Farewell to Penzion Mayer
Since we were leaving Bled, we were sadly unsurprised to find the sun shining brilliantly the next morning. At least it permitted us to snap a few bright pictures of the Penzion Mayer after breakfast. This one includes our luggage, piled outside the door as we waited for our taxi. (Someone else’s bicycle is behind it; the helmet was not part of our travel kit.)

As I’ve mentioned, Rick Steves’s guidebook had advised us that it was more convenient to take the bus from Bled than the train from Lesce (which, at 2½ miles, was close enough for the station to be designated Bled-Lesce). This might have been good advice if we were backpacking (and a few decades younger), but we clearly needed a taxi to get to the bus station, and when it arrived, the driver kindly pointed out to us that — because of the local taxi zone system — the fare would be the same whether he took us to the bus station in town or the railway station in Lesce. There, he told us, we could catch a train that left sooner than the next bus, ran faster, and cost less.

It was generous of him to let us know about this, because he could have delivered us to the bus station in a couple of minutes and been free to pick up another passenger, whereas driving us to Lesce, for the same fare, would tie up his cab for 20 minutes or half an hour, allowing for the round trip. (We, of course, took account of this kindness in calculating the tip.)

So it was that we found ourselves once again the passengers of Slovenske Železnice — not this time in a van on the back of a flatcar, but in a modern though slightly worn passenger car. It was a commuter-style train: the car, instead of the row of closed compartments often found on European trains, was arranged as a single open space with fixed seats, some facing forward and others backward. It was something like some Boston subway cars, but on a larger scale.

A young man sitting nearby spoke to us, and we got into a conversation. He was in his late 20s or early 30s, and had worked as a computer programmer in several places around the world, including Boston and India. He had a wide range of interests, from the quality of Indian programming to the forces in the world that cause a particular nation, like Tibet, to play one role with respect to its neighbors in one century and an opposite role in the next. Dorothea noted that he seemed to believe deeply in cause and effect, and used the word karma in that connection. Although he didn’t respond to the information that our son is a Buddhist monk, he seemed inclined toward Zen (however he defines it) and admired some Hindu teachers whose names we didn’t recognize. He also mentioned his liking for the Sufi poet Rumi.

Ljubljana's station from the front (Net photo)
In less than an hour, we arrived at the big main station in Ljubljana. On the street side, it’s an imposing structure in the grand imperial style of the 19th century; in back is a vast expanse of parallel tracks and platforms. We got off on one of the outermost platforms, and hiked through a tunnel under the tracks and then down a long platform to the station’s rear entrance. We intended to buy advance tickets for the next leg of our journey, to the Croatian city of Rijeka, five days from now. But when we got to the window the ticket seller told us we wouldn’t need to buy tickets ahead of time to be sure of getting seats.

The station also housed a tourist information office, where we got a handy map of the city, and the man behind the desk kindly agreed to phone a taxi for us. There are always cabs hanging around at the station, but we’d read in Rick Steves’s guide book that their rates tend to be piratical, and so we asked the tourist office man to do us this favor. The wicked taxi pirates seem to be the nearest thing to a criminal that one needs to be warned about in Ljubljana. It has the reputation of being a very safe city, and we had no experience there that would suggest the contrary. (A gypsy at the station did try to interest me in buying a watch, but he didn’t persist when I said no.)

Our taxi to the Hotel Slon cost us only €3, which, since the guidebook said not to pay more than €5, seemed quite reasonable. The distance to the hotel was one we could have walked, had not each of us been burdened with two suitcases (a good-sized rolling bag and a small one riding on top of it) and a backpack. Our largest bags were the maximum size that would fit into an overhead compartment on a plane (although in fact we checked them), so compared to some of our previous trips we were traveling light. But it wasn’t that light, and our plan was to rely on taxis when changing our base, however walkable the distances might look. This was one of the adaptations we’d have to make for traveling without a car. Another, of course, was to plan the trip with longer stays in fewer places. If we could have shed a few decades for the occasion, we might have planned to hoof it to the hotel, baggage and all. But in that miraculous event, we’d probably have been driving.

Hotel Slon (Net photo)
The Slon is one of Ljubljana’s old hotels, now part of the Best Western group — though this doesn’t mean that Best Western owns it; the group is an association of independently owned lodgings. The name Slon means ‘elephant.’ Local tradition says that the Habsburg Archduke Maximilian came through the town in 1552 with an entourage that included an elephant, and the emperor stayed at an inn — or else the elephant was fed, traditions vary — on the spot now occupied by the hotel. Statues of elephants in the lobby, outside the breakfast room, out on the sidewalk, and so on — some quite large though none life-size — proclaim the hotel’s loyalty to this heritage.

Our room there was about three quarters the size of our room at the Mayer Penzion, at a bit more than twice the cost, but we were prepared for that. Ljubljana’s hotels are mostly business-oriented, and the city offers few choices for budget-minded tourists, apart from hostel accommodations suited to younger and more adaptable travelers. The Slon is conveniently located, and we found the staff friendly and helpful. Our room, though not a place where we wanted to spend a lot of our waking time, was clean and comfortable, and it was high enough above busy Slovenska cesta (‘Slovenian Avenue’) — formerly Titova cesta (‘Tito’s Avenue) — that we weren’t bothered by traffic noise.

By the time we got settled in the hotel it was early afternoon, and we walked out the door, around the corner, and down pedestrian-only Čopova street to Prešeren square, the city’s hub. A great deal of what makes Ljubljana such an attractive city is concentrated there. On the north side is the massive baroque Franciscan Church of the Annunciation, painted bright red, which faces the river and the famous Triple Bridge across a large open plaza, its irregular shape defined by converging streets and interesting buildings, several of them built near the turn of the 20th century in the heyday of Art Nouveau.

Map of central Ljubljana
For a map of the area where we spent most of our time in Ljubljana, click the map icon at the right. It will open in a separate window so that, if you want to, you can keep it available while you read this narrative.

The Triple Bridge, whose three spans almost but not quite converge on the other side of the river, leads to a cluster of mostly baroque-era buildings around the foot of the high, steep hill from which Ljubljana Castle (Ljubljanski Grad) overlooks the city. The river curves around Castle Hill, changing its course from North to East, and the old town of Ljubljana is built on the narrow arc of low land between river and hill. Although the the castle doesn’t sit above a dramatically sheer rock face like the one in Bled, it once commanded the city in much the same way. Ljubljana is too big a city now to be dominated by a hilltop castle, but it’s easy to see that, in a time when armies moving from the coast to the interior were forced by mountains and marshland to take this narrow route, fortifying the strategically placed height made good defensive sense.

Triple Bridge, Prešeren Square, and us
The Triple Bridge was designed by Slovenia’s great modern architect and planner, Jože Plečnik. Originally, the central span (which is older) carried vehicular traffic and the spans on either side were reserved for pedestrians. Now the central span, too, belongs to foot traffic, though an exception is made for motorized carts belonging to the city department that sweeps gutters and empties trash bins, and these move only at night. Motor traffic is also banned from the broad quays on both sides of the river, from the Triple Bridge down to the Shoemakers’ Bridge, about a quarter-mile off: a reservation that contributes much to making the city such a delightful place to spend time. Restaurants and cafes along the river had put tables outside, and, as it was the beginning of summer, ice-cream stands were open and doing a good business, selling not American-style ice cream, but Italian-style gelato — the local name for it is sladoled (slah-do-LED).

A young Japanese man, whom we had obliged earlier by taking his picture with his own camera, was happy to return the favor when we met him again, and used Dorothea’s camera to take the picture above. We were on the castle side of the Triple Bridge, and you can see it leading into Prešeren square, with the red church of the Annunciation facing the square in the background.

Prešeren and his Muse
Near one side of Prešeren square is a monument to Slovenia’s national poet. You can see it in the background of the previous picture, but here is a closer view. France Prešeren (‘FRAHN-tzeh Preh-SHARE-en’) was born in 1800 and wrote at a time when many European peoples were beginning to discover and proclaim their national pride. Prešeren’s poems formed the basis of this movement in Slovenia. His sculptured image looks nobly into the distance as a naked but loosely cloaked muse, poised behind him, holds a gilded laurel branch above his head. The monument was created in 1905, and according to Steves’s guidebook the muse’s bare breasts (other naughty bits being screened by the cloak) offended some of Ljubljana’s influential citizens, including the bishop. The model, who could no longer find employment in the city, had to emigrate to Sodom and Gomorrah (i.e., the US). And for the next few years, a tarp was thrown over the scandalous sculpture every night. (Perhaps the muse’s partial nudity was considered a lesser occasion of sin in broad daylight.)

Julija in her
In the direction of the bronze poet’s gaze is a street leading off the square, and on one of the houses visible from the site of the statue a window-like frame encloses the carved image of a woman leaning out and looking toward the monument. This is where Julija Primič lived. Prešeren fell in love with her, but his suit was rejected. He continued to love Julija for the rest of his life, and regarded her as a source of poetic inspiration, like Dante’s Beatrice. The poet’s pure passion for Julija didn’t keep him from making a seamstress the mother of his three children, without making her his wife. The real Julija, meanwhile, married for wealth and position, and never requited the poet’s devotion. The sculpted Julija is the reflection of a romantic but fictitious legend.

Prešeren published relatively few of his poems during his lifetime, and, having been educated as a lawyer, made his living at that profession. The last part of his life was far from happy, and he died of drink in 1849. As Slovene cultural pride continued to grow, however, his collected works were published and gained an enthusiastic following among Slovenes, who could at last see that their language was capable of distinguished literary expression. February 8, the anniversary of his death, is now celebrated as a national holiday.

Plečnik's colonnade
As we crossed the Triple Bridge from Prešeren square, we could see to our left the gallery that Plečnik had built alongside the river, where the old city wall had once been. Closely following the river’s curve, it has two tiers: at street level, a roof supported by columns eventually gives way to an enclosed building. The open part houses ice-cream and souvenir stands, and the indoor part holds fancy food markets. The lower tier, close to the river, contains a seafood restaurant below the open gallery and a fish market below the enclosed food shops. The restaurant looks out on the river through low, graceful arches. Rick Steves’s guide had recommended this restaurant, Ribca (meaning ‘fishie’) as a good place for fried fish or seafood, and we hadn’t had lunch, so we went in. It was around 2:30, and the place was nearly empty, but I got some good-enough fried hake (a bit chewy) and potato salad, tangy with vinegar. Dorothea ordered tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil with french fries, which were perfect — I ate some too.

After our late lunch, we went up the stairs to wander through the market, but it was late in the day for marketers, and we found most of the vendors packing up to go home. We made our way eastward through the market area until we came to another of Ljubljana’s famous bridges: the Dragon Bridge. We were a bit fatigued by this time, and neither of us got a picture that shows much of the bridge, though we did snap the renowned dragons.

The Dragon Bridge in winter
Here is a picture that I found on the Web, courtesy of Wikipedia. (It was obviously not taken in May.) The architect was Jurij Zaninović, a Dalmatian who had studied in Vienna. He designed the bridge in the Secessionist style, the latest thing in Viennese architectural circles, part of an international movement that we in America know under its French name, Art Nouveau. Someone has declared it the most beautiful bridge in that style to be found in Europe. It was built of reinforced concrete, one of the first European bridges of this type. The city commissioned it as a tribute to the Emperor Franz Joseph I in honor of the 40th year of his reign, 1888. But that’s a case of predating, for the bridge wasn’t begun until 1900 and was finished the following year. No one even thought of building it until 1895, when an earthquake (which you’ll hear more about) damaged the one that was there before. The citizens of Ljubljana — at least the upper crust — were loyal subjects of the Habsburgs, but I’m at a loss to explain why they chose to honor the emperor’s 40th jubilee year when he had already celebrated his 50th two years before construction of the bridge started. Although it may be a tardy tribute, however, the Dragon Bridge is considered the first Secessionist structure to be built in Ljubljana. (However, the characteristics of that style are easier to identify in the buildings we were to look at two days later.) Click here for more about the architectural styles to be seen in Ljubljana.

Bridge dragon (one of four)
The architect had first envisioned a bridge ornamented with winged lions, but the dragon was substituted because of a Ljubljana tradition: the flight of Jason and the Argonauts with the stolen Golden Fleece took them up the Danube and the Sava, and then (according to local tradition, at least) down the Ljubljanica to its source, from which point they continued overland, carrying the disassembled Argo, to the Adriatic Sea. Near the site of the city, they are said to have found a big marsh and lake, as is consistent with the region’s geography — the lake is gone now, but the marshes are still there. This damp area was home to a marsh monster or dragon, which Jason killed. Herodotus is supposed to have said that Jason founded the city of Aemona, which later became Ljubljana. But archaeologists and historians are more inclined to believe that Aemona was founded in the year 14 or 15 of the Common Era as a Roman castrum or fortified legion base, about five centuries after Herodotus lived and wrote.

Herodotus may have been thinking of some other place, but Ljubljana chooses to believe otherwise, and slaying of the marsh dragon has worked its way into the civic coat of arms, which bears a dragon perched on top of a fortified tower. So Zaninović had to forget his winged lions and design dragons instead. Made of copper, they have acquired a fine green patina that looks satisfactorily dragonlike.

We made our way back to Prešeren square on the north side of the river, our progress occasionally hindered by parked cars (which are not banished from this part of the riverside) and construction barricades. When we got there we dawdled away a little more time until five o’clock was near. We had learned at the tourist office in the railway station that the city offered a daily walking tour in English at that time, beginning at the Town Hall — Mestna Hiša or, more literally, ‘Town House’ — which is at the foot of Castle Hill a short walk from the Triple Bridge. (The building has another name also: Rotovš. This fiercely Slavic-looking word is just a Slovene rendition of Rathaus (literally ‘council house’), the standard German term for a town hall.

We paid €10 each and joined a group of eight or ten English-speakers of various nationalities, led by a young man — probably a university student — who spoke good English, although he tended to speak it rapidly and a bit nervously. Perhaps he was too new on the job to have become comfortable in the role of expert guide. He seemed to fear that he might offend his audience by telling us too many things we already knew, and made an effort to manage this risk by inserting the phrase “of course” into almost every declarative sentence.

Cathedral of St. Nicholas
A light drizzle was falling when we started out, but not enough to bother anyone. The tour began in the town hall itself, then moved on to some of the baroque buildings nearby. The most spectacular was St. Nicholas, the cathedral of the Ljubljana archdiocese. Furnished with twin bell towers and surmounted by a graceful dome, it isn’t easy to see as a whole because of the other buildings closely grouped around it. But the cathedral’s interior is spectacular. We knew that we’d want to spend more time seeing it, and we did go back a couple of days later.

For the next stage, we boarded a little tourist train that towed us around the base of Castle Hill and up a gentler slope on the far side, landscaped as a park. We were let off at the gates of the castle. The €10 each we had paid for the tour covered the train fare and admission to the castle, both of which otherwise require a fee. Ljubljana castle had been home and headquarters to the various noble governors of the district of Carniola (Slovene Kranjska, German Krain) from 13th to the 19th century. For most of that time it was a duchy of the Austrian empire. The site had been fortified since the time of the Romans, but only lightly so during the Middle Ages. More serious fortification was done early in the 16th century, against two threats: increasing pressure from the Turks, and unrest among the local peasants. By the 19th century the castle had deteriorated. The governors moved out, and it became a prison. Finally, in 1905 (while Slovenia was still an Austrian province) the castle was sold to the city fathers of Ljubljana.

The chapel had a grandly aristocratic look, its ceiling adorned by the coat of arms of every governor of the duchy of Carniola from the 13th to the 18th centuries, and of five Austrian emperors from those centuries. The most recent coat of arms is that of Maria Theresa, who was on the throne when the ceiling was painted in 1747. The chapel is dedicated to St. George, named the city’s patron in keeping with the Church’s policy of assigning every legendary dragon-slaying to this rather specialized saint.

Looking northwest from the castle clock tower
The most interesting thing to see at the castle, however, is the wide view of Ljubljana and the surrounding countryside from the high clock tower, which we reached by a fairly serious 100-step climb. From this highest point in the city, we could see it spread all around us, out to the suburbs and neighboring hills. In clear weather, the Alps are visible in the distance, but although the drizzly clouds overhead were by this time giving way to pale sunshine, the Alpine peaks were no more visible to us than they had been in Bled. Our birds-eye view of the Old Town’s reddish-orange tiled roofs, the Triple Bridge, and Prešeren square was most impressive, however — all of this seemed to be right at our feet. Jože Plečnik’s other bridges across the Ljubljanica were also in view, and beyond the river, a little to the west, we could see his most famous building: the large National and University Library, which we planned to visit on another day.

When we climbed down from the clock tower, I hoped that the tourist train would be waiting to take us back down the hill, but the descent was pedestrian — much to the dismay of both my feet, which felt as if they’d been abused enough for one day. We both found the downhill trek tiring, but, since we followed walks and steps on the side that faced the old town, the view was always interesting and often lovely.

We finished on Old square (Stari trg), much less a square than a long wide street that echoes the curve of the river around the base of the hill, one block inland from the quays. Closer to the Town Hall, Old square becomes Town square (Mestni trg), and, at the other end, it connects with Upper square (Gornji trg). Both of these squares which are also really streets, although there are wider, open areas in front of the Town Hall on Town Square and at the point where Old Square meets Upper Square. All three “squares,” home to some of Ljubljana’s oldest buildings, are reserved for pedestrians. When the tour broke up at Old square, we decided to walk back along the riverside, which we reached by a short alley. We strolled along the quay until we reached the Shoemakers’ Bridge, another of Plečnik’s contributions to the city. Crossing it, we continued up the quay on the north side of the river toward Prešeren square. Not far from the Shoemakers’ Bridge, a school of inflated silver plastic balloons, shaped like fish, were suspended over the river, a striking, though no doubt temporary, art installation.

The Dixie Sok Band
A little farther on, we stopped for a while to listen to a dixieland band playing on a stand beside the quay. Although their identical striped shirts and straw hats weren’t quite American in style, the same could not be said about the style of their music, which they played very well in the authentic dixieland idiom. The band’s name, painted on the bass drum, was Dixie Sok Band, and, having by then seen a few Slovene menus, I was able to translate the second word as ‘juice.’

Jitterbugs
Dixie Juice Band” struck us as a well-chosen name for this group. The banjo player sat next to a megaphone mounted on a music stand at a height that permitted him to sing through it, and we heard him do that once or twice during the 15 or 20 minutes we spent listening. One young couple stepped out of the gathered audience and performed a graceful and expert jitterbug pas de deux. Their jeans and sneakers belonged to the wrong era, but the woman’s sneakers were certainly a safer choice for dancing on paving stones than high-heeled pumps would have been.

I was quite impressed by the Dixie Sok Band, and a couple of days later I stepped into a music shop on one of the quays to see if I could find a CD, but the owner, though he knew about the band, said they hadn’t issued any recordings. However, a year or so after our trip, they appeared in a few videos uploaded to YouTube. If you’d like to hear them, here’s the clip I liked best, “I’m Confessin’ That I Love You.” (If you’d like a more uptempo sample, look them up on YouTube or Google.)



Although it wasn’t dark yet, it was high time for dinner, and despite our late lunch we were both hungry. Near us a plain wooden bridge crossed the river between Plečnik’s renowned Shoemakers’ and Triple Bridges (and by reason of that juxtaposition is known as the Ugly Duckling). It led to the small Fishermen’s Square (Ribji trg), where local fishermen in times past sold their catch. On one corner of the quay and the square was a restaurant we wanted to try, named Zlata Ribica, ‘gold little fish’ — ribica and ribca (the name of the place where we had eaten lunch) being variant ways to spell the diminutive of the word ribe, which means just plain ‘fish.’ Whether Zlata Ribica’s name refers to a goldfish or to a more generic “small, gold fish” we never thought to ask.

Abecedarium restaurant
On this evening, unfortunately, we were too late to get a table. But a few doors away, on the other side of Fisherman’s Square, was a restaurant listed in the Rough Guide: Abecedarium. This Latin name means ‘Book of ABCs’ or ‘Primer,’ and is a reference to one of the first printed books in the Slovene language, written by Primož Trubar, a Protestant reformer, in the mid-16th century. This book (and a catechism that Trubar also wrote) offered elementary religious instruction in the language of the Slovene people (whose rulers — “of course” as our tour guide would have said — spoke and wrote in German). Although the two books were published simultaneously, Abecedarium was the second of the two — but Katekizem wouldn’t make quite as good a name for a restaurant.

Trubar was originally a Catholic priest, but as his sermons in Ljubljana grew disturbingly heretical in the view of local church authorities (who were also disturbed by the enthusiasm they aroused in the congregation), they forced him to leave town. He took refuge in a Protestant part of Germany. But Trubar remained popular with the Slovene people, and is still regarded as one of the prime founders of Slovene nationalism (which has traditionally been centered on the language). The main reason for naming this restaurant in his honor, however, is that he is believed to have lived in the old house (built in 1528) that it now occupies.

The food, though not the best we had in Ljubljana, was mostly quite good. I had wild boar (which tasted a lot like beef), ravioli, vegetables, and štruklji (the pasta-and-cottage cheese dish that we’d also eaten in Bled), and a bottle of Ljuljana’s own Union lager. Dorothea decided to order a dinner-size helping of štruklji, plus a salad. Her štruklji was served with a “dressing” of fine bread crumbs sauteed in olive oil, and she found it delicious. Continuing the habit we’d acquired in Bled, we shared a bottle of Radenska. Dessert was nutella cake (which included coconut and whipped cream) for me and apple strudel (unfortunately, microwaved and soggy) for Dorothea.

It had been a very full day, and we headed back to our hotel through the streets and squares full of fascinating buildings, still to be explored. People strolled slowly past, many eating sladoled cones. We were finding Ljubljana a relaxed and relaxing city.


Day Trip to Postojna (Thursday, May 22)

  
Note: We spent the day after our arrival in Ljubljana on a tour that took us out of the city to the Postojna Caves and Predjama Castle, about an hour south of the city. We’ve given this tour a section of its own (which you’ll find after the Lubljana section), so all we’ll describe here are the two meals, breakfast and dinner, that we ate in Ljublana before and after our trip.

After our perambulations of the previous evening, we slept deeply and appreciatively — so much so that we got to the breakfast room only ten minutes before it was to close, at 10:30 am. The Slon offered an impressive spread that included fruits (cut and whole), slices of salami, ham, and bacon (the kind of bacon we’d had in England and Ireland), several varieties of cheese, rolls, eggs (scrambled, sunny-side-up, and hard-boiled), crepes, and other items as well. Both cut fruit and pastry had run low, and we hoped to remedy this deficiency by arriving more punctually on subsequent mornings. But the crepes, filled with apricot or berry jam, were very good, and I was impressed to find that the shiny machine from which one could draw coffee (dark or espresso), chocolate, or hot water for tea could produce quite acceptable results. Both coffee and chocolate were delivered in demitasse quantities, and the cups were large enough to hold both, so I drank mocha every morning for the rest of our stay.

Looking into Gostilna Šestica's winter garden
We got back from our day trip at 7:15 pm, and decided to try the Gostilna Šestica, billed as one of Ljubljana’s oldest restaurants, which was only a couple of doors away from our hotel — an attractive thought at the end of a long day. The restaurant had several rooms, at least one of which was accommodating a private banquet. We were seated in a large, pleasant space with lots of green plantings, including vines that spiralled up around a central pillar and were led across the ceiling to the corners of the room — which, according to the Gostilna Šestica’s website, is appropriately named the zimski vrt or ‘winter garden.’ (The picture, which I found on the website, looks in from an adjoining room.)

Šestica means ‘sixth,’ because in an earlier stage of its existence, the restaurant (originally an inn, which is the literal meaning of Gostilna) was number 6 on a short street. That street was long ago incorporated into what is now the large, busy, arterial Slovenska cesta. Exactly how long the establishment has been there nobody knows, but it is mentioned in a book published in 1689: Janez Vajkard Valvasor’s Glories of the Duchy of Carniola. (Despite its title, this book is not a slender list of selected “bests,” but a detailed description of the Slovene lands and just about everything that was in them at the time. According to Wikipedia, it ran to 15 volumes, comprising 3,532 pages that included 528 illustrations and 24 appendices.)

I ordered pork medallions in gorgonzola sauce and Dorothea had grilled chicken with asparagus. Štruklji came with both dishes, and we shared an additional order of grilled vegetables: slices of tomato, zucchini, and pepper, plus asparagus. I had a half-liter of the house’s white wine, of which Dorothea (who records that her resolution to refrain from alcohol on the trip was beginning to weaken) sipped a few tablespoons. “For dessert,” she recalls, “we had a traditional Slovene dessert that was made beautifully here. It’s gibanica, which is a pastry with several layers: strudel pastry and then poppy seeds on the top and bottom, sweet yogurt cheese above the bottom layer of poppy seeds and below the top layer, and ground nuts in the middle. Powdered sugar sprinkled on top provides the finish.” This meal (topped off by a complimentary cordial based on red wine) pleased both of us greatly, and we promised ourselves we’d eat here again before our trip was over.