Nutshell (and Germany, Pt2)

Because so much has happened I’m going to do a few things in a nutshell.

Germany

On our first full day in Germany Gary took us for a drive to some places. I met some of Mum and Steve’s old grape-picking friends, visited a  market, in the snow. Gary took us through some buldings set up like they were in the olden days.

Our second day we spent at a ski resort. We couldn’t actually ski but I did a bit of tobogganing. I went doubles with Mum down a slope and we ended up doing the funniest fall. Here’s a link to it.

New Friends

As well as Isabella I also have a few more friends. While ice skating one day Steve pointed out a group of girls speaking English. As I passed them I said hi. Then it started a conversation. I met Greta from Little Rock Arkansaw (America, she has two brothers, one a twin. She’s staying here for a year) and Quivva (I think that’s the spelling) from Ireland who has lived here for eight years and translates for Greta at school. I have had many playdates with Greta and she later introduced me to Tatea. Greta goes to Italian school with

Christmas

This Christmas was absolutely fantastic. I opened many fabulous presents, (including a chess set with adorable sheep instead of the usual chess pieces,) then went off to church leaving a few presents for later. After church I went back to opening presents. Mum told me to open a present that looked like a calander (but I knew it wasn’t, I’m just using a calander as an example). Inside were skins for an electronic device. They were too big for my iTouch and too small for a laptop. It was…. an iPad!!!!!!!! Steve told me it took about 0.03 seconds for me to realise what it was. So I am having a wonderful time with  it. Naturally. We all had a late lunch with my nonno and nonna who are here from South Africa, then later Greta came over.

New Year’s Eve

Here New Year’s Eve is HUGE. You can actually buy your own fireworks!!! Crazy!!!!!!! My cousins have arrived from London and it’s really fun having them here. Steve went down and bought crackers to set off and around 10-11 pm we went to the edge of Lucca’s wall and set most of them off. In a small square next to Piazza Napoleon (the piazza with the ice rink) tons of fireworks, crackers and every other sort of exploding thing was set up. The whole time we were down in the square the crackers were constantly going off. Sparks of colour would suddenly burst and reach about head hight. It was kind of like a spark fountain. But my favourite part was counting down to midnight in Italian. A stage was set up with a countdown clock and there was music playing. When midnight came a square was formed in the crowd, we ended up on the inside of the square, right next to the crackers. Fireworks were going off crazily, and not just the ones set up. People were constantly throwing their own crackers into the square. The funniest thing was that there were no safety lines. No barrier in sight. My favourite fireworks/crackers were the ones that, when they exploded high in the air , they looked like lots of little lights with glitter sprinkeled infront of them. My least favourit were the rockets. They were crackers that would very suddenly go off with the biggest, loudest bang in the world! It was the best ever NYE ever!

Now

So. I’ve been spending time with my cousins, ice skating, eating crepes and riding my bike.

I hope you enjoyed this blog.

TTFN

Germany, Part 1

Well. On Friday the 10 Mum, Steve and I packed our bags and caught a plane to Germany. We spent three nights and two days in Germany and I absolutely  loved it!

We left on Friday afternoon on the funniest flight I’ve been on.  There were three Italian teenagers sitting in front of us who jabbered away the whole flight. The things being sold on the flight were crazy there were scratchies and fake cigarettes for smokers. When we landed about half of the passengers started clapping and yelling “Bravo, bravo”. Some were even standing up!

During our time in Germany we stayed with one of Mum and Steve’s old friends, Gerhard, or Gary for short. He owns an awesome house in a small village. The house has an old fashion oven/stove in the kitchen. The oven/stove has a fire  under the stove. But not an electric fire, an actual fire  that’s log powered. Because of this the kitchen is always super warm.

Gary used to have cows  and during the winter they would stay inside the house in a special area that was like a barn without hay. But the cows have gone and have been replaced with tons of firewood and a car. The bedrooms are all upstaris and they all have the fluffiest, warmest, cosiest blankets. Perfect for cold nights.

Gary owns the biggest rabbit I have ever seen! She ways 5 kilos and about 50cm, probably more. I would see her every morning. She was just so soft and gentle.

As well as a giant rabbit Gary also owns a fat, giant horse called Bodo, average sized chickens, that lay fresh eggs almost every morning, and an average sized rooster.

Germany was freezing but the good thing about it was all the snow! Steve and I would have a small snowball fight every morning (unfortunately Steve got cold very quickly, I heard that happens with oldpeople) and on the way to see the animals I would always walk in the snow. It was soooo much fun. (Fortunately I didn’t have to spend too long without snow, on Friday the 25th it snowed here in Lucca!)

Stay tuned for Part 2 and 3, with info about our two days in Germany

It’s getting colder!

Had a (not) funny experience a few days ago. Cycling with Isabella to school, temperature 3 deg C, when it started hailing. Fortunately we had our umbrellas with us so kept going but geez those hailstones hurt when they hit the back of a cold hand. Managed to keep a happy face thanks to the knowledge that there was already 1.5m of snow at the local resort and still 2 weeks to the start of the season!!

Another event to pin into the memoirs today: there are plenty of markets here, such as antiques, food and wine ( of course ) and the other usual crap but today beat them all – a chocolate market! Then to finish it off for every purchase you made you recieved a ticket in a draw to win your weight in chocolate. Of course Isabella was there at 7.30pm with bricks stuffed in her pockets. (Un)fortunately we did not win but the person you did (73kg) gave away all the chocolate and we scored one of the 1kg bars. Nice chocolate but I have had my fill for a very long time.

Since We Last Spoke

I know it has been ages since we last spoke but that doesn’t mean you haven’t been on my mind so, let me catch you up with our travels to date.  First a word of thanks and praise for our trusty campervan and how she came to be christened Nonna Smith.

Nonna:  Italian for granny

Smith:   She was green like a Granny Smith apple hence the name Smith

She did an amazing job covering over 4,900 kilometres and didn’t miss a beat until the day before she was due back in Rome and  her power steering went, she’d obviously had enough of turning corners (of which there were many) and decided enough was enough.  We made it to the carpark of Camping Belsito in Montecatini which was to be our last stop before Lucca, the lady there was extremely helpful and after a frustrating time getting onto the roadside service people they sent a tray truck to transport Nonna (and us) down the hill to their workshop, lttle did we know that they also expected us to travel in Nonna Smith on the back of the truck also.  Needless to say I said in my best broken English “No bloody way are we doing that”  but alas there were only two spare seats in the truck so Isabella and I travelled up front with the driver whilst Steve sat in the driver’s seat of Nonna Smith facing backwards, it was quite a sight gave us a great laugh (and a few other people along the way)  and I will definitely post a photo.  She had minor surgery and was back in our possession within 3  hours and we spent our final night in Nonna Smith, she served us well.

We were blessed with stunning weather which made travelling in the campervan an absolute joy, the freedom of not  having to be anywhere at any time, stopping when we felt and moving when we felt, sleeping  in some of the most incredibly beautiful places and enduring some not so beautiful places but if you’re thinking about a travelling holiday we would definitely recommend a Summer European Campervan Trip, go on, just do it!

The last few weeks of travel we spent south of Rome although we didn’t manage to make it to Sicily or the heel of Italy which I have heard is beautiful and I hope we may still get an opportunity to head that way.  We did make it to the Amalfi Coast and although stunning visually it wasn’t one of my favourite places.  We did stay in a gorgeous camping area in Sorrento, it was of course on the top of a cliff, like everything else along the Amalfi Coast, and nestled amongst olive trees which provided much entertainment for  Steve and Isabella and were often heard falling on the campervan at night.  We stayed in Sorrento for 4 days and took boat trips to Positano and Capri, the bus trips I  hear can be quite hair raising but really, why would I expect anything else, driving in Italy is hair raising at the best of times let alone in a bus packed with people on roads really only wide enough for a donkey and everyone in a hurry,  boats were our method of transport thanks very much.

We then headed to Sperlonga which is a small seaside town south of Rome and the only beach we came upon that had soft, yellow sand.  We stayed in a lovely camp spot right next to the beach (much like Broken Head Caravan Park) and spent four days relaxing and enjoying the sunshine before we made the final journey north to Tuscany, it was like a horse bolting for home and we could see the end of our days in Nonna Smith.

And now we are in the next phase of our Italian Sojourn, we have an apartment in the beautiful walled village of Lucca, Tuscany, did I say the word ‘stunning’ well that’s what it is, Lucca is one of the few towns in Italy to have its city walls still intact.  The streets are cobblestone and basically free of cars except for the odd delivery truck, resident or perhaps the unaware foreigner who has taken a wrong turn or in our case needing to get all our stuff out of the campervan and into our apartment, its amazing how much you can accumulate whilst travelling.  The weather is still beautiful with the mornings fresh, the days sunny and evenings cool, the leaves have begun falling from the trees and scarves are the accessory of choice at this time with hats and gloves not far behind.

The mode of transport most favoured by Lucchese are bikes, there are a couple of bike hire companies but they don’t sell their bikes until the end of October (and sometimes not even then) so we decided to purchase three new bikes from Carrefour (similar to K-Mart), can’t tell you how chuffed we were cycling around the walls of Lucca with the wind in our hair and the sun on our faces having the time of our l ives, well that proved to be shortlived.  We double chained all three bikes up outside our apartment to find the next morning that both Steve and mine had been stolen, thankfully Isabella’s had been spared, we were just too bloody obvious with our shiny new purchases and they were just too bloody irresistable for some filthy thief so, off to the carabinieri to report the theft with no chance of seeing them again, we were gutted.  Steve managed to acquire himself a crappy old abandoned bike which he proceeded to put new tyres on and off he went, I went back to the bike hire company told him of our plight, proceeded to cry and he sold me a fantastic secondhand bike, we were back in business, now I know why everyone rides such crappy bikes and we have learnt our lesson about being too flashy.

We have met a lovely Australian family, Bernadette, Andrew and their 4 children who came on a 6 month holiday to Italy and never left, that was 7 years ago.  To be honest I don’t know what I would have done without Bernadette and her knowledge of everything Italian, she came when we had to interview for Isabella to go to school and I am constantly asking her questions, she always has a smile on her face and helpful advice, she is a gem.  They run a holiday rental business here in Lucca called Destination Lucca and their apartments are stunning well worth a look if you are thinking of holidaying here, I can’t tell you how useful it is to deal with someone who speaks Italian.

Isabella is now at Carlo Del Prete Scuola, she attends Monday to Saturday from 8.20 until 1.20, not sure how long going to school on Saturdays will last, we might knock it on the head somewhere down the track.  She never ceases to amaze me with her ability to go into any situation and embrace the experience, she is inspirational.  Steve attends Lucca Italian School, I also admire his commitment to applying himself to  learn the language, me, well, I am still hoping to wake up and just be fluent in Italian however I now realise that I will also need to apply will and commitment to attending Lucca Italian School which I will do next month, meanwhile I google translate everything, it is invaluable.  I manage to get by quite nicely though with my limited vocabulary and hand gestures I have even given directions in Italian to unsuspecting tourists in the street, I’m not sure where they ended up.  I ride with Isabella every morning to school and do the grocery shopping, it is amazing how much I can fit in my basket, it’s quite magical.  We have learnt a few things the hard way like the bikes being stolen and paying nearly 3oo euro import tax on a box of our winter clothes that cost $450 to have sent across from home but we just have to cop that on the chin.  I’ve learnt not to be offended at the brusqueness of the Italians or be pissed off about the fact that it doesn’t matter how long I’ve been waiting to be served everyone else will be served before me and they’ll serve me when they’re ready, I just tell myself “I’m not in a hurry”

We are now looking forward to the first of our visitors arriving on Saturday, it will be so lovely to see friends from home.  My two sisters also arrive at the end of October and then Steve’s parents arrive from South Africa in December  and  his brother, wife and three children will be coming across from the UK for Christmas, how exciting.  We also pick up our car from Nice tomorrow so we will be able to begin exploring beyond the walls of Lucca to the beautiful countryside beyond.  We rode our bikes for a few hours along the banks of the Serchio River on Sunday and Steve is getting quite excited about the prospect of snowboarding in Abetone which is about an  hours drive from Lucca.  There’s the  Caravaggio Exhibition in Florence to attend, the Leaning Tower in Pisa to gawk at and the Cinque Terre still to be walked as well as countless monuments and churches to be explored in Lucca, plenty to keep everyone entertained.  So now I am going to post this and then get some photos sorted as well, just bare with me I have some entertaining to attend to.  Much Love to you all.

Lucca

I don’t know how to start my blog so I’m just going to write. I don’t care if it doesn’t make sense!! The van got returned to Rome and after staying in our temporary apartment we have moved into the apartment we are now staying in till the end of our trip. It’s a nice cosy apartment and, like at our other apartment, I need to climb up a ladder to get to my bed. The first apartment had a mezzanine type thing, which was my room, and now I’m sleeping on the top bunk of a bunk bed.

 We have been victims of thievery when our bikes (well really only Mum and Steve’s bike) were stolen. We only had one long lock which was used to chain up three bikes. My bike was found in rack (not where we chained it) so our theory is that there was only one person and that they could only escape with two bikes. Anyway. Mum now has a second-hand bike and Steve has ‘recycled’ a supposedly abandoned bike that had no back wheel so of course he ‘recycled’ a wheel from another supposedly abandoned bike.

I have started school which I have found extremely different from school in Australia. School goes from 8:15am to 1:20pm (5 hours) and goes from Lunedi to Venerdi (Monday to Friday). So in short it’s the other way around from Australian school. Also, the desks’ don’t have tubs. Instead, everyone keeps their bags beside them or on the back of their chair. Because school is only five hours we don’t have a play time or a big(ish) lunch. We just have a snack and a bit of chat for about 15 minutes. It’s also slightly relates to what I imagine high school to be like. There is a different teacher for each subject and just about every subject is covered. There’s art, history, technology, geometry, English, (learning the actual English language) religion, geography, maths, french, (some people do Spanish) sport/P.E, music, science and literacy or what’s called Italian. Art, music, sport/P.E, religion and a few other things are done twice a week and the more important things (maths, literacy etc) are done fairly often. I am friends with almost everyone in the class but I am closest to three girls. Rachele, (strangely enough) Francesca and Anastasia. (said a-na-star-z-uh) Rachele speaks the best English out of the three but I can get by.

It takes about 10 minutes to ride to school in the morning but varies since there are quite a few traffic lights on the way.

Steve has signed up with blockbuster movies and we have been renting quite a few. Almost all of the movies have switchable audio so we can watch them in English.

Lucca is filling up as a festival called ‘Comics’ approaches. The festival has been going since (I think) 1977 and has made quite a name for itself. It’s pretty much a comics and games festival but people dress up and really get into character. We have made friends with an Australian family who has lived here for about 7 years. They have a 12 year old daughter who is called Isabella! I have only met her once but she is really nice. They told us that there are medieval sword fights in the streets! You have to pay to go into the tents but it sounds like the streets are a whole show themselves. Unfortunately the festival only goes for 4 days.

I don’t really know how to finish this blog either so I’m just going to say a simple…

…bye!

Where am I and what date is it?

Two very common questions we often aks ourselves as we lose track of time and have certainly lost track of the days.   At times I feel like I am living in The Big Brother Campervan however we do not intend voting anyone out at this stage especially Steve as he is the only one brave enough out of the three of us to drive in Italy (the only time I got behind the wheel was in a carpark for a quick spin around).  I have kept all the receipts from our camping/holiday parks so we can refer back to them and recall our journey, of course there have been many memorable places and then there have been places we have stayed overnight just to get to somewhere else.  One such place was San Remo and after leaving the glorious coastline of the Cinque Terre and the  divine town of Moneglia, San Remo left a lot to be desired.  The camping village we stayed in for the night was a beachfront location and we chose a ‘Gold Standard Site’ with sea views through lovely barbed wire, it was like staying overnight in a Westfields Shopping Centre carpark and not even being able to do any shopping.   To get onto the ‘beach’ you needed to purchase a ‘special’ card however Steve and Isabella managed to slip through as someone came out but they didn’t realise you needed a card to get back in as well, thankfully someone sprung them from their prison, I will attach a photo of this little gem of a place.  We did two fairly solid days of travelling through the incredible and spectacular Dolomites on our way to Croatia.  It was considerably colder than the weather we had been experiencing especially in the divine town of Cortina where we took a cablecar ride to the top of a mountain where it snowed ever so lightly but it was snow nonetheless.  A night in Trieste where it was quite lovely and then into Slovenia for a few kms before heading into Croatia.  We had heard really wonderful things about Croatia but unfortunately we came in the north west coast of Croatia and although beautiful it is incredibly overun with tourists from all over Europe.  The holiday camps are absolutely massive and include swimming pools, supermarkets (like Spar), kids clubs, bars, restaurants, nightime entertainment and goodness knows what else, the one we stayed at had 1,100 pitches as well as cabin accommodation and it was considered medium sized.  With tourism of this scale comes inflated prices and unfortunately we fell victim to a very ordinary boat trip that we have put down to experience.  We thought long and hard after a couple of days and decided to cut our loses and head back to Italy, we will revisit Croatia at another time and head to Dubrovnik and other places of interest, we saw many a sailing boat and I think this would be an ideal way to explore the beauty of Croatia without the crowds.  We felt that our hearts were in Italy and we were thrilled to cross back over from Croatia to Slovenia and then Italy and the madness of the autostrada as we made our way to Venice.  So here we sit in the most gorgeous camping spot across the water from Venice.  We spent yesterday exploring the streets and canals it was beautiful, we just wandered without a map and found ourselves in quiet little streets and discovered gorgeous little shops, I especially loved listening to the music being played at the tearoom Florian in St Marks Square it bought tears to my eyes.  Venice is truly unique, doorways that lead out onto the watery streets, cats that sit on windowsill and gondoliers that sing as they paddle, it is a vibrant and enthusiastic town that is indeed a memorable place.  Today is Sunday and a rest day we have noticed that many shops don’t open on Sunday and it is how I remember Sunday’s being when I was a child, quiet.  Tomorrow we will head off again and with only about 2 weeks left in Nonna Smith we still have quite a bit of ground to cover.  We are now beginning to look at accommodation in Lucca as this is where we will be living for the next few months whilst we explore more of the Tuscan countryside and enjoy the company of friends and family.  Thankyou for your lovely reponses to our blog, we are glad you are enjoying our travels as much as we enjoy hearing from you all.  Sending much love  Ges x

These Are a Few of my Favourite Things

So since my last blog tons of stuff has happened and it would take me days to write so instead I’m just going to do the highlights. But I can tell you that the rest of our stay in Rome included the Spanish Steps, a street show, eating the best gelati at a place called Old Bridge, visiting St Peter’s Basillica and a visit to a water park called Hydromania (or hid-dro-minia as the Italians say it) which had three rides and a hopeless wave pool. But all was well and we now have our van that Mum and Steve have called Nonna Smith. Isn’t it horrible!?

So, onto the highlights.Our second campsite we stayed at with our van was at the edge of Lake Trasimeno. A beautiful lake with sludge and weed on the bottom. But it was absolutely a-m-a-z-i-n-g! Our four-night-stay there also included a four hour bike ride (two hours to the town we rode to two hours back) and the best showers that had no roofs and were placed under a tree. I loved showering around 8 when the sun set and the light shone through the gaps in the leaves. Ahhhh. We became quite good friends with our neighbours who would give Steve and Mum the best coffee in the morning (or so they tell me.) They also had the cutest dog called Lily who was a  sandy brown and a bit bigger than a chihuahua. She was the cutest thing and definitely one of the top highlights.

Our next stop on the highlight tour takes us to Siena. (The stop after Trasimeno) The camping park was absolute ughhh but the town was marvellous. We visited a piazza where a horse race had taken place the day before. (Thinking of you Allirah) The piazza is covered in about 30-50cm of sand and three quarters of it is cleaned up in one night! The one quarter left is left for tourists and anyone else who wants to walk on it. The sand is wet and slippery but on the day it is dry. We also visited a store that was like greenhouse in Byron but bigger and with heaps more stuff. We also visited a delicious gelati store (that was about as good possibly even better than Old Bridge) called Grom. Unfortunately we only spent one night in Siena. Why can’t I own a gelati store!? (Preferably Grom or Old Bridge if any of you are planning to get one for me for my birthday.)

Next stop, Bibbona. The highlights here include going to a mini night fair. To give you an idea there were about 20 trampolines all next to each other, a game arcade and a few other things. I went on a thing called Baby Park. I know it sounds childish but the age limit was 12, it was only four euro for 30 minutes and it was really fun. At first I felt embarrassed but after a while I really enjoyed it. There was a ball pit that I buried myself in countless times, a huge jumping pillow, a giant fish that would open and close it mouth and a tunnel (the fish’s throat) connected to the mouth so you could either climb in or go out through it’s backside. (literally) There was also a thing called ‘The Catapult’ which included a huge climbing wall which I only managed to get to the top of on the second night, (yes I went on it two nights in a row) a really steep slide and something that had two slide-like things on two sides of the gap. Between the gap was a covered thing (similar to the covered wagons people would use in olden cowboy times. Search covered wagons in google images if you don’t get what I mean) that, by moving from one end of the thingy to the other, it would swing between the two gaps. If you don’t understand, forget about it. So on the first night, after going to the park we went to a place called Ice Palace to get gelati. The highlight here was having the best ever flavour of fragola/strawberry. It was delicious X1, ooo, 000.

The next place was Lake Garda. Beautiful tree lined paths, crystal clear lake water and a jetty! The water was quite shallow so no diving off the jetty but bombs, star jumps etc etc were all okay. On about our third day at LG (Lake Garda) Mum and I had a walk in town and had a look in a hardwear-ish store and guess what I found… an inflatable ring! Shaped and coloured/painted to look like a tyre. I know it sounds weird but when you don’t have as much as usual due to small space, things like these are really exciteable things. Immeadiately after getting home and changing into my togs I started blowing the tyre. Oh gees it was sooooooooooooooooo fun!!!!!!!!! I never wanted to leave Lake Garda. But unfortuneately the time came.

Now I am currently in Venice switching between reading my book Brisingr and, well, doing stuff. I had the best day today in Venice. Wandered around and looked at the window display of almost every shop. We found some absolutely gorgeous stores selling one of the things Venice is famous for… masks! It brought back memories of reading ‘The Madman of Venice’. After having a gondola ride with a tone deaf gondolier and buying some lovely bright green shoes (for me) we caught a ferry back to our campsite. Unfortunately we only had today in Venice.

That’s about all the exciting things for now. Blog again soon.

Smoking is still cool in Italy!

An article especially for those smokers and fellow ex-smokers.

Rememer when it was cool to smoke. Hang out with your mates, pull out a ciggie, snap the Zippo lighter and blow smoke rings! Just not cool anymore in Aus! So when you thought it was finally time to quit, you should take a trip to Italy. Not only is it cool but it seems it is even encouraged, such as the policeman, on duty, with his partner smoking in the policecar driving though Rome.  That must set a good example! And at €4 ($6) a pack it’s not going to blow the budget either. How about this photo, even the gladiators smoke, not that they had a long lifespan anyhow, they must have had a rather fatalistic look at life; either being hacked to death in front of an appreciating crowd or emphysema. Going out for dinner is a unique experience too and you can get a beautiful hazy atmosphere created for you thanks to the surrounding smokers. Thankfully, or regretfully, smoking inside is not common so the days of a steak, a beer and a ciggie all at the same time while watching the footy are out, but making a concession of moving outside does seem a minor inconvenience. Smoking in the workplace has different rules as well (OH&S is out the window but that’s another story) as was noticed by the lifeguard at the waterpark having a puff whilst directing the kids out of the pool at the bottom of the twister. How good would it be to be rescued by this dude, not only do you get your life back but you get to share the tail end of a Marlboro Light thrown in.

Maybe there is some secret these Italians are keeping from the rest of us, apart from the fact that they all die before they are 30 in car accidents (old people obviously never get into a car), there are few alcohol regulations but they don’t have drinking problems, they love oil in food but have less heart problems than us, they lie in the sun with no sunblock but don’t have melanoma problems, in fact it is still possible to buy SPF 4 sunblock! (Hardly worth the effort of rubbing it on) So perhaps if we stop focussing on all the bad things we could improve our health. When in Rome they say, so I’ll give it a try and let you know later.

(Note: statistics quoted may not be entirely correct)

Cinque Terre

Private Italian Beach

Road across the mountains

Pitstop for lunch

View from La Secca Camping

San Gimingano

Vernazza

As I am writing this I have the most spectacular view from where we are camped in the glorious town of Moneglia.  Moneglia is just slightly north of the Cinque Terre and to get here we travelled across the top of the mountains, needless to say it was both spectacular and at times heart stopping as Steve negotiated roads similar to those across the top of Coopers Shoot(and sometimes more narrow) and though at times we thought of turning around once we had left La Spezia there really was no wat to go but forward.  Steve  did an amazing job and there were many times he was nearly sitting in my lap on the passenger side as the drop off was just too scary for him to bare and at times complained of altitude sickness as we kept climbing higher.  We tried to find a camping spot at a few places however being a Saturday and stunning weather a lot of places were full and we really wanted to be by the beach, finally happened upon the coastal town of Moneglia, as we came through an old train tunnel into the light Steve slammed on the brakes and did a quick left turn and we found ourselves in La Secca Camping overlooking the most amazing beach and yes they had a place for us.  The guy that runs the place (along with the rest of his family) looks like Davey Jones (from the Monkees if anyone remembers, I am sure he is from some Italian boy band) we thought we’d have at least a night here but 3 nights later we have no intention of heading off for another day or two.  The train to the Cinque Terre is just up the hill, we have the beach about 30 steps away and it is the most glorious village with crystal clear waters, bliss.  Yesterday we jumped on the train, which cost about 12 euro for the 3 of us, and headed for the first town of Monterosso, it has one of the most user friendly beaches (of which most you have to pay for) we enjoyed some morning tea there before we headed off up the hill and as it was so hot and walking really wasn’t an option we decided to explore the rest of the villages by boat where you can get on and off as you please.   The lady selling the tickets for the boat was an Australian lady who has lived in Italy for 30 years so she gave us some useful information and onto the boat we jumped and  headed to beautiful Vernazza our favourite village.  Not as big as Monterosso the port is stunningly beautiful, brilliant for sitting on the rocks and swimming in the crystal clear waters, we stayed there for quite a few hours and enjoyed the view around us, needless to say we left reluctantly to explore the rest of the villages which although lovely didn’t quite capture our admiration as much as Vernazza which we hope to return to tomorrow.  All is going well in our van and most things seem to have found a place, we are sleeping well and have adjusted to the Italian tradition of ‘pausa’ between the hours of 1 pm until 3 pm when everything opens up again until about 7 pm sometimes we can hardly believe where the day has gone and there are the odd days when we have a home day in Nonna Smith (our campervan) and catch up on stuff.  One of my favourite questions when we arrive at camping spots is “dove lavanderia” where is the laundry?  I think I could write a book on laundries across Italy (as if anyone would be interested), but as I say “laundry doesn’t go away just because we’re in Italy” and then there’s the issue of hanging everything all over the place which really is the whole case for Italy they always hang their laundry out the windows so why shouldn’t we.  So a quick catch up from me and hopefully Isabella will fill in the gaps of the coastal town of Bibbona, Siena and San Gimingano.  Thanks for your comments we love reading them.  Much love Ges

Our Gypsy Life

 

Firstly I am sitting here by Lago Trasimeno in Umbria on a beautiful sunny Sunday looking out across the massive lake to  the hills , spectacular and I wish you were all  on skype (and awake) so I could show you.  Rome was amazing, extremely hectic with squillions of tourists but none the less spectacular.  Our apartment was such a great place to relax and recuperate after a day of exploration and it was in a brilliant area where we could walk to the most divine gelati store around the corner, after about 9.30 in the evening there were lines across the road for this little hole in the wall shop that stayed open until 2 am and obviously sold the most sublime gelati I have ever tasted.   A week in Rome was plenty of time and we then headed out to Ostia Di Lido which is a coastal town about 40 mins from Rome to pick up our van.  The guy who does the van hire had spent time in Byron Bay with Rusty Miller and knew the northcoast well as he had lived in Coolangatta.  The van is great and a perfect size for us, there is the upstairs mezzanine which is the abode of Isabella and then there is the ground floor which houses our bedroom, the kitchenette and informal lounge area, we have done some minor renovations and added an outdoor eating area with the addition of a table and chairs, very nice thankyou.  Linen was freshly laundered and although not of high thread count seems to be doing the trick to date I don’t seem to have any skin irritation so that is a bonus , unfortunately the pillows he supplied were like sleeping on small pebbles so hence we have purchased new ones which we slept on last night and certainly made a difference.  I am constantly rearranging the cupboards and fridge and finding spots for bits and pieces but all in all the van is a great way to travel and we have adjusted quite nicely to our confined space, thankfully the weather has been divine and most days are spent outside.  We spent the first 2 nights at Camping California which has to be seen to be believed, many camp sites in Italy are like Club Meds during the day with activities and people everywhere and then at  night it gets even more hectic and crazy with music and everyone hanging out at the cafe/restaurant/bar/nightclub certainly nothing like Woody Head or Sandon River.  Another strange custom at the campeggio village is that no one is allowed to swim in the pool without a swimming cap, certainly a site to behold as we bounced about in the water doing aerobics under the guidance of our two delightful Italian instructors.  Everyone (except me and of course the blokes) in Italy whether you are a baby or old age nonna wears a bikini no matter what , needless to say I stood out and after a while Isabella refused to wear her wetshirt as absolutely no one wears one and everyone stared at her, strangely enough for all the time we have spent outside in the heat of the day we don’t seem to get sunburnt, could be Isabella’s first suntan.  Now we are at Lago di Trasimeno a truly stunning spot, the camping here is much more Australian Style and thankfully no nightclub or pool.  We are camped right by the lake and have views across to the mountains magnificent,  yesterday we hired some bikes and rode through beautiful forest bike paths for about 24 kms (12 km one way and back) needless to say we were buggered but worth every minute.   We had some delightful Italian neighbours just behind us who would offer us beautiful coffee every morning, a short short black with a dash of sugar, a great way to start the day. Having a restful day today before we pack up ‘Nonna Smith’ (the name we have christened our campervan) and head to Perugia or there about, the joys of travelling is not having to be anywhere in particular and we can change our minds at a whim.  Will post some photos of our travels but don’t hold your breath for one of me with my swimming cap on doing aerobics.  Love to everyone.   Ges