FONTVIEILLE

FONTVIEILLE

Bonjour mes amis,
We began our week in Fontvieille with great anticipation. We were really looking forward to a relaxing week in a small village in the south of France, Provence actually. Nothing disappointed, in fact our week was well beyond our wildest dreams. Lance has taken lots of photos and so the story will be brief.
We picked up our little car, a Peugeot at the airport in Marseille and headed off to Marseille with no real hiccups. It didn’t take long for us to arrive out our new home for the week, Maison Mireio, a gorgeous little French cottage. After settling in we set off to discover the village, get some supplies, find the cafe/bar which was where we would get internet (joy of joys, I was so happy there was no internet/TV/phone reception at the cottage – absolute heaven!!!) and find our feet.
Each morning we began our day with an espresso in the cafe with the locals and checked our emails, caught up with the news. At the end of our busy days we would go to the cafe for an Aperol Spritz or beer and catch up on emails before working out what dinner would look like. Some nights we cooked food we had sourced at the local markets or went to one of the amazing 27 restaurants in the village. If you go to Fontvieille we can thoroughly recommend La Cuisine au Planet. The wine shop also provide us with some great wines.

So what did we do for the week apart from eat and drink….
Sunday morning there was a big horse event in the village. I’ve never seen so many horses all in the same place. Then we drove to L’isle sur la Sorgue to see the antique markets, onward to Fontaine de Vaucluse which is the source of the Sorgue river where we saw kayakers competing in a slalom event. It was very exciting watching them navigate the rapids and the slalom course. Then on to Gordes which is considered one of France’s most beautiful villages, and has amazing views from the top of the hill (mountain)

Monday we went to Les Baux de Provence, which is an old fort 6000BC and extremely picturesque and then walked around to Carrières de Lumières which is an old mine now used to put on the most amazing spectacular light shows based on artist(s) work. This year we were lucky, the show uses Van Gogh’s work with fabulous musical accompaniment. Lance’s photos will give you an idea of just how spectacular it is. If you haven’t made your holiday plans for this year, go there!!

Tuesday didn’t start well with the bank alerting me that my credit card had been used fraudulently. Bit of a problem, however we went to the Fontvieille tourist office who let me ring the bank and we were able to sort things out. Highly recommend the very kind, helpful tourist office staff We then headed off with our packed lunch in our backpacks for a circular bush/forest walk to explore Moulins (windmills), Roman ruin aqueduct and olive groves, following the blue signs. Easy we thought, experienced Heysen trailers this will be a piece of cake. NOT. The blue signs are minute painted strip on a tree trunk, bit of rock, pole… and completely randomly placed. We think we followed the trail and got the hang of it so reached the Roman ruins aqueduct which were a detour off track, with no problem.
On our way back to the track we were joined by a dog who was walking down the middle of the road, oblivious to traffic. We got him off the road, and assumed he would go back to his house but he stuck with us. When we returned to our departure point for the detour we had trouble finding the mini blue line, but our new best friend Shasta II came to the rescue, he found the way and waited for us to follow him. We kept trying to get him to go home but he stuck with us, even responded to my French command of ‘ici’. We knew he was thirsty so Lance gave him a drink by pouring water into his cupped hand, Shasta drank his whole bottle. Eventually we decided to eat, so Shasta got half our sandwiches, bit fussy, didn’t like avocado, tomato or lettuce. While we were eating another walker came by, and we asked him hoping, that Shasta was his dog, but no…. he however was able to phone the owner whose, number was on Shasta’s ID tag, so the 3 of us walked back, with a very reluctant Shasta, and met his owner after about 2.5km. The French guy left and continued his walk while we chatted with the owner who was originally from California, now growing olives in France. We then retraced our steps and continued on our way, making our walk just that bit longer and of course the bit that we did twice was the steepest part of the whole track – these were real undulations, not the Australian version.

Wednesday we were off to Arles for more Roman history, the arena, amphitheatre the baths (the aqueduct carried the water from the Alpilles mountains to the baths, and what did the Romans ever do for France! and saw areas that had inspired Van Gogh.
Thursday, off to the Carmargue, a huge nature and conservation area where we saw pink flamingos. We ended up at Saintes Maries de la Mer looking out to the Mediterranean, but toooooo cold for swimming.
Friday we visited St Remy de Provence another area where Van Gogh worked, and with many well preserved Roman and Medieval historical sites. We then went on to a small village Eygalieres, which was just gorgeous. It is on top of a hill/mountain and has amazing 360 views of the surrounding valleys.

Saturday saw us heading off to Montpellier for our onward train journey to Spain. All went well until we got to the centre of Montpellier where we were to return the car to AVIS. Sounds simple, but was not. The sat. nav. was all set up with the address and led us in to the winding thin roads, with multiple choices at intersections as to which way we should go. Invariably we took the wrong turn and then were sent back to do the 4.9km circuit again. After about 90 minutes (and I’m not exaggerating, and so those of you who know Lance will know how ‘happy’ he was with all this) we got really close and in fact stopped right outside our hotel, which was opposite the railway station, so we were able to unload the luggage, and check into our room. The receptionist then gave us directions as to where to go to get rid of the car, which we had randomly parked in the square in front to the hotel. One of us was quite happy to leave it there and ring Avis to come and get it. However we set off, and ended up driving the wrong way down a one way street, who would have thought that could happen! A very agitated driver stopped us and then helped us by leading the way, with us following, as if we were on a Grand Prix circuit and we finally got to the unmarked place where you return hire cars. That afternoon one of us enjoyed retail therapy while the other took great photos.
The next morning we caught the train to Barcelona.
We are most grateful to Bryan and Kathy for their gorgeous cottage in Fontvieille. We met some lovely people, who patiently tolerated our attempts at French, but we did get better. This really has been the highlight of our holiday and we have some great memories of our time in this amazingly beautiful part of the world.

Au revoir
Lance & Barbara

 

VENICE

VENICE

Buongiorno from Venice,
We arrived in Venice by train on 6 March, and caught the Vaporetto to S.MARCO Vallaresso, where we met our host, Marco, who lead us the short distance to our accommodation. Venetian Infinity Apartment This was to be our home for the next 3 nights. (Thanks for the recommendation, Alan & Julie). That night we visited San Marco Square, and then discovered after a long trek through the lanes and over the countless bridges the supermarket.
On our first full day we walked around to familiarise ourselves with the city and discover the sights. We visited the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, walked over the Accademia Bridge, fought the crowds at Piazzo San Marco, Basilica San Marco, and St Mark’s Campanile, after which we decided we needed a break from tourists and walked along the waterfront to the gardens and enjoyed the quiet and the setting sun.

The next day we bought a ‘day pass’ for the Vaporetto and spent much of the day doing ‘hop on, hop off’. We visited a gallery that was displaying working models of some of da Vinci’s ideas. Da Vinci is big at the moment because it is 500 years since he died. At the moment there are excellent exhibitions in the UK and in Italy that we have seen.
On one of our many landings and after crossing the Rialto Bridge we searched out a restaurant that Marco (our host) had recommended. After much searching we found it, Trattoria Ca’ d’oro-Alla Vedova, magnifico! and well worth the effort of the search. After lunch we also visited the market and Basílica de Santa Maria della Salute, which was just lovely. Dinner that night was at ‘Chat Qui Rit’. We shared the building courtyard and garbage bins with the restaurant.

Each morning I got up very early and headed out to see if there were any photos to be had, I used my ‘Photographer’s Ephemeris’ app. Checked out the angles of the rising sun, got ‘east and west’ sorted, times of sunrise, blue hour, golden hour, the lot, only one very ‘slight’ problem…..FOG, every morning I was out there, every morning, so was the fog, except, the morning we had to leave. At least we had a nice ride to the airport in beautiful conditions, warmer, blue sky and beaming sunlight! c’est la vie, (hang on, not in France yet) così è la vita!

arrivederci
Lance & Barbara

 

 

FLORENCE

FLORENCE-FIESOLE-MONTERIGGIONI

Buon giorno from Italy!
Friday March 1 saw us flying into Florence to celebrate Lance’s birthday. Unknown to him we were booked into our favourite Florentine hotel, ‎Hotel Torre Guelfa, which many years ago provided us with a safe haven on a cold, wet and windy night. This is a gorgeous hotel in a 13 century building with the tallest private tower in Florence. We enjoyed climbing the tower and the panoramic views of Florence. Birthday dinner was celebrated in the first restaurant we ate in many years ago in Florence.

(Click on photo to see gallery)

FIESOLE

Next morning we caught the bus to Fiesole a small village in the north eastern hills. Bit of a hassle finding the bus, it had been moved due to a route change, but eventually we got there. We did a long walk through the narrow lanes of Fiesole and the forests and ended up at the Fattoria di Maiano for lunch. We have also stayed here before, We had a superb lunch with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. Then it was back to Florence, walking down the hill, to move into our Airbnb, which proved to be everything we had hoped for. The street view from the room was of Por Santa Maria (it continues down to the Pont Vecchio – we were about 200m from the bridge)

Sunday we woke to the sounds of drums and looking out the window, saw the parade of costumed guards complete with cannon marching to the Palazzo Vecchio for the The Changing of the Guards. This continued all morning. We decided we would go to Piazza Michelanglo and see David (version of), and 2 churches. We arrived back in the city walking through the Palazzo just as a spectacular performance of flag throwers began. There were 4 teams performing, 2 from Florence and 2 from Umbria. It drew a huge crowd and was really spectacular and fun.

MONTERIGGIONI

On Monday we decided to hire a car and head off to Monteriggioni to explore the castle, medieval village within the walled village and eat truffles at Osteria Antico Travaglio (Lesley & Dean’s recommendation), thank you!
We hired a Fiat 500 which was lots of fun, enjoyed exploring the castle and village and B particularly enjoyed the truffles and chianti (L missed the wine, being the designated driver)

Tuesday we decided to do our own things in the morning and meet for a very late lunch. B hit the designer stores of which there are many, and visited galleries, and L went on a photography safari. So B could get another hit of truffles we went to Mangiafoco Osteria Tartuferia for dinner. Excellent food and excellent truffles and chianti.
Florence is an amazingly beautiful city with so much to see and do.

Ciao
Barbara & Lance

 

BELFAST-GLASGOW

BELFAST-GLASGOW

Tuesday

We left Cairnryan, Scotland, on board the Super-fast ferry, 2 hours later we arrived in a wet and overcast Belfast. After a short and informative ride in a cab we arrived at our accomodation on Dublin Road and began the unpacking and setting up phase followed by some ‘hunting and gathering’ at the Tesco across the street. We then set off in search of a restaurant for dinner. We didn’t have far to go; next door was a place called Kitch Restaurant. We had an absolutely fantastic meal there, and so if you’re ever in Belfast, look them up and make a booking.

On Wednesday morning we visited the Titanic Museum , an amazing museum, fantastic displays, you could easily spend a couple of days to take it all in. The highlight was an experience of what it would have been like as a worker building the hull of the ship.
In the afternoon we did a great walking tour called Conflicting Stories, where we listened to and visited various significant sites with a Republican and Loyalist ex-political prisoners. They each gave their versions of events during the ‘the troubles’. The first hour and a half was spent going from Divis Towers to Bombay Road hearing the Republican’s stories and views. We then passed through the electronically controlled gates into the predominantly protestant area of the The Shankill Road and met our second guide, the Loyalist ex-political prisoner. He took us through his area and down the Shankill Road shared his personal story. Although their versions of the troubles were conflicting, the one thing they agreed on was a hope and dream for peace to continue, and that future generations will not to go back to the days of ‘the troubles’.

The next day we took another tour to the Giants Causeway. We left Belfast at 9.15am in the morning and headed through the countryside, taking in spectacular coastal and inland views. Barbara and I left the coach (the only people to do so!) to do a coastal walk with a local guide, Gerald, who we met at Portballintrae. We walked the 5km’s from Portballintrae to the Giant’s Causeway, the views from the high cliffs were spectacular, as was the wind that at times blew us up the hills and other times we fought to make progress We explored the Giants Causeway with Gerald who had a fountain of knowledge about the area and a great passion for telling his stories. We then rejoined the bus and headed to the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge and made the treacherous crossing using the rope bridge about 30 metres above the very rough ocean. The tour finished with a visit to Bushmills Whiskey Distillery.

Friday
Friday morning saw us in a taxi to catch the 7:30 ferry back to Scotland, followed by 2 train rides before arriving in Glasgow. We had a very unhelpful taxi driver who dumped us ‘somewhere near’ the address we were going to. After some frustrating searching we eventually found what we were looking for.
First night in Glasgow, did some shopping at Sainsbury’s for essentials (milk, bread and tonic water) then went out to dinner to another fantastic restaurant, Celinos Trattoria . Once again great service, atmosphere, and the food, brilliant! Another restaurant that we went to was The Ox and Finch where we enjoyed an amazing lunch with fantastic food and great service (the beer was good too).
We bought a 2 day pass for the Hop on, Hop off Tourist bus, just to see the highlights and to give our tired feet a bit of time off. We managed to visit Glasgow Cathedral, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Riverside Museum, Gallery of Modern Art, various other sites and of course a few pubs along the way.

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cheerio the nou

Lance & Barbara