Italy 2017
Saturday 22nd July 2017

No fly zone

Traffic was steady on our way to the tunnel, dispite predictions of this being the busiest get away day of the year.
The gloom turned to rain, but the skies cleared as we neared Dover.

We grabbed a coffee in the airport style reception building, before being summoned to our train. Only an hour later than advertised.

No more than 30 minutes later we were in Calais, brilliant sunshine greeted us...but not for long.
A pretty rainbow paved the way to a torrential downpour, making driving hazardous.

Almost 3 hours later we arrived in Tinqueux and a midnight pitstop at their McDonalds.

Finally The Ibis hotel and its shoebox sized room, we don't mind, plenty of hot water & a lovely big bed for me.. Ians bed was built for the Pixie at the end of our rainbow!

Goodnight dear reader xx

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Sunday 23rd July 2017

To the old Trout

So an hour later than planned ( alarm clock issues ) we leave the Ibis and our bushy room.

We decided on a picnic brunch beside the motorway, great idea til my roll blew away !

This morning mostly consisted of driving, but Switzerland was well worth it.

Having passed through the non existant border control, we stop at the stop line, beside the official looking buildings, after a few minutes no one  appears, we take instructions from a hippie fella tending his child in a nearby car , to motor on.
We arrive at the Hotel Truite an absolutely heavenly oasis beside the river.

Our destination this afternoon is a riverside walk to nearby Noiraigue, a 1hr 20min stroll along the beautiful stream, nestled into the gorge.

A lot of electricity appears to be generated from the river, which varies from mill pond still to a raging torrent at various points.

at its narrowest point the water charges down the rocks at a hectic and deafening pace.

Once we were well clear of the bridge, it became apparent that it would be a great place to stand & have your picture taken... Maybe on the way back?

Our destination, the railway station for a scenic ride home, it soon became obvious that our best hope was the bus replacement service, due to works. A lovely lady at the station showed us to the bus & asked the driver to send us to another at Rochefort.. The seamless journey costing 4.20 swiss franks each, allowed us another perspective on this glorious area.

back at the hotel, Ian takes a shot of his own old Trout.

Then to our balcony for a cold one and a snooze before dinner.

Ian wrestles with " google translate" our waitress speaks absolutely no english, so far he's ordered Fillet of Shergar and chips.

We were joined by a legion of harmless flies for our dinner, my Trout with butter and lemon, Ians " steak" and herb butter went down a treat after our long did a couple of local brews.

We will sleep well tonight

Goodnight dear reader xxx

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Monday 24th July 2017

From a chateau Chillon to the Matterhorn.

Goodbye old trout. The Landlady and I shook hands warmly after I handed back the key, a tear in our eye, neither of us having a clue as to whether I was thanking her warmly or registering a formal complaint.

Ian loved these semi tunnels, taking him back to nintendo games.

Patches of blue sky did their best to break through, but the driving rain was having none of it.

Chateau Chillon, a castle built during medieval times now fills a granite island a few yards from the prom.

Ian plans to patent this Medieval mouse trap directly we get home, it will be extensively tested on 2 shelties with bonio's.

It is alleged Lord Byron etched his name on this pillar in the dungeon.....Hmmm

We made use of the audio tour, we learned of the Dukes of Savoy & and the Bernaise conquerors of this well appointed stronghold.

The gloomy weather gave us atomospheric views across Switzerlands largest lake, Lake Geneva.

Many examples of Medieval chests & later examples were on display.

The first coat of arms to adorn the walls contains images of 2 bears.

The weather improved as Ian scaled the 76 narrow steps to the keep.

The views panoramic in every direction.

On to Tasch and the Mega car park, we boarded the shuttle & arrived in motorcar free Zermat.. Our Hotel The sunstar came highly recommended by Mr Trip advisor.
Not entirely sure where my luggage guy has got to?

Our funky room boasts an in room shower cubicle , at least the loo has its own room !

And as ordered our Matterhorn view..Wow!
We chilled on our compact balcony with a complimentary beer.. We could get used to this.

As recommended by our hotel receptionist The Walliser Vaunne Restaurant, proved to be an oasis, a very expensive oasis.
The chefs salad which Ian & I shared as a starter, boasted an enormous  prawn, muscles, olives, Mozzarella, parma ham, smoked salmon, watermelon, bread, pickles and every conceivable salad item.
I was defeated by my Pork cordonbleau, Ian however gallantly finished his Irish beefsteak, french fries and veg , just so he didn't offend chef.

Home to our Matterhorn view, might just try another complimentary beverage.

Goodnight reader xxx

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Tuesday 25th July 2017

Around the Horn!

Weather forcast suggests rain.

With no idea where to start our 2 peaks day , we go to the cable car, however the web cam shows the Matterhorn swathed in thick cloud, so we opt for the Gornergrat express.

The views in every direction were breathtaking.

Our thin summer clothes took a test in the minus 1 temperatures.

Views across to the Matterhorn bear out our web cam images.

However on the journey down the sun comes out and some images of the majestic peak, sneak out.

The splendid train ride ended at Zermatt, we should have paid extra for the return journey but were waved through by a bored guard.

Another mile hike back up the mountain to the cable car.

The temperature rose & fell throughout our journey.

Change of Gondola for the final leg with plumeting temperaures.

A lift deposited us on the observation deck, by far the coldest place on the planet.

This is the Kline Matterhorn ( the matterhorns little brother ) in perfect relief against the clouds.

Meet Sherpa Tensing & his apprentice.

We found the ice tunnels and this little boy decided to try the kiddies ice slide..Guess who got stuck ?

Many beautiful sculptures adorn the caverns.

This was our last glimpse of the Matterhorn before we were too low to see her properly, still wearing her cloudy halo.

Ian wanted to visit the Gornerschlucht Gorge. I was more than happy to accompany him to the entrance, but the many steps didn't appeal to me.

The tiny buildings below are Zermatt.

A visit to the pool and spa completed our day, having walked 7 miles, the muscles loved the warm water.

Finally our dinner at The Viktoria Restaurant, some sensible salads, followed by Mixed grill & veal sausage for me..The beers were large & welcome.

We should sleep well.

Goodnight reader ( miss u mini moo ) xxx

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Wednesday 26th July 2017

Zermatt goodbyes & to Venice for a bit.

Zermatt refuses to give us a last view of the Matterhorn.

Today will be mostly about driving.

Oh and I broke a nail.

The weather got better the further east we travelled.

The roads in Switzerland offer many view points. Our passage into Italy was seamless, no one was remotely interested in stopping us or checking passports.

Finally we arrive in Venice, we deposit our car in the massive car holiday complex and take the water taxi to San Marco.

We walked the short distance to Hotel Flora.

We were allocated the worlds smallest room , Ian did a bit of interesting interior design, giving us a few extra feet !

After a shower we head out for a stroll. The Chiesa di san Moise church, built in 1654.

Another tick on our bucket list a Gondolla ride.

Our toned Godolier Alberto, gave us a few interesting facts whilst flexing his muscles.

The views from the Grand Canal were amazing in the golden light.

We saw places where Mozart Wagner & Verdi lived at various times in history.

Alberto took us into the narrow side canals for more views of the ancient city.

Venice a city for lovers ........

Ian orders a LARGE beer , I did warn him .

Our enormous starters, Hollies fave Mozzarela & tomato, yum.

Goodnight dear reader we will be staggering home once Ian has climbed out of the beer glass xxx

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Thursday 27th July 2017

Bridge of Sighs.

My Mate Al Vecio has arrived !

It didn't take very long for the sun to climb out of the clouds today.

My Gondolier poses for his first day on the job.

A magical day.

Super model Debbi poses & other models await their turn in the spotlight.

Every bridge offers an opportunity.

Know what I mean Harry?

Fresh Juice and a chance to sit , by this C15th hunchback supporting a set of steps, traditionally used to display a naked wrong-do'er.

The fish Market and later fruit & vegetable stalls remind me of Caroline.

Evidence that the city might well be sinking!

These simple towers pepper the skyline.

The Basilica dei Frari offered a breif respite from the cruel heat.

A sandwich & beer for lunch.

The famous Bridge if Sighs

Leading from the Dog'es Palace to the infamous Venice Prison.

A mere 40 Euros allowed us access to the interior of he bridge & the historic government buildings, of the Dog'es Palace.

The exterior of said Palace.

Another 7 mile explore brings us back to our hotel Flora.

Dinner tonight , at the Devils Forest pub, a pretty good burger and a lot of beer..

Hic! Goodnight dear reader xxx

Comments: (1)

"Beautiful pictures shame about the 2 people that keep popping up in them! Need more of the fit man who was punting for you! " - Caz

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Friday 28th July 2017

Our wedding anniversary and the beach we nearly went to.

Breakfast at our usual table in the courtyard, minus our Prosecco, which Ian promises we will have later, Stefano our waiter lecturing everone on the art of covering their unattended food, to stop the pidgeons banqueting. We opened our anniversary cards. Thank you Mum & Min xxxx

The water bus takes us back to the Tronchetto car park stop, The Queen Victoria, a Cunard liner was berthed nearby.

Maureen guided us towards the beach at Fiorenzuola, Funny I never thought we would be climbing steadily UPHILL for a swim ??

We followed the signs for the beach onto a paved Zig Zag road heading , stranglely downhill..after around a mile the ocean seemed tantalizingly close, A bus stop indicated we could get a bus out in 15 mins OR take the uphill route. We abandoned ship & took the bus.. Sorry guys. The photo above is at maybe the 75% mark.

Our next location Stiffe, another 3 hr drive for Ian. Tolls at regular intervals charge us for the priveledge of the constant tunnells (including a fabulous 10km tunnel!).

The aggressive driving of our Italian friends, has caused us to rename the lanes, Slow lane, Overtaking lane & COMBAT lane.
We are trying to work out the rules wothout the benefit of the book.

We FINALLY found The Stiffe Hotel, a good 3 miles from where google thinks it is. We telephone the out of hours receptionist & he arrives when he feels like it.
Our echoey anderson shelter room boasts a bigger loo than Venice ( every cloud & all that ).
Another Marvelous Mystery Tour to Ristorante Camelot For their fabulous Pizzas.
We Don't half live !

Goodnight dear reader & my Pixie xx

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Saturday 29th July 2017

We woke up in Stiffe!

We woke up in Hotel Stiffe, in the town of Stiffe.

Our luxury room cost us a whopping 60 euros.

Opposite is the ticket office, 10 euros buys you a ticket to the Stiffe Grotto. A 10 minute drive to the Grotto entrance.

Once our tour guide Anna arrived the tour began, she curtly informed us the tour was in Italian but she would gladly answer any of our questions.

We were sorry to miss her commentry, but she told us the caves were discovered in the 1950's.

We didn't miss hearing how various rock formations were named the Rabbit or looked like Bacon!

The caves boast some really impressive cave falls.

The path took us 90 m upwards towards the source of the falls.

The local scenery was just as stunning as the caves.

7 gruelling hours to Rende our overnight stopping point.

We found a wonderful mountain snack stop, where the owners daughter brought us tiny snacks while we awaited our burger.

This ancient bell was tolling as folks returned from church.

So a late arrival in Rende & Cuccino Grill, where we ordered this starter, willing to try anything , I'm currently wading through an entire bottle of mis ordered wine ( I wanted a glass! ) Hell the things I have to do!

Goodnight dear reader ( Marmit , Ian has saved you the fatty bits from his steak, hope they keep ! )


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Sunday 30th July 2017

Rende to Francavilla di Sicilia and a room change

The unappetizing Rende with its Street corner rent boys ( men ) & dumpster diving homeless, boasts the nicest room at the cheapest price. The strictly come dancing fest looks to be continuing today with workshops & lessons.. sooooo tempted.

Just a couple of hours up the road we encounter our Ferry to Sicilia ! robbed of 2 euros by a local chancer who helped us " validate " our ticket.

Next stop Sicilly, a scenic voyage ending in the port town which resembled Leigh Park.

Next stop Ians carefully planned beach stop..Another Google cock up brings us to a cliff walk down to a rocky outcrop.
Maureen found us a much better option on the main prom, we took a seat in the beachside restaurant & eventually our fishy meals arrived. The prawns duelled til the death!

Despite the extra prawn weight, we took a dip in the beautiful clear ocean, tiny polished stones instead of sand .. bliss

Above us the local castle, we spent a little too long enjoying the gentle waves.

Another gruelling 2 hours to our final destination.

Our first view of the Mighty Mt Etna, she breathes smoke !

Our first room The "deluxe" suite did not meet with my exacting approval, I wasn't keen on the non working fridge or hand daubed decoration on our wardrobes or the X rated bathroom pic.
This is room mark 2 a bit more modern  & generic.
Thank you to Miss Hollie for our Prosecco, glasses supplied by the hotel, our anniversary mark 2 as well xxxxx.

Dinner in our hotel, Ian enjoyed his Pizza Etna & his Birra Moretti..He's a bit squiffy after the prosecco & is talking crap as usual.

We are off to chill in our room minus the Xrated paintings.

Goodnight dear reader..til next time xx

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Monday 31st July 2017

Day 2 in Francavilla Mount Etna here we come

Ians very favorite activity, muscling through a crowd to buy tickets once we had travelled the 1 hour and a half to Mount Etna.

A tranquil cable car ride to the half way point, accompanied by some thankfully silent french folk.

Now a swap to a bus to take us to the furthest point.

The North and south Craters of mount Etna our destination, the noth crater.

Ian is standing on the lava flow which was made this very April, when the north crater erupted.

Here is our guide, who explained recent eruptions have destroyed the cable car system more than once & the parking area.

The entire area is the Mount Etna volcano, all of the small craters featured here are equally active & have been responsible for the 1991, 2001 & 2002 eruptions.

You can clearly see the path of the lava flow. Ian & I named this volcano the Dalek Volcano...Our guide informed us thet if it were to erupt today, we would have plenty of time to take some photos before leaving.. Means all you would need is the ability to walk at a brisk pace to avoid the Daleks or in this case lava flow.

However you would likely be brained by the flying rocks.

The Volcano erupted in the 1600's and engulfed a nearby village, no lives were lost even then!

Our trip back down allows us to wonder at the sheer power of this mighty planet & its awesome underground restlessness.

Maureen decided we should go home via the scenic route, this fella threatened to drop a  boulder on us !

Back at our hotel, a beer & a swim in the rooftop pool. Dinner in our Hotel again as we are slightly knackered.

Just a moment out to mention the wonderful Edie Gale, who will be fondly remembered. Thank you Hollie for attending the funeral in our stead.

Love to you all..See you on the dark side...xx

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Tuesday 1st August 2017

Busy doing nothing!

After a disappointing breakfast buffet, we head off to Isla Bella.
40 minutes from home this substantial cliff decent ( They don't have many beaches you can reach without a Sherpa & ropes! ) led us to the beautiful , natural island which you can wade to, then part with 4 euros each to take a stroll round.

It was too chuffing hot so we opted for a wade in the crystal clear water.

The tiny patches of shingle were covered with bathers & their belongings, something of a beach hell. We did however spend an hour enjoying the cool water.

Having reached the top once more, a cold drink was very welcome.

Just by our parking area, we spot a cable car to Taormina, we hoped for an interesting village to wander through , however the cable car seemed to be an alternative to a bus for the locals, we enjoyed a few sweaty minutes at the top before taking the return part of the journey.

Our hotel menu has now exhausted its possibilties, so it was a last night drive to Castiglione di Sicillia. Maureen plotted us a path to one of trip advisors fave restaurants.
What she didn't take into account was the width of our vehicle or the narrowness of the castle towns alleyways ( road is a far too grand a word! )
I had to jump out on more than one occasion to guide the driver through, excessively narrow turns & passages. An oncoming car & another behind us ripped our nerves to shreds at one point, a slightly scuffed wing mirror was the only casualty.
Finally parked at a local car park we made our way to President restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely meal & calmed our frayed nerves.

Last night in Sicily, temperatures in the 30's today..
Goodnight kind reader xxx

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Wednesday 2nd August 2017

Back to the mainland.

Today promises to be a hot one, final disappointing breakfast buffet and back on the ferry.

A few short minutes and Italy mainland is under our tyres. Another long day of driving for Ian.

Imagine our delight when we chanced upon an erupting volcano, right beside the highway.
Many snaps & minutes of video as we were captivated by nature at its most raw, we were a little suprised at the traffic continuing past this mighty beast, with no detours or official presence.
It was a forest fire.

Our first view of mount Vesuvius.

After a very long day driving and planning a stupid o'clock start tomorrow, Ian decides we will travel into Naples for the holy grail.

After speaking to some very nice police officers regarding the right places to park, we arrive at the very welcoming Taj Mahal.

Ian enjoyed his Chicken Vindaloo, my Jalfrazi was perfect.
Well done Ian bed by 12.30 up at 6 tomorrow for Pompeii.

Excellent adventures! We have no fear of the Dodgems having driven in Italy..

Goodnight dear reader xx

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Thursday 3rd August 2017

Up Pompeii.

Breakfast overlooking the ocean..Same sad selection of bread & cake though!

So.. we arrive 08.10, for 08.30 entry...Gates open 9am how does that work?

Do like a big fella with no arms.

Pompeii is VAST..a warren of side streets off the major roads. The site is split into 9 " sections" our audio guide gave us historic facts about many of the buildings.

He lost his mind!
Most of the statues appear to be reproductions. These copper icons certainly are, the originals on display in Rome & other major museums.

The marvelous Pompeii Colloseum, played by Pink Floyd in 1971 with no audiance.
In earlier times the citizens of Pompeii enjoyed watching " Gladiators", Slaves and criminals, tearing each other to pieces or being ripped at by wild animals. Sounds like fun.

In 67 AD during the infamous eruption many citizens of Pompeii lost their lives including this young man.
The forms were created by pouring plaster into the ash shaped mounds found by the archiologists, after the ash was chipped away these astonishing forms were revealed.

The Fountain House, named after this lovely fountain, decorated with shells & glass.

The audio guide was an annoying smart phone, not easy to use without looking like you weren't paying attention to this wonderful site.

Spot the Roman God hidden between the pillars.

32 Degree heat finally caught up with us, we tried to travel towards the top of the volcano, sadly the main route was closed.

Back at our hotel for a bit of hand washing, the laundry service that never was!

A fantastic dinner on the 4th floor of our Hotel Posidon.
We are now enjoying our complimentary sea view & bigger room.

My seafood safari came complete with a tiny shark, or possibly a couple of oversized goldfish.

Looking forward to getting my pixies tomorrow..
Safe flying ladies.

Goodnight dear reader xx

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Friday 4th August 2017

The girls are coming!

Ok truth time, yesterday afternoon we broke down right here. Our car gear shift refused to move and our brake lights failed.

We managed to limp back to our hotel with the use of a screwdriver to enable Ian to change gear. We contacted the RAC who sent us a sad looking mechanic who's intelectual limit was to change a tyre. Our formerly frosty receptionist Esther proved to be a little Diamond, she helped translate & we sent the guy away with instructions to tow us to the Hyundai dealership at 09.30 today, rather than his local garage with unlikely access to parts.
The tow truck failed to arrive by 11 so we opted to drive ourselves, all be it rather illegally to the dealership. Once there the staff could not have been more helpful, we were quickly into diagnostics & what we feared was a broken switch ( which would be available tuesday ) turned out to be an electrical fault in the tow bar ! 5 mechanics pored over our car.

These amazing guys charged us 16 euros! we saw them high fiving each other as we drove away, highly pleased with solving our issue.
Had we stuck with the local guy we'd still be there now.

We tried again to go up vesuvious & made it to the ticket office just before the 2 hr round trip walk to the crater.

Lunch at the Kona Restaurant on the downward journey.

Having collected my girls from The Leonardo da Vinci airport, we headed into Rome.

A drive through the restricted streets brings us to our hotel.

After a shower we head out to the Trevi fountain very close to our hotel.

The pixies and us at dinner.

Lovely to have you here ladies..

Goodnight lovely reader xxx

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"The girls need to get a tan or you guys need a wash! Looking good guys have a fabulous time! " - Caz

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Saturday 5th August 2017

Roman Holiday.

The view from our room.

The girls left early for a church extravaganza, Ian & I decided to take on the 170 odd spanish steps.

The view from the church was great.

The cool interior gave us a chance to relax & look at the beautiful decoration.

Then on to " the peoples plaza" via some beautiful fountains & statues.

Apparently Rome has more egyptian monolyths than Egypt !

Moses & the bullrushes, depicted in this beautiful  marble fountain.

Views across the city.

We meet the ladies for our Catacombs tour. A bus ferries us around the 3 locations.

First stop The catacombs of Domitilla, as with all of todays tours, no photos permitted. We have added some google pics to help.
The many sets of catacombs are set outside the city walls, probably for public health reasons. The warren if corridors in this one would stretch 6 miles if laid out flat and are on 3 levels.
The public are only allowed in a small section of the upper area, sadly all but one of the graves (many being infant sized) have long since been removed & the decorated marble fronts looted.
The catacomb is run by German monks who continue the exploration & renovation.

Our Guide Jon, an american who has been in Rome for 8 years, seemed to know his stuff.

Next stop the church of St Clement.
The church at present is undergoing some work , but we could still see the progressive changes and additions to the structure, which is largely medievel.
Just one storey down is another level of 2nd century building, housing the fresco picture we have added, this area was flooded & rediscovered by an irish priest Fr Mulooley who's order operated the church in the 1930's.
Yet another level down are 1st century Roman dwellings beautifully preserved, along with a pagan chapel.

Last stop, the bones at the Cappucin Crypt. 6 chambers filled with ornate decoration made from the bones of 3700 cappucin monks.

Back to our hotel for a shower & McDonalds for tea.

Ian & I join The Dark Rome tour. Our guide an anonymous Italian who learned his english in Aberdeen..imagine that accent.

We visited the square who's name translates to field of flowers, where 400 yrs ago, Gallileos mate Bruno was burned alive for disputing that earth might not be the centre of our universe.
The Vatican kindly apologised for this in yr 2000, bit late.

The pair of ancient bathtubs used as ornamentation in fountains commissioned by a very unpopular pope.

A street in Rome where the popes prison still stands, now luxury appartments..our guide listed many sorry tales leading to the street getting a bad reputation, locals believed it was haunted at various points in history, leading to a series of holy pictures to be put on the outside walls, as protection.

Last stop one of the gates to the vatican, where scaffolds were routinely erected to publicly chop off the heads of innocents and wrong doers alike.

Just time for a refreshing beer before turning in for the night, oh no wait someone has to do the blog while the other one snores!

Good job you are worth it dear reader xxx

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Sunday 6th August 2017

The Gypsy Curse

After a relaxing breakfast, we head out of town to the beach, along with just about everyone else in Rome.

We finally we find a spot in a scruffy car park with lots of other cars.
The beach boasts, The Perla negra beach bar & a stretch of sunny surf.

These 2 mermaids joined us for a swim.

This is our little encampment, 42 euros of shade & somewhere to eat our pannini.

We return to our car to find the back window smashed & the contents gone. Including a suitcase full of laundry as well as our fridge, Ians spare everything bag & sadly my handbag, cash & my phone.. Maureen was left along with the video camera & oddly my credit / bank cards..
No one was hurt & its only stuff.
We spent the next 90 mins with the lovely local police , who say they have an influx of Gypsies & have had an epicemic of crimes committed by illegal immigrants. We also made calls to the RAC & insurance people. We motored back to Rome & were met promptly by a tow truck..Goodbye car.

Now back to nice things Ian finds us an Indian to drown our sorrows in Curry.

Team Veck did good today, Cheers! The Food & staff at the Maharajah restaurant restored our faith in mankind, with the fabulous Sheek Kebab Ian said was the best EVER. We all enjoyed our meals, fabulous!

A phone call to the RAC is on the menu for tomorrow.

Goodnight dear reader xxx

Comments: (1)

"Gutted so sorry that happened to you! Xxx thank goodness Maureen is ok at least you can get home ....anyway have you popped in to see the pope yet? Apart from that Rome looks good enjoy the rest of the week lots of love to you all xxx" - Caz

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Monday 7th August 2017

Vatican ventures & Gladiators!

Our day began bright and early, we joined the queue to skip the queue.

Within 20 minutes we had passed through vatican security & collected our head sets. The gardens were already warming up, this symbolic statue was a gift to Pope John Paul the 2nd.
The vatican is VAST, the gardens are built over the archives, which boast documents from antiquity including letters from Abraham Lincoln, mundane papel accounts & letters from Michael Angelo complaining he'd not been paid for the work on the Sistine Chapel.

We were early enough to snap this collonade of statuary before the crowds arrived.

We saw so many famous statues, most of which we recognise.

There is a tiny tiger in the jar being held by this fella.

In this gruesome scene there is a dead child on the left and a young man trying to disentangle himself from a snake on the right, which is biting the mans hip.

This is typical of the sumptuous ceilings and wall decoration throughout the palace.

Statues in bronze as well as marble and plaster.

This 1800 yr old Nero's bath is made of Egyptian red marble, which is no longer available. Emperor Nero's wife used it to bathe in donkey milk (weird). The Vatican owns about 80% of this marble in the world. This stuff is worth about €80,000 per kilogram...note the size of this "bathtub", it can only be cut with Diamonds.

Statue of a Discobolus throwing the discus. made in the 2nd century.

The photo doesn't do it justice, this fabulous 3D ceiling is so smooth you could skate board along it.

A series of biblical scenes lead us towards the Sistene Chapel.
No cameras allowed in, we enjoyed a quiet few minutes looking at the world famous ceiling, it's central panel depicting God & Adam is truly breathtaking.

A cheeky selfie in front of Mary holding Jesus after the crucifiction.

Without us grinning.

We were lucky enough to encounter a mass taking place in St Peters Basillica, Hollie snuck in for a blessing & sacrement.

The huge Basillica with it's 42 metre dome is a formidable feat of engineering by Leonardo, as you look up the statues and features are deliberately getting bigger the further up the walls you gaze.
Just above our heads are placed 6ft high marble cherubs, at the feet if 16ft high saints, the gold latin letters below the dome are each 6ft high...As you look up the whole scene seems perfectly in focus.

A trip out to Car Glass to get our back window cling filmed.

We went to "The Scollars Irish pub" before our colosseum tour. Ian had a bucket of Caesar salad, no chips as well tho..I had a baked potato.

This magnificent & huge edifice, was taken over by Mussolini as a symbol of the triumph of his government to celebrate 10 yrs in power. It is opposite the building that housed his personal offices & the balcony he used to make speeches.

We studied at length the ruins of the forums very close to the place Julius Caesar was murdered on 15th March 44BC.

This is one of 3 Triumphal arches still visible in Rome, of the 14 that once stood.

Into the Colosseum and we found out about Gladiators, strong handsome & virile slaves ( like this one ).
The " games" a gruesome blend of hunters butchering all manner of wild & local animals and Gladiators pitting their strength against each other.

The ultimate prize for a Gladiator would be his freedom to be granted, however every visit into the arena offered a 15% chance of death. Literally thousands of animals and people lost their lives in this place..Without even mentioning the morning entertainment...Execution in it's many interesting modes.

Some of the only remaining travatine marble, the senators seats, prime position.

The whole building was covered with the white travatine marble at this time, after about 500AD the games ceased and the building materials were recycled as is the Roman custom.
The building having been left as only bones, was further damaged by the great earthquake of 1343.

A wooden stage covered in sand, would have covered the entire oval centre, hiding the warren of tunnels & rooms visible now. An elaborate trap door & lift system operated by pullies would allow the props & "contestants" to be delivered dramatically to the stage.

The night tour was certainly the right way for us to view this interesting place, sadly a lot of our snaps didn't work so well.
We were on our knees by the end & a taxi back to our beds was essential, another early start tomorrow dear reader.

Goodnight xxx

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Tuesday 8th August 2017

Angels & Demons

Off we go again, The Angels & Demons tour. Based on the book by Dan Brown ( the guy who wrote the Da Vinci Code ).
The Egyptian obelisk where our hero Robert Langdon begins his quest to find the Anti - matter & save the vatican.

Meet our guide Sabrina, this lady's passion & knowledge lit up this brilliant tour.
This is " the demon hole " where the first of the 4 " Preferiti ", Cardinals most likely to become the next pope was found dead, in the book. The ambigram for Earth branded on his chest.

The next clue, the cherubs spear points towards, the 2nd victim.

Ian liked this little marble dragon, probably reminds him of me.

We found a beautiful trio of Caravagio paintings there too.

Next an air conditioned bus ride to St Peters Square. The story says Robert Langdon saw this stone & realised his next church was one of the many in the west of the city. A document by Galilao pinpointed his quarry this time in connection with Fire.

It was jolly hot, we were pleased to have our bus on standby for the next leg.

Next to Chiesa Di Santa Maria Della Vittoria. A stunning Baroque church.

This statue of St Theresa is his next quest.
St Theresa was a reluctant nun, who later founded an order to help the poor.
The weird part was her diaries, she claimed she was regularly abducted by Archangels, who drove firey spears into her naked flesh..the passages our guide read us sounded more like medieval porn.
She was also into self harm, the poor soul was made a Super saint by the church.

This amazing ceiling caught my eye.

This is a church you wouldn't get bored in.

Meet the bones of Saint Vittoria, covered in wax.

Next stop the lavish fountain depicting the 4 continents where the 4th preferati was drowned..( in a Hollywood mock up as the real one is about 6 inches deep).

We would have loved to take a dip in here!

Last stop was the Castel Sant' Angelo, where the legendary Illuminati were said to have had their church & where our hero went to rescue his lady love ( in the book , not the film ).

The ceiling of the church of the Illuminati.

We climbed the many levels and took in the stunning views from the fortress.

The Dome of St Peters Bassilica in the background.

After our customary shower it was cocktail time.

The girls decided to do their own thing on their last night.

A final Curry in our favorite Indian, at one point 90 indians arrived to have a meal, no doubt a tour, apparently 5 chefs were on duty !
We only walked 7.4 miles today, lazy!

Goodnight dear reader xxxx

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Wednesday 9th August 2017

Hello Pope, bye bye pixies.

Our earliest start yet! We met our tour guide Raphaela at 07.20 and signed up, for a guided tour of a QUEUE.

We Joined the longest queue on the planet. We walked a good third of a mile to get to the back of this enormous human hell, which could likely be observed from space.
The pavement wide mass followed the route until we got close to the security scan stations, then it spead across the wide piazza.
The painfully slow pace, reduced to a crawl with elbowing and pushing, even the nuns & clergy were trying to jump the queues. Brides & grooms there to have their marriages blessed, in their finery were not given an easier route.

We were lucky enough to be not too far from the front, behind the chior.

The auditorium can seat 5000, an optional 1000 can be crammed in, perhaps standing. We were glad for a seat & to be spared the blistering sun.

The Pope was having private audiances prior to meeting us..At 09.30 the audiance erupted, we couldn't see much from our vantage point.

The big screens showed the pontif approaching the building via St Peters square.

The pope gave an address after he was welcomed in, by the cardinals.

The address was based on a passage by St Luke regarding forgiveness.
Both the reading & the popes address were repeated in the 6 major languages represented in the auditorium, this proved to be a slow bussiness, interupted by hymns & finally we were all blessed.

Finally a good pic of the Colosseum as we say goodbye to Rome.
Off to the airport to deliver our beautiful girls, a sad farewell..

And welcome to Florence and our Duomo view room.

A great little Italian restaurant for anti pasti & Ians Pizza, my tuna salad was what it said on the box..

Goodnight dear reader..The pixies are back safe in the UK we have just heared & have George the worlds most interesting taxi driver for company !

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Thursday 10th August 2017

Art work overload.

Breakfast on the roof terrace of the Rodo Fashion Hotel.

We tried to find the supermarket where you buy these !

We meet our tour at Piazza San Marco just by this grubby statue..The pigeons like it !

The Accadamia houses some pretty cool art , including Michael Angelo's David.

This 17 ft miracle was outside for some 300 yrs before it was moved here.

The pose of David is the moment before he raises his slingshot to kill Goliath.
The solid marble statue boasts incredible detail, including musculature & veins.

These plaster models, by a variety of important artists contrast with Micheal Angelo's marbles which are flawless, the slightest mistake would render the statue useless. He NEVER used anything other than the 1 piece of hand selected marble we see.

Another exercise in queueing, after our skip the line visit to the Accademia, we go to The Duormo ( Cathedral ) right by our hotel.
This line is not skipable....After waiting 75 minutes we enter this green , red & white marvel.

The stunning "Last Judgement " painted on the ceiling.

This funky 24 hour clock as used in medieval times.

The Baptistry situated a few yards away, hosted the baptisms then the procession would enter the mighty cathedral.

Finally our walking tour led us through ancient squares, however our brains were tired & weak.

The last of the Ponte Vecchio, all other occupied bridges were destroyed by the Germans at the end of WW2.
The Medicci family became Florences leading citizens in the 1600's, eventually diversifying into banking. The Ponte Vecchio housed their " bridge " to the other side of the river & the courtyards where their extended family resided.

And all of a sudden a monster rain storm.

This ancient work was the first to show a human form, beneath the folds of fabric, this is said to be the image that inspired the later artists to paint in 3 dimensions.

Boticelli has his own wing in this museum.

The birth of Venus.

This unique work by Micheal Angelo celebrating the birth of christ.

How I was feeling...

The Annunciatin by Leonardo Da Vinci.

An unfinished workby Michael Angelo which has been away for 2 yrs being restored.

On the way home a welcome gelatto (Ice cream).

And Ian finds a chinese restaurant, he was very excited by the " flavours " of our meals. Hmmm, anyhoo Doris has the doggies home & is attempting laundry.

Goodnight dear reader xxx

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Friday 11th August 2017

Our own unguided tour of Florence.

On the Ponte Vecchio, now dedicated to Jewelers , as opposed to Butchers who previously occupied the Medicci's favorite bridge..( the smells offended the family ).

This handsome chap & his pidgeon friends met us part way across.

Our 10 euro's bought us entry into the Giardino Di Bobolli.

We couldn't access the house, but the interesting fountains made it a great wander.

Our distant hotel near the Duomo.

The fabulous views make it wellworth the 10 euros.

The cooler temperatures helped too.

Just like other days the miles soon piled up as we approached the tombs of the great & the good.

The Bassilica of Santa Croce.

The Burial place of Leonardo Da Vinci.


Michelangelo Buonarroti ( 1475-1564)

And Danti, founder of the modern Itallian language.

The beautuful alter.

The Mona Wife.

I fancied a nice salad..

Goodnight dear reader xxx

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Saturday 12th August 2017

Ian leans in Pisa.

Time to leave beautiful Florence, the view from our room the Duomo.

Looks like Larry & Barry have been over here constructing towers.

Ian tries to shore up this wonky structure.

Some " must have" tower facts.

Ian took the opportunity to walk to the top of this iconic building.

For some pretty impressive views across the area.

This is me looking at him, looking at me!

The tower remains almost upright, dispite Ians assault!

Well this was worth the drive! Our room at the Pasquale Hotel.

There is a 1.8 mile hike between Montarossa & Vernazza, we took the train in order to walk back, this confusing station, made it very difficult to work out which train to take.

The uphill nature of this walk, soon became clear as fit & seasoned hikers passed us.

Ian found a pussy cat sanctuary, well stocked with food & shelters!

The views may well  have been stunning, but lets be clear, I hated every moment of this uphill endurance challenge.

2 hrs & 10 minutes of torture

As our village come into sight, we still had legions of rough pebbley stairs to decend..Much of this hike was outrageously unsafe, crumbling paths, no handrails, paths the widths of the top of someones garden wall.

A shower & a beer..Oh yes!

Dinner at Pae Veciu..A short stroll from our lovely hotel, Bear had a burger , me Gnocci with shrimp..Yum

Goodnight dear reader xxx

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Sunday 13th August 2017

Sunny Sunday.

After a lazy start we bought tickets for the boat.

The boat is used as a bus by the locals.

First stop, the next village along Vernazza..Yes the one with the unfriendly coastal walk.

Corniglia is the only village inaccessable by the boat, as it has no harbour, it can only be reached by the train followed by a grueling 377 stone steps  & 14 ramps.

Manarola the next pretty village along.

Final stopfor us Riomaggiore, a quick change onto the return boat.

The journey back was without most of the stops, but was incredibly bouncy.

This is my thank F*%!k thats over face!

Then to the beach right outside our hotel , we hired an umbrella and 2 sun loungers for the day & took several dips, Ian swam out to the rocks that created the lagoon.

This is my thoughtful face.

Dinner at Bar Davi Monterossa da mare.. Another first for Ian, Risotto!

Goodnight dear reader.. not many more blog days to go..very sad : ( xx

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"Ohhhhh f*** what am I going to read now ? Safe trip home I imagine you are now far more arty after this educational trip! Xxxxx" - Caz

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Monday 14th August 2017

Goodbye Italy, It's been one hell of a ride.

After breakfast we spent our last hour in the ocean.

Goodbye Hotel Pasquale & our smiley hosts..Our most expensive stay, but absolutely the number one location.

As we wound our way up the mountain, we get one final view of Cinque Terre.

The rest of today will mainly consist of this view for Ian while I snooze.

The Rhone Alps. The clouds form a moody backdrop.

We encountered what looked to be a passport checkpoint, turned out to be a 44 euro toll tunnel. Approx 9 miles, bargain.

Arriving in Saint Michel de Maurienne, Savoile...Seems Maureen has a town named for her!

The Savoy Hotel & restaurant, our stopover for tonight, The inn keeper tells me this is the only establishment open for dinner in town, on a monday.

Just to test his theory, a stroll to a nearby bar, yep back to the savoy it is, for a LOVELY steak & chips dinner. The house red, a perky little Cote de Rhone certainly hits the mark too.

Goodnight dear reader..Hope you have a nice " Nanny Monday" next one is on me!


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Tuesday 15th August 2017

Long day driving...Hello Callais

We exited the grandly titled Savoy Hotel, prepared for be driving for around 8 hours.

I have decided on a career change, I am to become an interior designer of Tunnels, several of todays were my work, The Stoneage Tunnel, The Pinball Tunnel ( I told Ian I won an award for that )..I think I'd make a fortune!

The majority of the drive was as pretty as this.

I met this little boy in Burger King, I think it was his birthday or summit!

At last Callais..We estimate an outgoing of around £100 for Tolls & Tunnel charges, not to mention fuel, to cover the 950 ish Kilometers.

See one very tired Bear at our Holiday Inn, final stop...( looking like his Dad me thinks : )

A very nice, but pricey dinner in our hotel..

Back to blighty tomorrow, Sleep well dear reader xxx Love you xxx

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Wednesday 16th August 2017

The final stretch

It felt sad to be leaving our European adventure, good bits & bad..
We consoled ourselves with a final dip in the pool.

The Pool supervisor wanted to take our photo, this is his effort.

So its a 5 minuite drive to the tunnel for the return journey. Looking forward to seeing my girlie and those annoying furry things.
A get together planned for tonight with the usual suspects.

Thank you for an amazing adventure Mr Bear, and to you dear reader for coming along for the ride!

Goodnight xxxx

(Distance just over 4,000 miles)

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