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ITALY | Thursday, 2 November 2017 | Views [481]


Buongiorno, Bonjour, Buenos Dias


So, three countries in less than a week.  We encountered Italian fog, French blustery winds and Spanish sunshine.


Sadly for Penny her few days in Venice was mostly overcast and at times, foggy, but at least it didn't rain and hopefully she enjoyed her trip to celebrate her special birthday.  We met them in St Marks Square, trying to spot them in the hoards of people was a little tricky but we agreed to meet under the clock tower which made it a little easier.  On our bus journey into the centre we noticed there were three cruise ships in which would account for the many tourists.  Weather wise, this was the best day of the time in the city as the sun did come out in the afternoon.  We spent most of the day wondering around the labyrinth of alleyways admiring the ornate balconies and small bridges.  At times we managed to escape the tourists and found the “real Venice” occupied mostly by locals and less busy.


We had some lunch in a small square overlooked by one of the many churches and chapels scattered throughout this magnificent city.  We took advantage of the Menu del Dia and all had either some form of pasta or risotto.  We stood for  a photo shoot on the famous Rialto Bridge and who should we bump into but Susi and Thomas.  Thomas kindly took a photo of us all together.


Our second day which was actually Penny’s birthday, we toured Doges Palace and San Marco Basilica with a guide, all courtesy of Penny and Dennis - thank you.  The huge palace took a good couple of hours to get around and the tour guide told us its history and seemed quite fixated on the torture cells and the prisoners, quite gruesome at times.  We followed the path the prisoners would have taken from their cells across the Bridge of Sighs to meet their unfortunate destiny.  It was difficult not to get neck ache marvelling at the magnificent ceilings with their intricate paintings revealing their historic stories.  


We then visited the San Marco Basilica with the same guide who got us past all the crowds and we had a well needed sit down whilst she told us about the history of the Basilica and points of interest around the building, especially the breath taking ceiling ornately painted with gold leaf and with the lights on was stunning.  


In the afternoon we took a boat trip on the Grand Canal to get a view of the city from the water. In the evening we had a lovely meal in a restaurant Penny and Dennis went to on their first visit to Venice over 30 years ago.  Penny tried her first Aperol Spritz and we celebrated with a small birthday cake at the end of the meal.


For me though the highlight of the day was having a nightcap in St Marks Square with the cafe’s own small group of musicians serenading us and of course, they played Happy Birthday.  It was quite enchanting and a lovely end to the evening. Finally it was time to say Ciao to Penny and Dennis as they headed back to their hotel and us to the bus stop to take us back to the campsite.  We were moving on tomorrow and they were flying home.


in the morning, a quick shop at the nearby Lidl before starting our journey towards Spain.   On this occasion we took the non toll road for our first destination, Peschiera del Garda in Italy.  The fog remained with us for most of the journey and we arrived in cloud and cool temperatures.  The campsite was surprisingly full and we had to unhook the car and trailer and just about squeezed the rig into our spot.  We were originally going to stay for a couple of nights, but given the weather moved on the following day.


Another long day driving, 6 hours in total of which I managed 2 hours to break the journey up for John and a cost of 86 Euros on the tolls!!  We chose the toll road, as the non tolls took 3 times longer according to Satbav,   But hey, we managed to get as far as Frejus in the south of France and the sun was shining. We deserved a day off from the driving and spent the following day cycling into Frejus.  What we didn’t take into consideration was the amount of traffic on the roads, lack of cycle routes into the town and poor signage.  So after a rather scary 30 minutes cycle ride trying to avoid not being knocked off our bikes by an inconsiderate French driver (homme van blanc), we finally reached the town where I think the whole of France was visiting.  It was very busy given the time of year and also gusts of wind up to 43 mph to cope with.  We sat on the glorious beach and soaked up the sun.  No wonder the south of France is so popular, a golden sandy beach and warm Mediterranean sea.  We cycled along the promenade and around the marina and then up to the old town which was deserted apart from a popular restaurant.  We then cycled back down to the sea front and on to St Raphael.  By now the winds had reached their peak and we were struggling to stay on our bikes and avoid running pedestrians over.  We treated ourselves to a couple of small beers in a beach front restaurant.  It was 6 Euros so not as expensive as we thought it would be.


Time to move on for yet another long drive, we drove on the road for 5.5 hours and stopped for the night in a small village close to the Spanish border called St jean Pia De Corta.  We had a choice of two campsites and chose the one nearest the motorway so we could get off again early.  What we didn’t anticipate was the road was closed as they were digging up the road,  With little warning and the French drivers honking their horns, John had to carefully reverse the rig back over a difficult road that had been dug out and avoid the big lumps of rock in the road.  Tense as it was, he did a bloody brilliant job.  We headed for the second campsite about a mile away, found a nice sunny spot, took up two pitches and didn’t need to unhook the car and trailer.  


Off bright and early, we had our longest drive yet, 313 miles in total.  We travelled on the Spanish toll road for a good 6 hours and hardly a lorry or car in sight.  When we got to the pay station we expected the cost to be close to 100 Euros and was pleasantly surprised to find that the cost was only 36 Euros.  We camped at Valencia Camper Park which was about 8 km north of Valencia.  By now the Spanish sun was hot and we took advantage of the small swimming pool on the site.  The water was cold though.  


Finally, the last leg of our journey to Los Madrilles near Cartagena.  Four hours left to drive, and we  didn’t take the toll road this time..  We passed through Alicante, Elche and Crevillente, all places we were familiar with.  The road went inland so we missed the joys of seeing all the skyscrapers of Benidorm (i actually felt sad not to see them, don’t know why).  We got to the campsite around lunchtime and ended up on the same pitch as we were on last time we were here.  Bit spooky don’t  you think. This is going to be our home now until next year.  The trailer has been stored down the road to give us more space and we have spent a week getting ourselves set up.  The van needed a good clean both inside and out.  I needed to find a good hairdresser, internet needed sorting out, maps and books to be purchased etc. etc.  The site has plenty going on, some we will join in such as a very good stretch exercise class a couple of times a week, line dancing (yeeha, for me but not John), singing groups, tennis and so on.  The highlight, as mentioned in previous blogs is the amazing pool.  Its like a warm bath, with built in Jacuzzi sections, we have been swimming every day.  We have been here a week today and we are feeling very relaxed, the sun has been shining non stop (long may it last) with temperatures up to 28 degrees.  Next week it is going to get a little cooler, 21 degrees, but we can live with that.  We have eaten all our meals outside and hardly been in the van at all.  The awning is up and its good to be able to sit out there late into the evening and read, or sit and cool down  when the sun is too hot.


So thats it up to date now, must go, I can feel a swim coming on.  


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