Monday, August 6, 2012



I don’t climb mountains, but I do climb stairs!

Whether they are marble or wood, winding or straight, steep or shallow, I am determined to see what’s at the top. Climbing stairs can produce a voracious appetite.  Come along with me as together we revisit my favorite sites and bites.

Rocky Steps/Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Five “Rocky” films have featured the 72 stone steps of this iconic staircase at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  After touring the museum, when it’s time for a lunch break, head to the Famous 4th St Delicatessen.  Since 1923, the white-tiled Famous Deli has been a living museum and a tradition in Philadelphia.  It is a place to nosh a little, kibitz a little, and enjoy a lot.  It is also the place where the chef whipped up French fries for Jennifer Lopez, and chicken potpies for Ben Affleck when they took over the place during the shooting of "Jersey Girl" on September 6, 2002.  Famous Deli is equally famous for its delicious, award-winning cookies that are baked fresh daily in the 90-year old delicatessen.

Mont Saint Michel/Normandy, France: 562 steps will take you to the top of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Michel at the peak of this UNESCO World Heritage site located on a small island just off the coast of Normandy in Northern France. You will need to climb 365 steps just to access the Abbey and 197 steps once you’re inside the Abbey.  Of course, by then you will have worked up quite an appetite.  Descend the stairs and head straight to La Mère Poulard for one of their world-renowned omelettes.  Beaten, blown, and beautiful!

Old City Wall Stairs/Dubrovnik, Croatia: Having climbed the stairs to the top of the Old City Walls in Dubrovnik, you will be awarded a bird’s eye view of this fortified Old City that is framed by its ancient walls, soaring limestone cliffs, and a dazzling Adriatic Sea. The thick, medieval, stone walls, and the system of turrets and towers that encircle the city, once protected the vulnerable city from would-be conquerors.  Moats ran around the outside section of the city walls.  The medieval town center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is known locally as Stari Grad.  After your climb, head to the Dubravka Restaurant adjacent to the Pile (pronounced pea-lay) Gate.  Dubravka is a huge reasonably priced restaurant with magnificent terrace views of fortresses and the Adriatic Sea.  It offers a great selection of fresh seafood and Croatian specialties.

Spanish Steps/Rome, Italy: The 138 Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Spagna) and the Piazza di Spagna at the foot of The Steps, both get their name from the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican that is located in the piazza.  Built with French money in the 1720s, the tiers of steps lead to the French church Trinita dei Monti at the top of the steps.  On the piazza at the base of the Spanish Steps is Barcaccia a boat-shaped fountain by Pietro Bernini, father of the renowned sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. For over a century the Hassler Hotel,  at the top of the Spanish Steps has been recognized as one of Europe’s legendary five-star luxury hotels. Imàgo, the Hassler’s 6th floor panoramic restaurant creates a magical atmosphere, a sense of being in another time and space.

Potemkin Stairs/Odessa, Ukraine:  The 192 Potemkin Stairs, the symbol of Odessa, are considered the formal entrance to the city from the sea. The staircase is an optical illusion.  If you stand at the top of the stairs and look down, you will only see the ten landings, but not the steps. If you stand at the bottom of the stairs and lookup, you will only see the steps and not the landings. An Haute French Cuisine dinner at Le Grand Café Bristol, in the 5-star landmark Bristol Hotel, is the perfect place to land after climbing 192 steps. Located in the heart of historical Odessa, the Bristol Hotel has been recognized as one of the most magnificent hotels in Europe for more than 100 years.

Shipwreck Museum Tower/Key West, Florida: During the golden age of sailing, at least one ship per week would wreck somewhere along the Florida Reef. Wreckers, the term given to men who watched the reef from the observation tower at Mallory Square, profited from the sale of the salvaged wrecks they spotted.  Climbing the stairs to the top of the tower, you can almost hear their cry of “Wreck Ashore”.  Follow up your climb with a cheeseburger and beer at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville.

Cristo Redentor/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: To reach the Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado Mountain from the road, one must climb 222 steps. For those opting for the easy way up, the statue is reachable by escalators, elevators, and cars. The Christ the Redeemer statue, one of the most famous landmarks in the world, provides an awesome view of Rio de Janeiro and Sugarloaf Mountain. The Fasano Al Mare Restaurant, in the Philippe Starck-designed Fasano Hotel, has established itself as one of the best dining experiences in Rio.  And the bar is glorious.

Eiffel Tower/Paris, France: The Eiffel Tower, in “The City of Light”, houses the granddaddy of all staircases.  From ground level, to the top of Gustave Eiffel’s iron lattice masterpiece, there are some 1665 steps.  After you’ve enjoyed the most incredible view in all France, ascend the stairs (or elevators) and head for the Seine River.  Although I usually avoid tourist attractions for dinner, I will make a recommendation that may sound hokey, but is worth the time and money. Bateaux-Mouches, a series of riverboats that operate on the Seine, may be tourist attractions, but they are not tourist traps.  The boats offer dinner cruises that are elegant, romantic, informative, and give a whole different prospective of Paris, from the Seine looking up.  Seine-sational!  For dessert you might head to a late night show at Moulin Rouge, the word-renowned cabaret perched atop Montmartre.  Sin was not invented in Montmartre; it was only perfected there.
Janet Steinberg is an award-winning Travel Writer and winner of 38 national Travel Writing Awards.  She is also an Independent Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Mariemont, Ohio.

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