European Escapades

Archive for the ‘Travel Stories’ Category

Pottering in Pisa

30

Mar

2011

Doesn't look like it's leaning at all?
Doesn’t look like it’s leaning at all?

Heading down the west cost of Italy towards our chosen campsite near the town of Pisa, we got our first glimpse of the famous tower in the distance to our left. It may sound corny, but seeing something you have only heard about or seen pictures of, with your own eyes for the first time is truly magical. Although smaller than I had imagined, it still stirred the sense of travel adventure we always get when we see something so iconic and well known on our travels. The actual trip to the tower was going to be the next day after we had settled into our chosen overnight stop and rested for the afternoon. The day of the trip the sun was out and blue skies with wispy white clouds were overhead. It was a great day to see the leaning tower of Pisa.

But wait, something is wrong or do we have the wrong town altogether? Because as we looked at the tower it looked fairly straight to us…

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

The Cinque Terre

28

Mar

2011

Feels like walking a city subway
Feels like walking a city subway.

Heading out of Riomaggiore train station to start your adventure on the famous trail two of the Cinque Terra, is not the right thing to do. Unless of course you are the average sized American who will have a heart attack at the first sign of a slope or one of those unadventurous lovey dovey types who think all the Cinque Terre has to offer is a place to dump your trash in the form of padlocks and other trinkets. Whilst the crass graffiti and other vandalism to the flora and fauna on this flat and unappealing route may appeal to some, to me it is a shrine to something I hate about our modern civilization. The only thing it offered me as I walked disgustedly through this crime, was a good picture to use on my future blog about the distaste I have for what I see as the wanton vandalism to other people’s property by so called graffiti artists (I’m never sure why the word artist is used personally). However, If you do insist on taking this route to Manarola, it is not without a warning from me.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

A Walk on the Wild Side

26

Mar

2011

I've got a lovely bunch of wild asparagus
I’ve got a lovely bunch of wild asparagus.

With our HelpX hosts being knowledgeable in wild foods it was fortuitous timing on our part that being held in the local village on my birthday weekend, was a wild food talk and walk followed by a big evening get together to sample some of the delights we had picked that day. Sounded like an opportunity not to be missed as we headed to the Village hall to listen to a talk on wild foods in the area. It was in Italian but we had an interpreter in Heiko and lots of pretty pictures to accompany the talk. We even managed to identify some of the pictures by ourselves, well Frances did, but she is good with plants and stuff. After the talk we were presented with a large table full of plants and leaves that had already been picked by the organisers of the talk that we could examine and talk over to prepare us for the next day’s walk. We were quite surprised that there were so many people attending the event as we estimated around eighty to one hundred people in the hall and wondered if as many would be on the walk itself.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Italian Driving Lessons

24

Mar

2011

Thankfully we don't have to dress up in gorilla suits to ask for directions
Thankfully we don’t have to dress up in gorilla suits to ask for directions.

Well I remember the last time we were in Italy, I thought the driving was somewhat casual, as we toured the Lake Garda region for the first time. Having to navigate the small streets of the Leguria region in a six and a half metre campervan only cemented my thoughts on the subject. That was until I was privileged to be offered a lift to a wine tasting evening by a 100% born and bred Italian called Graciella. My ideas of driving in Italy were to be rudely awakened as we experienced the pleasure and fun, full on from the confines of the rear seat of our ride. It started out normally enough as we took the bends that twisted and turned through the mountainous countryside leaving Ponzano Superiori. A little too fast for my liking as I’m sure we couldn’t really see what was coming around the bend on the narrow roads we were traversing. The sun was setting as we seemed to be taken on a sightseeing tour of Graciella’s neighbourhood and parents B&B. All I could see were the high stone walls surrounding the village and a glimpse of a small entrance, the only one into the mountaintop village centre I was told. As we moved out of the mountain roads onto the suburbs of La Spezia and heading towards Fivizzano things started to get interesting as Graciella started reading the directions from a small piece of paper she had fished out of a pocket somewhere.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Prune and Olive Soup

19

Mar

2011

Pruning the Olive Trees
Pruning the Olive Trees.

We have had our first X-helper experience in Italy and it has been fun already, although our backs would disagree. I guess it would be better if we were built like Haggi in the spirit of that shaggy dog story about the haggis, I presume that Haggi is the plural for Haggis. It is said in some circles in Scotland that the Haggis is a small mammal running around the tops of the Scottish mountains and due to the heavy slopes, that they have one pair of legs, a pair being one front leg and one back leg, that is shorter than the other. This makes it easier for the Haggis as it runs around the mountainsides as it forages for food. Oh how we would love one of our legs to be shorter than the other, as it would help with the balance and ease of movement as we partake in our first volunteer experience by pruning some olive trees on the steep terraces of Cinque Terre for our newly found friends Heiko & Susan.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Ferdinand Cheval – Postman or Artist?

12

Mar

2011

<br /> Ferdinand Cheval – Postman or Artist?<br />

It’s an interesting stop off and one that has been created by a postman. But as with most people’s lives, we all wear different hats at different times. It is true that Ferdinand Cheval is sworn in at the age of thirty one as a postman and it seems it is also true that his profession awoke something more in this simple and uneducated man. I myself, driving around the country on my own as a computer engineer had many an hour to just think. For Ferdinand the thoughts took the shape of a fairy palace, distracting him as he walked the same surroundings on his rounds. It was not until April 1879 that these thoughts turned into reality.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Chocoholics

11

Mar

2011

I’m not sure what it is, but it is true that amongst the motorhome fraternity there are a group of people that are chocoholics. Fortunately I’m not one of them. You may find this a strange statement, especially from the people that know me, but it is true in this sense at least. When we use the term chocoholic, we are not talking smooth velvety, melt in your mouth chocolate delights, but a far more insidious addiction that involves two fairly innocuous blocks of yellow plastic that enable the sensitive vertigo afflicted amongst us, to level up the motorhome when on an unlevel pitch. The latest group of chocoholics we came across were encountered in an aires in the town of Hauterives, and they took their passion to the extreme.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Attack of the Killer Ants

23

May

2010

Morning comes to the van as the sun rises over the treetops surrounding our campsite. The small trickle of light slowly increases until shafts of brilliant sun are warming our toes through the window and onto the light bed sheet we use as our cover against the odd mosquito that may stray into our domain. As the light streaming through the window starts to hit my still closed eyelids, my brain triggers in recognition and I am awakened to the morning sun as I am most mornings. Bleary eyed I perceive Missy who is always sitting by our feet looking out at the birds and other interesting movements that seem to occur at this time of day. An itch on my arm distracts me for a moment and I remember the odd feelings of Mosquitoes during the night, but they couldn’t be, as we normally hear the nasal drone as they pass above our heads. A little black spot, like a bit of fluff or dirt is in my hand and at first I don’t recognise it.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Always Trees and Always When You’re Tired

22

May

2010

Moving down the coast from ‘Lagoa de Melides’ we decide to split the journey between here and Sagres the eastern most tip of Portugal. I only hope that the place has no affinity to the cat’s piss of a fizzy pop beverage of the same name that the Portuguese try to pass off as a lager. But more to come on the beer dessert we have here in this area of the world, as I do have one small sparkle of sunlight to share. Only a small glint of sanity but it was my only recourse and was a far cry from anything remotely available in Spain. But back to our story and our journey from a happy camping experience to utter hell. We leave ‘Lagoa de Melides’ on a hot day and around noon and head off to our first of two available campsites via the back roads along the coast. We pull into the first site only to be confused as it seems our Sat-Nav has taken us to a construction site as opposed to our chosen campsite. As I start checking the directions Frances spots the camping site sign and points it out to me, it seems we are actually in the right place, but you would not have believed it. The reception seems open and as we turn into the site another campervan is pulling off and out onto the main road. You can never tell with these sites and we decide to check it out as we thought that we may get a discount.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »

Heading for Cork on the Portuguese Coast

19

May

2010

a grove of cork trees
A Grove of Cork Trees.

Regretfully we finally leave Serpa and head for our next port of call which is Beja. Not a town on our list for a tourist visit, although as you approach the City you can’t fail to notice the 13th Century Torre de Menagem, the keep of the original castle built by Dom Dinis. But we were there for the large shopping complex near the campsite and the mobile phone shop within, that was to provide us with our internet access for Portugal. Whilst it is not a great deal, TMN does provide a dongle to allow connection to the internet for €25 a month with a 1GB limit. But it is Prepay and you do get access to all of the PT hotspots within the country for free, with unlimited download. The process of purchasing was harder than my time in Llelida, as the girl spoke no English and my Portuguese was non-existent. But I finally walked out of the shop with a modem firmly in my grasp ready to experience the delights of TMN and banda larga. Seems this new fangled OS software Windows 7 is new to Portugal and its national telecom company as of May 2010 and support for it is rather poor.

(more…)

Posted in Travel Stories | No Comments »