Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Day 88

Day 88. Sat 26thJune.

Yesterday we ran out of steam for the Palatine, so it’s our sole destination today. The site of Rome’s most ancient Iron Age remains and in its heyday the most desirable postcode for emperors and their wives. We arrive at 9am and have the place to ourselves for a good couple of hours. By the time the sun becomes unbearable were in the Farnese Gardens, a wonderfully cool oasis in an otherwise vast hot site, with great views down over Forum.
Lunch today is a great neighbourhood restaurant Luzzi, just over the road from the Coliseum. A bit rough and ready but fantastic pasta, super fresh salad and as cheap as chips. Back to the site for a swim in the pool, no better way to recover from the enervating heat. Thunder rolls round the wang for a good two hours in the evening before the heavens open. Try and watch a film but the storm drowns out any sound from the DVD. The lightning flashes and bangs drive Molly under the bed (Quite a squeeze), but bring the temperature right down, Lovely.

The recently excavated House of Augustus.
Farnese Gardens .
The Colluseum from the Paletine Hill.

Day 87

Day 87. Fri 25th June.
Coliseum and Forum.

Into Rome for a close up of the Coliseum, what an insane crush and inside its like the wreck of an ancient building site.
It looks much more impressive from the outside and we could have save ourselves a couple of hours queing and bumping around. Though you do get great views of the Forum and Palatine hill, our next destinations.
The Roman Forum is a vast site and it takes a lot of imagination to reconstruct the heart of the Roman Empire from the remaining piles of rubble. Especially in the heat of the midday sun. It needs much better curating and signage to differentiate one pile from another but we eventually get the hang of it, and it’s absolutely riveting.
Hot and tired we head to the nearby, quirky Enoteca Corsi for lunch. The food is good but portions are small bordering on the downright mean.
Heat and miles of walking mean by 2 pm we’ve had enough but hit a public transport strike and have scorched 2-mile walk back to the station, where fortunately the trains have started to run. Meltingly hot.

Can you see what it is yet? The Roman Forum
Is that a cornucopia in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?

Day 86.

Day 86. Thurs 24th June.

A highly productive day at the wang. At last I get the blog right up to date. It means a rather indigestible lump of new postings to wade through. I feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Resolve to keep up to date on a more regular basis. Lets see how I do, shall we?
Our girl is suffering. She has been mixing with a lot of low campsite dogs and many have left her with souvenir fleas.
The treatment here is awful, soaking her down, rubbing her hair the wrong way and spraying her with a foul smelling gunk that makes even us gag. She is so wretched and miserable we have to let her on the bed where she snuggles in the whole night. Sorry Molls.

Friday, 25 June 2010


Day 85.Wed 23rd June.
Happy Birthday to you.

Andy’s 46th Birthday and its our first trip into the eternal City. The campsite has a half hourly bus to the nearest Station and it’s a 1 euro 25 min trip into Flaminio. The train delivers us right to the spectacular Piazza del Popolo.
Just like any other classical Piazza, only with knobs on. What a thrilling first sight of the city.
Visit the Fontana di Trevi, the Vittoriano (love it or hate er,hate it obviously).

Had a colossal lunch before staggering down the Via del Corso to the colosseum.
That was it, we were done in and Andy’s birthday dinner awaited. A special menu of Melon wrapped in Parma ham (the good stuff). Pan grilled roasted vegetable with steak and a birthday cake made with Maize and Almonds.
Happy happy day.

Some Roman geezer, Casear.
Trevi Fountain.

Happy birthday to you.

Day 84.

Day 84.Tuesday 22nd June.
Catching up.

Very behind with the blog and the photo files, so set too with a vengeance. Good Internet connectivity speeds the process up. As do a few stinging complaints from the schoolmarm element of the followers (you know who you are).

Day 83

Day 83.Mon 21st June.
A perfect start.

Did I mention the showers? The ones at Camping Tiber are spacious, bright, clean with plentiful hot water and free.
When you’re out of your comfort zone (who can possibly be in one, Camping?) such things take on exaggerated importance.
A perfect start to the day, if it weren’t for the piped music I would move in.
An all day, giant supermarket shop and a second visit to IKEA to pick up a few civilising bits for the wang. We so love it here.

Jolly new socks, jolly new rug. Coordination is EVERYTHING.

Day 82

Day 82. Sun 20th June.
It aint here.

The IKEA trip has sparked something dark, deep in our subconscious, and in a blood hot shopping frenzy we fell upon the nearest outlet mall like ravening beasts.
We came away with a hugely overpriced (but gorgeous) shirt and snazzy underwear for Andy (birthday looming). Some vivid long socks for me and that was it.
A major disappointment, we are utterly spoiled by our weekly Cinema and shopping trips to Gunwharf Quays, whatever we are looking for on our trip it certainly wasn’t here.

Day 81

Day 81.Sat 19th June.
Rome James.
A cracking early morning start we are glad to leave the worst campsite of our trip.
We have a vary pleasant and easy 300k hop back to Rome where guess what.

It’s cold and raining!!!!!
Camping Tiber is a great site with lots of mature trees and deep shade for our long suffering Mutt.
So now were back in civilisation what do we do, well “when in Rome do as the Romans do”, and we rushed to the local IKEA.
We had been in the south for too long and wandered round open mouthed with wonder at all the bright shiny things. Of course this was the weekend so it was like Circus Maximus but they were smart, they were middle class they were like us, European, home at last.

The wang and guest kennel er wing.
View from the guest wing.

Day 80

Day 80.Fri 18th June.
Golden Temples and english vegetables.

Paestum is a large open site and at this time of year still pretty and green. It contains three of the best-preserved Greek temples (to Neptune, Hera and Ceres) in Europe. Alongside, the contemporary museum, is skilfully arranged. Totally in awe of the scale and completeness, these are the best we have seen and we have seen a few.
Managed a late lunch in the prettily sited Natuno restaurant overlooking the site. Good food but the place is so up itself.
Back to the wang for a swim with our girl. Its just too hot for her and we foolishly try to give her luxurious pelt a bit of a trim. Poor love ends up with a terrible hatchet job, (a canine Nicky Clarke I am not) and she looks like the dogs dinner.
We are unexpectedly set upon by a couple of Italian families, greatly concerned that we have a dog on the beach. Eventually work out their excited concern is for their children.
We patiently explain that this is and English dog and not just any old mutt. She could therefore be relied upon to conduct herself with the reserve and dignity of a true English lady and not even register the existence of their lowly offspring.
Condescension is always best when employed against the lower orders. Put in their place and muttering something about English Fennel (Italian for homosexual we later learn) we continued with our swim but the sea is warm and soupy and we were too rattled to enjoy it. Back at the site we had another run in with a different family (are children regularly mauled in Italy?). Enough is enough and we are not prepared to stay anywhere our dog is not universally loved and admired by all.
An English vegetable by all accounts.

And Another.
And Another

Day 79

Day 79. Thursday 17thJune.
It aint half hot.

Away by 7.30am. Hoping to get as much travelling done in the cool part of the day. Destination Paestum and it’s a fair old haul of 300k. The car starts OK but we have the same problems with overheating. Ring our UK mechanic Peter Boxall for advice. (Not for the fist time this trip).
His advice, lots of antifreeze in the radiator, and if the car is really hot, turn on the heating. The heat exchanger will divert the heat from the engine.
With our new strategy the journey is going swimmingly till we hit another diversion.
Only in Italy would this be called a diversion. Anywhere else it would be an outing, something to take the kids out of school early for, have a few days off work even, make a holiday out of it.
Journeying north, this diversion takes us from the west coast to within 30k of the east coast and then back north again. A four-hour trip turns into an 8-hour trip conducted in blazing heat.
The temperature gage climbs off the scale. Plan B, close down all the air vents except for the two either end of the dashboard. Turn the heating and fan up full and open the windows. The engine starts to cool immediately and the red hot air is spilled out the window. Bloody marvellous, thank you Peter. Even 3000k away he’s still keeping our car on the road.
Able to relax a little and enjoy travelling through the extraordinary landscape. The air is scented with the marvellous perfume of clear yellow flowering broom. Passing enormous inland lakes and valleys reminiscent of the Wild West.
Ok, we are exhausted by the time we arrive at Camping Ulisse but what a dump. Lots of permanently sited vans parked up for the winter. The shade comes from bamboo canes on top of concrete pillars, bleak, and each space, though large enough, is littered with rubbish. This is camping ina council tip. Ah well its only for two nights.
Walk to the site of the temples to try a restaurant from our guide. This is the tenth restaurant we have tried from the Rough guide and the tenth to be closed when we get there. More details please Rough Guide.We strike it lucky with a restaurant close by. Too exhausted to choose we plump for the tourist menu (heavily featuring Buffalo Mozzarella produced locally) and the food is great. Overlooking the Temples which are illuminated while were eating . Walking home via the temple entrance the evening turns into a magical experience.

Day 78.

Day 78. Wed 16th June.

Head into Vibo Valentia to visit the Citroen garage.
A very tidy workshop where they tell us it’s the starter motor and will have a new on fitted by later the same day.
Go home, Molly plays with the children and the grown ups on the beach and we decide to give Tropea a miss and get out the next day while we can. Collect the car. Hand over 350 Euro and prepare to leave. Not a great site, not a great stay. RAC international breakdown, Utter shit.

Day 77

Day 77.Tuesday 15th June.
Fill the car with diesel on our way to explore Tropiea.
Bugger me but the bloody heap refuses to start, again, and we have to push the car from the pump. The guys in the petrol station are very helpful. They bring round their own cars and tried the jump leads:
A broom handle and a hammer for a few taps to the starter motor:
Another breakdown truck. He arrived fully equipped with a battery charger and nothing else:
We had two choices, a very good local mechanic, close by, or a specialist Citroen mechanic 35k distant. We choose Citroen, it’s an intermittent fault and could be the electrics, a specialist domain.
He waived his hands and we understood he had to return to his office first. 5k away.
When we got there (it was a breakers yard) we worked out his urgent appointment was with lunch.
They locked the place up and told us to come back in 1 hour. Astonishing. We asked a retreating backside if there was anywhere to eat and he pointed down the road to the right before vanishing.
Off we set, walking, in the midday sun, 2k later find somewhere to eat. Meanwhile the RAC phoned to say they understood the car had been repaired at the roadside.?!X!.
Returning 1 ½ later our car is nowhere to be seen. It had been taken to the Citroen garage and the RAC representative asked us to wait for a cab to take us to the hire car.
3 long hot hours later were still waiting when they tell us the hire car wont be available till 5pm and the cab will arrive then, meanwhile no cab is available to take us back to the site (where poor molly is trapped in the wang).
We organise our own cab from the garage and take Molls and ourselves for a much needed dip to cool off. 5pm the RAC phone to ask why we aren’t still at the breakers yard. Clearly we have nothing to do but wait all afternoon for their taxi to turn up. Eventually Andy is collected and returns with a hire car and we fume and fume and fume.

Hibiscus & wang

Day 76

Day 76. Mon 14th June.
Beach Bums.

The beautiful beach was calling so we all had dip in the gloriously blue/green sea .
Which is where the new breakdown man found us. He was very smart, attached a battery charger to the car and to our astonishment it started immediately. He left it running for a short while to check it would start under its own steam, which it did, and he was on his way. Job done.
Utterly relived we had a relaxing time swimming, supermarket shopping and sunbathing on the glorious beach.
Tropiea looks enchanting from the coast road and we resolve a visit the next day.

Are you coming in?

Beach bum.

Day 75

Day 75.Sun 13th June.
Heaven and Hell.

A glorious early morning start for our drive to Messina. The autostrada, like many in Sicilia, is lined with trees and flowering shrubs. Found our way directly to the ferry terminal (no satnav detours) and within moments of buying our tickets drove onto the ferry and sailed away. The gods of travellers were smiling on us that morning.
(note the “morning” part).
Our onward destination was Capo Vaticano and one of the best stretches of coastline in Italy.
The autostrada is a long slow climb out of Reggio. Combinations of gradient, heat (40 degree) and contra flow (nowhere to stop) resulted in an overheated engine and speeds down to 10k per hour plus high anxiety.
We reached the top of the climb in the nick of time and the engine had a chance to cool on the downhill leg.
After 2 hours we made it to the steep B road to Tropea. It was finally too much for the car and steam bellowed up from under the bonnet. After an hour’s roadside wait and slow refill of the radiator, we were off again. Making slow but steady progress until the road ahead was closed due to a landslide.
The detour was up a goat track, steep, sharp and never intend for a car and wang. Onward we pressed but with the warning lights on stop had no choice but pull over on the narrow road and wait till the engine cooled. Half an hour wait and drive 1K before it happed again, and again, and again, slow, scary progress. Italian drivers never expect anything round the next bend and several almost left the road getting round us.
With the summit in sight (5 Meters ahead) the radiator blew again. This time we were slewed across the road but had nowhere else to go. After an hour we set off on the steep, narrow and hairpin strewn decent.
Finally another tight, steep decent to the campsite and my nerves were shot for good.
Breathing a sigh of relief we checked in, but our relief was short lived when the car refused to start. Blocking the site entrance we attracted a crown and had multilingual advice from everyone.
Unexpectedly the car started again. We quickly got into a shaded space where the car packed up again. One hour later a drunken scruff from the breakdown service turned up, told us we could not be recovered and went home.After all the faffing we finally got to walk our long-suffering mutt on the beach, which was beautiful.



Day 74

Day 74. Sat 12th June.
A fishy tale.

An early trip to the station to collect Miesje from an epic train journey to join mum and dad on the boat. They are setting off from the harbor that morning so we head back to camp to wave them goodbye from our cliff top site.
Have a wander down to the tiny harbor and are just mooching round the fishing boats when we spot their mast on the horizon. A quick march (uphill) we arrive breathless and hot to wave them a fond onward adventure.

This is our last night in Sicilia and we push the boat out at the excellent site restaurant. Choosing the ugliest, most vivid red fish from their fresh selection and leave it to the chef to prepare. 3/4 of an hour later a plate of spaghetti arrives flavored with the most delish fish sauce. We search forlornly under our pile of pasta for evidence of more fish. With a sinking feeling we accept the whole thing had been reduced for the sauce and tuck in. The waiter then arrives with a massive dish and our hugh fish beautifully steamed with a rich sauce, fresh veg, giant crutons, the lot. The staff are clearly mystified why we are laughing so much we have to hang onto the table to keep upright. Well dear reader, it only went and turned out to be the most stupendous fish dish of our entire lives, worth every penny of the eye watering 80 Euro bill and a fitting end to our Sicilian adventure. Everyone told us Sicilia would be cheap, well it just isn’t, but the place and the people found their way into our hearts and we plan to return again and again

Latest rolling stock.
In the harbour
A fond farewell.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Day 73

Day 73.Fri 11th June.
On the menu

Joy of joys the site has a proper washing machine (ah the simple pleasures). Drape the wang in clean washing and swim and bath and read.
M&S are in a small harbour just west and we meet up for pot luck supper and to say hello to their newly arrived son Sam. He was a schoolboy last time we saw him and I find myself saying, “I would never have recognized you” with a sinking feeling I now realise I am officially O L D.
During dinner on deck Mozzies arrived in force, not for the first time this trip, we were on the menu that night.

A fine pair of moobs (man boobs)
Propper Tasty.
How do you do

Day 72

Day 72.Thurs 10th June.
Eventually get our act together and set off eastward along the south coast to Aciriale. A pleasant easy drive and arrive in La Timpa International, the most spectacular site of our trip.
A very steep climb down a couple of extreme bends onto a shelf of volcanic rock on volcanic cliffs. Our reward is a panoramic view over the sea, along the coast and mainland Italy. We are very close to the smoking Etna here. The site has its own lift down to a precarious flat area for swimming and sea bathing. Molls hates going in the lift but loves swimming off the cliffs.

The View.
The wang.
The rocks

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Day 71.

Day 71. Wed 9th June.
Still here.

We discover that doing nothing is not only harder work than work, its also very addictive.
Had a day on the beach, swimming the hound and sleeping. Molly amused herself terrorising a baby hedgehog which had rolled onto the beach from a garden above. Curled up tightly it twitched every time she barked at it.
Andy to the rescue, retuned it to its garden and Molly spent the rest of the afternoon hunting for another one.

Day 70.

Day 70.Tuesday 8th June.
The road to hell.

Awoke with good intentions for an early departure but you know what they say about the road to hell.
We swapped books and DVDs with the sailors (Its amazing how quickly you get through stuff with no tv). Immediately hooked by one of the books I had started.
Also you know what I say about having fun. Its much harder work than work. So we did nothing but read and sleep and eat all day long.

It was bliss.

Day 69

Day 69. Mon 7th June.

M&S are joined by the vivacious Gracee, and the five of us set off for a jolly jaunt to Noto.
After being utterly destroyed (along with most of southern Sicily) by an earthquake in 1693. The new town is a fine example of harmonious Baroque splendour.
By way of a diversion the satnav took us to Noto Antica via a twisting mountain road. We had an exploratory ambling scramble and thoroughly enjoyed its ruined, wooded isolation.

Noto itself has been splendidly restored with the result it now resembles a Hollywood film set. It felt slightly unreal but we had an enthusiastic alfresco lunch and were charmed by the sight of a newly wed couple departing, in a tiny fiat with noisy cans stung from the rear.
Back to our site for a swim and a curry and our first, hugely enjoyable, stab at entertaining in the wang.
The sailors were heading off the next day and we arranged to meet further up the coast.

Us3 (happy now Fi)
If you go down to the woods today?
A bit of a fixer upper.
Our first dinner guests.

Day 68

Day 68. Sun 6th June.
On Board

Arrived at the harbour in time to watch M&S row the boat ashore, Halleluiah.
After short car ride to the Parco Archeologigo spent the morning exploring the ruins,Teatro Greco and quarries with a lush garden and an amazing cave, all the while catching up. I haven’t yakked so much in months but discovered yakking is a bit like riding a bike, once you’ve got the hang of it you never forget.
Onto the Musieo Archeologico and a stunning collection of coins (who would have thought they could be so gorgeous). The rest of the museum is stunningly presented though a little like a modern IKEA in that you have to go everywhere to get anywhere.

Malisa had prepared a sumptuous lunch back on board and with cake (I so miss cake) and yakking I don’t know where the time went. Bit of a hairy ride ashore in the smallest dingy imaginable, with the sea lapping around my ample posterior and a souvenir damp undercarriage, I was glad to get ashore.

Its a hard life.
Malisa hunting capers.
Votive offerings to the gods. Its all for ME.

Day 67

Day 67. Sat 5th June.
Dr Livingston I presume.

Malisa and Steve have been on a Mediterranean sailing adventure for a year now. Today is the day when two blogs collide http://www.bob-blog.info/and we get too hook up with them.
We head into Siracusa and the elegant island of Ortygia, site of both ports. Just in time to hit the busy Saturday morning market, awash with local produce, fruit and veg stalls, riotous with colour, plant, flowers and herb sellers and of course amazing fish stalls.
There were almost as many tourists with cameras on tripods as there were punters (I love my little point and click) so I became all snooty and didn’t take any pictures. Shame really.
Syracusa is a beautiful port with many elegant streets. Meet M & S on the steps of the Duomo (originally a 5thC BC Greek temple) and got so engrossed in catching up hardly gave it the attention it deserved.
Lunch down on the harbour, with views of a cruse liner and their boat, lots more catching up. Home for a swim, happy and tired.

The Duomo
An Old Ruin(in the background)

Day 66

Day 66.Fri 4th June.
Settling down.

Our puffing Billy neighbour left this morning. We had a days housekeeping, stocking up the larder and setting up the awning. Disappointing lack of Internet access. Brilliant beach and great sea swimming.

Madam on her daybed

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Day 65

Day 65. Thurs 3rd June.
The good, the bad and the downright mean.

We have a difficult journey, were lost a couple of times, car overheated on a particularly long hill climb (it was a blazing 35 degrees out). Unimpressive landscape with acres of hillsides covered in endless, ugly, Polly tunnels, growing Aubergines, sweet peppers and tomatoes. Lots of sprawling cement works, marble factories and industrial complexes. We were glad to arrive at the highly recommended Camping Sabbiadoro in Avola, 20k south of Siracusa. The site is beautifully planted with hundreds of flowering trees and shrubs and we have a great view of the sea from our pitch.
But (isn’t there always a but) oh dear, the sanitary facilities are primitive, with antiquated, smelly toilets, why do campers tolerate such deplorable facilities. Antiquated showers (only four for the whole site) and to add insult to injury you have to buy tokens to use them. Only 2/3 mins hot water for your money. We were both caught out mid lather and the water just stopped. Unbelievably bad and this from the most expensive site to date.
It’s strange when the owners get so much right and ruin it by being downright mean. 7 Euros to use the washing machine (double the usual charge)
A chain cigar-smoking neighbour stinking out the place, just about rounded off a pretty shitty day.

Pretty site, primative facilities.

Day 64. Wed 2nd June.

Day 64. Wed 2nd June.
Down memory lane.

The local bus service to the Valle dei Templi leaves from right outside our camp. Half and hour later were tramping through the ruins of 2500 years of history. It is hot and exhausting but brings back a flood of memories and emotions for my boy. He dances a solitary jig, for old times sake, in front of the Tempio della Concordia, (the setting of the original stage 23 years ago). A long hot wait for the bus home, no seats, no shade, no bus stop even. Then a refreshing dip in the sea for all three of us, followed by a quick bite and early to bed for our journey to Siracusa the next day.

Temple of Hercules.

Diddle diddly om pom pom.

Day 63. Tues 1st June.

Day 63.Tues 1st June.
San Leone.

A trip down memory lane for Andy beckoned as we headed to the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.
23 years earlier he danced in the Almond blossom festival with the Kingsmen, his Morris dancing team from Newcastle.

Titter thee not.
We had an event free, easy drive, down to the south coast and our campsite, Camping Neptune, in the small seaside town of San Leone. It’s a bit grotty and cramped but only feet away from a great beach and the sea. Molly had a swim and played with the huge beetles on the beach. The staff were helpful, our meal in the restaurant was great and cheap, you can’t have everything.

This is the farthermost point from home of our trip so far, almost 3,000k. From now on its all homeward bound, sort of.

Day 62

Day 62. Monday 31st May.

Sat around in an exhausted heap and prepared to bid a fond farewell to our favourite stop so far.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Day 61

Day 61 Sunday 30th May
Wuthering heights.

On Saturday our site had filled up with Italian holidaymakers for the weekend. Adults and children in full voice exploding from their motor homes. Well all this relaxation had to end sometime.
We drove to Trapani a large port, still a stronghold of the local Mafia. From here a cable car whisks us to the mountain town of Erice. Founded by the Trojans and reputed to be impregnable. Encounter our first shake down in the car park. A ragamuffin with a book of tickets approached us. He told us parking was free but he would personally make sure nothing happened to our car if we paid him a small amount. Suddenly we spoke no Italian and scurried on our way pretending not to understand.
The town was shrouded in mist throughout our visit and the ancient winding streets seemed deserted and not a little spooky. After an expensive, indifferent lunch and with our clothes wet with mist, we descended to the car park to discover our car was perfectly all right and the ragamuffin still plying his dubious trade.
As the weather had shortened our visit we continued on to the impressive ancient Greek temple at Segestra. A 30 min climb through wild flowers to the beautiful Amphitheatre, also from 12c BC, with the most stunning views over the inland plain and distant sea. A full and happy day.

Above Trapani.
Half way up the very narrow spiral stairs this lot went off!! Deafening.

The Duomo Erice.
Where is everybody?

Small theater, Segestra.
Doric Temple, Segestra. Moments later the culture vultures on the left were flashing there bums? Must be a local thing.