A while ago, Jan and I decided to compile our "best of" list, based on our extended travels. We had so much fun, this was not an easy list to compile (we've been working on it for a couple of weeks), but here goes:
Best Restaurant - Collile Emilaie in Rome. Fabulous food in a homey setting that was one of Fellini’s haunts and includes his sketches on the wall.
Best Steak - Pandimonio in Florence. Ok, we really feel these two restaurants are tied for the best restaurant, but the Tuscan steak was outrageously good, and "mama," the owner, takes great care of her guests.
Best Hotel - Queen Mary 2- What can we say (ok - it's not a hotel in the traditional sense). Beyond reproach and offers just about anything anyone could want or need, and then some. The service is outstanding and exceeds expectations. Considering this is all accomplished on the water . . .bravo! If we have one “complaint” it would be the coffee. We need some with a more “robust” taste, but they receive “E” for Effort. FYI- even our British tablemate prefers coffee to tea. . and complained. Thank goodness it's not just us!
Next Best Hotel- Beau Rivage Hotel, Ouchy - stunning view, Beaux Arts design that conjures up its glorious past, outstanding room service (everything was hot and all delivered in 15 to 25 minutes), and of course, Swissly efficient. However, while polite and courteous, the staff did not make an effort to “warm up” and one particular person (the young woman attending the hotel shop) bordered on rude. The reservation desk attendant who handled our check out was also a bit snippy and had an “I am so put out” kind of attitude. Tsk, tsk. They could also benefit from having a restaurant that offers more practical and familiar food. Not all of them should serve Haute Cuisine and be gunning for Michelin Stars.
Best Cruise - Yachts of Seaborne, Italian Idyll - service beyond our expectations, new friends that made the trip more enjoyable, and destinations and tours that exceeded our expectations. The staff was top notch, friendly and made every effort to get to “know” their passengers. Well done!
Best Driver - Nino from Sorrento. He drove us from Amalfi to Florence to Pompeii and rescued us from the Naples train station. Thanks Nino!
Best Meal -Hands down, Mama Agata's in Ravello. Nowhere else can you have a meal overlooking the Amalfi coastline from high above, drink wine made from grapes in their own garden and be taught how to cook the entire meal by a wonderful Italian mama and her delightful daughter.
Best Relaxation - Hotel Santa Caterina in Amalfi. Take an elevator down the side of the cliff to a location where you can watch the mega yachts (what does one have to do to afford one of those?), swim in the Med or a saltwater pool, or sip Granitas from the comfort of your chaise.
Best Spa - The St. Regis in Rome. This little spa with Asian flair exceeded our expectations in terms of what a massage is really all about – delightful.
Best View - Tie between the Santa Catarina in Amalfi and the Beau Rivage in Lausanne.
Best People - Wherever you are. . .practically everyone we met (ok with the exception of the woman in the Alps that would not let Jan use the bathroom), was pleasant, warm and welcoming. From the street vendor who sold us kebabs in Montreaux, to the dining room manager at the St Regis. Fantastic people, and every one of them have a story. And, we were all ears.
Best Pasta - St. Regis in Rome. Perfectly cooked, sauce (carbonara or pecorino with pepper) - just outstanding.
Best Wine - Europe. Everywhere we went, wine was inexpensive, and wonderful. We always went for the local production or house wine, and were never disappointed.
Best place to sit and watch the world go by- It’s a triple play. Our first choice should logically be the QM2, but honestly, we were so busy on board, we did not have time! The views of the Amalfi Coast and Lake Geneva in Lausanne were absolutely stunning and peaceful.
Best Transatlantic Cruise - The Queen Mary 2 (truthfully the only one we tried), but everyone going to Europe should try it once. You can book a cabin for about the same price as a business class ticket and in many instances, less.