Our Gourmet Tour of Europe

Happy New Year to all our viewers. 2010 was a very busy and exciting year for everyone at de Groots Media and we are looking forward to an even better 2011 with lot of great plans in place.

We took a major step relaunching Dining Around Sydney in November under the original name TOP10 which was published in 1980. The new format including TOP10 Gourmet Destinations in other states, plus our international  feature, has been very well received by hotel concierges, travel agents, inbound, conference organizers and visitor centres. Our sites are now receiving over 600,000 unique viewers but it was apparent that visitors to Australia and the corporate market wanted a magazine giving information on quality restaurants, venues, accommodation, spas etc., around Australia. We are very pleased with the result and have had excellent feedback from people form all over Australia – and the world – now with our international content.

The week TOP10 magazine was sent off to the printers Yolanda and myself took off on a 4 week holiday to Hong Kong and Europe for a combined business/holiday trip. I am glad we made the choice to fly via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific and then on to Europe on Air France. The break in Hong Kong gave us the opportunity to do some shopping and eat at some of the world’s best restaurants.  Both flights were exceptional, particularly  flying long haul on Air France’s new Boeing 777, loved the French wines and magnificent cuisine, like dining in a five star restaurant in Paris.

Having lived in Hong Kong many years ago where I worked at the Mandarin Hotel, I was pleased to meet up with old acquaintances who still reside in Hong Kong. Our hotel, Jia Hotel in Causeway Bay, is a new apartment style boutique hotel right in the heart of Causeway Bay,  a shoppers paradise.
Three weeks in Europe were busy and fun-filled, trying to relax and not check my emails too often.  We stayed four days in Rome with friends and rented a car for our two week week tour of Italy and France. Our little Alfa was rented from Auto Europa, at Rome  Terminal, great service even coming to my rescue when I returned to Rome in peak hour traffic and got totally lost. First  stop after Rome was Bocca di Magri on the Ligurian coast, where we stayed and met up with  Lucio and Sally Galetto’s family who own a fabulous restaurant right on the water called Ceccos.  Then off to France driving  around the Italian Riveriera stopping off in Portofino and Rapallo staying at the Hotel Europa in Rapallo, one of the most postcard picturesque parts of Italy.

We reluctantly left the Italian Riviera and then drove Nice, the highlight being the famous Cours Saleya flower and food market. St. Tropez was next on the agenda, where we were invited to stay at the Hotel Sezz, part of the Design Hotel Group. This luxurious boutique hotel is in secluded in a wooded park just minutes from the beach, one of the most luxurious hotels I have stayed in, and certainly the only hotel I know off with a poolside Dom Perignon bar.

After France we headed to Chianti  to Castello di Meleto  in Chianti where we had booked for four days . The imposing Castle stands in the heart of Chianti and dates back to the 14th century.  Our accommodation was one of the beautiful villas close to the castle overlooking the vineyards and olive groves or  you can stay in one of the luxury apartments in the castle with frescoed walls and French furnishings. You can spend your time exploring the local villages, walk through the cypress forest, vineyards, olive trees scattered with juniper trees as well as participate in their cooking school or taste an excellent Chianti Classico in their impressive cellar.  We participated in everything, the cooking school, wine tastings, a grand medevial dinner and of course dined in some amazing restaurants offering some of the best Italian cuisine I have experienced.

Our next stop was the impressive Il Borro  Estate close to Florence where we stayed for two nights. This 700 acre estate is owned by the Ferragamo family. You can choose to stay in in one of their delightful  farmhouses, immersed in vineyards and sunflower fields  however we stayed in the apartments in the 12th century medieval village which the family have lovingly restored over the years.

Unfortunately we only had two nights in Florence which gave us enough time to go to a couple of recommended restaurants and to the Mecato Central food market and of course visit the Uffitzi Gallery. Three days later I was heading back to Australia, farewelling Yolanda who departed for Madrid to join up with Frank Camorra’s gastronomic tour of Spain.

It was great to return home, the office had functioned perfectly well without me and I now have very happy memories of my trip to Europe, the wonderful food and wine of France and Italy and the great people we met not to mention my Prada bag to remind me of Florence .

Bon Appetit and Happy Travelling


Maureen de Groot

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