Vita and her husband Albert recently did our France/Italy trip. Experience some of her travels below.
9 August 2011
France: No words can describe the magical scenery, and breathtaking accommodation. Driving is challenging at times, provoking all sorts of shrieks, chastisement and laughter.
We are about an hour away from Annecy …… we hope?
Stopped for a quick bite at a Courtepaille, yuk! First and last! Farmland scenery beautiful, but no match for chateau country though. Looking forward to lakes and lavender next.
Annecy is paradise! Accommodation simple, but ample. We have put the car to bed for 24h, lake a stone throw away from us, literally. Plan to explore the town on foot and lie at the water’s edge to relieve driving tension, quite a day’s journey! Off to walk the town at dusk and find sustenance.
Tomorrow hope to hire cycles and meander cycle path around the lake.
The holiday is awesome!! Have seen so much already, from medieval castles and villages to ever rolling Bourgogne vineyards. Now in the Alps on Lake Annecy, a popular summer holiday destination for the locals it seems. Marinas and sidewalk restaurants abuzz! Early morning and we’re circling the island. Will stop for breakfast soon – very difficult to understand menus so we don’t eat much yet?? Then onto explore the canals in the medieval town centre and finally to lie at the water’s edge, Yah! We hope to hire cycles on the paths along the vast lake. Tomorrow off to Provence and lavender fields.
Awesome medieval village market experience and underwear shop in the Alps yesterday. En route to Provence in unbelievable traffic and sweltering heat. Picnicked on baguette, smoked chicken from local supermarche, with olive tapenade, ripe tomatoes and handmade 3-berry nougat bought at the market. Quite a banquet for a change, been eating very little – restaurants and cafes expensive!! Almost at our destination. Diverse scenery in this country – it takes our breath away! Locals been friendly on and off. Having a love-hate relationship with ‘Isabel’ the GPS, soon to be ‘Isabella’!! We are on lavender look-out … ever hopeful. Voila!! Operation ‘Mauve’ in progress! A bientot, nos famille et nos amis!
Bonjour! What an adventure reaching Oppede le Vieux over narrow, winding pass for our stay in Provence. Alas only splashes of lavender, with the season just passed. Albert storms ahead where angels fear to tread, and asks for directions?? He loves chatting up the locals, is sure repeating himself often enough in broken English, in his charming way, will bring understanding….NOT! But so a well-meaning, less than bright old man, kindly had us follow him along a very rocky off-road, through a NO ENTRY barrier and up a one-way down lane!! Thank God we and the vehicle arrived safely to savour this magnificent old village in its historic wonder, nestled amid castle and church ruins dating back to the 16th century! Yesterday Coustellet, today Menerbes and surrounds, tomorrow Nice and a long swim!! Heat is sweltering, cold beer and wine in lieu of coffee!
Bonjour encore! Explored four more quaint villages in the Luberon and supped on French cuisine with a bottle of good local rose with the locals at Le Petit Cafe in our ‘vieux village’ square. No idea what we ordered, but sounded good and tasted delish. Just when Albert was mastering the driving, hello to the toll roads, until St Raphael, for the first glimpse of the sea! Scenic route on Bord de Mer along French Riviera through Cannes to Nice. Hotel high above the old town, room over-looking city and a touch of sea. Magnifique!! Took tram to old town for night market, dipped feet in the ocean AND danced under the stars to Salsa music in Place de Massena, serriiaaas!! En route to Sestri Lavante via Monaco – coastline e bellisimo!
Un, Welcome to Italy, so different from gentle French country charm. Unkept, locals abrasive, over run with cars and scooters. NO place to stop or park! But as with France, towns alive after dark with light music and jovial banter, so we eat (Italian), drink and are merry!! Cinque Terre is an experience not to be missed. Took a boat to Monterosso to begin 6 hour 5-village walk, NOT for the faint-hearted! Resting now on busy Riomaggiore beach, on cobbles the size of turtles! At sundown will find Pizza! Then train back to Sestri and short drive back to hotel. Struggling with the basics of the Italian Language, but found friendly locals, Canadians and South Africans. Next stop Florence…Ciao bella!
Home from Florence by nightfall on Saturday, darkness broken by cicadas, chefs at work in the kitchen, and an Italian aria in the distance. Bid farewell to Tuscany, to chime of Sunday church bells. Stopped at 12th century castello. Drove to Garda, time too short to enjoy all of marinos, waterfronts, fortresses and cathedrals, theme parks, boiling sulphur springs etc. Swam in the lake, shared authentic Marguerite pizza, sipped sundowners, with a snack of marinated olives and stuffed peppers, then home to jazz band and caffe latte. Today, sight-seeing in Verona – AWESOME!! Could feel the historic energy. On the way back to lake now, Pescheira del Garda yacht basin for swim and light salad?? Sweltering hot!!! No appetite until after dark.
Dinner ON the lake at Pescheira del Garda with uno litro vino rosso – SO hot, SO humid, SO thirsty – Mamma Mia!! North to Trento through kiwi fruit orchards and rolling vineyards, grape harvesters busy at work. Enter Ital-Swiss country, the French ‘auberge’ now Italian ‘albergo’. Issy (the GPS) spiteful and side-tracked Bolzano? Re-routed to Belluno. Peaked at Cortina, near Swiss border, amid floral chalets, Alpine-forested valleys and the majestic Dolomite range. In comparable beauty! WE DID IT….. we took a water taxi into Venice, AT SUNSET, unforgettable!!!! Hotel style old Venetian, room decor exquisite. Dinner on the Grand Canale before bed. Exhausted after a long day. Albert sad to say goodbye to Issy and Aygo – me, I sigh in relief and we both thank God for 3 500kms of safe travel! Today we explore the streets, canals, beaches and islands of Venezia…………. and bargain with a Gondolier?? Va bene!!
Walked Campos, Piazzas and Piazzales and crossed many a Punto. Shopping amazing! So awesome to indulge in Gondola ride, steered by young Tony, 4th generation gondolier. Late snack lunch & ‘home’ for siesta. Stroll later to bid farewell to Venezia by night. Today visited the renowned fresh fish & fruit markets at Campo Bacchieri, then to Marco Polo for flight to ‘gay Paris’! Okay, not so gay YET! Exhausted after subway bustle. Flight good, train trip interesting, yes Albert found lovely Swedish couple to chat to! Paris news to be continued.
One has to witness the magnitude of Parisian architecture and history to believe it!! On arrival early evening, went for short ‘stappie’ along the Seine bank. Weather magical, so dressed up with frock and heels. Difficult to navigate arrondissements (slices of Paris), so unintended 5 hour round tour of urban paris on foot, to arrive at the strike of midnight to the splendour of sparlking Tour d’Eiffel!! Found our way back to hotel at 3am, locked out, so had to awaken concierage!! Woke up to cold, rainy, Paris autumn day, hello jackets and brollie! With 2 day Open Bus tour pass, revelled in multitude of Parisian wonders with audio tour guide, sexy apple green earphones and French classical music intermissions. Today 2nd leg of bus tour, in sunshine! Tomorrow Versailles and up le Tour Eiffel. Fly on Monday morning.
Au revoir, arriverderci, and all that jazz xxx