Home, Jobs and Girlie Camping

260 – April 15 2015:  Crossed Back to the UK

An easy drive up to Eurotunnel, only later to discover that my Aged P’s had arrive early from their France and Spain trip and were on the same train!  We over nighted with the lovely Ian and Jimmy and had a booze ridden evening with them (not Jimmy aged 6) and Nicky’s parents Ruth and Brian.  

We had expected the traffic to be horrendous, but somehow it seemed worse than we expected, especially when we were hailed on … and it felt soooo cold!

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Welcome back to Blighty and the M25!

Blog Gap Summary ….

Our two weeks seeing family and friends and some jobs became doing lots of jobs and some family and friends.  Our out-going tenants from our main property had left the house in a pretty bad way – such as rips in wall paper, thumb tack holes everywhere, missing items, damaged lawn, stains in furniture and fireplace and wait for it  …. all 3 mattresses stained from pee and menstruation!  Just what are some people like?!?!  GRR!  So we ended up having to coordinate trades to build a partitioning the double garage, shift soft furnishings etc into a self store and other items up to the Aged P’s attic … they are not allowed to downsize and move for years!  Anyway, after decorators, repairers, cleaners (professional and us), the house is now clean and presentable, ready to let again.  But this time unfurnished!  

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A jigsaw of furniture being expertly packed into 80 m2

We and Chardonnay are fully MOT’s and serviced and good to go … almost.  The Habitation Service identified damp so we are booked in again at the start of June for this and few other bits and bobs to be done.  This means we will not make it up to Scotland as soon as we had planned.

We did get to spend time with a lot of family and friends, but at one point we had been out partying 9 nights out of 11 and then getting up early to do chores.  Driving up and down between Bristol and K’s parents house near Aldershot.  Maddy’s 18th Birthday and James’ birthday celebrations – two days apart and in two locations … burning the candle both ends and in the middle.  Student times again but without the youth … we were totally knackered!

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We managed to scoff quite a number of these … 

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Running and Pilates took a real back seat over the fortnight, but this was one of the Basingstoke Canal runs we did manage.

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We’d arrived just in time for the wild Spring flowers 🙂

Girlie Camping is an institution for K and her oldest friends (length of knowing not their age!).  We’ve been camping in Eype, Dorset (or Symonds Yat for about 30 years).  We missed it last years as I was away and to be honest, it would have been too poignant so soon after Nicky’s death.  The good news was that the non-camping Gill not only agreed to join us, but booked it!  

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Four go mad in Dorset:  we actually managed to get off the campsite this time in between our consumptions of salty and sweet snacks …

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… and just a little of the liquid stuff!

As this is ‘Girlie Camping’, no men are allowed unless they are castrated (a hangover rule from one of my previous dogs), so James was left in Bristol finalising the house cleaning!  Gold star to that man.

322-324: In the Footsteps of the Grand Tour

322 – Monday 7th March 2016:  Hangover Day!

Hangover Day !  One offers no comment, but….. Damnbuca ! – or Samnbusters!!!  As my delicate flower was not in full bloom, I piloted our cruise ship towards Tivoli after a bit of a ripoff in parking fees for our overnight in Damnscati – sorry, Frascati.  The identified parking area (for day and overnight) was jam packed! Cars parked on pavements and all over the shop…..  We sat and waited – tried a few difficult angles – and sat and waited…. K went to find a Bancomat – and on her way back, saw a good parking possibility.  She saw off all comers – and guarded 4 car park spaces (she acknowledged the well-wishers comments) – while I reversed the craft into our new space…  Lunch and then walkabout in Tivoli – there didn’t seem to be much to look at (next day, we realised we had missed the Centro Storico).  Quiet-ish evening – a minor boombox and some young folks cavorting nearby…….

 

323 -Tuesday 8th March 2016:  Tivoli, Frescos and Two Gardens

Our Tivoli area was not suitable for running – but hilling ! Shortish run – rain and quite cold.  We walked to Villa D’Este – sporadic precipitation – posh that, eh?. And for some reason free for K – ladies free.  Cardinal Ippolitto built the villa (Mass offerings must have been good then) and furnished it luxuriantly – lots of rooms with frescoes and friezes. The art and gardens dropped K’s jaw so many times – that she developed – wait for it – “dropjaw”!  A bit obvious that…  Not surprising that it’s the most photographed site in Tivoli – not K’s jaw – the villa!  

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Her exposed!

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Not often he is exposed too!  

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Seriously stunning friezes on ceilings and walls.  Jaw droopingly good.

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Part of the view.

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Once in the gardens, there was water playing, jetting and bubbling everywhere.  Seriously stunning gardens too.  Jaw droopingly good!

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Through the Centro Storico – to the Villa Gregoriana – spectacular steep gardens and mega waterfalls – where Villa D’Este was cultured art – this one was rough hewn and no less beautiful.  Both of the sites were on the Grand Tour and we can see why.  if in Rome, definitely worth a trip out.  Rain torrential by now, but since we are members of FAI (Italian National Trust) it was free to us so we planned to scoot through … but it was a long way down and then back up again.  Not so much of a scoot as a slither and clamber.

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Down in the Valley of Hell … full of myth and mystery.  Ancient temples at the top.

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And some natural waterfalls.

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Can anyone else see the face in this tufa rock?

 

324 – Wednesday 9th March 2016:  Swimming around Villa Adriana (Hadrian)

We could say “Hail Adrian” – but it was heavyesque rain, not hail…  We had parked overnight just outside the Villa car park – and at dawn (well 0900 hours) we slotted our Chard into the days parking. The weather was distinctly Brizzle – not drizzle !  We put on so many layers – Eskimo people !  Inside layers, waterproof trousers, heavy socks and proper walking boots – oh, and a twinky red Ljubljana umbrella!  It matched my….somethingorother…  We squelched our way around the very impressive villa – no, this is no villa – it’s a medium sized town – a minor Erculano!  Hadrian disliked the official residence in Rome and built the villa here – he ruled the empire from here for some time – and kept in touch with Rome – via the postal service!  In early AD?  (Minor digression here – in DC – Dublin City – in the 1890’s, it was possible to post a letter in the morning – it was received by your friend in the afternoon – and you could get the reply the following morning!)  Almondsbury Post Office, take note…

Anyway, one of the first features we saw included an ornate (and swimming) pool – 98 metres long by 18 metres wide – that’s 300 feet by 50 feet! See last photo in the sequence below.  The rain seemed to ease at times – and then resumed but our weather protection stood up well.  The many school groups (students were free entry) were lively and vocal – a day out of classes – why not?  More houses, very clever use of water, “Hospitalia” – which I assumed was a hospital – but in fact was a hospitality suite for guests of the Emperor.  This is serious Roman architecture – from more than 2000 years ago – much still standing – will Canary Wharf last for 2000 years?  The site is about 150 hectares in all.   In spite of the rain (which did ease), a memorable visit indeed. 

 

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Fully sou’westered up.

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A lot of running water to create a nice ambience for Villa residents and guests.  There was a summer dining area at the end.

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These structure are from around 123AD … and a lot is still standing, even if the marble and statues have gone (mostly to various museums and to the Villa d’Este).

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Rain easing.

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Finally worked out how to change the exposure on the little camera as had not wanted to bring one of the decent ones given the weather.

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301 – 308 : A Flying Trip Home, Scultures & Tunnels

301 –  Monday 15th February 2016:  Troia to Naples

We had a wander around Troia after a run …. a long hill down and an even longer hill back up.  A fairly ordinary small town, but THE most amazing rose window on the Duomo.  We popped into the TIC to say thank you to Troia for the excellent free motorhome parking and were rewarded by massive grins and then they pressed a leaflet about Troia on us.  As we thought, nothing here really other than the Rose window.

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Troia Cathedral – Elegant with green marble touches.

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The fantastical Rose Window.

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Mind altering drugs surely?

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Dragons on the original bronze doors.

I have been desperate to cook lamb … we‘ve not had any since we left over 301 days ago!  We found the butcher and asked … no lamb.  In fact not much of anything really … yes two cuts of pork and beef, whole chickens and one type of sausage.  We bought sausages and I put them in the slow cooker to cook as we drove to Napoli.  We were to meet up with Frances and Edward, who we met several times in Sicily – they are heading back home faster than us and we knew they would overtake us at some point.

The scenery was pretty coming across rolling hills and patchwork emerald fields … the guide book describes the hill down from Troia as a crinoline. 

One on the motorway, we should a been spat out about 100m from the entrance to the Spartacus Campsite … however a minor navigational error / interpretation and we ended up coming through some miles of normal streets.  When we were in Naples at the end of October, we had thought that the driving was atrocious and really dangerous.  But that was before the best part of three months in Sicily … the driving left us completely unshaken.  Although some of the deep potholes shook up all our cupboards!

At the campsite we were recognised by Rosa on reception and we installed ourselves in the same pitch.  The Italian sausage casserole finished off and the aubergine parmigiana completed and F and E joined us for supper.  it MUST have been a good night … nearly 5 bottles of wine, half a bottle of Marsala and three quarters a bottle of Sambucca!  I know I passed out rather than went to sleep.

 

302 – Tuesday 16th February 2016:  A few chores

We stayed on the campsite other than to walk to the train station to buy tickets and check the times and then onto the super market to buy a large number of Milka chocolate bars for Munchkin … special request.  Two loads of laundry and J suffered his most unpopular job …. dying my hair.  It must have sparked something as we spotted a French couple of ladies hair dying later on.  I would have offered J’s expert services, but …

 

303 Wednesday 17th February 2016:  K Home to Munchkin

Is it a work day?  Feels like it.  Alarm set for 6.00 a.m.!  Train into Naples and AliBus to the airport.  We are old hands at it and knew the route.  

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I was slightly concerned on arrival at Gatwick to see the snow plough all ready.

 Maddy picked me up from the train station … not the one I intended getting off at though!  I was chatting to a chap with a brace of Springer Spaniels (I used to have my own brace of liver and white Springers) …. and only realised my mistake when M rang me and asked where the xxxx was I?  A bit of food shopping for supper and for some items I can’t seem to buy in Italy, such as cuppasoup, mixed herbs, coriander leaf, cream of coconut and Bert’s Bees lip salve.

We installed ourselves at my Aged P’s house … they are in South Africa, but trusted it to us!  I had my emailed and printed instructions …. Mutt was not leaving anything to chance!  Alarm, water on, heating controls.  As the house had been empty for a few weeks, it was perishing.  M and I snuggled on the sofa, wrapped in a duvet and watched a film.  After supper, M went off to a ‘gathering’ and I did some chores and had a luxurious bath …. Mutt, I forgot to tell you I found your Radox!  Our house in Bristol has a shoe box for a bath so I always showered there, and other than a couple of baths last August in a hotel in Tuscany, I reckon this was the first bath in about 4 years!  Bloody marvellous, with a bottle of red and Handel’s Water Music playing.

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Just before I went to bed I collected everything together I would need for tomorrow and found a hand written note from Dad.  He had laid the fireplace all ready for us to light … this would have warmed the house up in no time!  If only!!!

 

304 – Thursday 18th February 2016:  Jobs and Sculptures

I collected a parcel from Yodel in Farnborough and popped in to see Michelle, an old school friend – she was in Geneva, but Craig was at home and gave me a coffee … they also have a beautiful brace of Springers :).  B&Q for fuses as we blew a couple trying to get our electric heater working using a two to three pin convertor.  Rang Maddy and she met me at the Aged P’s house … having just arisen!  After lunch we dropped one of my grandmother’s ring’s off to be repaired … it will be part of Maddy’s 18th birthday gift.  

We then went to tripAdvisor’s top Farnham attraction… the Sculpture Park.  About 1000 sculptures crammed in along a walk around two small lakes.  I was given a catalogue, so had I been interested, I could have purchased any.  They ranged from the bad … a stack of plastic breadbaskets, to some really creative pieces.  Maddy is doing photography A Level and saw the potential here for her project.

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Maddy rutting with some stags!


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Yes, this really is a statue of someone peeing …. I brought home a Shewee …. will trial it and let you know … should save crouching!

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Maddy’s new best friend.

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A nano rest on one of the exhibits!

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A large piece, one of my favourites, but M thought the heads looked like black heads!

Coffee with the Bakers and their two Spaniels, Cockers this time.  Louis’ espresso is nearly at Italian standards and Zozo, you still have half an inch to go till you’re as tall as I!  A curry delivered … I’d not had a pukka curry for over 2 years … absolutely fantastic!  And another bath (with Radox)!

 

305 – Friday 19th February 2016:  Napoli and more Scultpures

An early pick up at 5.00 a.m.  Maddy drove home in her dressing gown and slippers … wonder if she was going to return to bed?!?  J met me in the centre of Naples with another rucksack so he could take some of the weight from mine … what a lovely thinking man!  We lunched on Pizza … really good and then went to the Archaeological Museum which contains most of the statues, mosaics and frescos removed from Pompeii and Herculaneum.  The Farnese Collection is here, which includes some stunning works.  Unfortunately about 6 of the galleries were closed and there seemed to be a lot of empty rooms.  Given how much ‘stuff’ they must have stashed, this is a bit sad. 

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J had read reviews that commented on the dust on the sculptures and it was really noticeable on the dark stone, which it made look grey 😦

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Possibly the most stunning part of the collection … the Farnese Bull.  

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A series of rooms were devoted to the Hellenistic Period … essentially Roman pornography.  Lots of very graphic and fanciful images.  This statue was very fine workmanship, not the content! 


306 – Saturday 20th February 2016:  Tunnelling!

Up and at ‘em.  We’d booked a tour with Napolisotterranea of the Greek cisterns which had been used to supply Napoli houses right up till the 1800s and then used as air raid shelters during WW2.  The tour was in English and being the only English speakers, we had the guide to ourselves.  It is not for the unfit of claustrophobic … 40 metres down (but you do exit only 16 metres up :)) and you have to wiggle sideways, and sometimes crouched down, between the cisterns along the water feeder tunnels.  

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The stairs were built around the well… this was 40 metres down 

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WWII graffitti on the Greek plaster work to make the cisterns water tight.

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A bit of a tight squeeze … the guide admitted he does have to tell some tourists that the visit is not for them and one German chap did get stuck! Something to do with his ‘arse’.

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The toilets were always near the entrances as people tended to need to relieve them selves – relief at making it to the air raid shelter.  Yes, we asked what happened to the human waste … crack in the tufa and it being absorbent meant it made its way out to sea.

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A well earned glass (or two) after those tunnels!

After lunch did another set of water tunnels, but no tight passages.  The Galleria Bourbonica also includes the 430 metre straight tunnel that was built in 1853 for Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who concerned about the outbreak of rebellion, asked for an escape route from his palace to the nearby barracks.  After the war, the tunnels were used as a dump for impounded motorbikes and cars … still there, rusting away.  Two similar but different visits.  

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Frances and Edward were still on the same campsite but leaving tomorrow, so they come over for supper and just a little wine!

 

307 – Sunday 21st February 2016:  Sunday a Day of Rest (and Chores)

A late start.  A run.  Waving off Frances and Edward.  Washing, shopping and other jobs.  A down day – we need one occasionally.

 

308 – Monday 22nd February 2016 – The best of Naples Sculptures

Run – long for J.  I did a short run and a new Pilates class (downloaded on campsite wifi), but decided that as the instructor lifted her legs and torso back over her head with superb control that perhaps this one is a tad advanced for me!

The main aim was to visit the Capella Sansevero (also known as Chapel of Santa Maria della Pietà).  Its origin dates to 1590 when John Francesco di Sangro after recovering from a serious illness, had a private chapel built in what were then the gardens of the nearby Sansevero family residence. The building was converted into a family burial chapel in 1613. It includesMasonic symbols in its construction and until 1888 a passageway connected the Sansevero palace with the chapel. Photography was not allowed, so these pix are from the internet.  We were so awed by some of the sculptures we went round twice.

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The Veiled Christ in the middle with the Virtues around the chapel.   

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This was disillusion … could not quite see it but the sculpture was stunning.
 

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Modesty, I do understand … the veiling was the inspiration for the Veiled Christ below.  We both thought this was possibly one of the best statues we’ve ever seen.

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And this is “Sweetness of the Marital Yoke” Quotation ….’The marble group portrays a fulsome-bellied woman holding a feathered yoke representing sweet obedience, and in her right hand she holds up two flaming hearts (deep mutual love). At her feet a winged putto plays with a pelican, emblem of charity. In mediaeval iconography, in fact, the pelican which pierces its own breast to nurse its young represents the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.’  Not sure J or I would describe the Joys of Marriage in such a way!

Slightly macabre – in the basement are a male and female skeletons with what looks like all the arteries and veins.  Originally it was believed that the creator injected a metal forming substance into the circulatory system, but now it is believed that he created it from beeswax, iron wire and silk.

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And thus concludes our second extended stay in Naples.  We have really fallen for the city.  We love the noise, the business and the chaos.  It is earthy and very real.

 

 

 

  

287: Matera

 287 – Monday 1st February 2016:  Cave Dwellings – A Hidden Gem

Alarm clocks did their job and up and at ’em – revellie was military style at 0700 hrs – Sgt Major Clune (wo)manning the parade square! – in time to see the sunrise.  And we even had time for a short run – thankfully without 20 kg back packs and rifles – before brekkie.

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Our first destination was a Fiat garage in Matera (to investigate/remedy the engine issue) – skilfully navigated by by Marge and Bread – whoops Marge and Brad!  On arrival at the GPS (no acronyms ? – just wait…)  Right on the coordinates – J driving – K anxiously could not see the Fiat garage – enquired of three passing chaps – in unison and in Italian, they chorussed to her – “it’s behind you” !!! In this case, GPS must be Great Positioning Sense !

After a wait – and due consideration by very polite staff – they informed us that it was not possible to do diagnostic checks on a ‘commercial vehicle’ at their location – but a phone number was provided and we called – and called – could not get through – maybe something to do with our phones…..K’s sister Clare assisted from UK – but we were getting nowhere.  Unbeknown to us – while we were trying to communicate with various numbers, young Chardonnay  (she is only four) obviously got pissed off waiting – and cured the problem herself !  No sign of the engine malfunction light…..

Huge relief – a pay parking area found – huge – ticket bought and displayed. Nice parking attendant then told us “non parceggio camper qui” !  Back on the road – and some circular driving – motorhome parking two blocks away – luckily the same ticket worked.

We perambulated (?) on to the old town – beautiful Piazza and fountain – with this amazing water system – see photo. But – a little history…. 15,000 people lived in cave dwellings in Sassi (Matera) for hundreds of years right up until 1950s !  Only in 1956, did the City authorities move them to new housing – the move was completed in 1968.  But their legacy remains – and is one of the most compelling sights we have seen in Italy. There was poverty – but close families (all living and sleeping in one room) – large families too – but the infant mortality rate was 50%+.  Beggars requested not money, but quinine to give to their children to stave off malaria.   It was Mel Gibson’s location choice for his film, ‘The Passion of the Christ’ as few places depict such basic human existence.

The photos speak for themselves – it is quite unique indeed.

Back to Marina di Piscci – and a quiet evening – only 8 vans tonight so far…..   

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Today’s Tour Guide masters the map and walking routes … well worth the EUR1.50 … for the map.  The guide received NO tips!

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 Unfortunately closed …. amazing that it is so water tight that it still contained water in 1991 when it was explored.

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Purgatory Church … not exactly welcoming doors!

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Dwellings seriously piled on top of each other.  Apparently a lot that clung to the ledges have been pulled down.

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An artist’s impression.

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Many of the original dwellings had water supplies, tanks in the habitation and holding tanks below.  There were no natural springs so they collected rain water.

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 There were quite a number that we could just wander into.  Some were being ‘done up’; mostly to be used as shops or small museums.

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A vast vast area

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One of the small museums, but at EUR2 each very worth it. The dwelling was described over a tannoy – in English (we were the only visitors).  All the animals, adults and children in essentially one room.  Part of this museum also had a snow cavern – snow was packed between straw to form ice and then sold.  Another chamber was a meeting cave, which was too open to be used as a dwelling … important as there were few places (due to lack of space) where people could meet up and chat.

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The ‘posher’ part of the Sassi, where proper houses are built into the rock.

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Dry Monday … lovely lunch washed down with … water!

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After a superb anti-pasti (8 dishes for EUR12), which we shared, this was K’s ravioli with porchini in a squash sauce with pistachio sprinkles.

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270-279: Squealing Mud and Relaxing

270 – Friday 15th January 2016:  Leisurely Day

A run for both us.  James tested his calf and kept it short.

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Pix taken on phone (so a bit dark) of the run route …

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… it really is an amazing coastline…

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… the sun just coming out changes the water colour.  It doesn’t get better than this!

We’d planned a leisurely day, but we had not planned on rain!  We started tennis and only got two games in before the rain overcame us.  ‘Our’ stray dog visited  and we fed him again …. No, we are still not taking him with us.  To be honest, neither of us tried to persuade the other, as it would have been a close call!

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Our dog … we named him Vito, after the area.

271 – Saturday 16th January 2016:  Shopping & Castellammare del Golfo

We left the campsite, which by now had all of 3 other motorhomes … really surprising when the site with electric is only EUR12, but most motorhomes seem to be on the south coast where the weather is a little warmer.  A little sad to leave the area as we reckon it is the BEST scenery in Sicily.  A few basic shopping food items and an electric heater – this we will use when on sites with electric, as our on board heating trips the electric.  We drove to Castellammare del Golfo.  An attractive town with a castle (shut) and harbour.  We lunched in the van and had a walk around and then K walked a route out as we came to conclusion that the obvious route would be a little tight … J had been pacing it out between steps and parked cars.. never a good sign!

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We drove east along the coast and found a super car park right on the sandy beach to spend the night.  However…

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Yes, this hail collected on the windscreen wiper! Two lots of hail before supper!

J takes over:

Windy and watery parking place – but hey – we are experienced motorhomers – what’s a little wind and rain….? We sensibly parked beam end on to the wind direction and settled down for the evening….  The wind grew stronger but our confidence was undiminished – Chardonnay is a big strapping girl from the sea coast of Sussex!  Snug under our duvet, it appeared that the wind speed was increasing….at 2:00 am, it was Nordkapp-esque in strength!  Our confidence was diminishing – we moved from the car park to what we hoped was some shelter from building on the main road – wrong! We moved again behind other buildings – the wind followed us – wrong again! At 4:00 am – we abandoned the area completely – discretion being the better part of something-or-other – drove back towards the town to seek proper shelter….  On the way into town heading for somewhere-or-other, K spied a small car park – with a motorhome within – a quick turn – and we were deftly parked alongside – no wind buffeting – our third visit to the good old duvet was infinitely peaceful – at 4:30 am!  Morning came late to us – we were in an overflow supermarket car park – but as it was Sunday, no problem with shoppers…..

272 – Sunday 17th January 2016:  Gibellina Twice – Almost!

K back again

Breakfast was a coffee and bun at the first cafe we came to (we needed the caffeine and calorie injection after the disturbed night) and then we drove to Gibellina Nuova.  This was built on a new site after the old town was completely demolished in 1968 by an earthquake.  The Mayor employed top notch town planners to create what must be Sicily’s only town with wide boulevards and houses with front gardens.  Other earthquake damaged towns had little help and support … no Mayoral ‘connections’.  In Gibellina, artists were invited to create modern statues which are found on virtually every corner and in the numerous piazzas.  In fact, so much art was donated that the town created its own museum of modern art ….   Our plan was to ‘admire’ the outdoors and indoors art.

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 En route:  the whole mountain side was a series of quarries … massive square blocks extracted.

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At the entrance to Gibellina Nuova … a taste of what was to come…..

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… All this modern art left James feeling a little bemused.

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Not art this one … rubbish bags left hung up so the cats and dogs don’t burst open the bags.  We have even seen rubbish descending on a long line from flats for the bin men.

We completely failed to find the art museum despite directions from locals … we later passed one building which was completely derelict, like the victim of another earthquake.  The town had had so much invested in it, but there was evidently no money to maintain it.  It could easily have made more of the tourism.  Another coffee and we set of in search of the Gibellina ruins and the concreted part of the town that is Cretto di Buri. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretto_di_Burri

James here…

The first route by SatNav or MapsMe or Guided Pee Sorted (GPS) started promisingly – uphill passing a sign that said “routo non navigolo unless you’re daft motorhomers” – but we don’t always read signs when we (K) are/is on a mission !  After some time, the barrier across the road indicated ‘road closed’ – “non navigolo ?”  We turned the van and retraced our stoopfets (let’s have another glass of Stamfuca – or something) – to prepare for the next Good Path Stymied (GPS) route !  Off we went down a slightly narrower road than the Road Closed You Berks (RCYB) route – I’ve worked too long with Government `departments and their nacrohymns…  We passed through subsiding surfaces slowly (acronym resisted) – and came to a BSiR (big step in road) – major subsidence – Chardonnay doesn’t do big steps down….  No room to turn (have we been here before ?)  K to the fore (as always) – reversing the only option – for 1 kilometre ?  Hand signals like semaphore – K lined me up for the Subsiding Mud Patch (SMP ?) – shut up, James and drive !  Manuel Fangio would have approved (the mature reader will know of him)  – ok he was Argentinian but I couldn’t think immediately of an Italian champion from yore… I gunned the motor and reversed at great speed (at least 5 km per week !) and shot out onto firmer surface – to a huge accolade from – K !  Third route by Great Prat Supercilious (GPS) – was abandoned – with some reservations from K – we set sail by GPS (Great Peacefull Something-or-others) for good old Punta Braccetto – again….

ETA (not a nacrorythym in sight) was 6:00 and We Landed Softly (WLS ?) – to sleep…..in the car park as the site was chokka (what does that mean ? – I’m Irish after all…) – “parlo Samantha domenico”….

We did…

273 – Monday 18th January 2016: A Proper Pitch

The lovely Samantha, nothing to do with ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’s’ now redundant Samantha, who runs the campsite office offered us the very small vacant pitch No. 8.  J was out pacing again.  We would just fit with our nose poking out … we’d take it.

I decided to do a big shop … we don’t want to move too often from this titchy pitch, and this became possibly the biggest shop we have down to date …. EUR180!  And nearly half of this was booze … funny that! The booze squeezed under a seat and Chardonnay squeezed into the pitch.

Dan fed us a proper Scotch Broth for lunch and then Yvonne and Ingemar came over for supper.  The Sambucca made an appearance after about 4 bottles of red.  J had to visit the bottle bank the next morning before our neighbours were up and spying the old soaks!

274 – Tuesday 19th January 2016:  Not Moving Much!

Very little movement … we managed to walk to the local bar for a coffee and pastry for lunch.  It was a return match with Yvonne and Ingemar … they had brought over a large bottle of red last night which we had not managed to fully consume, so we took it back to them …  unfinished business and all that!  They had kindly bought a bottle of … Sambucca!  Yummy Swedish style starter … boiled egg and prawn open sandwich followed by mussels … right up K’s street.

275 – Wednesday 20th January 2016:  Bike Ride and Lunch

We cycled to Marinia di Ragusa with the plan of finding the large DIY store that Dan had told us about.  We needed some fuses.  The new electric heater had blown the 2 to 3 pin adapter fuse (only 1 amp, so not surprising) and then the adapter plug fuse out of K’s hair tongs … the 13 amp one from the hairdryer seems to be fine … but we are still 2 fuses short.  Even with Dan and a policeman’s directions we failed to find the DIY store.  It was lunchtime and K’s tummy was a rumbling and this became the priority.  We wandered into what we thought was a snack bar, but when the menu was brought out, it was pukka cooking.  One lovely waitress and the chef visible in the back cooking to order.  How’s this for different food tastes … J had deep fried mozarella sarney with chips and K had ricotta filled ravioli and squid ink sauce?    We both loved our choices, which is all that matters.  After 3 large glasses of wine it was a sobering ride back in the head wind.

BBQ in the evening with Dan … who has a garage full of UK, often specifically Scottish, goodies; tonight was Scottish fudge 🙂  He still has UK bacon in his freezer …. wonder if he would notice a SAS style raid?  I can almost smell a bacon sarney!  Would need a bloomer loaf, though.

276 – Thursday 21st January 2016: Santa Croce Market

We drove to the Saint Crotch market … J winces every time I call it this.  Fab market once we found this … we’d parked at the bottom of the town and again took directions from locals across the town to find it.  Worth it, as we came away with a shopping trolley (I love my trolley) full of fresh veggies and fruit. I am now officially a trolley dolly!   I have had to rearrange my menu planning, as one had to buy by the bag: 6 fennel, 5 large peppers and 6 aubergine … each bag for the pricey sum of EUR1 each!!  Another Caponata made and bagged … struggling for freezer space.  Sardines and fennel pasta.  Orange, fennel and anchovy salad.  Fennel risotto coming up soon!  Aubergine Parmigiana too 🙂  Thank goodness for the internet for finding recipes!

We basked in the sun in the main square with a coffee and decided against driving onto Scicli, too nice a day  to be in the ‘van.  Back to the campsite to sit in the sun, chill and feel smug about our wonderful life.

277 – Friday 22nd January 2016:  Moving Pitch and a Chardonnay Clean

Big event:  we took over Yvonne and Ingemar’s pitch.  Not with them in it, you understand.  They were off to resume wild camping and their pitch is rather good.  It gets morning and afternoon sun.  it’s large and right next to the hot water washing up area.  In fact the German couple who had moved into our pitch next door on our departure a few weeks ago were after it … but we had previously made it official with the ‘lovely Samantha’ …

On the way from titchy pitch to sumptuous pitch we went via the motorhome services. Despite the sign to the contrary, the lovely Samantha had given us permission to wash the exterior of Chard.  This had not been done since Trento in September.  She had the accumulation of months of dirt, Etna black volcanic dust and the mud up the sides from the other day.  She was looking very battle tired and yellow.  Nobly, J took the roof and I did the sides.  After 3 hours, it is not perfect, but she is almost white again.

We then just sat and basked in the sun ….  not trying to rub our German neighbours’ noses in it .. honest!

278 – Saturday 23rd January 2016: Ragusa and Scicli

A slight detour via Ragusa to buy ingredients I needed for my new planned menu and an abortive attempt to find a calf brace / support for J.  Then onto Scicli.  You may recall my way of remembering how to pronounce Sciacca (Shag her), so I was on a roll with Shickley … J checked it with a local … spot on :).  Our planned parking was blocked off for an afternoon market … not seen many of these, but we easily parked nearby.  When you have an 8m motorhome, parking takes on a disproportionate importance.  A lovely town … another victim of the 1693 earthquake and rebuilt in…. you guessed it … Sicilian Baroque.  Lovely to wander through … steep cliffs with grottos, loads of churches and overshadowed by the castles and monasteries.

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Our first impressions of Scicli … 

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some money here … renovations.  Great to see the styles followed, but shame the detailing of 1700’s not there.

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Coffee stop …

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and cake for K … could’ve licked the plate!

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Just beautiful and restful

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A certain person, who shall remain nameless, did not want to walk up to the top!

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279 – Sunday 24th January 2016: Jobettes

Admin, jobs, a bit of sun and relaxing.  Both trying not to let a cold / sore throat take hold.  J back on form:  tennis 6 -1 😦