A Travellerspoint blog

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The leaning tower to the 5 villages.

sunny 30 °C

So we left Tuscany and headed for Cinque Terre via Pisa on the way. Pisa is quite an attractive town and we found parking in town and grabbed a coffee at caffe Keith. This is right next to the impressive Keith Haring mural 'Tuttomondo'. The theme of the mural is is that of peace and harmony in the world, which can be read through the links and divisions between the 30 figures which, like a puzzle, occupy 180 square metres of the south wall of the church of St. Anthony.
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We spent a while working out and then waiting for a bus out of the town area to get to the old city and the tower. It is located in the Piazza Dei Miracoli - The "field of miracles" along with a few other famous structures, such as the Duomo, the Camposanto, and the Baptistery. These are all very attractive marble structures. The tower building began in 1173 but the building continued for 800 years with many efforts to correct the lean. Then someone just decided to go with it but it required stabilisation in 1990-2001.
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We posed for the obligatory photos trying to get pin point accuracy for optical illusion :) and mostly failing! But it was fun anyway. Lunch and back to the car and off to Cinque terre.
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Our accommodation is an agriturismo or farm stay called Cardu Chittu located near Levanto . This place is quite well known for its food and most of the organic produce is grown either on the farm or locally. We were treated to the most amazing dinner we had eaten of 4 courses, starter of house made salami, rosemary puffs and an apple, celery and walnut salad. Then pasta which was the most enormous plate of ricotta and spinach filled tortellini with sage butter. We couldn't even get through half of it! Then for Secondi we had home grown chicken (very tasty) which had a light seasoning and fried zucchini flowers and a green salad. Dessert was a creme anglaise with home grown raspberries an a tangy sauce. Lucky we only had to walk up one flight of stairs to our room. So full.
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Tomorrow we are hoping to explore the Cinque terre either by boat or on foot depending on the weather.

Posted by The Hitchies 10:27 Archived in Italy Tagged pisa cinque_terre Comments (0)

Waiting for the train :) the best laid plans.

all seasons in one day 30 °C

Today way not the best travelling day we have had. Perhaps our hopes were too high as we had really been looking forward to this area. The day started with rain and wind and was definitely not great boating weather so we gave that a miss and decided to head down to Levanto, the most northern town of Cinque Terre. It was a nice drive to the coast. The Cinque Terre or '5 lands' is a string of 5 villages on a beautiful stretch of coastline. The villages are linked by train and you can also walk between them. The whole walk takes about 5 hours, we thought we might like to walk the shortest section called Via Dell’Amore (or Lover’s Walk) which connects the towns of Riomaggiore and Manarola. I had read that it would be opened in early 2014 after closure from land slips, alas I was disappointed. :(
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We jumped on the train and headed for the end village thinking to work our way back stopping at each one. After we had looked over the first town, Riomaggiore, we headed back to the station to get to the next town thinking we would grab some lunch there . By now the sun had come out and it was very warm. There was a crowd at the station and we waited, and waited. After about an hour we managed to find out there was an accident further up the line which required police investigation. There were about 500 people at the station, we had no water so after another half hour we sent Dave on a mission under the platform to the shop for water. Just as he was coming back word passed that the train would come on the opposite track. Dave was walking back with water to be faced with a mass stampede rushing through the tunnel. He said it was pretty ugly and he was the only one travelling in the wrong direction, I was just counting my blessings that Dylan wasn't with him!
The train was packed like sardines so we decided to give up and go and catch some lunch at a nice little eatery up on top of the cliff we had been eyeballing while hot and thirsty at the platform. By the time we got another train it was getting late so we skipped a few villages and just checked out the last one Monterosso. I regret this now as I think we may have missed the better places and I really would have liked to see Maranola. Oh well .....next time.
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Once we got back to the accomodation we were again presented with a delicious 4 course feast. Tonight we had a starter of cheese, red capsicum marmalade and rosemary puffs. The pasta was a linguine with ragout sauce, mmmmmm.......Dylan was in heaven and we arranged for him to have some leftover for breakfast the next morning. Then Secondi was braised, sliced shin of beef, artichoke cake which was sort of a thin cheese and artichoke frittata (very tasty) and a red cabbage salad. Dessert was caramelised apple tart.
Wine and then at the end of the meal a digestif ( which I forgot to mention last night) which is a selection of rocket fuels made on site ranging from aniseed flavoured grappa to house made tequila to coffee and walnut liquors . The previous night we had sampled the grappa which is indeed like rocket fuel. The coffee one was my favourite. Photos of our host Mattia and his selection of rocket fuel below.
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The accomodation at the agriturismo is fairly basic but the food and friendly family atmosphere are it's definite strong points. There is an amazing collection of records ( yes the old black round things) in the restaurant and you can request anything to be played on the turntable or are encouraged to put them on yourself. As usual Dylan won everyone over and scored himself at shirt as a gift when leaving.
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the restaurant and the greenhouses
We also met a really nice Dutch couple who we chatted to quite a bit during our stay.
Tomorrow we are heading to Sanremo to drop the car of on our last night in Italy.

Posted by The Hitchies 07:11 Archived in Italy Tagged cinque_terre cadu_chittu Comments (2)

Ciao Italy....... Bonjour France

sunny 29 °C

The last few days have been mostly travel. We are now in the south of France. We left our farm stay accommodation and headed north west to Sanremo. Let's just say the trusty sat nav took us on the more scenic route again. Which I kind of liked as we were in no hurry and I love driving (as a passenger) through the little villages seeing every day life. I am constantly telling Dave to look at this and that and he is too scared to take his eyes away from the road. The autostrade is mostly one tunnel after another briefly broken up by a massive bridge. Some great engineering but not that scenic.
We got to Sanremo just after lunch checked into accommodation and organised to get our rental car back. We are catching a train across the border and picking up another car in Nice otherwise it would cost € 800 extra to take the same car into another country.
Sanremo is a very pretty place on the Italian riviera and we spent a bit of time wandering around the town before having a very delicious pizza for dinner. Our last meal in Italy :( feeling a little bit sad. I have really enjoyed every part of it. The food, the scenery but most of all the people. They are mostly always willing to help and are very friendly. Though I am not so keen on being mistaken for Americano quite as often as we were. Just about everyone has a relative in Australia somewhere that they like to tell you about.
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The next morning we had a couple of hours to kill so we checked out the main shopping area which was very upmarket and the clothing looked pretty expensive.
Back to the hotel to pick up our bags and off we went for the train. We are not really that well set for train travel as we have far too much heavy luggage. We had to change trains from the italian to the French train at the border which meant hiking from one platform to the other, rushing because the italian train was late. It's all a bit stressful humping heavy bags and making sure I haven't lost Dyl who is always 20 steps behind. My most used words have been c'mon Dilliamo ( Dylan's italian name) pronto pronto! He has been pretty good and he usually responds but there have been some moments.
The train ride was along the coast through Monaco and the French Riviera. Lots of wealth to be seen in the big white boats and very scenic. We got to Nice and had to find our taxi to get to the rental car which proved a little tricky but eventually was sorted. Our car was supposed to be a Renault Scenic. When we got there it was a funny little people mover VW thing called a Caddy. It actually has 8 seats which was a bit of a pain cos the back seat when folded takes up a fair chunk of luggage space, but we managed and Dave liked to drive it. The French drivers seem to be so much better than the crazy Italians. There aren't very many English speakers here and I am struggling to switch off my meagre Italian and change it to my even more meagre French. I keep saying grazie instead of merci.
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After we finally got the car we realised it was 3 pm. Aden was about to gnaw his own hand off so we found a grat little French bistro which specialised in mussels......yummo
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Sorry for the lack of pics in this post but I have been an able to upload any from the camera. The internet here is only just and last night we had no internet. I will up load anyway.

Posted by The Hitchies 13:24 Archived in Italy Tagged sanremo Comments (2)

Nice to Provence

The most beautiful place to stay!

all seasons in one day 30 °C

We travelled/ up into the hills behind Nice to get to our accommodation. We just have one night here as I didn't think we would have time to find the next place before dark. This is a resort and has a large pool and spa complex, so we went for a swim and relaxed after our day travelling. On the way there we had noticed a large lake called lac de Saint Cassein with paddle boats and water sports equipment. So the next morning we decided to stop in for a swim. We hired a paddle boat with a slide attached to the top so you can slide into the water and two standup paddle boards. The water is crystal clear and not too cold. I decided it was time I had a go at the paddle board which I am sure was quite a sight. Talk about jelly legs, eventually got up and only fell in a couple of times. I am sure if I had another half hour I would have mastered it. By the afternoon I could feel many muscles in my legs which had been well hidden for many years. Luckily there are no photos to document this feat of balance. :) It was fun and refreshing way to spend a couple of hours but we needed to get going if we wanted to get to Provence.
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We drove along the freeway for a while before we turned off and travelled through some charming villages, stopping at Lourmarin for lunch and exploring some of the delightful shops and grabbing some supplies for dinner. We found a shop which show cased a range of regional produce from the Luberon area. Conveniently, rose seems to be the main wine produced around here and we purchased a couple of bottles as well as a few other delights.
Ordering from french menus is harder than I expected and I have actually found Italian menus much easier. We ended up with a delicious lunch and the waitress was very accommodating and organised something for Dylan as well.
Back in the car we headed towards the town of Apt and from there to our village accommodation in Saignon. The country here is particularly pretty with rocky outcrops of granite and winding roads through passes between valleys which had fields of grapes, fruit trees, particularly cherries, and beautiful lavender which was in full bloom. Just stunning!

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We reached the village which is perched very high up on a hill, Saignon has the most distinctive outline with its rock squared off by nature as if to look from afar like an impregnable castle. It acts as a signpost high above the town of Apt, hence perhaps the name Saignon, which comes from signum, Latin for ‘sign’.
After settling in and having a wine we went for a walk to check out the sunset from the rocky outcrop at the top. The light was perfect and I couldn't stop taking photos it is all so beautiful. Home to bed and ready to explore tomorrow.

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The enchanting village square in Saignon, our apartment was just to the left of this photo
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Dylan pretending to be the archer in the remains of the village wall
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the remains of the village defences, note the lavender fields belowlarge_1B54DD8F2219AC6817E88BDC107E8C6B.jpg
This was on the footpath outside our villa, delightful!
Today we decided to do a driving tour of the Luberon region from a guide book I found at the house and take a look at some of the other villages we could see across the valley from the top of the hill last night. It wasn't a great day as we had had a big storm and bucketing rain in the early morning. Oh well we only had one day to explore so bad luck. We headed off to inspect a few villages and take in the breathtaking scenery. The weather started to fine up and tummies started to grumble so we were on a mission to find lunch. After a few false starts we came across the market in the town we lunched in yesterday so decided to stop
After lunch we visited the Buaux fortress. This is a hilltop fort that has been occupied since the 13 century (the cave area also has artefacts from Middle Palaeolithic times) It is situated high on the cliffs that formed a natural fortress at the junction of two vital routes. It was also used by the Protestants as a refuge in the 16th century until Louis 14th dismantled it soon after. It is a pretty steep climb but the views into the valley are exceptional at the top. We didn't realise it was quite such a big walk and Dylan did very well in his trusty crocs over some very rough and steep terrain.
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Would love to spend more time here in Provence there is much to see and you could easily spend a week. There is never enough time!

Posted by The Hitchies 13:34 Archived in France Comments (2)

Saignon to Paris

From the little French village to the huge French village

all seasons in one day 24 °C

We travelled on the fast train from Avignon to Paris. This was interesting as the countryside whizzed by at a speed not seen on any train in Australia.
Hello Paris!
Busy would be the word that would best describe it! It was an assault on the senses after the last two days in the slow lane. We were very glad to have booked a driver. Now there are 5 of us we wont all fit in one cab, and public transport is out of the question with all of the luggage, so this is a much better way to go. Our driver Eric greeted us very warmly and was a bit of a crazy character (good crazy) so we immediately booked him to get back to the station on Thursday.
We settled into left bank apartment and then went out for a bit of a stroll, we are not far from Notre Dame cathederal so headed there for a look at the outside and then on the way back came across the 'love lock' bridge. This is a bridge in Paris with thousands of padlocks on EVERY available space. Apparently you lock a padlock on then throw the key in the Seine as a symbol of undying love. Part of the bridge collapsed recently because of the weight of the padlocks and they have to be culled regularly for this reason.

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We found some dinner, excessively expensive and not that great. Holly suggested that we should try some snails. Photos need no words. I didn't love them, but they were ok......then anything is ok if you put enough garlic, butter and parsley on it. Everyone tried them but we couldn't coax Dylan into it......too soft!

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We headed back to bed ready for a day exploring the sights. I would like to say we made an early start but sadly that isn't the case. We have been finding that we are not getting to bed till about 11 after late dinners and it is still light at about 10 pm. We decided to orient ourselves with a ride on the hop on hop off bus. which went around the main sights. The traffic in paris is chaotic and it takes a long time to get anywhere, so we decided to hop off at the Eiffel Tower. I had tried to make a booking to go up the tower a couple of months before we left to no avail. The queues were massive so we opted not to go up. We took some pics then back on the bus for some more sights.

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We decided that Dylan might like the museum of war. So after we found some lunch we headed there. It has a very extensive and impressive armoury from a range of eras from Roman to today. Very game of thrones! Dylan really enjoyed all of the stuff, particularly WWI &II. It was interesting seeing the war depicted from a French perspective instead of the English one we are used to.

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A bit of a walk back to the Eiffel Tower bus stop and then a packed and very slow bus ride home. Decided to sample some crepes for dinner, i just skipped the main course and went straight to the crepes suzette :). Hey I'm in Paris I can do what i like!
It was almost 10pm by the time we got home. Very weary but at least we had some internet so I could upload pics from camera and get some blog done.

Posted by The Hitchies 13:59 Archived in France Tagged paris snails Comments (0)

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