987-992: Kalamata Based House Number 2

987 – Thursday 15th February 2018:  House Move

After 8 lovely days in Dimitros’ family home, we moved on to our second AirbNB – a total of 4 hours travelling (including comfort stops) in convoy, we drove through heavy mist, rain and sleet!  We had planned to visit Mystras on the way, but with the weather we aborted.  So a longish lunch it was near the marina in Kalamata … what else is one supposed to do in the rain?  
 
Our Southampton based AirBnB hostess had messaged that her father was in Athens hospital, who normally does the check in so, Lily, a family friend would meet us in Kalamata.   The designated spot was outside the bus station … no where for Jez to park there, so we had to tell Lily where to find us.  
Met Lily with her limited English and our non existent Greek.  She told K she would drive very slowly for us to follow.  And she did …  she guided us (me in Jez and K in Kitty) very slowly through Kalamata environs; so slowly that our 3 vehicle convoy was beeped – several times!  And thence via a narrow roads to our house.
 
Then the fun began…….  Our hosts (Lily and an uncle who has chickens on the property) wanted me to drive Jez into the driveway – narrow – no way at all!!!  But we were assured they were experience in getting vehicles in the tight turn.  K assured them that we were expert at knowing when our expensive motorhome would not fit!  Nothing daunted, our host hopped into the van and in fluent Greek and NVC said “there’s loads of other parking places”!  Off we went via narrower ‘boreens’ (Irish for little lanes) brushing past olive trees, muddy puddles – to a z bend with a steep ramp….. I paled and shook my head – but the neighbouring gent guided me down very slowly to a nice clear parking with room to manoeuvre. Sighs of relief all round and back to our new ‘kooky’ house – with huge deck and outside seating areas. Next – pre-prandial drinkies……. we had partaken of luncheon in Kalamata so no evening repast…… BBC TV news (a Bonus) and zzzzzzs quite early…..

988 – Friday 16th February:  Mystras 

A late start – we ran for quite short runs – great to be out though…….  departed at 11:00 for Mystras with me driving.  SatNav said 1 hour – actually 2 hours via mountain Z bends, gorges, rock tunnels, snow and stunning views…
Picnic in the car – Spanish Omelette using the fresh eggs we were given by the uncle.
The Mystras Byzantine site is amazing.  A whole town – we walked a lot and visited the monasteries (one still in use with 6 nuns and very fine frescoes) – Oscar stayed in the car in the shade.  We thought this would be one of Greece’s special places and it was.  Great photos too…
Rally driver K raced us back along the same mountain roads in just over 1 hour!!!  A Bulgarian Ford Transit in front wandered all over the road until we got past eventually…  Lidl shop and chill down evening – do we have any other kind?  No.
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Up over the hills to Mystras … snow ploughs had pushed the snow to the roadsides, thankfully.
 
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An even slower drive had we been in a motorhome!
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989 – Saturday 17th February:  The Mani – Stoupa and Ag Nikolaos

Katherine drive out to Stoupa and I back (K slept off a litre of wine (why not?). K:  I did share a little!   Stoupa we had missed on last drive down the Mani.  Stoupa as fellow motorhomer Dave is thinking, it may be an ‘investigate further place’ for a possible purchase … so it seemed worth looking at.  Bay with sand and lovely coffee spot.
Then onto Ag Nikolaos, which we had been to before (wild camped in the car park) … lunch in restaurant recommended by guide book … fish – nice enough but over priced for what we had and not the quality we had had in the fish restaurant near Napflio.
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Stoupa:  one of the best sandy beaches.
 
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 Crowing / Barking from the roof tops.
 
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Stoupa – a stunning bay.
 
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Despite holding the ladder that was rocking precariously and saving the restaurant staff member from certain death, we still felt lunch was over priced.
990 – Sunday 18th February:  Petalidi
We wanted an easy day … coffee (although some people had beer!) down the other coast … could just see the hills of the Mani with snow.
Back at house to use the washing machine, soup for lunch and Grumps found a black and white Western to watch in English with Greek subtitles.

IMG 0106 Petalidi:  quite ordinary but nice for all that.  And lovely to sit in the sun.

991 – Monday 19th February:  Kalamata Lunch
Wet wet wet!  We’d wanted to visit a supermarket, but they were shut … despite checking online and not seeing anything, it was clearly a Bank Holiday with kids off school.  We looked at Kalamata church.  Nothing remarkable.  The advertised (brown tourist signs) old town lacks any charm.  Many of the old town restaurants were shut … back to the front by Marina, where we’ve already eaten twice.  James and Mum watched a Greek Dancing display … Mum then ‘fessed up.  For some unknown reason, her girls’ school made the inmates do Greek dancing, robed in short dresses made from yellow parachute material and matching died yellow bigus knickers.  Lunch in same restaurant; the waiter recognised us from a few days ago and found us a table as everywhere was reserved.
Another b&w western back at the house.  And another evening of card games … won’t say who won!
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Outside Kalamata Cathedral … bust of previous Bishops, but there are gaps in years … were the missing Bishops not revered?  What had they done?
992 – Tuesday 20th February:  Final Day
 
Packed up and cleaned the house.  Jez had been residing unmoving at a neighbour’s house … down a semi dirt, semi tarmac track.  It had rained all day yesterday and over night.  We were mildly concerned that we would fail to get Jez back up.  With Traction Control ON, James gunned and slithered Jez up the slope, having also scattered gravel everywhere outside the house!
We used the motorway to Athens, as the sat nav wanted 9+ hours if we did not use them, instead of 3.5!  Rafina is a small port town, just west of  the airport so handy for a final lunch.  The waiter gave us a gift of garlic, chickpea and semolina sauce; tasty on J’s meatballs and chips with no sauce.  He also confirmed how they cook the beans with spinach that Mum and I had become rather partial to.
Airport drop off and then we overnighted in Porto Rafti, which we’d investigated when we’d had the hire car.
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Beach front parking at Porto Rafti.
 
Oscar’s Diary
 
Still in Grease folks – I think – but it’s all GrekoPaloma to me…  new doggy food – which my kind owners didn’t check out properly… it doesn’t fit in my daily planet eatery – the biscuits are too big. K: a plastic toy Oscar has to work with his snout to get biscuits to fall out of.  Never mind eh – that’s wot Katherine says (a lot).  Now then, I’ve discovered a new toy – it’s small and furry and squeaks a lot – very odd – but nicer than chickens (I was in awful bother when I inadvertently sort of deceased one some time ago).  Deceased chickens turn up for lunch but this one didn’t….  Anyway this new furry toy is called a cat, I believe – jolly little things – see photos below.  I have gotten as far as a quick sniff up the old ‘youknowwhat’ – more to come, eh? Some say they can scratch and cause K9 nose bleeds – me? I don’t believe it – I can hold my own with any furrier or catterie. Diane and Grahame came to stay – odd – Grahame runs away from me – but he’s getting braver – now he stays in the same room at least…bet I could do him in a carpet playfight… Diane gives me treats – I pretend to be a roof – sorry, aloof – hoping she’ll find more food… They’re ok really – the Raged Ts.  K says they are always on holiday – like us I suppose….  We’re off to Greete soon – a place for people called Greetians.  I wonder if that’s where they make Gretian 2000?  But I don’t use hair dye – K does – and J pretends not to – yeah, right….. (Lumme, I sound like a teenager).  Anyway, after that we will travel to Sandemonia and Gulfairia (K: Macedonia and Bulgaria!  Really Oscar!)  where I will meet Daisy and Pepper (doggy friends) – and San with Boxershorts – lovely people whom we came across in Elea wild camping spot – their uncle Bulgaria comes from Wimbledon (I wonder if he plays tennis?).
All for now – must go – Grahame needs some more training – happy to oblige, old son…..
Jaysus – oops, Jassus (Greek, you know).

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607-612: Alfama Revisited and a Trip “Home”

607 – Tuesday 24th January 2017:  Chores and a Night Out!

I drove Alison to Lisboa Aeroporto at about 8:00 am – turned neatly to avoid a traffic queue on the Ring Road – and oops – it was the Airport turning.  Never mind (I thought) – we will re-route….. we did get to the Terminal Building right on time. Hired car returned – we would drive a Ford Fiesta any time again…

K swung the Jez twin tub into action and the laundry flowed nicely.  We decided to walk to Ikea to buy a clothes rack – why?  Because it’s the Ikea experience?  Now I escaped from Ikea twice in my life – it wasn’t easy – they have this arrow system to guide you to every single department – try defeating it – you need GPS – and balls!!!  We followed the arrows and made our purchase meekly.

A date with Delia and the O’Riain family at a rooftop bar in downtown Lisbon – spectacular night-time views over the City and the 25th April Bridge.  Later for a snifter – a kooky bar where 1960s pop music videos played.

On our return, Oscar was patiently sitting on the dashboard – he doesn’t miss much, our K9.  And the coats were once more on the ground.

608 – Wednesday 25th:  Alfama Revisited

Courtesy of K’s Iphone App, we had a walking tour of the Alfama district – wonderful narrow cobbled streets and the real Lisbon life – not totally unlike the back streets of Napoli…

Lunch outside on the street terrace of a small restaurant. I got chatting to an American lady from Denver with an English white Labrador – we talked about the logistics of taking dogs to the USA – she mentioned her dog sitter – whom she called her “dogger”!!!   I just about refrained from enquiring about tasteful ‘exhibitionist’ sites in Denver…  a language problem, doubtless.

Another lovely day in Lisboa…

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Igreja da conceicao Velha:  one of the oldest churches in Portugal.

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At the lunch restaurant.  9 years in the dripping.

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looking across to the Monastery of Sao Vicente de Flora.

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A wider Alfama street, with washing and tiled houses.

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And a little narrower … a lot of steep slopes and steps.

K here … The Church Sao Vincente de Fora was large and not to our taste.  It’s most striking feature was a massive, heavy, dark Baroque canopy over the alter – quite hideous and in the same style as the one in St Peter’s Basilica Rome.  I left the ever faithful hound and James (both ever faithful and patient!) whilst I went into the monastery, which really was worth visiting.  Unfortunately it was too near to closing time, so J did not get to go in.

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The ancient cistern.

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It is known for its blue C18 azulejos in every room and all around both floors of both cloisters.

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A Reliquary chest contain the remains of 7 Portuguese and Spanish missionaries killed in Morocco in 1585.

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The two tiers of one of the cloisters with the blue tiles.

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The monastery is the last resting place of the Monarchs of the House of Braganza.  A stone woman praying by the tombs of King Carlos I and his son Luis Felipe assassinated in 1908.

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 It really gives a WOW factor as you walk into the Pantheon (so I’ve learned that the definition is a group of famous or important people … here all dead!)

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On top of the Church’s roof looking across to the Castello Sao Jorge.

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And across to the 25th April bridge and the Cristo Rei – modelled on the Rio de Janeiro one and commissioned 1949-59 by the dictator Salazar.

Barbecue on site in the evening – accompanied by the traditional firedog…

(A little gem of kindness – K was talking to the site security manager about locations for pet shops – Oscar will need a fresh supply of food soon. He immediately offered to order some online from his home and have it delivered to the campsite!  Portuguese people are the soul of generosity.)

609 – Thursday 26th:  Is this Rain I see Before Me?

Somehow the dewfall migrated from the grass on to the roof and windows of the van – unbelievable!  Or is it rain? The second time in 2 months in Portugal… This led to a slow start and some jobs around our home – to prepare K for her UK Winter experience for the next 2 days – arctic thermals at the ready!

610-612 – Friday 27th to Sunday 29th:   K With Munchkin and the Aged P’s

K here.  An early flight at 7.15: flight and train easy.  A quick chat with the Aged P’s as they are resident at Clare and Chris’ house minding the dogs and children (when they are not out socialising – the teenagers that is!) whilst the C’s are off gallivanting under the guise of doing jobs in their French house … yes, I heard about the wine tasting :).  Our car sits on the drive and Dad drives it and services it for us.  He’d even pumped up the tyres yesterday for me.  I know, I am spoilt!   Maddy Munchkin was at work and not expected till 6.30, so I did shopping for e cigarette juice for J, wool for me and food for supper for M and I.  I wallowed in the bath whilst listening to Little Women – an unabridged version and over 17 hours of listening.  I haven’t even got to the part where Beth dies but I managed to add to the bath water level with a few weepy bits.  M and I gorged chicken, chocolate and cheese and watched Maggie Smith in “Lady in a Van” … she really is the most amazing actor.  Went to bed with a sore over full tummy.

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My Munchkin!

On Saturday we went to the Swindon Outlet shopping centre as I needed a coat that is warm and waterproof and a pair of ankle boots.  I’d worn the old, not warm nor waterproof jacket and old running shoes home so I could leave them behind … forward planning eh?  Between us we managed to come away with a coat and jumper each, a top and boots for me 🙂  And we managed to stay and shop despite the crowds as it was the last day of the sales … we neither of us like crowds.  I stepped away from the £325 Musto bright orange coat … Maddy objected to the colour, which I loved, but I passed on the grounds of it being more suited to arctic weather, which we mostly tend to avoid.

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Was it an early start Maddy? 

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Amazing to have caught the Aged P’s in the country … apparently 2016 saw them away from home 188 nights … they are currently on about 10 days home between S.A. and Las Palmas!

Supper at at Clare and Chris’ house with the dogs … and on Sunday the Aged P’s dropped me at Guildford to avoid the BR replacement bus.  I was back home with “My Boys” by 1.30.  Great to see Munchkin and the Aged P’s, and good to be home again.

A pottering afternoon.  Full justification in bringing a twin tub with us … forced to use the campsite laundry as rain threatened and air damp .. two loads and each was a staggering EUR7.40 and drier 4.10!

513-517: The French Pyrenees with the Aged P’s

513 – Saturday 22nd October 2016:  And into France … Finally

We don’t really do early starts, but don’t seem to find it hard to get up when setting off on the next adventure.  Our train was booked for 9.50 from Folkestone and it was our first time across with Oscar… They don’t care at all what animals you take out of GB … didn’t even check he was on board.  The train was late, but the trip passed really fast, as we have a large comfy bed and make use of it on most crossings … ZZZ.

We’d decided to ignore the Peage as I’d costed it at somewhere around EUR75 and the time difference was only 1.5 hours all the way down to the Pyrenees.  Lots of pretty towns (dropping to 50kph) and rolling fields.  Good to be in France.  

 

514 – Sunday 23rd October 2016:  More Driving

It’s getting warmer, oh yes!  Fantastic roads today … the N10 seems to be mostly free dual carriageway with odd bits of free motorway.   Being ‘le weekend’, the roads are quiet with few trucks.  We covered quite some distance today.

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Blissful empty stretches of tarmac … we still remember the feeling of gloom as we hit the M25 traffic in rain on our return to England last April.

515 – Monday 24th October 2016:  Campsite at Salies de Bearn

The scenery so far has been pretty flat but as we approached our destination, we could see the great outlines of the great Pyrenees.  Our site is just in the foothills.  The campsite is quirky.  Lots of terraces, empty this time of year and we positioned ourselves with a great view over them.  Free range foul of all sorts.  The host lady spoke Fr, Eng, German and Dutch (she was).  The Aged P’s arrived just as we set off for a walk, which we then aborted in favour of … drinks and supper in the van … and every following night.  The Aged P’s decided that Jez is very roomy and cosy.  Their apartment very traditionally Fr with high ceilings, ancient furniture and functional ablution facilities, but since I had all the spices etc, it seemed to make sense for me to cook.

516 – Tuesday 25th October 2016:  Orthez Market to Buy the Picnic

Found the crysanthums market, which people were buying in huge quantities.  Don’t know if it is a SW France peculiarity, but crysanthums everywhere here.  We were slightly worried as we thought they would be a food market as we planned to buy our lunch!  We then found food market under cover.  Bought some lovely cheeses, including an amazing goat covered in ash … really delicious!  Honest!  

The picnic site, we eventually found was by the side of a leisure lake, and we weren’t the only ones doing it … but they had wine!  A walk around the lake revealed a beach, fitness equipment, fishing areas and jet ski jumps. The French and Germans seem to do this outdoor sports facility really well.

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There had recently been a Breast Cancer Run and a lot of trees were ‘dressed’ … given I am now into knitting, I appreciated the work gone into it.

517 – Wednesday 26th October 2016 – Sauveterre de Bearn and Salies de B

On arrival at Sauveterre, we happened to park next to the TIC … who gave us a plan of the town with some information.  We followed this and like what we saw … some good views, quirky architecture … all a bit out of the ordinary.

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Part of the bridge had washed away.  Nice tale of a Queen who was thrown into the river for having murdered her child.  despite having been bound up, she survived and the child was subsequently found alive.  I wonder what retribution she made?

We drove back to Salies and had a wander around here.  This is a spa town since a wounded Boar was later found with its fur encrusted with salt.  The ‘top’ part of the town has the beauty treatments and posh hotel … yet compact and nicely done.  The lower part of the town is Medaeval streets around the bend in the river.  We found a super restaurant for lunch … it was a few Euro more than another formule, but the quality of the food was excellent  … and I was allowed to bring Oscar in … such a good boy, he just lies down and sleeps.  J and I elected to walk back to the campsite to shake down our lunch.  We discovered the Aged P’s partaking of a sneaky post lunch Port … fun that!  As it happens, The Aged P’s had come back from Spain via a big booze shop much frequented by the French for its cheep prices.  Over the couple to days here, we managed to get through quite a lot of Port, both colours, gin and dry martini, wine and I think (memory affected obviously) there may have been some Pinot de Charente too!

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212 – 216 : East Side of Sicily

212 – Wednesday 18th November 2015: Aci Trezza Walk and … Lunch

We had thought being in the town would be noisy, but it was actually very peaceful.  J was up and about very early for the sunrise – you can tell how long he was out there by the changing light – I thought he gone fishing with one of the locals!

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A superb and FREE parking location for two nights.

A superb and FREE parking location for two nights.

 

The Aged P’s arrived … on time!  If anything 2 minutes late …. had my ribbing about being always early had an effect?  It threw us off – we’d started a quick tidy and a hoovering.

A gent's tie cared in basalt ... J not having any of it! He has two remming ties in the Aged P's attic: weddings and funerals!

A gent’s tie carved in basalt … J not having any of it! He has two remming ties in the Aged P’s attic: weddings and funerals!

Coffee in Chardonnay and then a walk along the front to Acicastello, passing the Isole dei Cyclops:  basalt rocks creating usual shapes near the harbour.  According to Homer, Polyphemus threw them at Ulysses who had blinded him.   Part of the path wended through a private lido with changing huts, plants and sun bathing areas … yours for EUR3.  J and I wandered up the stairs into the town – the town where we had struggled with tight turns in Chardonnay yesterday, but we forgave it.  It had a nice high piazza by the castle and views over the sea.

 

 

 

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It was a little early for lunch, so we tried another of the Slovenian wines we had brought back for Horvat winery in Maribor … this is the second we have tried with the Aged Ps and they are really good.  Despite trying for pizza; most seemed to be shut, we ended up with a very good lunch of swordfish overlooking the harbour.

Coffees after lunch sitting on the harbour wall.

Coffees after lunch sitting on the harbour wall.

OK for those of you who think we look alike ... we obviously have the same mannerisms too!

OK for those of you who think we look alike … we obviously have the same mannerisms too!

Sylvie: This one's for you. Tiramsu WITH coffee and chocolate ice cream and cream .....

Sylvie: This one’s for you. Tiramsu WITH coffee and chocolate ice cream and cream …..

213 – Thursday 19th November 2015:  Mount Etna

A plan for Etna today.  The Aged P’s had driven up part of it some years ago (they have been most places!), but it is so much part of Sicily and the largest volcano in Europe, that it really is a must.  The other name for it is Mongibello: from the Italian ‘monte’ meaning mountain and the Arab ‘gebel’ meaning mountain too.  So ‘Mount Mountain’.  Regular eruptions from the main core and side craters – so constantly re-‘cratering’ itself, that it gets to be named twice!  I hope you spotted my weak pun there!

We drove via a motorway services for imperfect motorhome services … I won’t go into detail about the concrete hole in the ground …..  Another stop for GPL.  And several abortive stops for water.  Ho hum … we were a little late at our rendezvous of Zafferano Etnea with the Aged P’s …. just as well.  They arrived before us and rang to say the road was unsuitable to get Chardonnay down.  We plugged in coordinates number 2 (we like to have a Plan B, and C and sometimes, even D) and met at Piazza Kennedy.  The Aged P’s failed to find coffee and cakes in town and so joined us in Chardonnay, whilst J munched through a volcano sized bowl of cereal.

Car view on the drive up. The Autumn leaves must further on here than we have seen anywhere else as it is so much cooler.

Car view on the drive up. The Autumn leaves were further on here than we have seen anywhere else, as it is so much cooler.

We drove in Chardonnay up to the Rifugio Sapienza, where the cable car starts for the summit of Etna starts.

K had googled:

  • That the road was suitable for motorhomes and so it proved – much easier than most Sicilian roads!  Wide and with a good surface for all the summer tourist coaches.
  • The prices for the Etna ascent.  Not going to happen for us … EUR30 for the cable car.  23 for the 4 wheel drive jeep and you still had to walk the rest.  And then 9 for the compulsory guide to get to mouth of the main crater.  A whopping total of EUR62!  EACH!!

However, Etna had kindly gushed a small crater near the carpark and we circled that.  A quick and disdainful look at the souvenir shops … who would pay EUR10 for a lump of rock when you can pick one up?  And then lunch in Chardonnay, admiring the effects of the changing light on the lava.  Fascinating to see the lava, both black and red, and how vegetation starts to grow on areas of volcanic rock.  Drifts of volcanic ash that covered the road in places and must be a real hazard to walkers and cars in high winds.

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Definitely much cooler up here

Definitely much cooler up here.

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J at the bottom of a small crater ... oops, at the bottom of a massive one, of course. If it blows, the only way is up.

J at the bottom of a small crater … oops, at the bottom of a massive one, of course!  If it blows, the only way is up.

Looks as if dad is about to chuck Mum into the crater ... she was actually being camera shy!

Looks as if Dad is about to chuck Mum into the crater … she was actually being camera shy!

The car park was used for a mass paraglider landing.

The car park was used for a mass paraglider landing, having come down from near the top of Etna. Bet this was more than the EUR 62 to get to the top!

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Our Belgian neighbours from  Aci Trezza had arrived too.  They would stay overnight nearby and he would pay for the cable car and then walk the 5km up, but tomorrow morning as it was too late today.

We could have stayed overnight in the car park in Zafferano Etnea, but the guide book had promised a permanent agricultural fair with local wine and produce …. since there was no sight of either, a whining dog well within ear shot, and the rain had started … three good reasons to head back down the side of Etna towards the coast and higher temperatures.

Brad SatNav was duly tasked with taking us directly to an overnight parking near San Marco close to the coast…..  Well, we coasted along following his directions….until he guided us down a quite narrow nondescript road. We followed confidently – the road got more narrow with trees brushing our roof…  The road which seemed very narrow got more and more narrow. Did I just use the word narrow twice in the same sentence ?  It then got narrowissimo ! Molto narrow, pissedoffissimo narrow, in fact…  We came to a point where further progress was actually impossible with nowhere to turn around ! We have been in tight spots before, but this was definitely the worst. Calmly (not), we assessed the options – reverse our 28′ beauty along a ‘kinometre of blind mans alley – or (on finding a sort of gateway) turn in down a gravelly sandy slope with multifarious potholes – and then reverse up the slope and around an impossibly tight corner !  K (calmly) volunteered to drive – and I  gave directions from outside the van. Reversing up the gravelly slope led to many wheel spins and slides – this was not promising… Finally, K administered some teacherly wellie – and Chardonnay made it up the gradient.  As we share everything, I took my turn behind the wheel at this point. After a 27 point turn, we somehow got our home straightened enough to head back in the direction from whence we came !  Gulps of air (and relief) all round – the gin would have come later, except we don’t have any…

Brad (suitably admonished) finally led us to an alternative oasis – that just happened to be – a campsite!  It was the one we planned to stay at tomorrow.  We decide it was fate – and bivouacked for a peaceful evening…..

 

214 – Friday 20th November 2015:  Defeated by Taormina Parking and a BBQ

The Aged P’s left their car at our campsite and J drove along the coast (after a direction error by K and had to do a tight 5 point turn at the entrance to the hospital), which was actually really pretty.  A bay with islands and amazing clear water.

They have put a long tunnel under Taormina  to get to the multi-storey car park as cars, thankfully, are banned from the old town centre.  Bugger …. height barriers and not for motorhomes.  We followed a motorhome parking sign, another tight turn, down a slope, just scraping the exhaust pipe and a 7 point turn this time.  The ticket booth stated that motorhome parking was a whopping EUR5/hour but it seemed pretty deserted.  We walked up the slope and looked at the tunnel we would have to walk through …. none of us fancied this, so we scarpered.  Dad had suggested returning the the campsite via the supermarket to buy some fodder for lunch.  We elected on a BBQ, which went slightly awry as the charcoal would not get going.  J even chucked more lighting fuel on it … (from a safe distance, of course) and that just smoked.  Abort.  Chardonnay’s grill was deployed for the second time in 7 months, until K remembered the Cadac Safari grill … success … we managed to eat …. eventually.

Unbelievably, our Belgian neighbours turned up at the camping.  It is a shame we were all too tired to make an evening of it (we had eaten and drunk too much and he had done the 5km walk up and then down Etna), and they only planned to stay the one night.

 

215 – Saturday 21st November 2015:  Taormina and Pizza

Second attempt to reach and park in Taormina was successful.  Dad drove in the small hire car … we discovered the rear suspension had gone.  It groaned and growled over every bump and particularly did not like the tight hairpins.

Taormina is very pretty, nestled on rocks above the sea.  Restaurant and shops, a small Duomo and lots of small narrow side streets.  Nice, but must be horrendous in summer.

J tour guide for the day and he has the correct book :)

J tour guide for the day and he has the correct book :).  We know where we are!!!

Rules as you enter Taormina .... Really?!?

Rules as you enter Taormina …. Really?!?

Part of the statue outside the Duomo

Part of the statue outside the Duomo

A little rest for the menfolk, as the women checked out a mosaic (unremarkable and up steps)!

A little rest for the menfolk, as the women checked out a mosaic (unremarkable and up steps), but at least we went to see!

Lots of quaint side streets.

Lots of quaint side streets.

J is Adam, eating Eve's apple .... it is the carving on the balcony.

J is Adam, eating Eve’s apple …. it is the carving on the balcony.

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Cactus hair

Cactus hair … the whole balcony had a family of cactus heads.

The Villa Communale was donated to th town by the Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan.

The Villa Communale was donated to the town by the Englishwoman Florence Trevelyan (could be of the Cornwall garden’s family).  Great views of Etna and the coast.

A kooky construction in the Villa Comunale that Ms Trevelyn used for bird watching.

A kooky construction in the Villa Comunale that Ms Trevelyn used for bird watching.

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We chose not to have coffees or lunch in the Wunderbar Cafe where Taylor and Burton used to sip cocktails … not at EUR7.50 for an espresso!  Swordfish (again, but so good) for Mum and I, and pizza for Dad and James … sitting in the sun overlooking the coast.  Try not to feel too sorry for us!

Couldn't come to Italy and not have at least one pizza.

Couldn’t come to Italy and not have at least one pizza.

 

216 – Sunday November 22nd November 2015 – Traffic Report … Aci Trezza again and Catania

Planned:  A rendezvous in Aci Trezza (where we had previously overnighted) and then a bus to Catania … buses few on a Sunday so an early start.

Actual:  K and J arrived in good time at the harbour car park … Aged P’s back on form … Early.  Very early and had discovered that the published timetable on the web *updated Sept 2015* was incorrect, which it would have meant a long wait.  K stocked up on veggies at the small market and then Dad drove.

Catania:  Quiet roads and free parking.  Main highlight is the the Piazza del Duomo which is really attractive.

A Town Hall security guard with good English explained about the presence of the elephant statue in the square ... Hannibal was believed to have passed through and elephant remains were found under the square.

A Town Hall security guard with good English explained about the presence of the elephant statue in the square … Hannibal was believed to have passed through and elephant remains were found under the square.

The elephant symbol is also found on the city carriage which is only used annually in a February procession.

You'll have to wait till February for a lift!

You’ll have to wait till February for a lift!

Coffee and cake. Both J and Dad ended up waring the oozing chocolate!

Coffee and cake. Both J and Dad ended up wearing the oozing chocolate!

The town was flattened in an earthquake in 1693. so all the main buildings are C18 …. Baroque.

Some of the characterful gargoyles supporting balconies.

Some of the characterful gargoyles supporting balconies.

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Inside the Duomo: Buy your own plastic saint!!! Otherwise stare at the Cardinal's corpse - face mask but withered bejewelled hands.

Inside the Duomo: Buy your own plastic saint!!! Otherwise stare at the Cardinal Dusmet’s corpse in a glass coffin – he had a face mask but his withered bejewelled hands were there to see.

I want one of those! Child is happy: he has his own car. Dad is happy: he has the remote control!!!!

I want one of those!  Child is happy: he has his own car. Dad is happy: he has the remote control!!!!

The Roman baths under the Cathedral were shut and we did not fancy the Roman amphitheatre (a bit Roman Remains’d Out!), so we decided to return to Aci Trezzo for a risotto in Chardonnay. We picked up some fish on our way back to the car from the Pescheria:  a relatively expensive fish, but meaty and lots of flavour … no idea what , but not dissimilar to monkfish.

The fruit market leading to the fish market under the arches.

The fruit market leading to the fish market under the arches.

Aci Trezza:  Just getting here from Catania was an experience.  And one not to wish for.  Traffic everywhere.  The WHOLE of the region was out and about and all driving as badly as only Sicilians know how.  Once we got close to Aci Trezza we joined the back of serious traffic jam.  Everyone who was not in Catania had come here.  If one horn was beeped, then another, and then everyone had to join in.  Is it a herd mentality?  Everyone out in their car crawling along roads.  We assumed our car park would be jam packed … wrong!  Cars were scooting through hoping for a short cut and not parking.   K and J left the Aged P’s in the traffic queue to collect the food makings of a risotto, intending to take it up the the Aged P’s apartment and eat there.  Amazingly there were car park spaces – so what were all these people doing?  Just driving around?  Enjoying being in a traffic jam?   K started to cook in the van …. it must have been half an hour before the Aged P’s finally parked up.  Wine served immediately on arrival … medicinal.  Entertainment on hand as we watched cars try to pass in front of our nose for a short cut thorough the short cut of the car park, only to have to reverse as the only exit was into the water.  One young enterprising chap collected tips as he became the unofficial car park helper.

P1080253After lunch a little wander and into a cafe for dessert and coffee.  Another Tiramasu ice-cream, wine and a chocolate crepe.  K finally had a cafe correcto with Amoretto … expresso with a shot. 🙂