stop. Her house looked like it came out of a picture postcard. The setting looked like a Maine coastline, with rocky islands, tall trees, cool water and crisp air. Her home, a cottage, was picture perfect.

She and her sister made us a wonderful lunch that included, smoked and cooked salmon, Swedish meatballs, cheeses, homemade breads, three types of herring, and a chocolate cake for desert. it was all delicious and we loved it!

After lunch we enjoyed an invigorating outdoor walk around the area.

Agneta escorted us to buy return tickets at a local market and to make sure the bus arrived promptly. We got back to Stockholm around 8. No need for dinner.
Tuesday, Sep. 13th, 2011 — NYC
Comment by Nicholas Pisarro, Jr. on Sep. 13th, 2011, modified Wednesday, Sep. 21st, 2011 at 11:38 AM
We got up at 6 AM to catch our return flight. We planned to take the express train but the taxi driver offered to match the price so we went there directly. He was quite pleasant and said he had vacationed in Chicago and L.A. and admired American barbecue. Odd that he stayed in seafood country.

A word about the hotel: The concierge staff at the Hotel Stureplan was by far the best we've ever experienced. They responded to each of our questions about sightseeing, restaurants, directions, taxis and everything else with patience and professionalism. John tried to tip them, but they turned him down.

Our flight arrived early at Newark, but our driver is right there to pick us up. Whoops! We left our house key in Paris. An accident? Or do we really want to go back!