Saturday, 9 November 2019

Pompeii, revisited

A family funeral in Oxford earlier in the week.  My cousin told me that there was an exhibition at the Ashmolean entitled "Last Supper in Pompeii", and, considering we had just been there, we should certainly go and see it; she recommended it.

So, as there was a little time, we decided to visit it. I'm so glad we did; the exhibition showed us a lot of finds from Pompeii, which we could visualise "in situ" as it were.  It was mainly concerned with eating and drinking, both in Pompeii itself and, contemporaneously in Roman Britain.  There were lots of cooking and serving vessels.
A figurine of a piglet, that may have been offered to the gods instead of the real thing (though I would have thought the real thing would have been cheaper, but what do I know?)
and even a Roman muffin tin:
and carving-knife:
There are plenty more photos on the website, so do have a look - or, better still, go and visit the exhibition if you are anywhere in the Oxford area.  It is on until January.

Friday, 1 November 2019

October holiday, 1 November

Cité de l'Europe

Today, being All Saints' Day, is a public holiday through much of Europe. So, in true Bank Holiday spirit, it rained all day!

We drove to the Strépy-Thieux boat lift, but sadly I was too asleep to really be aware of it. Then we stopped for lunch at a services - just a sandwich, but very nice.

Then we were stopped by French Customs - I don't know whether they were unaware that Brexit hadn't happened, or what - but they  kept asking where we had been, and why, and what we did for a living, and what was the retirement age in the UK, etc, while one of them with his dirty great feet peered all round the motor home and looked into all our cupboards and so on. Not nice, and I feel violated. This van is as much my home as my flat is, and I don't want customs officials all over the flat, either!

Haven't taken any photos today, so here is one from a happier border crossing! 

Thursday, 31 October 2019

October holiday, 31 October

Blégny-Mine, Belgium.

If you count Vatican City and San Marino as separate countries, which we most definitely do, this is the 7th new country this holiday!

The day started with the Swan Whisperer going for a run. It was a bitterly cold morning, and we were glad I had a pair of knitted gloves with me that he could borrow. After breakfast I went for a walk down to the Rhine,
rather glad I'd tucked a woolly hat into my bag. How many holidays do you need both a sunhat and a woolly hat?

It was a simply glorious morning for a walk, though. I was interested to read the plaques about Lord Byron - apparently the romantic poetry he wrote after visiting the area made Rhine tourism a thing and they pulled down the city walls and built hotels instead!
Sadly the local folk museum was only open in the afternoons, or I'd have visited it.

I wanted to do a Last Shop in Germany, as tomorrow is All Saints Day so the shops will be shut everywhere. Its just possible the Carrefour at Cité Europe will be open, but I'm not relying on it.

So we drove down to Niederdollendorf, the next commune along, and I went to Kik (knitting cotton), ReWe (groceries) and DM (drugstore) in that order.

By then it was lunch time, so we crossed the Rhine on the nearest ferry and then stopped for lunch before driving to Blégny for the penultimate night of the holiday. 

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

October holiday, 30 October

Königswinter, Germany.

A long drive today; too long, really, as we won't have so far to go tomorrow, but Germany, even from the motorways, is so lovely at this time of year. The autumn colours are spectacular, but I keep never managing to take photos of them, so today's only photo is from my bed.

We've been to this site in Königswinter a couple of times before, but this time, to our surprise, it is full of British cars and caravans!  Don't know who whey are or what they are doing here, but it is rare to see other British tourists in Germany!

It is bitterly cold - only last week it was blissful in Southern Italy, and now there is a frost! 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

October holiday, 29 October

Ochsenfurt, Germany

The Swan Whisperer went for a run this morning, and then after breakfast we both went for a walk round Ingoldstadt,
calling in at a DM and an Edeka, and then on our way back there was a wool shop so I sent the SW back to the van to get his coffee while I investigated. There was nothing I wanted in the actual wool shop, except possibly some cotton, but I found some acrylic in the colours I wanted in the shop next door. So a win.  The SW said these flowers, in the main square, looked more like cabbages than flowers! I have to agree! 

After coffee and the services, we headed off towards Würzburg, this aire being on the Main a few kilometres short of it. Smooth journey, except we almost didn't find somewhere to stop for lunch and had to come off the road into some random village! Don't know where, but it was near Emskirchen. 

Monday, 28 October 2019

October holiday, 28 October

Ingolstadt, Germany

I should really know better than to say "Haven't  we been lucky with the weather?", which I said to the SW last night, because of course it promptly started raining - I fear to close the skylights when I got up in the night, and today has been very cold, as well as wet. From "just a t-shirt" yesterday, I've gone  into thick cardigan, scarf and wrap! We knew this would happen as we came north, of course, but you do feel it! 

I spent most of the morning wrestling with my bank (successfully) and PayPal (unsuccessfully), very frustrating, and was glad to walk into Kufstein to shop and work off excess adrenaline while I was at it. These Alpine towns are so scenic
that a modern shopping centre comes as a shock,
but just as well.

Then a cold, wet drive to here at Ingolstadt, stopping for lunch on the way. Got the last place in the aire, which is lovely and has electricity, and the SW went for a walk while I bought yet more rail tickets. I think it will be a warming drink this evening - whisky or sloe gin - rather than beer or wine! Last night we had pre-made Apérol Spritz, and all I can say is, don't bother, it's revolting with a horrible artificial aftertaste!

Sunday, 27 October 2019

October holiday, 27 October

Kufstein, Austria

The Swan Whisperer's idea of enjoying an extra hour in bed was to get up early and go for a run! Me, I enjoyed the extra hour in bed!

After breakfast, I had a lovely time pottering round a very large hypermarket while the SW used services (Italian shops are open on Sundays). In Bozen, everything is in two languages and although my German isn't very good, it's a lot better than my Italian! Still some things I had no idea what they were, though - I think cheese, but could have been pastry.

Then a splash of petrol (it is much cheaper here, so it enough to get us to Kufstein) and we were off along the motorway to Austria,
(I think this is a glacier) stopping at the border to have lunch and buy a vignette for the motorway, which didn't stop us having to pay for the Europabrücke, alas. 

And then on in, past Innsbrück, with me trying frantically to get some decent photos of scenery
which was more breathtaking round every corner,
and finally we arrived here at Kufstein
in a very nice, although crowded, aire, which would be nicer in the person next to us wasn't taking up two spaces! 

Saturday, 26 October 2019

October holiday, 26 October

Bolzano/Bozen, South Tyrol

Today has not been a good day. It started off very well, with a leisurely breakfast and sorting things out to get ready to go to Bolzano, including using the services, etc. But just as we set off, the satnav went off and we couldn't restart it.  It did recover later, thankfully, but too late to do any good today. 

Fortunately, we both have smartphones, so could use Google, but unless we kept a very sharp eye on it, it insisted on defaulting to the motorway, which we didn't want to use, because, scenery.  And there was such a lot I should have liked to have photographed, but didn't dare. The lake was so lovely today - the wind had got up in the night, creating perfect conditions for Saturday morning sailing and paragliding schools
and the lake was dotted with sails and a flock of coot!

We did stop briefly so I could shop, although in a rather expensive convenience store. There is a big Spar near where we are parked, so I hope to do a Last Shop in Italy in the morning before we tackle the Brenner Pass. 

Friday, 25 October 2019

October holiday, 25 October

Malcesine, Italy

We were out of the van by 09:00 this morning and on our way to catch a bus into the centre of Bologna. City mapper does not work there, but Google Maps does a great job of filling the gap, telling us which bus(es) to catch and when to get off, etc.

The centre of Bologna is well worth seeing. It had once been a walled city and some of the walls are still there,
but inside it is a mixture of grand arcades full of posh shops and little side streets with provision stalls.

And the huge central square is something else again!

After coffee in one of the many cafes, we went back to the car park and headed on to Malcesine, which might have been a mistake as it is at the far end of Lake Garda from the motorway where we really want to be. Only chose it because of the Battle of the Villa Fiorita (Rumer Godden), but the lake is very lovely!  As is the view from my bed.
And the sun came out again, which means it is a bit cold now. 

Thursday, 24 October 2019

October holiday, 24 October

Bologna, Italy
Another slow start to the morning, as we were not really in a hurry. The kind man whose garden we had slept in allowed us to empty the loo and to take on water before we left - we tipped him €5, but I don't  think he'd have minded if we hadn't. 

It looked as though the lovely weather we have enjoyed so far was coming to an end, and indeed it began to rain as we arrived in Bologna this afternoon. But before then, we went a few km south to visit the local Lidl, so I can now say I have been to Lidl in 4 different countries!

Then it was on to the motorway, but we discovered that we were only a few kilometres away from San Marino, so decided to add another notch to our belt, as it were, and go there. Despite its being surrounded by Italy, it is not, in fact, a member of the European Union.

Back on the motorway we were very amused to discover that we were, quite literally, crossing the Rubicon, which is, of course, a river here. 

And so to a very wet and unpleasant Bologna. I decided the change was too much and spent what was left of the afternoon on my bed, reading and knitting, but the SW went out and says he would like to see it again in daylight, and as the forecast seems a bit better, we think we'll get up early and explore before heading to Lake Garda. 

I haven't taken any photos today, so here is another favourite from Pompeii. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

October holiday, 23 October

Marotta, Italy
I am a bear of very little brain! It is no good hoping to cross the Brenner Pass on Sunday (no lorries!) if you are planning to spend Sunday night in Bolzano!

So another quick rethink, and actually today has been rather dull for blogging purposes. The SW went for a run before breakfast, and I went down to the beach after it
while  he was changing the sheets, as we are half way through our holiday.

This was a lemon or lime, not sure which, just growing on a street tree, like crabapples in Britain! 

And then we drove up the Adriatico coast, on the motorway as far as Acona, which we stopped to have a look at (nothing much to see) and then on the main road or another hour up to here. A very nice aire - it's only someone's back garden, and he wouldn't charge us as it is not summer! It's a bit noisy, being on the main road and the railway line, but that never bothers us much. The SW went down to the beach before it got dark, and I am going to cook risotto. 

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

October holiday, 22 October

Termoli, Italy

We had a day in hand so the Swan Whisperer chose where we were to go, this time on the Adriatic Coast of Italy. He found a cross-country route from Pompeii, and a supermarket there where we could shop.

First off all, though, he wanted a walk, so he went off to do that while I cleared up breakfast, made the bed, etc. When he cane back, he had coffee and then we used the services before setting off.

The idea of a modern hypermarket in Pompeii is a bit weird, but of course the residents have to shop somewhere! Especially as they had all the Halloween stuff and were beginning to have Christmas stuff, too. 

By the time I had finished shopping, it was lunch time so we ate before heading on.

I will draw a veil over the next few hours. If you are ever tempted to motor on secondary roads in Italy, don't. Just don't. Appalling road surfaces, very low speed limits, often difficult to pass oncoming traffic.... Just don't! I felt very sick and ended up going to sleep in the hope that things would be better when I woke up. They were - we eventually got on to an A road which was much better and a good surface, and a reasonable speed limit.

I don't know anything about this town where we have ended up, except that it is twinned with Pompano Bay (Beach? Bay?) in the USA. It is on the Adriatic coast and we are near the sea. A very nice aire, very quiet.

I have no photos from today, so here is one of Sorrento Bay from yesterday evening. 

Monday, 21 October 2019

October holiday, 21 October

I never cease to be amazed how cheap travel is here. It only costs €3.00 to go from here to Pompeii by bus and train. So of course we did.

First, though, it was a day for housekeeping, doing a little washing (we solemnly counted our pants, socks and t-shirts to see whether we needed to wash any or whether we had enough to do us until we got home) and so on.

Then we bought transport tickets from Reception and headed to the bus stop at the entrance to the site, although we made a nonsense and got off at the wrong stop for the station, but it wasn't a very long walk. Then we caught a train to Pompeii, and so to the ruins.

We had been told it was worth while spending money to have a guided tour, and it certainly was, as our guide was knowledgeable and friendly. He showed us most of what there was to see, and at the end of the tour pointed out the main sights (including the brothels!) that we hadn't seen, and offered to take the party on after a break. However, I had had enough by then and so we sadly said our farewells and then went out via the visitor centre that showed a good film of the various sites and when they were excavated.

A late lunch and then we discovered that we had missed the final bus of the day up Vesuvius, so we came back to Sorrento and the camp site. After a rest, the SW went for a walk, saying he hadn't had enough exercise, which I took leave to doubt, and when he came in, we went to the on-site restaurant, which, sadly, was mediocre and we'd have had a better meal had I cooked. And the SW wonders why I don't care to eat out much! 

Sunday, 20 October 2019

October holiday, 20 October

We have changed our plans very slightly as we got a discount for various camp sites in a chain and one of them was for Sorrento, so we are going to spend up to 3 nights in this campsite here. We may or may not go into Naples, but probably not; much more likely to go to Pompeii and then have an extra day. As long as it's Sunday again when we cross the Brenner Pass!

First thing today was shopping and diesel. Unlike France and Germany, Italian shops are open on Sundays. The little supermarket was in a residential area, and rather nice, we thought.

In many ways, Italy reminds me of France nearly 50 years ago - the traffic, the petrol pumps on the pavements, human beings in the motorway toll kiosks, and I would have said the lack of out-of-town supermarkets, but we did see a couple on our drive south.

We stopped to have lunch where we could see Monte Cassino,
and then headed down the motorway and then through tunnels and round hairpin bends and goodness knows what all else until we got to this campsite, which has a lovely view over the Bay and City of Naples.
I thought at first it also had rabbits, but turns out they are olives! 

Saturday, 19 October 2019

October holiday, 19 October

You can't really do justice to Rome in a day, but we had a go. The trouble was, as the Swan Whisperer said, round every corner was something worth photographing.

But first of all, it was Saturday, so if course the SW had to find a parkrun. There was one fairly near, so he had a very early breakfast, to allow time to digest it, and then headed off while I got up more slowly and had my own meal. By the time he got back and had showered, changed and had coffee, it was about 11 when we set off.

We decided to go on the bus to Vatican City, but we had to change buses and I don't know what they thought they were playing at, but there were two on the stand and they simply wouldn't get going and everybody kept changing from one to the other in case that one set off, etc.

Finally one of them did and dropped us very near St Peter's Square, which was fabulous.
We didn't really want to go into the Cathedral, so we walked all round the square and admired the Cathedral. When we got back into Italy, walking down a long avenue towards the river,
there was a tout for a restaurant so we took his advice and very good it was, too. I had cacio e pepe, which was delicious, and the SW had pasta arrabiata, which he liked. Also beer for us both.

Then we thought we could walk to the Trevi Fountain. Big mistake - it took far longer than it said it would, and then when we did eventually get there, it was more crowded than a Northern Line train in the rush hour, and you could barely see it, far less throw coins in it. 

In spite of a gelato stop, I was flagging badly by then so treated us to a city tour which was cheaper as it was after 15:00. It was good to join the dots, but Roman traffic is dreadful, like Paris was 50 years ago.  And I couldn't listen to the commentary as it was on earbud headphones and you can't use them with hearing aids. 

When the bus got to its terminus we tried to catch a train back to Ostiense, the quartier where we are parked, but just missed it and ended up taking the metro. Quite a long walk back the other end, so I have gone to bed and the SW has gone to see if he can buy some sausages. 

Friday, 18 October 2019

October holiday, 18 October

Rome, Italy

We got up really early this morning and were away just before 09:00,thankful to discover that although you had to have paid for the campsite by 11:00 am, you didn't have to actually leave until 14:00, which took a great deal of pressure off.

We walked into Pisa - it wasn't far, only through a rather nasty tunnel under the railway lines, and then you turned more or less straight into a little street full of souvenir sellers
and at the end there was an entrance to the great Cathedral plaza with the infamous Tower.

We walked all round
and found an exit at the opposite corner, enjoying a replica of the famous Roman statue on the way.
Had I known we were only on the very edge of the town and there was a historical town centre, its have demanded a coffee and a sit-down, and then visited it, but perhaps as well not to overdo it. As it was, we walked back along the walls (not on them, but below them), noticing one of the towers was also a bit crooked. 

Then it was time to head on to Rome, which was a more interesting drive than some as it was not all motorway, although mostly dual carriageway. Interesting to learn the various shibboleths of Italian driving! And of course, urban driving in Rome itself, which wasn't  as scary as the SW had feared.

We are parked up in a typical urban motor home park, not far from public transport. The SW has been exploring and tomorrow we will see the sights. 

Thursday, 17 October 2019

October holiday, 17 October

Pisa, Italy.

We hadn't been going to, but neither of us could quite bear to be so close and not at least have a quick look at Milan. Plus Citymapper told us there was a bus from the airport (fortunately closed for 3 months for runway repairs) straight to the Duomo, so it would have been rude not to, really.

So off we went. It's always difficult to tell what a city is like from a bus, if you don't know it at all, especially when said bus goes up one very long street (it felt like) lined with shops and apartments. And up the tram lines. 

But we got to the terminus eventually, about 5 minutes walk from the Duomo itself
and from the iconic plaza Vittore Emanuele II.
We didn't go into the Duomo as you had to pay, but we did walk through the plaza,
and then out and round and so back to the bus stop.
A quick cup of coffee when we got back to the van, and we were away at last 5 minutes earlier than we had been the previous day!

We had been going to spend the night on the outskirts of Florence, but decided we would see more, more enjoyably, if we went to Pisa instead. So we did, driving on the motorway (€27 today) stopping at a services for lunch, and getting rained on as we crossed the mountains. 

We have found a camp site about 20 minutes' walk from the Tower (which we saw in the distance as we drove in) and the SW has gone for a run so we can be out betimes for an explore tomorrow morning.