Archives for the month of: October, 2014

On our way back from Barcelona to Italy we stopped off to see our German friends in Les Issambres on the Cote D’Azur.
It had started raining on the way on the highway which made for uncomfortable driving with a lot of spray on the road. This weather continued for the next couple of days that we spent there with them but it was nice not to have to drive and just be able to relax.
We did join them and other German friends of theirs for a wonderful meal at an old service station which had been turned into a restaurant called “La Mole” which was apparently a favourite of former Prime Minister Jacques Chirac.
We had several types of terrines and pates followed by a choice of wild boar, a cassoulet or duck and then followed by salad and a wonderful selection of cheeses. To cap of the meal was a creme caramel and chocolate mousse and stewed plums. It was a memorable meal washed down with rose and red wine.

We left France and drove around the Cote D’Azur and into Italy to near the town of Piombino where we stayed the night at “Pappasole” a very well appointed resort type of campsite with many pools, recreation area, play area for children and restaurant.
It had warmed up significantly which was very pleasant when we left the following day to travel further south.
We stopped at “La Rosa dei Venti” (the rose of the winds) where my cousin’s son ran the restaurant and had a delicious seafood pasta lunch there. I hadn’t seen him since he was a small boy so it was nice to catch up.
We arrived at Sezze Scalo on the 9th October to spend ten days with my various cousins there. We were just in time for the christening of one of my cousin’s grandchildren which was a normal Italian affair at a restaurant with about 100 guests, a meal of many courses, DJ and much ceremony. It was nice to catch up with all
the family in one place. The poor child looked shellshocked for much of the time with so many loud voices and loud music. We felt a bit the same way.
We had our usual problems with obtaining our Indian visa. We travelled by train into Rome the day after we arrived which took about 40minutes and went straight to the Indian Embassy where we could have been in India. It was an airless basement crowded with Indians some of whom were very much in need of a bath. The same thing happened to us as had happened in Ireland with the man accepting the visas told us we would have to return to Australia to obtain them and he kept insisting on this. Very frustrated we left the basement and decided to try the Embassy itself and made our way to the 2nd floor after bypassing the reception desk with stating it wasn’t a visa issue (or she would have sent us back to the basement!)
As luck would have it a man in a suit carrying a briefcase happened to be entering the code to enter the embassy and as we entered with him he asked us what he could do for us. We explained our predicament and he luckily was to be the head of the visa section. He left us sitting on comfortable couches in the much more upmarket old Roman building for about forty five minutes and then we were directed downstairs to his office where he advised us to upload our photographs (which of course are not the usual passport size!) and then to return to the visa office in the afternoon and if we had any problems to get the staff to contact him. Eureka! Off we went, got the photos uploaded and visa forms checked, had some lunch and returned to a most accommodating woman who accepted our application without another word. We did try for a
visa for a year which is a possibility according to the web information, they only grant six monthly visas – Ugh!
It was just one of the frustrations of travelling for a longer period and not returning to our country of residence.
The other frustrations are the usual ones that people in every country experience with banks, telephone, and internet companies.

The food feast continued for the next week with lunches and dinners allocated to the various cousins. Needless to say I put on weight. Maurice did his usual job of washing and polishing the van ready for it’s wintering sojourn.
Giancarla a cousin took us to the church and monastery of “Fossanova” which also had a beautiful cloister.
Another day I was able to see another cousin’s annual olive harvest which is made much easier these days with a vibrating double rake like contraption connected to a portable generator. It is just a matter then of collecting the olives in large nets and taking out most of the small branches and leaves. The olives are then taken to be crushed for oil.
Ten days later on a sunny 26 degree day we were glad to be on our way back to Roccamandolfi to empty the van and sort clothes for the next few months and eat little!
We met up with our lovely young friends and their baby Caterina who is now nine months old. It is lovely to see the difference and progress of the babies and young children when we only see then every six months.
The locals were all saying that the lovely hot weather that we experienced while we were there in Autumn was the Summer weather that they should have had. They instead had a lot of rain and not very warm days which they said was unusual.
On the 23rd October we went from 24degrees the day before to 8 degrees and very cold. The winter was coming and it was time for us to leave so we stowed the van in a nice new garage in Roccamandolfi and took the train to Rome on the 26th October where we spent a couple of days visiting relatives, picking up our long awaited Indian visas and seeing the Caravaggio exhibition at the Barberini palace before a last couple of cocktails and complimentary nibbles (7euros total) before flying out to Dubai on the 29th October for some sun and warm weather.

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We had good weather for our drive from Malaga to “Reina Isobel” a lovely camp site in Zubia only 15minutes from the centre of Granada by bus. We took a “hop on hop off” bus the next day to get a general overview of the city and the weather had turned wet so it was a good way to stay out of the rain. We still managed to walk around the city for a while and find a few bargains in the arabic “souk” part of the old town where we had mint tea and hoummos in a couple of atmospheric moorish style cafes. We found people in Spain in general to be very welcoming and helpful in shops, cafes and
when we occassionally needed assistance with directions.

I had tried unsuccessfully to book entry tickets to the “Alhambra” which is listed as the number one tourist “must see” in Spain and later learnt that some people had booked months in advance. We therefore opted to get up the next morning at 6.30am (unheard of for Spanish people!) and we caught a taxi in the dark to where there were already a couple of hundred tourists waiting in line at the ticket office. There was luckily an open cafe which served good coffee while we chatted to our neighbours in the queue. When the credit card section opened at 8.30am I purchased our tickets and we were allocated a time of 1pm to gain entry into the “Nazrid Palace. Even then we had to queue for half and hour before so many people were admitted to the castle. The rest of the palaces and gardens could be visited at any time although the “Generalife” castle could only be accessed once. This is because of the large number of tourists visiting the Alhambra. We easily spent six hours exploring the various parts of the palaces and beautiful gardens, having lunch in the garden of a little hotel before continuing to climb the Nazrid tower. The views over Granada were spectacular from many of the vantage points in the Alhambra. We didn’t feel crowded at any time as the castles and grounds covered many hectares.

The “hop on hop off” bus was valid for two days travel so we opted for this to descend into the town and back to the “souk” where
Maurice had left his hat the previous day. The little tram unfortunately broke down so we got off and walked making our way through the narrow winding streets back to “Kasbah” cafe.

We left Granada on the 24th September to “La Garrofa” right on water near Almeria via a slight side trip to Almunecar where Helen had visited about 40years ago.
We could not believe the vast areas of hot houses which stretched in some places, metres from the sea and into the mountainsides for over a hundred kilometres. The only people we saw around this amazing food bowl were a few Africans either cleaning the soft roofs of the hot houses or cycling around the area. The mountains all along the coastline were very dry and rugged.
Unlike France the lay bys at the side of the road where we could stop for picnics were littered with rubbish as there were no rubbish bins. This was in great contrast to the small towns and cities in Spain which we found to be very clean and tidy.
The two days we spent at Almeria were very relaxing and we even managed to have a swim on the one warm day. The water was rather
cool but we were determined to at least have one swim in the over five months that we had been in Europe.
Francoise and I caught the bus into Almeria a nice large town with a wonderful fresh food market were the entire basement was dedicated to fish and upstairs was fruit,vegetables and specialty items.
We decided to try the set menu around the corner for lunch which proved to be a feast for a total of 10euros. A plate of Paella,a plate of marinated capsicums with bread followed by two plates of grilled squid and salad, water and a coffee with a large biscuit – such good value and the couple running the little restaurant were very pleasant.
In order to have a bit of contrast from the seaside we decided to head to El Berro in the Sierra Espuna national park where we spent two nights. It was a very rugged, olive and almond growing area and they had the first rain for the season after five dry months the day we arrived! It rained heavily that night and well into the next day. Francoise and I had planned on doing a ten kilometre walk but that was unfortunately quashed by the rain. We had a very nice meal the following night at one of the two restaurants in town where we tried a number of tapas and the man running the bar was so friendly we decided to return for a lovely breakfast the next day before we left town. The staff at the campsite had little English but were helpful that we managed with my Italian and smattering of Spanish.

The nice thing about staying in campsites and moving around with the campervan is that we have found some good food markets where we bought various interesting foods to try and fresh fruit and vegetables. I mostly made lunch and dinner in the van or in the bungalows where the girls stayed and we would have the occassional restaurant meal to try the local dishes.

We arrived in Campello to visit my old friend Baerbel after spending a couple of hours walking around Alicante. We split up
the next day with Helen and Francoise taking the train into Alicante and Baerbel and her tennant Klaus took Maurice and me
up into the mountains past Benidorm (a sea of high rise appartments and hotels) to Guadaluce, a small town built into a very large rocky outcrop. It was quite a touristy place but facinating to see. We found a restaurant called “Casa Paco” away from the tourist area and where only locals were eating.
We had wanted to try a good paella since arriving in Spain and Baerbel knew exactly where to find one so we enjoyed that and a couple of jugs of Sangria that night before farewelling Baerbel and Klaus.

It was going to be a very long drive to our next stop of Barcelona so we broke it into two sections staying one night at an excellent campsite “Mon Mar” in Monofra about 45kms north of Valencia. I don’t know if they were all “Valencia” oranges but for hundreds of kilometres on either side of the road all we saw were orange trees. The mountains until just before Barcelona were very rugged and then suddenly the landscape changed to more forested slopes.

We arrived in Barcelona at our campsite 20 kilometres towards the east at the “3 Estrellas”. We caught the bus which took 20-30 minutes into Barcelona city and bought our discounted metro tickets 10 for 10euros which got us around the city and to “Sagrada Familia” the Gaudi designed church which is more like a museum. The structure is quite incredible and the inside is a large vaulted area with tall pillars and a lot of stained glass. I was disappointed that although the stained
glass did throw lovely light around the church it was only coloured glass without any design. We had printed out our tickets in advance and we had to choose one of two towers to ascend. We picked the Natividad and we did get lovely views over the city
to the coast and up into the mountains.
A lift took us to the top and we had to walk down but luckily the narrow round staircase was enclosed so I didn’t suffer any virtigo. The church was still to be a building site until about 2020 by which time they hoped to have 18 towers as part of the church. I did wonder if Gaudi had this in mind in the late 1800’s. Some people thought it the most beautiful building they had seen. It was an amazing structure but with all its turrets with fruit and vegetable like decorations it seemed more a folly than a church.
We made our way to the older part of the city and walked down the lovely wide avenues lined with trees and then stopped for lunch in “le Pain Quotidien”.

Our second day in Barcelona was spent wandering around the wonderful markets of “La Boqueria” which was teeming with tourists
and Spanish shoppers buying “jamon”, fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and other fresh produce. We had brunch at a cafe there before strolling along the wide boulevards of “La Rambla” and then down the narrow passageways to the Picasso museum which was most interesting. We did attempt to walk to the funicular to have another view of the city however it was closed so we walked back to the bus and the campsite.

The third day Maurice opted to stay and do the washing and rest his arthritic ankle and the three of us caught the bus back to town where thousands of people were taking part in a free yoga session from the “Plaza D’Espana” up to the national museum.
It was quite a sight to see the people sat on their yoga mats in such a large area. We walked to the top of the hill and had a coffee while enjoying the beautiful views. We returned to the “La Boqueria” market where we had lunch and another look around the and then did some shopping as we wandered down a few of the narrow alleyways.
We were lucky that our three days in Barcelona were warm and sunny and it was only in the early morning of the 5th October that we had a storm and heavy rain before the girls caught a taxi to the train back to Paris and then plane back to Perth
and we took the motorway to Les Issambres near St Tropez to see our friends there for a couple of days before returning to Italy to see my relatives and get the van ready for it’s stay over winter in the garage in Roccamandolfi.

We had expected a warmer month for our stay in Spain but despite some rain and the cooler days we enjoyed the variety of seaside, city and mountain areas.

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