Tuesday, 29 June 2010

A magical week at the end of the romantic road

24th June Thursday.
I must be getting old but all this sightseeing is pretty exhausting and although Joe and Ingrid seemed to be loving it, they did agree with us that we should all take a day off on Wednesday. We did very little all day except relax, read and visit a shop for a few essentials. We also managed to get them to agree to us catching the bus into town on Thursday and met them at the bus station. We had told them we wanted to buy some sweet chilli sauce so we all set off through the town to the Chinese deli. Next stop was the residence, where they have the most beautiful painted ceilings that almost take your breath away.

Joe had promised it would and we were not disappointed. Sadly you are not allowed to take pictures so we cannot show you many but if you ever get the chance we can thoroughly recommend a visit. See photo lovely isn’t it?

It was a very hot day so naturally we followed this with a visit to a very smart beer garden for an excellent lunch and of course a radler each, smashing. I could go on itemising every little thing they did for us but I would be here for days so I will cover the main highlights, although some things just have to be put on this blog as they were just magic!

On Friday morning we moved to Veitshockheim, their village, and after a spot of lunch Joe and Ingrid came with a special pass from the town mayor so we could park here for three nights, (they usually only allow you one night).

Our next stop was this huge castle overlooking the city of Wurzburg and then we returned to visit their railway station which the local mayor has bought for the village and turned into a brilliant library. From there we went down past the Baroque summer palace built for the Prince-Bishops,

through the wonderful formal court gardens with lots of pleasant walks through cooling avenues of trees. It goes past a lake which is filled by natural springs, and the water then flows down to the river.

The walk-ways criss-cross all over and every now and then there is a little stone gazebo where at the foot of the four pillars is a seat and in the middle a table. Some had bench seats facing each other. All of these were excellent to pause in the shade as it was again so very, very hot. We did not stop though as we were going to be introduced to Joe & Ingrid’s favourite beer garden near the river. (zwei radler, bitte!).

Finally we rounded off another lovely day by having a meal at our van, chicken with sweet chilli sauce, peppers and noodles, finishing with one of Joan’s German Apple cakes, which was of course delicious. It was after all Ingrid who introduced us to the Remoska in Spain and she was delighted and even paid Joan the compliment of asking for the recipe.
They had told us that on Saturdays they did a bit of walking through the vineyards and tasted some wines plus eating a few snacks. This sounded great to us so we had said we would like to go with them.

Just before they left us on Friday night Joe asked us to meet him by the church in the village at 10.30 the next morning and stressed that we should not eat too much breakfast, very mysterious? We naturally thought that we were going to walk in the vineyards but maybe not, so Joan was worried that we would not have the right clothes.

I should explain that I always carry something she can slip into if we should go into any place of worship so as not to offend. So I loaded my rucksack with a little top our walking boots and a couple of litres of water and off we went, still wondering what this mystery trip was to be? At ten minutes past the appointed time Joan suddenly burst out laughing and said, you know Joe’s sense of humour, He told us to be outside the church at 10.30am but he didn’t say he would be there! Gosh I haven’t got the mobile phone he gave us so he can’t contact us either.

Just then, a very out of breath Joe appeared and apologised for his tardiness, and I pulled his leg by saying in a very bad German accent. Joe ver ist der German efficiency!! Oh dear replied Joe, I am getting smaller and smaller. Please follow me he said. But where is Ingrid we enquired? Oh she is waiting for us around the corner, it’s ok, said Joe.

What followed was just the most magical thing and I know I will struggle to put it on paper. If we never went away ever again, we would remember this day above all others we are sure.

We followed him up through the village and into the formal gardens of the palace. It being a Saturday there were lots of people just strolling around and at several points we came across stone gazebo’s where newlyweds were having professional photographs taken. It was a beautiful day and red hot. Suddenly another couple, Ingaboord (sorry if this is not the correct spelling), and Peter approached Joe and he said, oh good you came, follow me, and after introductions they did...... curiouser and curiouser? (said Alice). Just then we came around a corner and there was a smiling Ingrid in a stone gazebo, the stone table covered with a beautiful white table cloth and the spread you can see in the attached picture!

The Gazebo had four stone chairs so these two crazy wonderful people had carried two chairs, six cushions and all this food to a lovely secluded spot in the middle of the gardens. Add to that the food that Ingaboord and Peter brought and we had a feast fit for a king.
We started of course with a bottle of excellent local Champagne followed by a bottle of pink Champagne, both suitably chilled and brought in a cool box, amazing!! Then after the initial toast Joe says, oh here is your newspaper, he had driven to Wurzburg station first thing this morning to get it! Yes, and when we first got here one of the brides came for photographs and read it, said Ingrid.
After two hours of chatting and eating we were amazed to see as we packed up that all the meats had been kept fresh by being placed on large freezer blocks under a huge silver platter. During our time there many of the groups passing made comments, but always with smiles and banter, we just raised our glasses and said “prost”!

We helped them to carry things back to the car and along the way they took us to a sort of grotto with many statues all made out of snails shells. Joe invited us to see the England Germany match but we declined and returned to the van where we sat under a tree in the shade. We were parked by the river and next to a footbridge so there was quite a lot of passing traffic and lots of friendly shouting at us when they saw our GB plates. A couple of times we heard the shouts so we knew Germany were doing well but most of the people we spoke to afterwards apologised for winning and were quite indignant that the second goal was disallowed as it was actually a goal. We know now from talking to Andy that we didn’t deserve to win.

That night we went back to Joe & Ingrid’s and watched on ‘U’ tube their favourite TV sketch which is English but is shown every new years eve here. Then we recommended “four candles” to them which they enjoyed. Then it was time for dinner, some lovely German beers for me and excellent wine for Joan. White asparagus, which we’d never had before, served with ham for a starter, a delicious chicken dish with green beans then even more ice cream with fruit compote. If we don’t leave Germany soon we will need to be pushed around on wheels we’ll be so fat, but the food is so good!!! Especially at chez Loeckmann.

Sunday 27th of June
This is our last full day here as we will leave first thing in the morning. Today Joan will fulfil her wish to go to mass with Ingrid & Joe. They are taking us to the big church overlooking the city, the Kappele with huge onion towers.
We all decided it would be nice to walk up to it using the stairs pilgrims use as there is a grotto just behind the main church where pilgrims go to pray. On the way up you pass several terraces with chapels marking the Stations of the Cross. When we finally arrived at the top we were amazed, how do they do it? Having expected a normal simple service we find that Joe has arranged for the Mozart choir and a small orchestra to be there!!!! He swears it was not his doing but we are not so sure, anyway it was a really delightful service and so moving for everybody. This is turning out to be a perfect day to end our visit.

On our return to the village, it being another scorcher we just had to visit a beer garden. As luck would have it there was a festival on so we had a drink and a snack to keep us going until our final evening meal together at 7pm.

Those of you who have read previous editions of this blog will know that it has been very difficult to get Joe to let us pay for anything. Well tonight we have booked a table in a nice riverside restaurant and he has promised NOT to bring his wallet or his car.

Our trip to the restaurant went very well the food and company being first class. Joe & Ingrid, not content with everything they had already done for us, brought us a bottle of local white wine which we will enjoy when we can chill it properly. On the Friday we had managed to nip to the supermarket and so were able to present our dear friends with a bottle of single malt for Joe and Calvados for Ingrid as a parting gift and even that doesn’t repay them for what they did for us.

Monday 28th June
We left next morning early and headed for a little site by the Rhine. So here we are sitting watching the boats, trains and ducks (none of whom is a plasterer!), go by. While talking about the last eight wonderful days and remembering bits here and there together, we sip our cold beers in 35° temperatures and raise our glasses to our VERY good friends Ingrid & Joachim, thank you both very much XXXX

Lots of love to everybody
Joan & Bryan XXXX

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

End of the Romantic Road and hopefully the rain!

Monday 21st June
We are almost at the end of the Romantic Strasse and finally we have managed to get wi-fi as some of you will already know. It has been so very frustrating, we have been making for place after place where they say we can get wi-fi and when we arrive it is not working or worse not available. The Mc Donald’s free wi-fi is not an option as you have to have a ‘T mobile’ number to use it. At one stage we nearly bought a dongle for £19 which would give us free wi-fi anywhere in Germany but we needed a German address to get it!

Anyway whinge over, when we left Garda we had been warned by our next door neighbours that it was snowing in Switzerland but only raining in Germany! Well they were right, in fact all the way to Innsbruck it poured, couple this with the extensive road works and the journey was not great. Joan and I came here 2 years ago and so we were amazed when the sat-nav took us away from the city, but it did go directly to the campsite, just it wasn’t the one we’d been to before.

This site at Natters is really amazing, all solar panels etc plus automatic sliding doors to spotlessly clean facilities. The Ladies looks like a posh hairdressing salon with free hairdryers in front of big mirrors with lights round them and lovely white chairs. (so Joan tells me!) The site also has a huge lake to swim in but it’s a bit nippy at the moment, if the weather is good this must be absolutely brilliant. As we arrived it had stopped raining and the evening sunshine was lovely, so we went to bed with false hope for nice weather tomorrow. No such luck I am afraid, in fact as we started on the drive into Germany it was a lot worse!

Our reason for coming to Germany was twofold. We wanted to meet Joe and Ingrid who we had met in the south of Spain last year, they are a lovely couple and from the first day we met them at Isla Cristina we just chatted and laughed as if we had been friends for donkey’s years.

The second reason was to travel the ‘Romantic road’. This runs from Füssen in the south all the way to Würzburg and consists of 27 towns/villages dating from the middle ages and before.

In many cases they are fortified, the town walls are still there and you can walk around them. They are beautifully preserved but not in a sterile way. They have shops, schools, churches and restaurants which still keep the towns alive as places to live, plus of course outside the old town walls, modern housing has grown. They have gone to great lengths to make it a good tourist attraction and the cycle routes have to be seen to be believed, in some cases they are better than the roads!

We met lots of people taking their holiday by cycling from town to town, some in organised groups. Sadly the weather was so bad that we really did not make the most of all this but we did visit most places and walked around the old churches and walked the walls, usually with Joan’s brolly at the ready, if not up. So I will not go into any more detail as on the internet you will find lots of information if you want to know more, instead I’ve posted a few photos of some of the places we visited. We were very lucky as Joe and Ingrid had sent us loads of information and maps so we could plan our trip well in advance.

Having said all this we did stop at a few places and when we did it was on ‘Stellplatz.’ These are free or relatively cheap places set aside for motorhomes where you can park and get water, electricity and dump your waste water, plus empty your toilet without causing any problems or pollution. On some of them they have showers and toilets plus washing up facilities all for a few euro’s. We stayed on one at Füsson which has loads of facilities plus outside there are several supermarkets for supplies, and Donauwörth which is free and you get electricity for a couple of euro’s. I needed water when we left but not a lot and it was 100 litres for a euro so I didn’t bother. Later Joe said, well you would pay a euro for a bottle of water so why not? I had to admit he was right, I just hadn’t thought of it like that.

We had seen lots of really nice places and amazing churches but it was cold and wet so we really only just popped in, wandered around, took pictures and left to go onto the next place. When you walk into a walled city and go to the centre, take photos and perhaps have a snack then walk out a different way, you need to walk around the walls until you get back to your van, simple. However on a couple of occasions I had to explain this fact to the small one who was concerned that we had lost our way!

On one such occasion I must confess we did have to walk a long way but finally, obviously not trusting me, Joan asked some young lads where the swimming bath was as we had parked next to it. We were delighted they were so helpful and in perfect English one of them directed us to it. When she commented on his good English he blushed and all his friends poked good natured fun at him. All of this continuous activity meant that we arrived at Ochsenfurt campsite a lot sooner than we had planned and pretty tired. We were also amazed to discover we had passed K&K who had gone to an ACSI site just a few miles back.

This campsite is lovely and is about 12 miles from the end of the route at Würzburg which in turn is a few kilometres from Joe & Ingrid’s home and we are looking forward to seeing them. We do not yet quite believe it but the rain has stopped and there is bright sunshine here so naturally we decided to stay a few days and just relax, get some washing done and soak up the sun. Can you believe it, the wi-fi here is NOT working, aagh! How will we tell them we are here? Finally I realised Joe had sent us his mobile number so we sent them a text but got no reply. We thought we must have the wrong number so decided we would go to their house in a couple of day’s time when we had rested.

When we arrived here they were almost full and we were very tired but we found a place a long way from the facilities and used our bikes to get to the shower etc. This seemed to me to be working fine and off I went to bed.

The next morning the small one went into full overdrive and as we prepared to go for our showers she appeared at the van door with the washing! Next as I returned clean and with the fresh bread, she was waiting with the breakfast, then as I finished the last mouthful it was time to put up a washing line! As soon as the washing was hung up she said, come on there is a much better place down there, so leaving the washing where it was I moved the van! Then as I finally sat down the phone rang and Joe said we will be with you in about an hour! All the married men reading this will know that as soon as Joan heard this we naturally had to clean the van we had only cleaned yesterday!!! Joe actually took 2 hours, so I did finally get to sit down and more importantly IN THE SUNSHINE!

It was wonderful to see them both again and as soon as we had got the initial greetings over they gave us a mobile phone so we could call them at anytime should a problem arise, so thoughtful. I am sure we could have just sat there chatting for hours but they were keen to show us around a bit so we put ourselves in their hands. The first thing we did was go for lunch where we had buns as big as stotties but lighter bread, with so much filling we didn’t think we’d eat again all day! They also introduced us to a drink called a radler which is so called because it is refreshing but not too alcoholic for cyclists.(a RAD is German for bicycle)
This reminded us of lunch with Tom & Kay in Florida.

We spent the rest of the day seeing some wonderful sights and then went to their home for coffee and a lovely strawberry roulade that Ingrid had made. After that we climbed up to the top of the hill for a panoramic view out across the city of Würzburg, then down to a very nice restaurant for dinner. We had a good German beer and our first ever schnitzel. A wonderful day if a little exhausting.

Tuesday 22nd June
Joe & Ingrid had arranged to pick us up about 10.30am or just after and took us again to see more sights. It really is good going around with people who know all the history and you get to hear extra little snippets from them. The trouble is Joe has such a sharp sense of humour we are not sure if we believe him or not when he showed us a building in Frickenhausen with the year 1880 on the lintel but the bottom of the first eight has been left off, a bit like a joined up omega sign. Now, according to Joe this means half an eight, so 1480! We must confess it is certainly a very old building and definitely not 1800 but............? When he reads this he will laugh we think.......or perhaps not.

We then went to Würzburg where we had Bratwurtz for lunch which again was delicious.
We entered a beautiful old building then which was an ultra modern library, proving you can keep lovely buildings and make them functional inside. I was keen to see the painted ceiling in “The Residence” I had heard so much about but we will do that tomorrow. I really do not see how they can surpass those in St Killian’s, the martyr’s church we visited, they were amazing.

There we are, everything is really wonderful but we are a little embarrassed as up to now Joe & Ingrid have not let us pay for anything!

To be continued.................
Bryan & Joan XXXX

Monday, 21 June 2010

at last internet!

Sunday 13th June
Well here we are at Garda, some of you may remember our last visit ended in disaster and cost us £500 pound for a new awning. This time we are hoping for a much better visit. Having spent a really relaxing eight days at Riccione we were pleased to find this entitled us to a free day. Joan thought we should go to Garda by the toll road as it was so much easier and quicker although we anticipated it might cost a bit. Imagine our surprise when it matched exactly what we had saved on our free night so that was great.

It took us a mere 3½ hours to travel to our chosen campsite which sadly was not quite what we wanted so we moved on to the one we knew at Bardolino to find it was packed and only had two very substandard pitches left. Things were not looking too good but Just as we were thinking of going back to the first place, we saw, virtually next door, another ACSI site where we found a lovely pitch and where, fingers crossed we will spend the next four days. As I am writing this it is incredibly hot and although rain is forecast for tomorrow morning early, the outlook for the week is good.

It had to happen, a typical Joan & Bryan moment, remember the ferret on a lead on the beach last year? As soon as we got settled into this site we noticed there were a lot of very well groomed dogs around. We discovered that there had been some sort of dog show last weekend and what were left were those who had come for the week. However nothing could have prepared us for the scene in this picture, two adults wheeling a double buggy with two small white DOGS in it.

Monday 14th June
Wow, another scorcher so we rode along to Bardolino, had Italian ice cream and also discovered that we could get free wi-fi, great..

Having had a very pleasant day so far we topped it off by actually swimming in the lake! No honest, it was of course Joan’s idea but it was so hot I joined her. Sadly this means we do not have any photographic evidence and vowed to do it again tomorrow with the camera present. That of course was our big mistake as we awoke Tuesday morning to torrential rain! But we are British, so straightened our shoulders and watched “the Full Monty”. Later in the afternoon the weather improved and as we needed some exercise, plus O2 appeared to be ripping me off, we decided to go into Bardolino and try the free wi-fi.

While there we met a brilliant couple of Irishmen who flatly refused to believe there was a place in Ireland called “Foilmacduff!” They were great sports and one of them had a mobile like Jamie’s all singing all dancing and promptly started a google search, and finally said, well blow me he’s right! We knew we were right as of course Rob, Paula and family live there! Just then the wife of one of them turned up having spent a small fortune on handbags and shoes. After enquiring about our holiday she wanted to know how Joan looked soo glamorous and well groomed after being away from home almost two months! Joan replied that she did actually travel with her own personal hairstylist and colour artist, (wow is that me?) to which the woman replied, you are so lucky, and I agreed. They’d been in Garda for a wedding and we were having such a laugh that they wanted to buy us drinks but as we were cycling and had already had a couple we declined.

Wednesday 16th June
This is not funny it’s just like last time we came here, a couple of hot days and then bloomin rain! Anyway it eased off but looked likely to start again anytime, so we decided to walk to Garda so Joan could use her umbrella. (A bit difficult when cycling) As it turned out there were a only couple of short showers and it got hotter and hotter so we felt a little cheated as Garda is only about two miles. Then I had a brainwave, I know frightening isn’t it? Instead of walking back to the campsite I suggested we took the ferry along to Bardolino, strolled about and then walked back from there, so a total of about five miles, not bad. This is what we did, stopping in Arthur’s bar on the way for an Aperol Spritz and a beer
Later after calling in at the office, Joan is very disappointed as the weather forecast posted says it is not going to improve, so we are pushing off tomorrow for Austria.

Thursday 17th June
Well would you believe it? Hardly a soul has spoken to us and this morning we had trouble getting away as three couples came up for a chat! What is a bit worrying, the couple next door who are German just came to tell us that it is bloomin snowing in Switzerland and torrential rain in Germany!!!! Still we have faith in our good friends Ingrid and Joe that they will organise some sunshine for us we are sure.
I left the campsite and promptly turned the wrong way, the sat nav was not pleased, neither was Joan! Then, oh great the sat-nav strikes again! Fortunately Joan was watching closely or we would have ended up wandering about the mountains for about 28 miles in torrential rain before getting onto the motorway which was less than 2 miles from the campsite.
Lots of love,
Us xxxx

Thursday, 10 June 2010

A mountain road plus a string builder

Saturday 5th June

Saturday morning and we are off to Riccioni where there is a nice ACSI site and we will be at our last seaside place until we get back to France and meet the children. It’s funny but my father always loved to be by the sea and I seem to have caught the bug. It’s not as if I often get in but it is possible given that it is getting warmer every day.

As always with me if I am going somewhere I am up with the larks and today was no exception so we were off by 9am but as we intended to go by ordinary roads we thought we would need the extra time. Oh boy the bloomin sat-nav has tried to take me straight through the centre of the city! Fortunately I saw the sign in time and miraculously there was not a soul behind us so I was able to just roll back a few yards and take the right fork, phew. In fact the route took us all around the hills so we had a fantastic view of Florence for some time. Next it was into the mountains, not Joan’s favourite thing and as the climb got steeper and the hairpin bends got sharper so she slowly obtained that peculiar shade of green she goes when scared stiff. Not helped when I pointed out that we would have to go down on the other side, swine. Actually it was tiring driving but quite good fun especially as being a Saturday there were no heavy lorries on the road. We were at the campsite by half past eleven and raring to go and see the sea.

Bit of good news K&K are grandparents again so welcome to Baby Gabriel who was causing a bit of concern as he refused to arrive, better late than never old chap.

Oh dear, what a letdown, I was the one who wanted to see Rimini as I remembered that in the 50’s/60’s it was one of THE places to go. Well now what you have is mile after mile of private beach for residents of the hotels or people eating at the restaurants lining the coast. They want ten pounds a day to rent you 2 chairs and an umbrella and use of a shower to rinse off under! Every so often there is a public bit but it is so boring to walk or cycle along as it all looks the same. We had intended cycling to Rimini but have now decided not to bother.

Sunday was church, washing, and then a cycle ride along the front to see if perhaps first impressions were wrong, they weren’t. However we did a circuitous route in an effort to locate a supermarket which we eventually found and of course it was a lot closer to the site than we had thought, about a mile. The next day having returned and stocked up with essentials, wine, beer & brandy we set off for a longer ride via the town centre to see what shops they had. Either they don’t have any or more probably we missed them. Still this way we managed to do a fairly long ride for us and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The site we are on is quite big, really spotless and the staff so helpful and friendly, plus we have our own little amusement saga going on a couple of pitches away. A couple of days after we arrived, an old couple of Italians turned up in a lovely new car that was absolutely packed solid with gear. A lot of it was bundles of, well, stuff? When they stopped the first thing to come out of the car were some of these bundles, and then a small domestic fridge, which was plugged in followed by a table and cool box.

Next time we looked, about ½ an hour later more bundles had been put on top of the car and the couple were speaking to each other loudly while trying to assemble what appeared to be tent poles. This entailed her picking a piece up and him saying something and picking a different piece up and then both dropping them back down and starting again.

Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that ten minutes later I was over there and ten minutes after that the tent was up, or so we thought. Hopefully the picture will tell its story because I could go on for hours. Suffice to say one erects the frame, puts over the cover and pegs it out .................. simple, (do your own Merecat noise!).

Not this chap, to this day I don’t think there is a peg in anywhere, but he has erected over the tent a huge tarpaulin which is held up by string tied to all the surrounding trees. Amazing but good fun and they are lovely and although a conversation is out of the question, we still smile and do the good mornings/evening/day etc’s.

It was time to try the sea so we set off for a public beach and managed a short swim as it was several degrees warmer than the North Sea. On our return he has extended his ropery and we reckon she is either going to do the washing or he is going for another floor? Sadly she did the washing, but who knows.

Tuesday 8th, today Joan fulfils one of her wishes and we visit San Marino. This is very straightforward and entails buying a ticket and turning up at the appointed hour outside a hotel. Not sure what to expect we were delighted to see a double decker luxury coach with air con and plush seats. After the usual picking up at other hotels he set off and about an hour later we had climbed up to this little independent kingdom.

As we left the bus at about 3pm the driver showed us all a board with 18.00 on. Good lord what will we do until then we both asked, but we only just made it back in time as the place was amazing!

We climbed for about an hour through lovely old streets lined with shops until we reached the castle at the top where the views were breathtaking.

Joan managed to replace her diamond earrings she had lost the night before in the shower, and then of course there was a beautiful soft leather backpack she really ought to have, so she did. I got a brown belt which she said was very fair?

One of the things that really amazed me was the number of gun shops, they were everywhere selling gas operated guns & bows, plus all sorts of knuckledusters, swords, huge knives and big catapults, very strange.

After stopping for a drink and a snack at a restaurant with a lovely view we got back to the bus about 5.45. Getting back on the bus was a hoot. It had not been full so there were plenty of seats and we had managed to get back in time to be near the door waiting for the driver so we could if possible get in the front seat upstairs.

When we first arrived there was only one couple in front of us but as more started to arrive we became aware of this big fat woman who had sort of appeared at the side of me and every time she spoke to somebody she sort of rocked and her foot slid forward an inch until she was almost under my right arm! At the same time a big woman with black hair barged in front of Joan. I wish I could have filmed what happened next. As the driver opened the door they both moved but she was NOT as quick as my little Geordie girl who was on the bus and sitting in our chosen seats hotly pursued by the lady with black hair when I joined her. Full marks to the fat lady because when I got on (about fifth!), she was sitting in a seat downstairs beaming.

So there we are, we are having a great time and both of us are glad we came to the east coast. Everything has been great, the pool here is very big and of course by the time we get in has been suitably warmed as it is scorching hot and has been since we arrived. Hopefully it will follow us to Garda in a few days time.

We would like to say that we really appreciate the emails we get keeping us up to date with the news from home. Although we do not reply we hope this blog lets you know we are reading them. What we do is download them and then read them off line as internet is so expensive this year. Don’t worry about how long they are they don’t cost us a penny more than the wi-fi charge we pay anyway.

That then is 3 blogs in the last few days, just like busses none then 3 come along almost together!

Lots of love to you all
Bryan & Joan XXXX

Sunday, 6 June 2010

We found the friendly Dutch/Germans at a site on a mountain side!

As you can see the Remoska is still working well!

Thursday 3rd June.
Well off to Florence, only about 65 miles BUT on Italian roads with our dodgy sat-nav it took 2½ hours! As it wasn’t very far we had decided not to use the motorways as we wanted to see more of the countryside. After a couple of lefts and a right we found ourselves in a long traffic queue with a view of the leaning tower and Duomo on our left. Before too long the bulk of the traffic turned off for Milan and left us with a pleasant enough drive we thought. The next thing we know is we are on a very small winding mountain road. Fortunately we did not meet anything very big coming the other way. Our campsite was in the outskirts of the city to the south west easily reachable we later discovered, on a fairly major road, BUT we were taken on a strange circuitous route which we still cannot fathom.

The site was a nice enough place on the side of a steep hill with a line of pylons running through it and you just sort of drove around until you found somewhere fairly level to pitch. The toilets were reached down a very steep hill as were the other facilities, the bar, market and pool. We found the nice Dutch/ German people! They are all here, all smiles and chatty. While chatting to one couple Joan learned that we could obtain the bus timetable and actually purchase our tickets from the office, why didn’t they say when Joan enquired about a city map? In an effort to show how fit she is,(that can be the only reason for going down a 1 in 3 and back), the small one, while I was busy, went down but came back empty handed because it was very busy, so we had to go back down later!

The next morning early we were up and away to the bus stop, about three quarters of a mile away and caught it no bother, I even remembered to punch our ticket in the machine. On arrival we made straight for the Galleria dell’Accademia where they have the original statue of David by Michelangelo as Joan wanted to see it. Had we known, you can buy tickets in advance and join a very small queue but we didn’t know and had to queue for 1½ bloomin hours!! When we entered we went through airport type security, bags through ‘X’ ray machine, people through doorway scanner, you would have thought that was a good time to point out you mustn’t take pictures, but no. So when we finally get to David standing there naked, Joan whips out her camera and fires off two shots before being jumped on by the guards! She was suitably contrite so they let her off with a warning but actually the signs were quite little and up high and she is not called the small one for nothing, she genuinely hadn’t seen them!

After that we needed lunch, which was of course a pizza and Joan is still going on about the fact that a can of coke cost us €4! Then straight to the Duomo (Cathedral), outside it is really ornate but inside what a disappointment and the piped music was a bit naff. Leaving there we wandered around, had a huge ice cream, as you do, while making for the Leonardo pictures but again there was a huge queue and we were all queued out so we made our way to the bus and home.

Did we like Florence? Well it was as Ken had said very busy and full of traffic, but the buildings were nice and if we had done a bit of preparation we would have had tickets for all the main attractions in advance, which would have made things easier. Having said that we had a pretty good day and managed the climb back up the hill to our van easily which means we are definitely a lot fitter now.
Hopefully we will get wi-fi soon as this is getting to be very long indeed, sorry.
Lots of love
Bryan & Joan
Happy Birthday Eleanor! XXXX

Pisa was literally a storm!

Tuesday 1st June
It’s really hot this morning so we had an early start and said goodbye to K&K. They headed off for Garda and we went south to Viareggio and got onto the motorway as soon as possible. I promise you the stress free journey was worth every penny of the €18.60 toll, plus of course we were here (Viareggio camping), and all set up by lunchtime. After lunch we cycled the 2 miles to the railway station and discovered we could get our tickets for Pisa for the next day then. We just had to frank them when we travelled by putting them into a machine on the platform (if it were that simple!). Having checked times etc we enjoyed a pleasant ride around the harbour and ended with a trip to the seafront, lovely.

The site is alright but having selected a suitable pitch we had a run in with a miserable Dutch man and his wife because apparently if we parked there on the sunny pitch instead of the next pitch over which was in shadow, we would interfere with their TV reception. Now if the man had politely asked and explained we would not have minded, after all we are here for only two nights, but he barked at Joan and ordered her to move! We did comply in the end but she was not happy. I fail to understand why this year all we have encountered have been miserable Dutchmen and women plus surly Germans! Hopefully when we meet up with Joe and Ingrid in a few weeks time they will restore our faith in friendly people. Perhaps all the nice ones we usually meet are staying at home this year?

There is a strange token system for showers here and I knew instinctively they were going to be trouble. We asked the young girl at reception if you needed two or was there plenty of water with one. Oh yes, one is fine, she said, so this morning we trotted off to our respective parts of the building for our showers. As I took off my final piece of clothing a plaintive voice cried, Bryan, are you there? Yes pet. Well I am covered in shampoo and the water has STOPPED! Hang on, so I rapidly put on my shorts again and nipped around hoping that Joan would be just inside and I could give her my token. My foot is sticking out under the door she called, and naturally it was the farthest point of this huge shower block that she could possibly be from the entrance! However I nipped in and out very quickly and nobody noticed, well nobody screamed anyway. We later discovered what went wrong but the small one was not amused and drew herself up to her full 5’ 1½”, went to the office (after she’d dried her hair of course) and got another token for me, so all was well.

When we had been to the station we had found the bike racks so all we had to do was get there on time. Of course being us, we were a good 20 minutes early but that was fine. With the bikes all securely locked and our tickets punched we looked forward to a pleasant trip. On our arrival at Pisa of course everybody streamed towards the tower so it wasn’t rocket science to find it but we did a short detour and saw a few other sites of interest on the way. I confess we did the tourist thing but baulked at the very long queue to actually go up the tower, which would have been nice.

Next we headed for a nice restaurant where we could sit outside and enjoy a pizza and a pint/ glass of wine. We selected one from where we could sit and enjoy the view of the tower while watching the world go by. This turned out to be a very big mistake indeed. The pizza plus drink plus ambiance was fine and not too expensive BUT it started to thunder, then as we finished our meal it started to rain. By the time we left for the station it was raining quite heavily, however when we arrived back at Viareggio station there was a full scale thunderstorm raging and the drains had stopped working a long time ago! That was when Joan said, oh dear the window above our bed is open!!!

The rain did ease momentarily and we retrieved the bikes, then it came down with a vengeance. We had left our hats locked on the bikes and they were surprisingly dry considering but the cycle home was almost a swim! The rain became so heavy we could hardly see. In fairness to all the drivers, they slowed down when they passed us but by the time we got back to the van we were soaked to the skin. Fortunately Joan had put her coat in my pack but even with the hood up (she put her helmet on top), she still got pretty wet. (Hair was dry apart from her fringe Kathleen).

We dived into the van and stripped all our clothes off and put them straight onto the floor in the shower. Next it was close the windows and check whether the bed was wet. Fortunately the midge nets and sun blinds had been pulled, so no rain had as yet come in but I don’t think they would have lasted much longer. Then we started drying everything and when the worst was sorted we noticed the chap next door had a problem with his awning so our hero (me!) quickly donned swimming trunks and went to help. Actually it was broken and he had just returned so he just had to wind it in, but the thought was there!

Those who have followed this and are still awake will realise that IF we had gone home for lunch none of this would have happened, plus of course I would have been a lot richer.

I am sure you will not be at all surprised to find there are NO pictures of the above storm!
Bryan and Joan xxxx