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Expensive, enchanting Trieste: first stop on our spontaneous summer adventure

Trieste canal

Our first stop on this summer's adventure was Trieste, Italy at the Northeast top of the Adriatic Sea. Trieste has all the best qualities of Italian cities — accessible on foot, terrific tomatoes, marvelous mozzarella, and fabulous fish that tastes like it just came out of the sea. Then there's the gelate — multi-flavored Italian ice-cream in its various forms — yogurt, sorbet and rich cream — at every corner, which became a serious threat to my diet.

Our hotel, the 2-star Alabarda, was friendly but offered only 30 minutes of free wifi in the room. This seemed rather stingy when we later compared them to other hotels in Albania, Macedonia, and Greece, places we would visit later in the month.

This is the first time we took a laptop to Europe. It fit nicely into our knapsack on wheels and we rarely took it out of the hotel rooms. It was nice to not have to find the local Internet cafe, usually crowded with smelly teens. We had bought a $10 adaptor at Trudeau airport, which simply attaches to the plug and then goes into the wall. A helpful rep at Bureau en Gros told me that more expensive converters are unnecessary for laptops, which already have the ability to run on 110 or 220 volts.

Sunset in Trieste

We arrived on a Saturday and spent most of the day catching up on sleep and walking the streets that run around the Grand Canal. The first afternoon, I walked across the street to the Supermercado and purchased some succulent peaches, nectarines, tomatoes, and cheese, as well as a perfect size orange melon resembling a cantaloup. The next morning we enjoyed a wonderful cafe latte at one of the spots along the canal. Fancy coffees are the only thing cheaper than Montreal, apart from the wine and gelate.

The music in the bars and restaurants is awful — loud and aggressive. We asked one waitress to change it and she happily obliged.

We had three restaurant meals in Trieste (eating the second meal from the supermarket deli counters) and the average bill was 30 euro ($50) including wine and sparkling water. The service was always friendly and accommodating.

Muggia fishing tackle

The hotel gives out a special menu for a restaurant that is two streets away: Risorante Pizzeria O-Scugnizzo. For 20 euro you can have Primi (First Course) pasta, Secondi (Second Course) fish or meat in tiny portions; Contorni (salad or grilled veggies), and Bevanda (Beverage) — either mineral water, ¼ liter wine or beer. We weren't that hungry or willing to splurge yet again so we asked if we could share. We could and did! Irwin had the spaghetti with fresh mussels and clams (both in the shell) and I had the secondi of grilled squid. Restaurant food in Trieste and in Rome, as we were later to discover, is well prepared and fresh but beyond our budget.

On the second day, we visited the port and decided not to take the cruise going to the Greek Islands for one week. We weren't ready to be packed in like the grilled sardines I had for lunch, listening to loudspeakers and unable to stay in a place longer than a few hours. At least that's the impression we had of cruises before we took one two weeks later in Greece.

Instead we boarded a chug-a-lug to Muggia, a half an hour away (6 euro return) and toured a lovely little port town, sampled more gelate and more delicious coffees. You get the picture!

What a beautiful little town. We would have inquired about the apartments for sale at 140,000 Euro if it hadn't been a lazy Sunday.

On the third day in the evening, we boarded a ferry headed for Durres, Albania for a return visit to this budget land of friendly people and hair raising rides along mountain cliffs. Next issue Albania — still the best kept secret in Europe.

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