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In France, there is a region where nature is marvelously in harmony with the "savoir-vivre" (good manners) of its inhabitants. This is land where the tender green of its valleys and the earl grey of its rivers are preserved and cultivated by farmers who are like proud fathers nourishing their children.
This land is known as Cantal (part of Auvergne), nestled just to the south of the center of France, it would be hard for nature lovers and even the finest gourmets not to be opulently satisfied.
Castles, better known as chateaus, Roman churches, and a brilliant green landscape that is food for the eyes make up the beauty of Cantal (and in between, of course, food for palate at some of the most amazing restaurants we have ever dined in to calm down our appetite for history).
Today, it is extremely expensive to maintain the many chateaus (castles) that line the countryside. And, so, there are only a few options. Some permit visits by tourists whileothers have opened their doors for nightly stays for those who want to experience the spirit of yesteryear.
We visited one of these exquisite castles, the Hostellerie de Chateau de Salles in Vezac. It has rooms for 500-600 francs (about $100 U.S.), junior suites for 700 francs and noble suites for 900-1100 francs (about $200 U.S.) a night.
This chateau also has a wonderful restaurant and for New Year's Eve served a fourcourse meal which includes:
All this including wine, coffee and aperitif only costs a mere 260 francs (about $45 U.S.).
For those with simpler tastes, L'Auberge des Montagnes in Pailherols, 20 minutes from Aurillac, the capital of Cantal, will warmly welcome you and will offer a large choice of activities: swimming pool, health club, game room, horse riding, cross-country skiing in winter, and hiking.
At night, you will rest and sleep in a very comfortable room for one of the most reasonable rates in all of Cantal: 220 francs (about $37 U.S.) a night!
On top of that, the hotel's restaurant is five star all the way. After an active day, you will want to indulge yourself in a six course gastronomic meal for an incredible 120 francs (less than $20 U.S.)!
Try the pounti (soufflet-like with prunes), truffade (puree potatos mixed with cheese), salmon trout, beef tenderloin, a selection of the most wonderful cheeses, and two desserts each! We could barely walk we were so stuffed! (But we'd gladly do it again!)
You may also get the privilege to meet some of the most incredible chefs: Francoise et Laurent Fleys in La Ferme Auberge du Bruel in Saint-Illide (04-71-49-72-27) are listed in the famous Gault-Millau book, listing the best chefs in France, and will prepare for you an amazing meal that your palate will not quite soon forget.
Reservations are necessary as all of France embarks to this restaurant to sample the delicious escargot (snails), canard (duck), foie gras, beef and so much more.
Louis Bernaud Puech is another son of the region. Rated as one of the top chefs in France in the prestigious Michelin Guide, his restaurant can be found in the countryside in Calvinet at his Hotel Beausejour (04-71-49-91-68/Fax 04-71-49-98-63).
This artisan, as he likes to call himself, will cook only the finest meal with the freshest ingredients. Anything less to this brilliant artist de cuisine is nothing short of a crime.
If you go crazy for foie gras, go and visit the Ferme Teysedou a Labrousette in Pailan (04-71-46-10-93) where you will see how the ducks are fed. Why, you even have a chanceto purchase and bring back their wonderful foie gras.
Finally, if you desire to be one with nature, breathing the pure air of the mountains, rebuilding your mental health in the process as you adjust your senses to the purity of the goodness in life, then Cantal will recharge your vital signs and a whole lot more. Cantal offers the true taste of the authentic.
L'Auberge des MontagnesPailherols
The Hostellerie de Chateau de SallesVezac (Phone: 04-71-62-41-41/Fax: 04-71-62-44-14)
La Ferme Auberge du BruelSaint-Illide(04-71-49-72-27)
Hotel Beausejour(04-71-49-91-68/Fax 04-71- 49-98-63)
Ferme Teysedou a LabrousettePailan (04-71-46-10-93)
Italian cities are typically adored for their quaint piazzas, fragrant eateries and florid facades. But some possess a darker allure. Naples — the capital of Campania — both seduced me with its confusion and confused me with its seduction on my recent whirl about town.
Three decades had passed since my last Neapolitan travels, and I was eager to see if it had cleaned up as handsomely as reported. No better base from which to launch my investigation, I figured, than the Decumani Hotel de Charme, smack in the grimy gut of the historic district.
Leftover from Greco-Roman times, a decumano is a central axis of a city. Naples' decumani host the maliolica Cloister of the Santa Chiara Church, the Veiled Christ and the Via dei Pastori, among other reasons UNESCO named it a "museum under the open sky."
I might have flinched at the grit and graffiti lining the alleys en route to the hotel were it not for these cleansing landmarks and my fascination with statuary. Votive displays twinkled from the stone walls, improvised from every sort of bauble you could imagine. Colored bulbs, silk roses and wax figures enlivened the scenes, beckoning me onward to the interior courtyard that houses the Decumani.
Two flights up, an incongruous calm prevailed.
Read more: Where To Stay in Naples:...
Of Capri’s many scandals — central Italy’s swollen sandbar is dubbed the Island of Pleasure for a reason – the steamiest was in 1902, when German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp staged an orgy that made front page headlines back home.
Read more: Places to Stay in Capri: Hotel...
Barking dogs and crowing roosters serenaded us on the afternoon we arrived to Hotel Al Mulino through the bougainvillia hedges and grape trellises of Anacapri. The hilly village rising over Italy’s Island of Capri may be Edenic, but all I could think about was the bad night’s sleep that awaited this big city girl. Thankfully, I was wrong. The restored 19th-century mill owned and managed by Antonietta Viva and her husband is made of sturdy stuff, and once we lowered the heavy blinds, a radio silence descended on our room. The only real noise to disturb us came from CNN on our TV -- and from our chats with Antonietta, whose twinkly-eyed warmth and down-home hospitality alone should earn the three-star establishment a ratings boost. Al Mulino is a country home wreathed by private gardens and stone facades, and when the sun naps them in gold, you grasp why Mediterranean clichés aren’t worth resisting. The leafy idyllia is not only a salve for sore eyes, its fruit groves supply the fresh orange juice of your breakfast and fig and apricot reinforcements for your day about the island.
Read more: Where To Stay in Anacapri -...
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