Thursday, 29 April 2010

Day 29

Day 29 Wed 28th April.
And up again, just.

The birds have responded in kind to yesterdays feeding by leaving generous deposits of fresh manure all over our tables and chairs. Morning you little shits.

My morning disco shimmy from the wang.
After a day of my tender ministrations, all the while coping with the worst hay fever of my life. (We are peacefully situated in a leafy grove of Lime trees, all shedding blizzards of pollen) Andypandy can now hobble about a bit.

Andy learning the language.

I run him up to the camp pool and settle him down while I get on with the chores.
The pool is sheer bliss. Almost deserted, a rather rotund lifeguard, who we presume you would use as a floatation device in an emergency, water just cool enough to refresh from the blazing sun (28 degrees today) but not so cold as to dissuade entry. With a poolside café and bar standing by for the rush.
More fascinating hours to be had staring at the lake, why is water so hypnotic and intoxicating. After hand feeding himself a large bowl of fruit salad, we are up to a little jaunt into town.
Drove the 4km to Peschiera and what a pretty place, cobbled, traffic free streets, lots of canals, a picturesque harbour, good-looking shops and restaurants.
Dinner by a canal overlooking the harbour as the sun
went down. Me Tagliatteli with prawns and courgettes,
Andy the fried seafood platter and Molly,
nearly had a local swan that took exception to her presence.
A half litre of the local wine
(booze hounds or what) and home to watch the sun go down.
Perfection. To bed after another exhausting giorno of our adventure, we are growing lazier by the day.

Day 28

Day 28; Tue 27th April.

Started the day with some fantastic new physical contortions from Andrew.
(Don’t try this at home) With one leg on the ground, outside the wang, haul the other leg forwards and up, into the wang, throw your entire weight onto the leg inside and use it to heave your whole body, not just into the wang, but also around the corner where the sink lives.
Not entirely sure what mental processes were involved in the initiation of this manoeuvre, if any at all.
However the resulting blood curdling scream and collapse to the floor is a good indication of the effect on the ligaments in his right knee. Vulnerable from an old skiing injury in Spain many years ago.
Lots of wailing, clutching, curling up into a ball to avoid all the kicks I was aiming at his stupid head. (It always takes weeks to recover)
Still, Molly got a VERY long walk out of it, I calmed down, realising this is another way of slowing down (not sabotaging the entire trip which was my original interpretation).
Practicalities involve loading him into the car for the short (300 mtr) but steep climb to the loos and shower and me doing everything myself.
Fortunately it is so peaceful by the lake, apart from distant spine chilling screams carried on the breeze from Gardaland a theme park some 4 km distant.
The look(interpret as you will) in reponse to "Where's Hills"

The wild birds are amazing, from breeding Grebes to preening swans and cheeky little sparrows hopping onto our table to help themselves.Not so enamoured of the blackbird sitting on our fence at dinnertime tearing apart a baby lizard but hey we all gota eat.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Day 27. Lake Garda

Day 27; Mon 26th April.

Finished off emptying all our cupboards and storing all our bits and pieces over the wheel arches in the wang.
Rolled by hand out of its space, hitched up and on our way.
Our shortest transfers time yet at just three hours and the easiest site to find. Only six k from the Autostrada.
Pesky sat nav, (we’ve gone off her big time) actually took us right to the door for a change.
Plumped for a spot right on the Lake, literally feet away from the lapping waves with panoramic views over the water.
Lake Garda is Italy’s largest, cleanest and, so were told, most beautiful lakes. The combination of ever changing light, water and far reaching views to snow topped mountains is proving hypnotic and we can’t tear ourselves away.

Dinner of yummy pizza in the on-site restaurant. Not fully operational yet as it’s low season and we practically have the place to ourseves.
Sad news from home. My Aunty Ann passed away this morning from throat cancer. The last surviving member of my mams siblings and a beautiful, gentle soul. God Bless.
We are lulled to sleep by the lapping waves and twinkling lights across the water.
It’s like hearing the planet breathe.

Day 26.Moving On.

Day 26; Sun 25th April.

Decided its time to move on so took a leisurely day dismantling the awning, the groundsheet, emptying the water barrel the wastewater pod and generally battened down the hatches.
Molly had her final romp on the sand dunes and another long walk along the beach.
Andy, brave soul, had a dip in the sea and declared it as warm as it ever gets in August in Stokes Bay.

We consulted our guide books and spent a long time choosing the next campsite on Lake Garda, its somehow harder when you have more to choose from. Worked out an exit strategy from our parking space. We had burnishes more than a few tree trunks getting round the right angle bends and so to bed. Night night.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Day 25

Day 25; Sat 24th April.

Blazing hot day and with the postcode entered into the sat-nav off we set for the garden in the Villa di Maser. Built to a design by Palladio in 1557 for the Barbero brothers who were instrumental in initiating the Botanical gardens in Padua(see day 20).
Two hours later the satnav duly delivered us to a farm house 30 miles from where we wanted to be.
We now know its totally random with Italian postcodes. Eventually found the place with the help of a good old-fashioned map.

Only one signpost to the house and that was from the opposite direction of our arrival. Happily paid the 6 Euro admission but the wretch selling tickets affected such a pained expression when we asked if she spoke English, I was already rattled.
Up a tantalisingly elegant pair of stairs to the house. Before we could step inside we were instructed to don a pair of Pittabread like, oversized, overshoes. Impossible to walk in, the best we could manage was a shambling shuffle.
Indisputable tasteful proportions (you have to be inside a Palladian house to appreciate just how right they feel) and beautifully decorated with stunning allegorical frescoes by Veronese. A couple of rooms off the hallway were all we were allowed to see.
We could stand with our noses pressed up against a pair of beautifully portioned plate glass covered doorways, and take in the tantalising glimpses of two, perfectly proportioned, wings of the rest of the house, not open to visitors. maddening.
As for the much-lauded garden. Well the author of our book (Gardens of Italy by Ann Laras) had clearly not been there.

The Garden is merely a courtyard out the back with a fountain. A very beautiful courtyard and fountain. I could tell from the glimpse I got through a cordoned off doorway.
We were not allowed into the courtyard, we could not approach the beautiful fountain and we could not experience the space in relation the house, oh and we couldn’t take any pictures either. Glimpsed courtyards do not a garden make.
What a shambles, the private owner of the house is as mean as hell. If you’re going to open the place, bloody well open it. Don’t keep your paying guests confined to the entranceway and force them to shuffle around like manacled prisoners. Shoddy, shabby and shameful. I was, and still am, absolutely livid.

Day 24

Day 24 Friday 23rd April.

Today we planned to visit a garden we have read much about, the Palladian Villa di Maser,
Having learned our lesson from the Glass museum we are checking the opening times. Sure enough its only open at week ends until the summer.
Deciding to wait and use the time to sort out a dongle once and for all.
Our current intermittent Internet access is driving us potty. Were so used to looking up everything on the webb, we are lost without it. This was to be the ultimate test of our Italian language skills. Buying and installing programmes in our own language is often beyond us, so, filled with trepidation we lugged our laptop into the local electrical shop.

Where the gods sent us Matteus.
A comfortably padded, vertically challenged youth, he spoke enough English to explain what was on offer and even said he would install it for us if we went back the next day.
We immediately elevated him to the status of an angelic being, God Bless him.
We now have three hours a day Internet access and hope to catch up on some English TV.

Only having the local product in terms of TV and is A W F U L L.!!
Either, dreadfully boring old ladies, wearing lived in clothes and outlived hair doo’s;
(you wonder if they knew they were going to be on telly,) chuntering on about god knows what, talk about low production values. One camera and a 40-watt bulb would be big budget.
Or its brazen hussies flaunting everything they have (and it isn’t brains) on some appalling game

Day 23

Day 23, Thursday 22nd April.

Luxurious long lay ins and even back to bed after full english breakfast.
More Molly time on the beach and long, wild walkies through the dunes. Madam as usual made lots of new friends but this time it was with the local Tick population. Always a joy finding and removing them.
Waved a teary farewell to our German neighbours who’ve been with us most of our stay here. We will miss the hilarious non-conversations that went on for hours, neither of us speaking a word of each other’s language.
Molly missed Nox but later in the day a French couple arrived with a beautiful Border collie.
Not as boisterous or fun as Nox (nor as scary looking) but canine company is essential when your living in such confined accommodations with humans.

Day 22

Day 22; Wednesday 21st April.

Last Day in Venice and its all about Palladio and glass.
We look forward to our boat trips to the City but today the boat was infected with a virulent plague of spawn, (schoolchildren to you). They looked to be about 10 or 11 years old, noisy, spotty, more metal in their mouths than a thing with lots of metal in it. This lot were French so we endured frogspawn the whole trip.

Fist stop the island, and Palladian Church of San Giorgio Maggiore. A beautiful space but more fun is the bell tower, magnificent view of Venice from the top, and a lift to get you there. There are a pair of Tintoretto masterpieces (fairly gloomy to my eye) some of the last works he completed.
On to the Redentore, another church by Palladio and a simple but effecting interior.
Pressing ever onwards the interminable (1 hour) boat trip to the Glass making Island of Murano.
Very pretty place, just like a miniature version of Venice. Had a delicious lunch by a canal (of course). Popped into lots of glassmaking workshops. Stacks of rubbish made for us tourists but some amazing pieces. Then onto the highlight of the day, a visit to the famous Glass Museum. Of course it was closed on a Wednesday. The third rule of sightseeing is ALWAYS CHECK THE OPENING TIMES. Rules one and two being; never pass a free toilet and always have your own loo paper.
Disappointed and dejected we caught the doubly infernally, seemingly, eternal ferry back to St Marks and bid the Venice skyline a fond if weary farewell from the ferry back to Cavallino (our Campsite)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Day 21

Day 21; Tuesday 20th April.

Tired bunnies that we are, we had a Molly day. She was laid a little low by the ungentle manly reaction of Gaza to news of her latest infatuation. We tried to reassure her, that part of a crossbreed’s attraction is their unpredictability, and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
A day on the beach soon lifted her spirits and a nimble (but cautious) romp with loads of scattering crabs had her enthusiasm back.
More campsite rituals to ponder.
The way they wandering around clutching a whole toilet roll. As if overwhelmed by the desire to announce to the world where they are off to and what they are going to do when they get there.
Every now and then several roll bearers will congregate and you can only imaging the conversation.
“Off to the WC I see.”
“Yes, I’m a little on the loose side at the moment so thought it best to take a whole roll.”
“Yes you can’t be too careful.”
“Recklessness has no place in the WC.”
“Have a good one then.”
“See you later.”
“Only if you’ve washed your hands.”
Being gentlemen, Andrew and myself discretely re-roll what we need round our hands (careful judgment needed) and discreet the necessary about our person. One can then present to world the appearance of being out for a genteel stroll, with no sense of urgency or purpose whatsoever.

Day 20

Day 20. Monday 19th April.

Padua has an impressive lively and convivial feel. Filled with students, the sort of place where folks are getting on with their day-to-day lives. Unlike Venice which is all tourism.
The Cappella degli Scovegne was built as a shoe in to eternal redemption, for the son of a notorious usurer. The interior walls were covered in frescoes by the then, man of the moment, Giotto, in three years from 1303 and represent a turning point in European painting. Honestly, its such a faf getting in, buying your tickets well in advance, timed entry, which if you miss by a second you loose and have to pay again, it’s a testament to the frescos that so many of us are prepared to suffer the rig marole.
The baptistery of the Duomo is a treasured gem of a building with frescoes by Menabuoi, which we loved.
A quick visit to the tomb of St Anthony, lines of the poor and the sick throwing money (offerings) into several judiciously placed boxes in the hope of a cure. I had tears streaming down my face but it was hay fever (i'm a martyr to it in the spring) and not emotion. Maybe I should have made an offering?
Late lunch in the lively Piazza dell erbe, one of two dayly markets, which was crowded with celebrating students, many wearing laurel wreaths, and surrounded by families and friends. Some kind of graduation we guessed.
Made the discovery of the year, Gelateria Grom. (remember that name)
Thankfully part of a chain, selling the most deliriously fabulous ice cream ever, and in Italy that’s no mean feat.
Ended the day in the L'orto Botanico, the world’s first botanic garden. Started by the University of Padua in 1545 for the study of medicinal plants and responsible for the dissemination of Potatoes, tomatoes, lilacs and yellow jasmine, to name but a few.
The layout and many of the plants are original and what a treat to end the day.Tempted to visit the gleaming new IKEA (there’s always something we need from Ikea) on the way home but batteries were low so deferred.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Day 19

Day 19 Sunday 18th April.

Our fitness levels are not yet full tuned to two days consecutive sightseeing, so another day off.
Still acclimatising to the communal aspects of camp living.
Unnerved and unsure about sharing my morning motions with a row of thunderous German trumpers.
Now, I am well known as a bit of a thunder pants myself, to my nearest and dearest. (Though always in a discrete, tasteful way) but my goodness, this lot were bringing tiles down from the walls. It’s ghastly or gasstley,take your pick.

Day 18

Day 18. Saturday 17th April

Fully rested we have gathered ourselves for another go at Venice.
Had to start with the Basilica again, there’s just too much to take in on one trip.
Even more amazed by a second visit and we will definitely be back.
A fascinating wander past all the posh designer emporiums and curious little shops selling decoratively printed papers, on our way to the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Specialising in Venetian painting from the 14th to the 18th century. Amazed to see so many masterpieces in one place and to see paintings so familiar from illustrations, actually in the flesh.
Great paintings have a life, a vibration; they reach out and touch you. Sometimes it’s a gentle caress; sometimes it’s a slap in the face and it can be a blow to the guts. Stupendous collection.
Wander though to the lido side for lunch on a floating pontoon and watch the vast cruise liners discouraging more tourists into the city.
A short walk to the idiosyncratic collection of Peggy Guggenheim.
The gallery was her home in Venice for over 30 years and she is reputed to have slept with many of the artists she collected.
Marvellous modernist paintings, many of which we hadn’t seen before. I was bowled over by a luminous Kandinsky and astounded by the depth of incident in the Pollock’s. Its great to see the Guggenheim continuing the tradition of the great robber barons, by charging an eye watering 12 Euros admission, to a relatively small domestic space, which easily becomes impassably crowded.
One final push onto the Ca’Rezzonico. More worn damask and faded guilt furniture than you can shake a stick at. Large-scale mirrors fogged by age, but, by then, so were we, tired and weary, we headed home. Intercepted by a procession of real live Venetians.Dressed head to toe in what looked like several old pairs of my mams curtains, wandering listlessly along to accompaniment of a doleful drumbeat, its no wonder their a shrinking populace.

Day 17

Day 17, Friday 16th April.

A bit zonked by cultural overkill, had a lay in till 8am.
A day of blissful domesticity. Catching up with our dirty sheets and hand washing. Still not quite used to seeing adults, wandering around outside, in their dressing gowns and slippers. Standing at a row of sinks washing your drawers in full view of strangers. Talk about washing your dirty linen in public.
We are loving catching up with the blogs comments every day, immense fun and keep us feeling connected.
Found a park and beach you can take the dog too. Even the local’s don’t know about it.
I’m sorry Gaza but Molly has found a new love, the scary German neighbours dog Nox.
I think its because he looks a bit like you. Though taller, darker and more German.
You must understand she is now a world citizen and free to follow international liaisons as her heart wills. You were never entirely exclusive; least said about Sewer the better.

Day 16

Add Image

Day 16, Thursday 15th April

Up with the larks, do they have larks in Italy, its bound to be a delicacy somewhere?
Drove to the local port for the commuter ferry into Venice.
We have such high expectations of this legendary city and it fulfils them all.
A panorama of every famous landmark, stretches out along our horizon, literally, floating before you as you arrive in the lagoon,
Fist stop, the Cartier shop off the Piazza San Marco, where else darlings. Not for shopping, unfortunately, just to replace my watch battery, which they couldn’t do as it takes two weeks.
Next stop the Basilica. What a trip, heart poundingly, breath takingly, eye wateringly, stunning. We were absolutely blown away. Never mind the glittering domes, the floor to ceiling gold mosaics, the hundreds of saphires, emeralds, garnets, rubies and thousands of pearls, even the floors are intricately worked in multicoloured marble mosaics, pattern on writhing pattern. Most of it plundered on a grand scale.
This is just the most gorgeous building on earth, though the space is ultimately incomprehensible and the most surreal trip, ever.
Phew, onto the Palazzo Ducale just round the corner. A strange combination, the outside is very light, refined and stylish, same with the inner courtyard, beautiful, the interior is room after room of gloomy gothic overkill. Heavily carved and gilded ceilings, monumental rooms almost the size of football pitches stuffed with Venetian power painting, impossible to appreciate as they’re so monumental or on ceilings or just too far away. You are left feeling somewhat overawed and overcast yourself.
Not my cuppa at all.
Lunch was at a sweet little trattoria just west of St Marks Square, delish and at just under 60 euros not bad for the most expensive city in Italy.
On to a small church, Santa Maria Formosa, to see a couple of paintings where we were horrified by the mummified remains of a child, or a very small person, in a glass case on a alter. Surrounded by slobbering devotees pressing postcards against is, kissing them and falling to the knees, up and down more than a whores drawers. Clutching at rosaries and fervently crossing themselves. Shocking to witness the power of mumbo jumbo in this day and age.
A relaxing boat trip around the lagoon and down the Grand Canal (we just needed to sit awhile).Home to a nice cup of coco and the best nights sleep for ages

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Day 15, Wednesday 14th April.

Exhausted from all our previous efforts and maybe the booze, we had a day off from our adventure.
As I always say having fun is much harder work than work.
Molly has deigned to notice a very scary looking dog next door. Looks like a huge wolfhound but with short fur.
She introduced herself by walking up to where he was sitting, squatting down and peeing in front of him.
Ever the refined lady. Can’t imagine where she gets it from.
Checked out the local port and Andy couldn’t resist the seafood special at a local restaurant.
Spaghetti Vongole (with garlic, chilli and clams).
Followed by Squid in ink sauce with polenta. Tasted delish but looked like hell on a plate.
Thought immediately of my sister Alli who is very squeamish, she would have heaved on the spot.
Planning our first visit to Venice tomorrow, by boat!

Day 14, Tuesday 13th April.
Fine looking site with good sized, grassy pitches, yards from the beach, under shady pine trees. Dogs are not allowed on the beaches, even though they are all but deserted. Dire warnings of the consequences are posted in several languages at every entry.
We travel down the coast and find a bit of scrub where we can walk Molly. As there is no one for miles take the chance and she has a great swim.
Second attempt at the awning was much more successful than the first and yes, it is easy if you know what your doing.
Decide to stay here a couple of weeks as apart from Venice, which is going to take a couple of visits, were also in striking distance of Verona, Vicenza and Padua plus a couple of famous gardens to peruse.
Lots of giant supermarkets and we seem to do well enough asking for stuff and ordering in restaurants (thanks to Giovanna our endlessly patient Italian teacher) no one is more amazed than us when they understand what we are asking for and even more amazed when we understand their replies (mostly).
We have wifi (rapture) and catch up with our lack of communications home.
Great dinner back at the camp of prociutto crudo, the ripest local tomatoes, Insalata Capricciosa and our last bottle of Champaign.
Will have to start investigating the local fizz.

Day 13 Monday 12th April.

We were going to have a day off and relax, but as usual dawn got the better of us, as we were up so early we decided to break camp and head for our next destination. Venice.
Our friend Bernie (who lives in La Villa) recommended the Passo Campolongo at 1875m as the best pass out of the mountains.
She didn’t say it would be the first of three high passes on roads twistier than an arthritic snake. It took us three hours to travel 30 miles. Its fantastically awe inspiring for the first hour, “Ok, enough already”, for the second hour and “not another snow bound, sheer bloody drop” for the third.
When we did hit the plains of Venito everything went unnaturally flat. Not a bump in sight and mile upon mile of cultivated vines, much softer, warmer air and lovely sunshine
Somehow contrived to make a dramatic entrance to the campsite. Tried to get in by the back gates, which were firmly locked so had to reverse the wang around a sharp right-angled bend onto a single-track road.
As they say in Italiano, “IMPOSSIBILE.” Everything goes opposite to how you think it should so we eventually unhitched. Moved the wang by hand and hitched it up again for the last 20 meters.
The mistake was letting Andy drive for the fist time that day. On entering the site he managed to prang the wang and demolish a prettily planted flowerbed at the entrance.
The sound was stomach churning; imagine Titanic being ripped apart by an iceberg.
We both hid our faces in our hands and looked up to find a crowd of shocked campers with their mouths covered and all pointing at US. We crawled, red faced from the car exclaiming,” Buon giorno, Mi dispiace, sono inglesie”. “Hello, I’m sorry were English” They all seemed to understand and immediately lost interest. Swarms of camp workers had the wall back in no time and they still let us on the site.

Day 12, Sunday 11th April.

Relentlessly stunning weather, this is the most beautiful campsite, nestling in pine trees surrounded by the stunning Dolomite mountains. Imagine camping in Narnia and you have it, but how could we tarry?
Started the day with a couple of red runs from Piz la Ila. All but deserted and very crunchy underfoot we both found them demanding and a little tiring.
Lip smacking mountain lunch at our favourite hutte, La Punta Trieste (the three owls). The best spare ribs and chips on the mountain, followed by tiramisu. Feeling fully revived the afternoon snow was like skiing in ermine and we had the most excellent couple of runs of our whole lives. It doesn’t get any better than this.
Back down the mountain to the car and on the very last steep bit of piste I totally misjudged a trickle of water across the bottom of the slope. It turned our to be a bloody crevasse.
Travelling at speed to make it up the other side, the skis came to an abrupt stop and I kept on going. Flying through the air, Arms spread wide and landed splat on my face in the shape of a perfect crucifix.
I just lay there wondering how on earth I managed to end up face fist in the snow, unable to breathe, winded but at least the snow was soft by then. Decided to call it a day and limped back to car. Battered, bruised but totally, blissfully, chuffed.
Day 11 Saturday 10th April.

Another gorgeous day and we are on the slopes by 8.30am.
Decided to try a couple of the harder red runs so headed over to the Danterceppies slopes, a couple of long reds and even a black.
Donkey boy, yours truly, airily dismissed Andy’s warnings to watch out for the black slope on the far right. Delighted with how my technique was coming on, I set off down the right hand slope with gay abandon.
Very steep and narrow, I was soon filling my pants and sure as eggs is eggs fell flat on my face. But only once and felt a great sense of achievement reaching the bottom in one piece. It certainly made the rest of the red runs seem lot less scary and you have to stretch yourself now and again, don’t you?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Day ten

Day 10 Friday 9th April

Crisp and cold and a cloudless sky. Into our ski togs and off to the mountains for
some of the best skiing we have ever had. Snow crisp and icy in the mornings but the pistes are beautifully prepared and hardly anyone on the slopes. Very slippery and fast under the skis. Exiting and totally exhilarating. Kept mostly to the flattering easy pistes of Pralongia to get our legs in, yummy lunch, snow softer in the afternoon so back to the wang for madams afternoon trot.
She spent most of her time bothering the wildlife round the site. Lots of fluffy white bunnies and black sinister looking squirrels all heading for the hills at great speed.

Day eight and nine

Day 8 Wednesday 7th April.

The sun is out, the sky is blue and was feeling a lot more cheerful today.
Headed into town and, be still my beating heart, everything is open. Are we the only people in the world to come to Germany and find it closed?
Tourist info had Internet access so we could reply to few emails, found a smoky internet café with wi-fi and posted the blog. We feel connected again.
Had an indifferent lunch at an amazing hotel perched high above the Rhine, see picture, while looking down on Eagles and Crows dive-bombing each other.
The obligatory trip to the garage where our spirits soared when we saw our car on the forecourt, at least it had moved. Only to be utterly crushed when they announced MAYBE FRIDAY.
That was too much for me. Throwing my hands into the air (the international signal for exasperation) and through gritted teeth reminded them we have been waiting for five days! (suddenly they understood English)
What an amazing reaction, they rushed to our car, poked, prodded, took it for a test drive, presented us with a bill for Euro 300 and said ”Auf Wiedersehen” pet.
Two very happy bunnies drove back to the camp to prepare for an early departure the next day.
We had been unable to find a new spare tyre for the wang. Our very sweet camp commandant was not at all happy, saying it was bad for his heart for us to drive such a long way without a spare, so he gave us his, from his own van, what a star.

Day 9 Thursday8th April

8am departure, were off, yippee. God, driving a carawang is so boring; life at 50mph is not for me. Made good, if slow progress across Germany and into Austria, scenery immediately more dramatic and beautiful. Slow chug up the Brenner Pass, an amazing feat of engineering then into la Bella Italia. We could see the mountains and smell the snow.
Off the motorway and onto the mountain roads. So scary. Narrow roads, hairpins bends, very steep plus bonkers Italian drivers. Thank god for Tena for men.
At one point we had the most amazing view down miles of mountain road chocked full of cars crawling along, wondered if there had been and accident and realized with a sudden chill the hold up was us.!So exited to be in the mountains at last. Arrived at 8pm and set up the wang in a lovely spot under the pine trees and fell into a deep sleep.

Day Seven

Day 7 Tuesday 6th April.

Well all our illusions about German efficiency are well and truly vaporised.
Spent the morning buried in a book. Afternoon visit to the garage was greeted with shrugging shoulders; no eye contact and a very surly “come back tomorrow”
We reached our lowest ebb today. Feels like we have given up our lives, our friends and our home to lanquish, indefinitely, in some bloody field, in the rain, in the middle of nowhere.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Day five abd six.

D a y F I v e.
Molly’s homeland.

Molly is thoroughly at home in the Fatherland. She is, after all, half German shepherd.
Loves all the fields, forests and fast flowing streams, slightly worried about the Rhine, goes a bit fast for any water she’s seen before so a quick dip to get the ball is out of the question.
Took her to Koblenz for the day. What she hates is the cities.
She was not impressed by the spectacular drive along the Rhine. Positively hated the ferry crossing, all that vibrating steel cannot be safe for man nor beast. Had a wander around the old part of town, where the Rhine and Mosel meet. (What’s left of it after you know who flattened most of it, you know when?) She hated it and was thoroughly miserable for the whole day. No more Cities for our girl. She will be much more settled sleeping in the wang while her boys pound the rotten hard streets in future.

D a y S I x.
Exercise V pleasure.

Easter Monday, a lovely sunny start and one more day before the verdict on the car.
Headed up the Autobahn to Maria Laach, a beautiful house and garden on the shores of the Laacher See. A more or less circular Lake.
Unfortunately so did half of Germany and we couldn’t get near the House and Garden for the crowds. Parked up and took Molls for a trot round the lake.
Even that was swarming with energetic folks in knickerbockers and knee socks striding purposefully along in a way that spoke more of exercise than relaxation. We felt almost slovenly enjoying our relaxing stroll in the spring sunshine.
The woods were alive with Dormice; Moll had a great time leaping from one pile of rustling Beech leaves to another. Threw herself headlong into the freezing water and generally had a rare old time soaking striding Germans.
We did meet an English couple that tipped us off about an hour free WI fi access (we have failed to find any since we were stranded) at Mc Cafes. Headed to the nearest one on the Autobahn but our crap computer battery (thank you Dell, why even supply at battery that wont hold a charge of more than 20mins?) went flat as soon as we downloaded our emails.
Back at the wang the sun was shining so we had a go at putting up the awning.
More zips and poles than is entirely reasonable. Fiendishly complicated and no instructions. Andy had a fabulous temper tantrum in view of the whole campsite.
Could be a whole new Olympic discipline. You have to franticly grab at anything within arms reach, toss throw or hurl it as far as you can. (Combining the skills of javelin, discus and caber tossing) while going purple in the face and bellowing every expletive known, really loud, causing an earth trembling echo and wide scale panic. Molly and I locked ourselves in the wang for safety and now we are not speaking. Ah the joys of camping.

Day three and four

D a y t h r e e.
Slowing down.

Well this may not be where we wanted to be, but the middle Rhine, (between Koblenz and Bingen) was awarded World Cultural Heritage status by UNESCO.
Not a bad place to be stranded then.
The three of us headed up the side of the steep, wooded, valley and were rewarded (apart from thumping hearts and pink faces) by great views of a ruined old pile and the mighty Rhine,
Sankt Goar is a very pretty, small village with a Rhine crossing just like the Gosport ferry, only with cars. Tourist shops with embroidered waistcoats, stuffed bears and highly decorated beer steins. A whole shop filled with cuckoo clocks and lots of restaurants.
We found one that let dogs in and Molly settled demurely at our feet while we tucked into a delicious late lunch.
Then a somewhat slower meander back to camp followed by an early night.

D a y f o u r.
The wisdom of the biscuit tin.

Decided against the planned boat trip up the Rhine. 2 hours afloat each way would be no fun for our girl.
Andy was determined to sort out the inside of our new home from home. He was thoroughly fed up of it looking like we had been the victims of a very messy burglary. Off he went like a demented windmill, cushions flying left and right, food, clothes and crockery flying from one tiny cupboard to another like a demented Mary Poppins.
Molly and I dived under the duvet for cover and wondered how we ever got here in the first place.
I was saved from terminal decline by the sudden vivid memory of my mams old biscuit tin. A big square old thing decorated with embroidered words of wisdom on each side.
“ Smooth runs the water where the brook is deep”.
“ I oft have herd defended, least said is soonest mended”.
“ Patience is a virtue, find it where you can, seldom in a woman, never in a man”and so on, you get the gist. I’m not sure if “ more haste less speed” was on there but it should have been. If we had taken a more leisurely pace on our journey we would all (car, carawang and us) be in much better condition than we are at the moment. Ah well, tomorrow is another day.
Day Two.
The efficiency of strangers.

A very snug first night. Keen to be on our way but first we had to get a spare tyre for the wang.
Had a very hot shower in a freezing shower block. Such extremes of temperature cant be good for you.
Hopped into the car with Molly duly settled on the back seat and N O T H I N G .
Not a flicker from our trusty automobile. All the storms and towing the wang at high speed (60mph most of the way) had done her in and she was having none of it.
Another call to the RAC and they had the same mechanic (now becoming a familiar face) from the day before, with us within 45 minuets. After tinkering with the old girl for a while and even hitting the battery with a hammer (OMG why do they always do that?) We managed to grasp a few words of German. The most relevant and ominous being “ Kaput”
We were hitched up and towed to a Citroen dealership 12 miles distant where the cheeriest owner told us they could not even look at the car till the next day.
Well, the next day was Good Friday, so he meant the following Tuesday.
Catastrophe, all those Italian classes and we didn’t speak a word of German.
Meanwhile all the other parties, garage, mechanic and breakdown service were talking about us behind our backs. The upshot being a shiny new hire car was delivered to the garage for our use over the next few days, this is after all Germany.
Took our sorry backsides to the supermarket and stocked up on supplies.
Feeling totally shell shocked back at the camp and when I noticed Andy sitting woefully with his head in his hands, a la Munch’s Scream, I new it was time for a nice cup of tea.
Heated up some Goats cheese tarts rescued after thee months in our freezer.
Topped with oven baked onion and shredded bacon, A little mixed salad followed by journey bruised soft fruit medley, sautéed in a little butter with a few cubes of melted Cadburys caramel bar, Delish.
We now await the verdict on the old girl on Tuesday and hope her injuries aren’t fatal.
Ended the day with a welcome bottle of bubbly presented by Ann just before we left, and a heartfelt toast, to the efficiency of strangers.

Day One

Day One
High drama on the highway.

We finally managed to get everything in the house finished by midnight and fell into bed.
Up at 3am to get to the Chunnel by 5.20am. Bid a fond farewell to our house, “Goodbye house”, and hoped the roof would not cave in, the windows wouldn’t fall out and we wont be returning to a smouldering ruin filled with the charred remains of holidaymakers. (Well you can’t help worrying can you)!
Our aim was to get a good run at the first days driving. An overnight in Frankfurt, and arrive in The Dolomites on day two.
Our lovely neighbour Ann (hello Ann) was on the drive in her PJs to wave us off.
Headed down to Stokes bay for a last glance of our favourite view and were immediately hit with torrential rain, high winds and crashing waves all over our Wang and us. Enough to make you turn around and dive back under the Duvet.
Momentum got the better of us and we pressed ahead anyway.
A bit of trial a by fire for my first go at towing a carawang but the roads were blissfully quiet and we made it to the Chunnel by the skin of our teeth without any casualties. Despite the wind and rain swaying us like a drunken conga line all the way there.

The tunnel is a marvel and the three of us couldn’t be more exited if we were shot into space.
Quick as a flash and smooth as a knife through hot butter were heading through France, into Belgium and on our way to Germany. Tooling along while Kraftworks Trans Europe express boomed from our fab new in car music system from the modern marvel that is the ipod, what joy.
Thanks to the miracle (still new to us) of satnav we never had to look at the map once. A very bossy tart voices her but she kept us straight, no mean feat.
Stopped for our fist taste of continental grub in Belgium and filled our boots with a Full English breakfast!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Made it to within 1.8 kilometres (read it and weep that’s only one mile) of our first overnight when
The nearside tyre on the Wang shredded to black dust.
If we had still been on the Autobarn I cant imaging what would have happened.
As it was we were going very slowly down a steep hill on a narrow road. Safe??
Called the RAC who would be with us in 45 mins. Meanwhile lots of lovely Germans stopped to ask if they could help. Including two very rosy farm boys.
Every cloud has a silver lining.Finally got here (a lovely wooded site in a ravine by the Rhine) an hour later 5.30 pm and set up the Wang for the fist time. Had a lovely piece of Swinefliche mit salad and a well deserved early night. We would not have slept so well had we known what day two had in store.