I know. I know. These biking posts seem to be going on forever, but there is no sell-by date on some of places we saw, the wines we drank, or the food we ate. I should be the I Love Friuli spokesperson. We still don’t understand why this area is so off the radar.
After rolling out of Cormons and saying good-bye to everyone at La Subida, we headed for Gorizia. It’s right on the Slovenia border, in fact if you Wiki Gorizia, the name comes up as Guriza in the local Friulano dialect, Gurize in proper Friulano, Gorica in Slovenian, and Gorz in German. This town has changed hands and countries more than a few times. It has a sort of border town, frontier feel to it, as if it’s got one foot in Italy and one foot in Slovenia.
It’s also a pretty quiet town, so we were a little worried that we would find a good place for our lunch. What good luck! We stumbled on an absolute jewel of a restaurant, La Locandiera. They have two set menus, either land or sea, with great sounding choices on both. The ‘funny’ thing is that it’s a Pugliese-Friulana restaurant, now that’s a combination that you don’t see everyday, but it works for me. Jeff and I both went land and I was served a most hearty and delicious, thick, green vegetable soup. It was perfect for a slightly overcast day, and again it took me back to the flavors of my Polish grandmother’s house. Soul food, indeed. Everything we ate was so obviously prepared with love and care; it was just delightful. Gorizia is a little out of the way, but if you find yourself there, go and enjoy a meal at La Locandiera.
Now we were heading south, and our goal was to see the sea by afternoon. Mission accomplished. We rolled into the port town of Montfalcone around 4:30, it was a weekday night, and so we had no worries about finding a room. Wrong. Turns out that Carnival cruise lines had an engineer convention going on, and there wasn’t a room to be had. Or so we were told as we made the rounds looking for a room. Now, I’m starting to get nervous. I like a roof over my head at night, and I was really looking forward to a shower. As we nervously head back out of town, we spy the Hotel Excelsior, where Boris Karloff is working at the front desk. He informs us that he actually has the last room in town, its not the Ritz, it doesn’t have a double bed, but it does have beds, a shower and we can have it. Sold. Boris then gives us instructions to get to the room….seems the elevator doesn’t go all the way up to our floor and he starts to tell us about how we have to climb a rope to get to our room, and we we’re wondering what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into. Turns out Boris was a great joker and the room was fine, clean and lots of hot water. He also turned us on to an interesting fish restaurant, La Gorna. Now, I would never walk by and say, oh, I want to eat there. It looked like some brightly lit, tiny coffee shop in a small town, that’s trying to look hip. Bright colors on the walls and on the tables, …but, honey, there is some serious fish going on there. I started with simple grilled scallops, still in their shell with a tiny drop of butter to enhance their sweetness. Jeff had a grilled octopus salad with warm potatoes over super fresh greens, and then we shared the mother of all orata. A huge orata, its skin grilled to a thick crunch, the flesh inside steamed in its own vapor. Mmmmm. I could go for that meal right about now. It made all the stress over finding a place to sleep just melt away.
The strangest part of the Hotel Excelsior and Monfalcone is that we swore we took a wrong turn and wound up in Taipei. Even the hotel décor with the too bright pink tablecloths and dusty fake flowers reinforced that special downtown Taipei feeling. One night in Vermont, the next in Taiwan. What a bike trip. One other interesting tidbit about Monfalcone: the women are very into butt cleavage. You know that look where you get to see the top of the crack? I’ve never seen so much butt cleavage in my life. See the photo of the smiling women at the café…guess why they are smiling.
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