The year end portion of The Momma Mia Tour 2018, while fraught with mishaps, miscommunications, and maladies of a physical nature, still managed to delight and engage Mia and myself on multiple levels. If you follow my sporadic social media presence the fact that Marvelous Mia spent her fall semester studying in Denmark comes as no surprise. She thrived during her months in Copenhagen. I visited for a brief moment, getting to switch places with my newly minted world traveler - but that’s another post altogether. Before taking off for Scandinavia Mia mentioned the prospect of taking extra time to continue her European experience. Actually… her statement fell somewhere between an inquiry and a demand. No matter - She could have ended her request with the surliest of attitudes and nastiest name-calling (not that she ever would; apparently mine is the only potty mouth in this family) and I still would have fallen over myself trying to make reservations.
Our itinerary together began in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana where our dear friends Kara and Giovanni live with their beautiful four-month-old daughter Ella. Reconnecting with these beautiful souls certainly kicked off our travels on a positive note. Y’know - as I type this I realize each city deserves an entire post unto itself, so here’s a little tease about the the beginning of the end of 2018 for The Momma Mia Tour.
First off: Ljubljana, Slovenia.
Upon arriving in Ljubljana the first thing I noticed was the fairy tale surroundings - castle included! My visit began with my unwitting participation in the time honored tradition of weary travelers the world over - getting ripped off by the taxi who picked me up at the airport. The system there is a bit different and with the confused use of adjectives by hotel personnel whom I called from the Jože Pučnik Airport to inquire about the best way to get to the hotel she specifically informed me it was more expensive to order a cab from the hotel than it was to take one from the airport. So I paid 80 Euros for the 20 minute ride (I had a lot of bags, and this included my tip) only to have the driver park right in front of the well-camouflaged hotel and point me about one block up the street thru a construction zone to a big building. Thankfully a young man offered to help with my three huge suitcases; when I pointed to the soviet-era concrete monolith at the other end of the block uttering the name Intercontinental Hotel, he gently turned my attention back to where I emerged from the car where my eyes read the sign sitting atop the 20 story building : Intercontinental Hotel. The room was spectacular, due mostly to the bird’s eye view of the cityscape with a stunning mountain backdrop, topped off with a castle. I know my geography is off, but I expected Julie Andrews to start dancing across the scenery any moment.
First Blow: Arranging for a taxi to meet Marvelous Mia at the airport, I learned the actual fare between the hotel and Jože Pučnik is 30 Euros. Maybe 40 if traffic was bad. Bam. Silver lining, my swindling driver placed his card in my hand as he hugged me goodbye. Bold. Did I mention that he directed me in the entirely wrong direction with my 140 pounds of luggage? Still debating whether to post a picture of his card as a warning.
At any rate, I was dining in the fabulous B Restaurant on the hotels’ top floor when Mia arrived. Going into completely Auntie Mame mode, I arranged for Mia to be met at the front desk with directions to hustle to the top floor where Evan, the handle-bar mustached waiter/bartender/front-of-the-house guru and my new best friend in Slovenia greeted her like a returning sister and directed her to me. The menu at B restaurant is based on Honey (get it? B as in Bee. Slovenia is known for it’s honey. And Salt. Excellent combination.) We enjoyed a late dinner of the best roast chicken I have ever encountered, restaurant-made butter and bread and otherworldly risotto adorned with roasted duck breast.
Mia and I enjoyed two full days wandering through the central part of the city, meeting up with Gio and Kara and enjoying a walk along the river and through the open air market where Gio - who keeps my tastebuds doing the happy dance with his kitchen creations, I’m talking dairy-free yet creamy pumpkin risotto (yes, I ate risotto almost every night I was in Slovenia) for which I would trade both husbands - scored the best dried fruit I had the pleasure tasting in this life. This included a creation new to me: sugared and dried orange slices. DAMN!! Must get that recipe too.
A final word on our accommodations - when your first hotel room, a spectacular suite sporting mountain vistas, a bathroom the size of most Manhattan one-bedrooms, and more than enough USB charging stations to satisfy both parent and post-adolescent daughter, springs a small leak which quickly escalates into the equivalent of an in-room rainforest, and you get moved not once, but twice ending up in a smaller “suite” with a new view of the city dump (okay, it was a construction site) and no word of apology, much less consideration from management, I begin to curse myself for straying from my beloved Marriott.