Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tutti i Santi

All Saints Day. I remember a long weekend many, many years ago, in Venice, with Tony, Brendan and Alistair, and Ella. The weather was much as it has been this weekend but with misty mornings. One of our best visits to Venice. And here we are again, Venice on All Saints Day. The autostrada was deserted. Oh, the joys of travelling on a public holiday. We arrived in Venice in good time, too early even, but better that than too late. IMG 1970 The causeway. IMG 1977 Ferry port. No. that wasn't our ferry. It took ages to load the ferry. Lorries first, they had to reverse on. Nightmare. Then cars with caravans - usually the caravan was reversed on by one of the dock workers and then the car was re-hooked up. Oh but it was a slow system!!! We mused on how ever they would get a full ferry loaded as this one wasn't even a third full. Finally, we got on board and found our cabin - I had originally booked an inside cabin but changed to an outside one with a reasonable sized window. Not bad. We dumped our things and headed outside ready to enjoy our departure. Hungry, we quickly ate the most unappetising giros, not wanting to miss anything of the start of our journey. Two hours later: IMG 1989 Still waiting, even the crew are out watching. Whatever is going on? (Later we discovered that this was the first time this particular boat had been in Venice… so the authorities decided to do a full safety check. Two hours of safety check!!!) And during that time they were still loading lorries. But eventually we got underway IMG 2015 and got a bit camera happy IMG 2018 trying to capture the essence of Venice. IMG 2020 Canals IMG 2023 Buildings IMG 2032 Piazza San Marco, can you make out the crowds? The canal was extra busy there as well. IMG 2034 More Piazza San Marco IMG 2042 Yet more. IMG 2013 More boats, more buildings and, as everywhere, a crane. IMG 2010 Would that we were travelling on this luxury boat… but a week later it was still there. IMG 2049 And finally, almost out of Venice now, some autumn colour. When we were having lunch in Bardolino the day before I noticed an ATM machine and the thought went through my mind, maybe I should get some more cash. Through my mind and out again. I forgot to get the cash. Tony also didn't have any euros. Oh well, I thought, as we boarded the ferry, we can pay for everything by card. Wrong!!! Very wrong!!! We used up the last of our euros paying for the ghastly giros. No… we managed to find enough for a couple of coffees in the afternoon. Something had to be done. Someone suggested the Pursar. First find Pursar. Hmmm. Not so easy. Once we were underway, everything closed. We had at least established that we could use our cards in the Dining Room and in the self-service restaurant so we wouldn't starve and there were a couple of bottles of water in the fridge in our cabin. We wouldn't die of thirst either. Oh, but the need for coffee… Pursar to the rescue. Eventually his office opened and Tony was able to change some £s into €s. Joy, I could have a coffee… but I chose to have a glass of wine instead. After all, we were on an adventure. Dinner in the Dining Room was good. I chose to have a selection of Greek dips: Tsatsiki, aubergine and spicy cheese. Yummy. And then a traditional Greek stew. Washed down by some more wine, of course. Tony had gnocchi followed by pork. And, as a reward, we received a bottle of Cretan olive oil. Thank you very much. All paid for with our Visa card… it required a visit to the shop with the waiter. They didn't have a machine in the Dining Room. (Am I twittering a bit too much?) We enjoyed a very peaceful night, a flat calm sea, just the kind I used to hope for when we were making a night crossing. The captain didn't manage to make up time so we were two hours late getting to Igoumenitsa. Back to the Dining Room for lunch. We both chose what turned out to be the strangest dish ever. Ravioli stuffed with pears on a bed of caramelised sun dried tomatoes . Well, it tasted ok. But maybe it would have been better on the dessert menu. It was all so sweet, the ravioli with the pears and the tomatoes, well, they were more like… jam. Interesting. And finally, IMG 2072 Land. Albania. Nearly there. All in all, we had enjoyed our ferry crossing.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

And on into Italy

We had a great drive from Chambery to the Frejus Tunnel. The autumn colours along the route were fabulous, mind blowing. We were going through the mountains, climbing slowly, glimpses of Mont Blanc, snow covered as always, other mountains showing a sprinkling of snow and always, the colours, from palest gold to shimmering russets to brilliant reds. Add to that a clear blue sky and an almost empty road (and no lorries!) and you have a perfect drive. And then we were through the tunnel and into Italy and going down, down, down until we reached the Turin bypass an the road got busy, cars rushing by, entering and exiting it seemed every few hundred yards. This required attention… and no cruise control. From here onwards the traffic was more dense, more frenetic. We took a wrong turn and ended up on the wrong autostrada but decided it was better than the one the satnav had chosen. Then we were crossing Milan. Bergamo. And finally, signs for Verona. And Lago di Garda. IMG 1961 This was our hotel. Not a great pic I know, but I thought you might like to see it anyway. But it was in the middle of nowhere! Or so it seemed - there was an interesting old village that we walked around but no bar, nowhere to have a coffee. So we got back in the car and wound our way downhill, round convoluted hairpin bends and finally to Bardolino. There were cars everywhere and we thought, hmmm, parking is going to be an issue but no, there was an enormous car park and a few empty spaces. Time for a walk. And a cappuccino. I thought I would insert some pics of Bardolino, but it seems I didn't take any. Brain-dead after all that scary driving. We decided not to rush on to Venice next day. The thought of finding the car park, getting our bags, walking into town and finding our hotel… much better stay where we were and have a relaxing day around the lake. IMG 1878 Autumn in Lazise, Lago di Garda IMG 1884 More autumn colour IMG 1888 Castles seem to be the norm around Lake Garda, this is a view of Lazise's version. IMG 1889 Tony and, in the background, one of the ancient 'gates' into the town. IMG 1898 Okay, so I was trying to be artistic! IMG 1900 Still in Lazise, the view across the small port towards the row of bars and restaurants. Wasn't it a glorious day! IMG 1903 The inside of a tiny church on the quay, opposite the restaurants. From Lazise we took the lake steamer to Sirmione. IMG 1910 Tony, waiting for cast off IMG 1914 You wondered whether you would ever get a view of the lake, didn't you! IMG 1919 And then to Sirmione IMG 1922 Shops IMG 1923 Icecream IMG 1929 Lunch IMG 1935 Sirmione's castle has a moat. IMG 1932 And another small church. IMG 1940 And narrow alleyways. IMG 1946 A beach. IMG 1952 And a pretty walk along the shore. The walk was pretty… not Tony!!! He was getting tired. Time for a drink. IMG 1954 But not before we passed a grove of gnarled old olive trees. IMG 1960 And finally, the return trip on the steamer. And in the evening (Tony reminded me last night) we enjoyed the most delicious pizza. I'm not a pizza fan, give me pasta any day. But this one was seriously good. Next Greece, and Ganymede, the reason for this trip.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


From Dijon to Chambery via Lyon. Oh, I so didn't want to go via Lyon, it is always a busy road. Not as bad as the M25 mind you, but lots of lorries. Lots and lots of lorries. But wait, this was Saturday. No lorries. Well, that isn't quite true but there ware certainly fewer than on a weekday. Good for more 'getting used to the new car' practise. As we approached the Lyon bypass there was a sign that indicated Chambery and Turin but no, the satnav ignored it. Now why, when we know the satnav has 'got it wrong' do we still not take the correct turn? We do it time and again, and still we do it. We did it on Friday evening as we approached Dijon, it gave us one of those vague instructions and we didn't follow our instinct and so added half an hour to our route. This time there was a new road, cutting a corner, and the satnav didn't know about it. So we didn't take it. When will we learn!!! Eventually we got ourselves on the Chambery/Turin autoroute and enjoyed a more peaceful drive. Here are a couple of photos taken when we stopped at an aire (picnic area) for a short break. I so wished we had bought picnic supplies when we were at the market. IMG 1872

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We reached Chambery in time for a late lunch. And if I was ranting about the satnav earlier I have to say that we were glad of it now. We missed a couple of turns (our fault!) as we wound our way through narrow streets and crossed complicated junctions. And then there was no parking to be found at the hotel… ah but what did we spy but an underground car park. Joy!!!
The joy was short-lived on my part. The entrance was steep, narrow and windy. And the tyres squeaked. And did I mention the turns were sharp. And that this was an automatic car that I was just getting used to? There were no places on the first floor so… onwards and downwards and… a parking place. A very narrow parking place. A bit of shuffling and… we were parked.
Off to find the hotel, settle in and find some lunch and a glass of wine, I needed it.
There aren't many photos of Chambery. I don't know why. Chambery was buzzing with life. We enjoyed a delicious, traditional French meal at a little brasserie, obviously a favourite with the locals and we were lucky to find a table. The wine slid down a treat.
We spent the afternoon wandering through the town, along narrow streets filled with people buying or just looking or, best of all, sitting at pavement cafés enjoying the late autumn sunshine. I knew I should be taking photos but the buildings are on a grand scale and difficult (for me!) to photograph. Here is a photo that Tony took, of the bell tower.

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I have to tell you that we were sitting at a café when we heard the strangest sounds… maybe an organ we thought. Off we went to investigate. The sounds led us to the bell tower and the most amazing set of chimes. Although the building is obviously old, the chimes were installed in 1996 (or thereabouts). I don't know what nearby residents must think though as the chimes went on for at least ten minutes… I don't know how many times a day or even if we were just lucky to be there on a chime day. Very interesting though.
Light dinner we thought after our delicious lunch. Strangely, the town, so vibrant in the afternoon, was very quiet when we went out for dinner. I think we may have been too early. Anyway, we both chose tartiflette - potatoes, cream, lardons and reblochon cheese. Light!!!

End of an Adventure

Well, I did have good intentions of starting a new blog but… where did the time go? Since that first, and only, blog our new room has been completed, a British winter has been experienced, Tony has had a major heart attack, we have visited France a couple of times, the British summer is over and now, here we are on our way to Greece to clear out Ganymede.

Ganymede has been sold!!!

Oh, the relief. I should feel sad, and I do if I am being entirely honest, but the relief is so much greater. With Tony's state of health we were never going to sail in her again and the responsibility of having her just sit there, on the hard, going nowhere but still needing maintenance and loving attention… well, it was just so huge. But perhaps the sadness will hit when we get there and the memories flood in.

Meanwhile, we are en route. We left Dover on the midday ferry on Friday. A mistake that, bearing in mind we were taking the Dunkirk route, longer than going to Calais and then there is an hour time difference so that by the time we were off the ferry and had made a detour to fill up with diesel, it was almost 4.00pm. By the time we reached Dijon, found a parking spot and got to the hotel, it was gone 9.00. And we were both tired and hungry.

Did I mention that we bought a new car on Wednesday? Well, not exactly new but new to us. A semi-automatic because I am so fed-up changing gear. Computerised everything. It puts the lights on when it gets dark. It puts the windscreen wipers on when it rains. It has cruise control. Now, if only it could drive itself! But perhaps it wasn't the best time to be driving a car with so much sophistication. Not with having to drive on the right and get used to the French way of driving - which is definitely not the same as the British way.

So, late dinner after finding hotel and discovering that it was a little more drab than we remembered. Still quaint though. After dinner we searched around and were able to find where we had parked the car, a great relief, we could sleep easily. Here are some photos of Dijon IMG 1865

Flower stall at entrance to covered market.

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Perhaps some charcuterie?

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Cheese anyone?

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A few vegetables for your five a day

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Here's an overview. Note, I forgot to take a pic of one of the butchery counters. Phew!!! I feel you thinking.

And here are a couple of shots taken as we sipped coffee sitting at one of the nearby cafés.

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Sorry about all that food. Hope you weren't hoping for photos of the town. The town is lovely and there are some fantastic buildings, lovely little alleyways, gorgeous shops, but I think that after coffee my mind had moved on to the drive ahead and there are no more photos of Dijon….