Archives for the month of: August, 2013

We decided to make our way south first to Margate even though we had no booking for the weekend.
My mother had wonderful photos of Margate in the 1920’s but she would have been very disappointed to see it as it is today – a generally dilapidated and sad looking town. There is a new Arts Centre right on the coast and a couple of nice cafes but that is about it. A local told us that it has been going downhill for over ten years and that there are many refugees who have been put up in various buildings around town.
They have built the new Art centre in the hope of building up the town again. There was a sign on the beach stating that they had Britain’s best sand beach but we didn’t think much of it compared with Australian beaches. Further around the coastsline however were spectacular limestone cliffs and you could either walk along the base of these or up above them.
We left there and drove on to Broadstairs where my mother and her family went to the seaside. This was much more affluent and the buildings mirrored this. We walked around the promenade to Bleak house where Charles Dickens wrote “Great Expectations”. It was a lovely 28degree day. Parking was a problem in the seaside towns with narrow streets and few parking bays but we managed after driving around to find a spot not too far from the town centre. The “P” signs are not always appropriate for our van with many with height restrictions. Germany and even Italy were better for this with clear signage displaying buses or campervans.
A nice campsite owner in Ramsgate returned our call to book the three nights we wanted over the bank holiday weekend. He could only give us a pitch with electicity for one night and two nights without which was fine by us. We used our gas to power the fridge on those nights.
The campsite was full even though rain was forecast for the following day. We thought that this would have put some people off – but NO this was England.
The campsite used to be the grounds for a grand house called “Nethercourt” which was used as a hospital during the last war.
They did tell us when we checked in not to leave shoes or anything outside as the foxes take them and to be careful not to step on any hedgehogs in the dark but we didn’t see any.
The Saturday was very overcast but that didn’t stop people from going down to the beach. When we came back from exploring Broadstairs and Ramsgate a police car was at the campsite and lots of children were allowed to sit in the policecar and sound the siren and have photos taken wearing the policemans’
hat. A good PR job.
In Broadstairs we bought some nice fresh sea bass and fresh raspberries which we ate for dinner.
The most common greeting when entering a shop was “awrigh then” and people replied “yea awrigh” This was in sharp contrast to any shop you enter in Germany where people automatically greet you with good morning or good day and wish you very formally an enjoyable evening.
It was much cooler when we got back to the campsite and we had our light jackets on and were snug inside the camper but most others were sitting around outside. That night it poured with rain and we heard a few people saying that they had water in their tents – yuk!
Sunday was overcast but we drove via Sandwich a lovely old town with a lovely little coffee shop to Canterbury which is also a lovely old town with many canals winding in and around the centre of town.
The cathedral is most impressive and we found the original Franciscan Greyfriars building which was set in a lovely wildflower field and built over a narrow channel of water.
We wanted to see an art trail in Ramsgate in several buildings but had to give that a miss as we just couldn’t find a parking place because there were so many people there for the bank holiday.
Monday was a beautiful day and we left Ramsgate early to drive back to London to see my mother’s old friend Eileen who is living in a care assisted home but has all her marbles at 91.
We had lunch in the van overlooking some playing fields followed by a coffee in a lovely little cafe in Dulwich town before going to see Maurice’s niece Fiona and her family in Wandsworth where they have bought a townhouse and are having it renovated before they move in – we had a look at the building site and they hope to be in it in about 6months time.
We left them in the late afternoon to drive the hour and a half to Hitchin where we bought our campervan and where we camped for 2 nights. We wanted to have a radio installed in the van and catch up with our friend Barry before going down to Ruth and Michael in the Chilterns on the 28th August.

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We drove (well Maurice drove and I navigated with Tammy Tom Tom’s help) from Lubeck to our camping place in Germany near the Dutch border.
It bucketed down with rain for most of the way so much so that you could hardly see the car in front of you. We bedded down for the night in a campsite near the port and in the morning it was a nice sunny day although only 16degrees.

At some of the laybys on the way to the Autobahns the prostitutes are well set up in their own campervans with a red light dangling
from the rear vision mirror – novel!   In Italy they just sit on a chair on a street corner with an umbrella to shade themselves.

We were amazed at the sea of hot houses near Hook von Holland growing tomatoes and beans and all kinds of vegetables. The Germans won’t buy tomatoes from Holland as they say that they have no taste and are just full of water.No wonder when they are grown hydroponically.
There were a lot of people on the ship and a lot of children. They had a wonderful chap on the ship dressed in a red top coat and fez leading a painted wooden crocodile around. He would stop and amuse the children and they had a special show for the kids on board. Such a good idea as they were otherwise screaming around the ship.  We discovered that you can pay 16 euros extra and be in a quiet zone which we will consider next time.  I was going to eat from their salad bar for dinner but after we had seen a few children (who were with their parents) picking things out and putting them back we decided against it.

We got through border control in Hook von Holland without a fine or worse for overstaying our allowed 3months as per the Schengen agreement for most of Europe.   The immigration official was a young guy and I think he got sick of flicking through all our stamps and visas looking for the inbound French stamp and in the end just stamped both passports. There was also a queue behind us so I think that helped.
It will make it so much easier if I can get a British passport. Maurice said he will still talk to me! He will get an Irish passport in Ireland.
We went the next day to the registratin office in Colchester to find out if I can get my passport back so that I can get an Indian visa in the meantime. The information on obtaining British citizenship in order to get a passport states that it normally takes up to 3months before I would get my Australian passport back before I even apply for a British passport. Also we have to find out if I need my passport to get to Ireland in the meantime.
One good thing is that with this Schengen agreement I can at least get back to Italy to fly out mid November to Dubai and then India as the 3months that we have to be out of the Europe will be up.
It has dashed our plans for Morocco for this year but we will just have to put it on next year’s list. Hurdle one over anyway!

It felt strange after a couple of months to change back to driving on the left again and Maurice only frightened me once until he switched to the left side. It doesn’t help that the sat.nav. says turn right on the roundabouts instead of left.
Day two in England was beautiful and sunny and 24degrees – would have been lovely if it stayed like that.
Maurice is enjoying being able to communicate with people again without either having to speak very slowly to those that speak some English or staying mute a lot of the time.  At the Felixstowe caravan park a cockney greeted him with “allo sunshine, where you from then?”
We still can’t get over how quiet the camping grounds are all over Europe and England. A quiet street has more noise. The parents must drug the children and they are mostly in bed earlier than we are but they are also very quiet in the morning.  You don’t seem to get any noise of any kind before about 8 o’clock.
We spent the next day in Colchester (England oldest recorded town) trapesing between the borough office and the registration office gaining a bit more information on the acquisition of a British passport by descent. The hours of reading on the internet left us still confused. They suggested we go to the Chelmsford office as they examine the applications more often as we could have to wait until mid September in Colchester.
We had excellent cod and chips at the “George hotel” which dates from the 1700’s. Back on the diet tomorrow.
We also managed to get a sim card from “EE” company so that we can easily?? access the computer and tablet and phone. This of course depends on the area we are in at the time as far as access goes!
The O2 sim card apparently has better coverage but they only take a debit card from the UK and you can’t pay cash. They just don’t want to pay the percentage to visa or mastercard I guess.
It rained overnight and most of the next day which was in contrast to the sunny and warm weather the previous day.
The advise from Colchester was a dud as when we got to the office in Chelmsford (after driving around not able to find parking and having to drive down a one way street the wrong way before someone advised us where we could park the camper) was that we would have to go to London to obtain my mother’s and her parents birth certificates!   As luck would have it Maura and Tony in Perth managed to find certified copies.

I also need my birth certificate and my parent’s marriage certificate so Maurice and I went into the library and downloaded, printed and filled out the application forms and the authority form so that Tony could collect these in Perth to send to us.  We also had to scan my driver’s licence and a credit card and together with a current bank statement that our accountant will supply so that Tony will be able to get the necessary documents……deep breath…..our parking had expired so we walked back to the car and put more pounds in the meter (had to go and get change from the leisure centre nearby) and then we went back to the post office and sent all the documents global express at the cost of 66pounds.  It will be worth it in the long run as extended visas for Europe are not cheap either and still only allow certain lengths of stay.

We decided to have a cup of coffee in M & S.  The cups of coffee here are enormous.  A medium cup is like a soup bowl.  Will have to remember that.

We now have the waiting game until we have all the relevant documents and then can lodge them to be checked with a local council. This costs 88pounds and if there are any mistakes the application is returned but of course not the money. That is before it is sent into the UK Border Agency for approval with a fee of 568 pounds.
It is a bank holiday long weekend so we have decided to go down to the seaside to Broadstairs and Margate for a couple of days. My mother used to go down there for Summer holidays in the nineteen twenties and I have wonderful pictures of her and her parents and other relatives  sitting (the men in their suits and the ladies in their finery) in large dugouts in the sand!

Every campsite we have tried is full at the moment but it is due to rain tomorrow so we still may have some luck. It is a lovely sunny, warm day today the 23rd of August.

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We left Dresden early on Tuesday the 13th August and drove an hour to Meissen where we toured the factory and showrooms of the Meissen company, the most famous porcelain in Germany. The tour was extremely well organised with a group entering several rooms progressively to watch an artisan displaying their various skills with porcelain from the initial stage of forming the porcelain on a pedal driven wheel and then pressing the clay into a mould (they have
over 200,000 moulds for their porcelain)to handpainting pieces and forming by hand many small decorative pieces that are then added to the inital mould. The information was given over a loudspeaker
but Maurice and I had very good headsets with a person speaking beautiful English explaining each process to us.
As we passed Leipzig airport it was most unusual to see a Condor plane cross the bridge directly in front of us and Maurice said that it serves as part of the taxiway.

There are windfarms everywhere in Germany and in an Autobahn service station we passed three very long semi trailers with the blades of a wind turbine.  They looked enormous lying there.  When they are attached to their poles they don’t look so big.
We continued then onto our friend Helga in Dollern which lies to the east of Hamburg. We again encountered two lots of “stau” traffic jams and some detours. The most cars that seemed to pass everyone on the Autobahn were black station wagons. You hardly see a 4WD or SUV at all.

It is very hard to estimate arrival times to anywhere in summer when most of the road works take place and which cause many traffic jams. We found that the drivers in the former “East Germany” tended
to race far more than those from the west and several friends agreed with this.
It was lovely to see our friend Helga again and her family and our friends Helmut and Margaret.
We even caught up with our friend Olaf from Norway who was making his way from Norway to Leipzig on holiday. He came and ate with us and we spent a few hours together which was lovely.
The following day we went with Helga into the historic old town of Stade where most of the old buildings have been restored beautifully.
Maurice came up from his ironing in the cellar the next morning to the kitchen to find Helga and I having a glass of wine at 10.30am but we decided that was OK as I was also cooking lunch!
It was nice to cook in a kitchen with a bit of space and the friends enjoyed the Italian meal that I prepared. We went for a long walk afterwards around the fields and by the railway line and forest to walk some of it off.
Helga is just as active as ever at 78 doing all the housework, cooking, mowing the lawn and trimming the  hedges and is also a lot of fun and has a very young and tolerant attitude to everything.
Last year people were drinking Aperol and Prosecco as an apperitif but this year I tried another favourite which is called “Hugo” which is Elderberry syrup with Prosecco,mint leaves and lemon which is also very tasty.
Maurice on reading up on the internet about stays in Europe discovered that we were over our allowed 3month stay in most of the countries of the EU which rather surprised us as no-one over the last 18months of us travelling has either known or mentioned it. Jude and Joan who are living with our friend Mary near Florence said that they needed a visa for their 6month stay but we thought that that was because they were working.
We decided then to cut our stay short and move on up to Lubeck to see our friends Ruth, Irmi and Katrin for the weekend. We had two days without rain and got to go with Ruth to the Willy Brandt museum which was very informative and interesting and to look  at various small shops and the old streets and buildings  in Lubeck.
We went to a fantastic new bar/cafe/restaurant right on the river Trave called “Bar Celona” one night and to a great restaurant in a beautiful garden setting in the historic part of town.  Ruth our friend invited us all to dinner on our last night in town in her lovely old style appartment.  We left Irmi’s the next morning and set off for Horstel near the Dutch border for the night on our way to Hook von Holland and England on the 20th August.

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Dresden is a most beautiful city and one which I had wanted to visit for many years.
We caught the bus into the city and then got on a “hop on hop off” bus to get a feel for the whole area without hopping off. The trip around took about 1 1/2 hours and it was interesting to follow the Elbe river and cross over it and drive through some lovely leafy suburbs with beautiful houses.
We also saw a very intersting but sad exhibition of photos of Dresden after the Americans had bombed it at the end of the second world war. They have done an amazing job of restoring some of the old historic churches and buildings like the “Frauenkirche” and the “Semper” Opera house.
There were a lot of tourists around but because there was such a large area of lovely old historic buildings it didn’t feel at all crowded.
We got off the bus in the centre of town and walked and admired the old buildings as well as some of the more modern ones. After lunch we walked back to the main station via a very long pedestrian area. The shops were plentiful and big and bright but all closed as it was a Sunday.
We caught the bus back to the camping ground after walking around for most of the day. The weather was warm when the sun was out and cool when the clouds came over but no rain thank goodness.
On the 12th August we again caught the bus into town and walked around again, had some lunch and then went on prebooked (internet) guided tour of the opera house which was very interesting and they have done an amazing job inside as well as outside to restore the opera house in a similar original style.
We wandered around the shopping galleries and Maurice even bought a new shirt. We had a good look around the Meissen china shop and in the outlet shop we bought nearly the cheapest thing there as a memento as prices were rather high even in the outlet shop. A fairly simply painted plate was over 300euros and some of the smaller more intricate pieces and figurines were over 3000euros.
We had a coffee on the way back to the main station to catch the bus. In Italy the cappucinos were small and luke warm and in Germany you get a cup you can hardly manage to drink for it’s size and it is so hot you can hardly drink it. So many differences in between the various European ountries. In Italy you have to buy
a ticket for the bus before you get on whereas in Germany you can still buy a ticket on the bus. You would think that Germany would have gone the same way although it is handy for foreign passengers especially.
On the 13th August we drove about 1/2 hour to the town of
Meissen to see their Fine China factory and showroom before driving north to Dollern.

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On Tuesday the 6th August we drove about 8hours to Plankstadt near Heidelberg (detouring to get our air conditioner checked near Munich where the “Truma” staff were most helpful) to meet Maurice’s cousin Margarete and her husband Philip and two of their children Alice who is due to be married in a week’s time and Olivia who is at university. They are a lovely family and made us very welcome. The weather was particularly humid with a bit of rain but not cold. we had a nice BBQ and managed to sit outside for the evening.
The next day Maurice and I went into Heidelberg and walked around a lot and went up the funicular to the very
impressive castle there. Heidelberg was teeming with tourists and local shoppers. It was hot and humid but had cooled down a bit by the time we left the city.
We had a bit of trouble getting Van Mauriceson into a parking area but the parking men there were extremely
helpful and we managed it.
We were able to meet Margarete’s mother Anne (who sadly suffers from dementia and cannot speak).
We had a nice meal inside that night with Margarete and Philip and chatted to Margarete the next morning after Philip left for work. We left them on the Wednesday for a leisurely drive north east to the Thuringen Forest. The scenery was again quite differnt travelling through the old “east Germany” where the houses were more simple (even though many had been painted) and there was a lot of grain and hay cultivation along the way. We even saw a few old remnants of the old days with semi destroyed watch towers and barracks. I suppose it is a good reminder to keep some of them.
We stopped at a large camping and caravan shop along the way and bought some necessary items for the van – some levelling wedges for under the wheels which is makes sleeping much nicer rather than feeling that you will roll out of bed or have your head lower than the rest of you! We also bought an umbrella for when we sit outdoors. We were considering a pull out alcove which was going to
be over 900 pounds but we saw a few instances of where people had them extended but they still sat in the sun underneath them because of where they had to park their van. We therefore decided on an umbrella which we can put up anywhere and angle it to where it will create the most shade would be more useful and for 30euros we thought it much cheaper and a better option all together.
We stayed in the beautiful camping ground for the night in the Thuringen Forest and had a delicious meal with two
bottles of wine (one to take away!) all for 40euros.
On Friday the 9th August we drove first to Bad Langensalza to see the lovely old town and the rose garden and Japanese garden. We then went on to the historic city of Eisenach where we visited the Luther house, Bach house and the old part of the city and had a typical meal of Thuringer Bratwurst, Sauerkraut and potato salad. Germany is full of road works during Summer and there are a lot of
detours which make navigating interesting especially when
the tom tom gets lost.
One village we drove through was like solar panel city – nearly every house roof was covered with solar panels. It did look a bit strange.
We arrived at Steinbach-Hallenberg to a great welcome by Winfried and Sonja (friends of our friends Tony and Michelle) who we had met in Perth 14years ago! They even had the Australian flag hanging from their window for our arrival!
They live in a beautiful part of Thuringen. We had coffee and cake and later with them and two of their children and their children more wonderful Thuringer Bratwurst and many salads followed by “Rote Grutze” a wonderful mixture of berries. After dinner Winfried took us up to their old castle where we had a lovely view of the town in the twilight.
We stayed in the campervan outside their door that night and had a leisurely breakfast with them in the morning before heading off via Oberhof to see the next historic town of Erfurt which is a very picturesque old town.
After lunch there we drove on the Autobahn in rain (we saw two accidents) to Dresden and landed at another very good camping site only 13minutes by bus from right outside the camping ground to the centre of Dresden.

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On the 2nd August we left the beautiful mountains of Cortina D’Ampezzo and the camping ground by the river for Tirol and stopped for coffee at a very typical Alpine place full of hikers. We went on towards the Brenner pass and into Austria and then Germany. We had another wonderful drive over the mountains and through the pass on the secondary roads avoiding the Autostrada and Autobahn which had long trails of large trucks. The drive across the mountains into Austria and then onto Garmisch-Partenkirchen took about 4hours with a coffee stop
and about 20minutes for lunch. The secondary roads offer a much more scenic route and we even saw a crazy bungy jumper dangling from one of the enormous bridges over
a very deep valley.
After speaking Italian for 2months I had to say a few German words to myself to get into the swing again before starting German at the service station in Austria although they speak a very different Austrian dialect and speak in a much more sing songey way (a bit like the Swedish cook on the Muppets show).
We drove into Grainau (a couple of kilometres from Garmisch) and into the lovely camping ground looking up at the Zugspitze and Alpspitze peaks. A few years ago we had taken the cable car up the zugspite and I vowed never to do it again – lovely view but not if you suffer from vertigo.
Maurice blends in much more here than in Italy where no one seems to be pale and white haired! The Italians always took him for either English or American!
He was walking back to the camper the day after we arrived and a woman was calling out “Walter” “Walter” and she became louder and nearer to Maurice so he turned
around and she saw that it wasn’t “Walter” and was most embarrassed. At least she didn’t put her arms around him like I did to Maurice’s cousin’s husband Barney years ago at their kitchen sink! Very embarrassing.
I can’t believe that it is a year since we were in Germany visiting our friends in the north. How time flies when you are having fun.
We had a nice English neighbour next to us who had climbed both the Zugspitze and the Alpspitze and was getting in some practice for further climbs with much younger friends. He
said he didn’t know how he would go as he was exhausted after a few days. He kindly gave me a novel which he had finished and didn’t want to drag around for the rest of his holiday.
The day after we arrived we drove to Partenkirchen (the continuation of Garmisch) where my mother lived about 70years ago. We visited the Werdenfels museum there where we had donated a few years ago a box of embossed photos taken by a local photographer in Garmisch around the wartime and who gave them to my mother as a momento. I kept a few of them but we thought it would be a nice idea to give them to the museum. Most of the town remains the same after all these years but the horses and cows in the street have been replaced by cars.
We then drove out to the Eibsee and where the cable cars and cogwheel trains go up to the Zugspitze.
We had a drink and snack by the lake which was crystal clear and there were some swimmers braving the cold water. The Eibsee is over 32metres deep.

On Sunday the 4th August we drove to near the Olympic stadium and made our way through the “Partnachklamm”
a natural gorge through the mountain with water gushing through it down to the valley below. It was
quite a hike up the mountain after we emerged from the gorge and we paused at a quaint house to have
a drink. We then made our way back down the mountain and back to the van. There was an alpine festival
going on in the stadium with mainly things for children to do – climbling things and a rather high flying fox.
We treated ourselves to a meal at the “Schmolzer Wirt” a very nice restaurant and bar on a stream just opposite the caravan park. We had another storm in the afternoon but it was a clear night.
We drove the next day to Schloss Elmau and the beautiful meadows and hills around there. We went for a long
walk and found the spot where we scattered my mother’s ashes about 12years ago.
The Schloss burnt down a few years ago but it looks as though it has been fully restored since and there is more work going on there.
We drove back into the centre of Garmisch and got a “hotspot” for our computer and phones so that we can put any sim card in it in any country and use it for connection to our computer and tablet. The only problem is that it does depend on what area of the country you are in eg mountains are particularly bad for reception and they don’t seem to have many towers so that connections are not good in many places.
We left Garmisch the next morning for the north west.

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We stopped on the way up to Cortina at Belluno for a look around and then Agordo in the mountains for a coffee in the piazza. The Alps are magnificent and it was a spectacular drive in bright sunshine up about 25 tornante (hairpin bends) up to the top of a mountain before we went through the Giao pass and down to Cortina D’Ampezzo.
When we left Belluno we went through Avoscan from where our family friends the Rossi’s originated. I visited Amelia and Adriano’s grandparents with my father when I was 16 and again it was in the middle of winter and I remember walking through thick snow in my very smart (well I thought so at the time)black and white seal skin boots. I don’t think they were real seal skin! It was wonderful to find the place again (with good directions via email from Amelia) although no one lives there anymore. In winter it was very warm inside the old mill house and the fire heated from what I remember the bed which was inside another room above the stove.
It was a nice trip down memory lane. I remember stopping in winter by a frozen large layered fountain, something which I had never seen before and which looked like fairyland.
The campsite outside Cortina was packed but extremely quiet – the literature we got at the reception desk practically threatened to kill anyone who made a noise between 1-3pm and 11pm and 7am!
It was the most beautiful location with mountains close by on both sides and at you could hear the fast running river day and night.
We used the 1st day of August to catch up on things – self pedicures, washing, emailing, skyeping and blogging.
The next morning we set off for Germany and Garmisch Partenkirchen for a few days.

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It was only a couple of hour’s drive to Venice where we stopped at a lovely campsite called “Serenissima” about 20minutes from the city. It had been 42degrees that day and the night was very hot but not as hot as the night before thank goodness. We had one night there at the great campsite. We then bought a 2day pass for the buses and vaporettos in Venice for 20euros each and I promptly lost one after our first ride! We caught the bus into Venice with six bottles of Extra Virgin Oil for a friend of Mary Foreman’s. Deborah a lovely American lady who is married to an Italian and has lived in Venice for many years met us at the station to collect her oil and then we continued on to stay in a bit of luxury in a lovely hotel called “Campiello” near St Mark’s square. Luckily it was situated in a lovely quiet alleyway and it was wonderful to have a bit more space for a while! We wandered around the city together with the other millions of tourists but had fun shopping for essentials for me – dress, handbag and camper shoes!
We met up with Deborah, her husband, sister and brother in law and two other friends for a few apperitives before dinner. We had to move inside the bar as we had a sudden storm and torrential rain for about an hour.
They were a lovely crowd and Deborah suggested a lovely little Trattoria across from where we had drinks in Via Garibaldi in the quieter end of town.
We had the polenta with Baccala and seafood risotto which were delicious. The rain had stopped so we crossed the six or so bridges back to the hotel.
We decided to get up early 6.30am! and have a look around Venice when it was quiet without the millions of tourists and even managed to get into the church at St Mark’s square when no one else was there.
The hotel gave us a free taxi ride to Murano which is a real tourist trap where the chosen glass factory demonstrate the making of an ornament of hand blown glass and then hope you buy something. They did have the most spectacular showroom (unfortunately we couldn’t photograph the best pieces) with some beautiful work but it was all very expensive – smaller items of note started at 500euros to many tens of thousands of euros.
I ended buying a simple necklace and earrings from another shop and then we made our own way on the vaporetto to the island of Burano which is much more interesting and quieter. We had a nice lunch there at “Da Primo” and then caught the vaporetto back via Murano to Venice where we walked back to the hotel along the narrow alleyways and crossed the many bridges.
The vaporettos are the only way to get around other than walking unless you pay a huge amount for a private water taxi which we didn’t do. Travelling in the vaporettos in Summer is like being sardines in their can and it is always a relief to get off at a stop. You hear the locals complaining all the time about the crowds and you can understand them getting frustrated at the travel with so many tourists and unless they are very wealthy and have their own boat it must be awful in summer but then again that is Venice and they live off the tourism but it must be hard on a daily basis as there is no other form of transport.
The last time I was in Venice was 40years ago as a teenager with my father and it was the middle of winter so quite a different experience. They have also thinned out the number of pigeons in the main square – they finally realized that they caused the most amount of damage to their buildings and don’t even sell the birdseed to feel them anymore!
We watched the cruise ships go up and down the grand canal near St Mark’s square (with Pavarotti singing his heart out as they sail out!)
As we were wandering near the main square we came across a very distressed German girl who didn’t speak any English or Italian who was mentally handicapped and had become separated from her group. She had an armband on but it was blurred and she was crying and didn’t know the name of the place she was staying. She hung onto my hand and we walked along until we saw a policeman and I was about to ask what we could do and then all of a sudden she spotted the group. We were very relieved and the helpers with them thanked us (although I don’t think they realized she was missing at the time!).
Maurice and I got dressed up in the evening and went off to “Musica a Palazzo” which we had seen on the internet and booked a while ago. They perform a different opera on various days and we went to La Traviata. It was a fantastic experience because the four piece orchestra (piano, cello and two violins) and the opera singers perform the three acts in three different rooms of an old beautiful pink palazzo right on the grand canal. You move into the different rooms with about 70 other people and you can actually touch the singers they are so close. It was an amazing performance and the three singers had wonderful voices. They even gave us a nice glass of Prosecco during one of the 10minute breaks. Like many of the buildings in the city, the palazzo had a bit of a lean to the right which was noticeable when you were sitting down.
It was about 11.30pm when we wandered back to the hotel and some of the shops were even open then to get the last of their customers for the day.
After breakfast we caught the Vaporetto from San Marco back to Piazzale Roma and managed to get a bus very soon back to the Camping ground which we missed and had to turn around and go back to. The van was in the shade and we just managed to leave by their exit time of 12noon. We loved Venice but decided it would be better to go back at a quieter time.
We headed north then towards the Alps.

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We left Roccamandolfi on the 26th July and drove about 4hours to Deruta, a town renowned for it’s ceramics. A lot of Italians don’t know about it but the town is just full of beautiful ceramic shops selling everything you can imagine. Of course we arrived at 1pm when all the shops were closed to took off to see Assisi in the meantime until the shops opened again. We always seem to get to places when it is siesta time – nice for the inhabitants but a pain for us sometimes as they don’t open again until 5pm. We drove back after seeing Assisi and bought a couple of little bowls that we can use.
The old town of Assisi and the Basilica of St Francis is beautiful. They even built another church around the stone hut where he lived in the 1200’s.
It was very hot there and the heat continued up into Perugia where we stayed for the night at a wonderful “Agriturismo” at the top of a hill complete with swimming pool. Unfortunately our new airconditioner in the van died (will have to get it fixed in Germany)and there wasn’t a breath of air making it hard to get to sleep.
The next morning we took off early and parked the van and took the mini metro (light rail) – a great service up into the old town of Perugia. It was a bit of nostalgia for me as my father took me there while he was teaching a Summer school at the University for Foreigners when I was 16! Unfortunately the university building was locked as it was a Saturday but we had a good look around in the historical part of town before heading back to the station and the van. We had a bite of lunch at a very modern bar at the mini metro station. The lunch was laid out – slices of pork, grilled vegetables, rice salad, couscous, green sadad, cold meats and bread. You could have as much as you liked and it only cost 7 euros each including bottled water and a coffee.
We drove on to Modena a city and surrounding area that Maurice wanted to visit for a long time. After the Appenines and hilly country around Perugia, the countryside changed to very fertile flat plains where there were a lot of grapes (for balsamic vinegar) corn and orchards of every kind. We stopped at a lovely little town called “Poggio Rusco” which had an unusually large number of modern coffee bars dotted throughout the town. A couple of the ones we saw were run by Chinese people who spoke Italian. There are an increasing number of Chinese throughout Italy and the Italians complain about them but they still shop at their stores which are usually much cheaper than their Italian counterparts.
We didn’t buy any balsamic vinegar there but instead a lovely handbag – very necessary!
We camped at a campsite just outside town for the night and it was extremely hot and humid again without a breath of air.
We continued the next day up the back roads to Padua. It
is so nice not to use the Autostradas but instead potter along and enjoy the scenery. We must say that the Italian drivers have been very patient and there is practically no more honking of horns even when there is a holdup at the toll booths and people are more courteous than at home. The only thing is that there are no road rules and double lines on the road, stop signs and red lights (when the lights are working) don’t mean much.
The main square in the historic area of Padua is vast with a large fountain in the middle. Of course we hit this again in the middle of the day so had to have the most delicious ice cream to cool down!
We headed then to Oriago near Venice.

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