Note Number 39…Home and Away…

Jpeg in the shade of an olive tree

Jpeg back in her home country…I actually think she prefers England…but who knows? 

We returned to the place in Italy where we lived for eight years and it was a strange experience. Full of mixed emotions and a short journey of discovery about the impossibility of turning back the clock. We had a wonderful time when we lived there. We loved the weather and made good friends, but folks move on and things change. For four weeks, we stayed in a lovely house in Montevidon Combatte, about 4 kilometres away from Petritoli, our Italian ‘home town’. We were meant to be on holiday but it never felt like that to me. It was as if I still lived there. The consequence of which meant that I couln’t be bothered to go sightseeing – in fact I couldn’t be bothered to do anything which is not only silly it was a waste of time. I must admit I did enjoy lazing in the sun by the pool

We had a fabulous pool and the surrounding Marche countryside was as lovely as ever. 

I tried, unsuccessfully, to write. I managed to produce four poems whilst staying near Lucca in the apartment on my own with the dog. The Man cycled from Rimini to Pisa with his mates from More Adventure … but after that short period of time, the muse disappeared – stage left.

Now, we are home in Dorset, the weather on Thursday was beautiful and welcoming after our long drive back. We stayed in two different places this time on our return journey. The first stop was Asti where we had a brilliant apartment, close to the centre, with secure parking and it was seriously dog friendly. Fabio (the owner) was most welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us and Jpeg, which went over her head of course. She travels quite well but after six hours in the back of the car she’s had enough. We do stop every now and then for short breaks, not just for the dog to stretch her legs but for us too – and to change drivers.

Our excellent accommodation in Asti

Asti did not grab me, there was no ‘wow’ factor to it, except for the enormous car-park in the centre, the biggest town centre car park I have ever seen. It is used for the annual Palio (horse race). I didn’t realise they had one so something I must read up on. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the car-park justice…but it was a whopper!

Asti Central Car Park

An average meal was taken at the Tartufo D’Oro and the man overcharged us… we paid for someone else’s pizza and bottle of water as well as our own food. Should have checked the bill more carefully GB! We paid cash so no chance of a refund. Anyway, I think I’m at the end of the line with Italian food. I love it, but the menu does not vary from place to place…I don’t care if I never see another slice of prociutto crudo (Parma ham perhaps to you), accompanied by formaggio (cheese) and melon…for at least ten years.

Next stop was Bourges, (which I kept calling Bruges, much to The Man’s amusement)…
I am in love…

i love bourges

We arrived somewhat harassed as the trip from Asti took much longer that we expected with traffic hold-ups etc., fortunately we had started early in the morning (09.45) so got to our accommodation before dark. I had chosen the hotel Chatueau De Lazenay because the room had a little kitchenette which would allow me to cook. Sadly, it was lacking in utensils of any kind and although Eric, at reception said we could ring down for anything we wanted and they would bring it up. I couldn’t be bothered. My enthusiasm for cooking up a delicious meal flew out of the window to join the aforementioned muse.

The best thing about the hotel was the situation. It was beside a beautiful lake with a path surrounding it for walking, running and cycling of 6k. (Actually, I’m not sure about the cycling). I took the dog out as the light began to fade and she had a wonderful walk, as did I. Following her supper, she gave a big sigh as she finally got into her bed and realised she was out of the car…at least for the time being.  She is so good and always relaxes fully in any B&B, hotel room or apartment that we rent, allowing us to go out and eat without any fuss.

The lake and the pathway and Jpeg (she’s not too keen on the water but was fascinated by the birdlife) 

We took a taxi into town for an extortionate €20 to the restaurant Gargouille….  A great meal was had, French cuisine is always excellent and it was a welcome change from Italian. I had decided to embark on #soberoctober so no wine or champagne for me on this trip but I did have a delicious glass of lemonade. The Man had vegetable soup, steak, and lemon meringue pie. I had fish and chips followed by pannacotta with bourbon biscuits and forest fruits, served in a kilner jar. No photos I’m afraid. I became irrationally embarrassed at the thought of photographing my food with my Iphone…but I did photograph the drinks!

soberoctober

I cannot wait to go back to Bourges next year when we plan a longer trip around France. I want to explore this beautiful town and all it has to offer. We are in fact, going to take lessons to improve our French beyond O’ level standard…at the moment, whenever I open my mouth to speak French, Italian comes out!

A little taste of Bourges…

Italy, France, Food for Thought…

Dijon

Dijon

Olivespastavino and The Man went on a road trip. From Petritoli to England – ‘twas fun indeed! We left town at 07.30 hours (note my log like tone) on Friday 3rd July and on the first day drove all the way to Dijon in France. Sensibly we had invested in a Garmin SatNav – it worked well and the computerised Italian and French pronunciation was hilarious and kept us entertained during the many kilometres. I had packed sandwiches and drinks so that we didn’t have to stop for a meal on the way.

We did 11 ½ hours of driving which The Man and I shared – I usually do most of the driving when we go anywhere but 11 ½ hours would have been ridiculous. The Man and I very rarely have a cross word and this doesn’t change when we’re in the car – which is a good thing when you’re travelling over 2000 kilometres. We are good travelling companions.

When I drive he talks about the countryside we pass through. I know a lot of it is probably BS but honestly, it keeps me entertained and his knowledge of European history is pretty good so I learn a great deal about the first and second world wars as we travel. The problem is I don’t retain the information and can’t make notes with my hands on the wheel.

When The Man drives, I talk about how much writing I’m going to do over the next few weeks, all my ideas and how I’m going to get my novel finished by the end of August. He smiles and makes encouraging comments, but he knows I won’t do nearly as much as I say. He is my greatest fan and a good editor but he doesn’t push me hard enough.

Anyway, back to the journey. Of we went, up the A14 Autostrada, no traffic jams – not even as we skirted around Bologna – on we sped round Milan, through the Montblanc tunnel and into France then wending our way through beautiful countryside and eventually – ‘you have arrived at your destination’ said the SatNav.

The first night was spent in Aparthotel L’Urbaneva in Dijon. Secure parking, close to the centre, lovely hosts and an excellent room. We showered quickly and walked into town to find somewhere for supper. We passed by a few places which were too full and ended up in the Central Place restaurant, where we enjoyed fabulous French cuisine washed down with a rosé wine from the region.

Menu

Menu

Rosé Wine

Rosé Wine

Of course one has to taste the mustard if one is in Dijon. This proved a little difficult at first because the shop was closed the evening we arrived and then – shock horror, it was closed in the morning too but we were relieved to see it opened at 10.30 a.m. How very French and sensible – not like Italy where they open at 8.30 and close at 12.30 for 3 or four hours.

Mustard Shop

Mustard Shop

Just a small selection of available mustards.

Just a small selection of available mustards.

When the shop eventually opened The Man tasted and enjoyed a bit of mustard (that is not a euphemism) – he particularly liked the rhubarb flavour. There was so much choice it was hard to make a decision so we stuck to what we knew – a small jar of whole grain for the enormous cost of 22 euro. ‘You’ll not be lathering that on in large dollops’ I told The Man, ‘you’re going to have to make it last!’

The Nice Man who Served us.

The Nice Man who Served us.

We said our farewells to the mustard man and by11 a.m. we were on the road again and heading for the small town of Brandeville, in the region of Lorraine, close to Verdun. We’d allowed ourselves plenty of time to get there and took a route away from the motorway through the massive fields and plains of Northern France. We passed through Domrémy-la-Pucelle, the birthplace of Joan of Arc and stopped to take a few photos. Unfortunately, the house and museum were closed but I managed to get a few shots and The Man filled me in with a few extra bits of the story (possibly invented) even though I know it well.

Joan of Arc's Birthplace

Joan of Arc’s Birthplace

At Brandeville we stayed with friends in their wonderful countryside, summer home. The village was very small and we learned that it was one of the first places to be occupied in WW1. Close to the border, the local men and the army tried to hold off the Germans but sadly they were taken by surprise – there were many fatalities, injuries and men taken as prisoners of war. Our hosts took us for a walk and we were able to pay our respects in the small military cemetery to those who lost their lives in August 1914 and later.

The clump of trees surround Brandeville Military Cemetery

The clump of trees surround Brandeville Military Cemetery

Brandeville Military Cemetery

Brandeville Military Cemetery

I loved Brandeville and the surrounding countryside and we plan to return.

The following morning we made our way to Verdun and the route we took passed many battle sites and destroyed villages. It wasn’t difficult to imagine the terrible fate of the French people during the First World War and what it must have been like for the civilians living and working in the area. It seems they lost everything.

Map showing the Battlefields of Verdun and other sites

Map showing the Battlefields of Verdun and other sites

We went to the Douaumont Ossuary, a grand memorial under which are held the bones of 130,000 unknown soldiers. In the grounds in front of the memorial are the graves of over 16,000 – you can read about it here.
A truly moving place. I could not believe that the official opening had been in 1932 and many heads of Europe and the World attended. It is unbelievable that seven years later Europe was at war again. How could that be?

The main tower of the Ossuary

The main tower of the Ossuary

We also visited the Trench of Bayonets
I felt humbled by the sight of the simple crosses, barbed wire and earth. The thought that men had died here, buried alive whilst ready to ‘go over the top’ bayonets fixed. The bayonets have now been removed, for what reason I do not know, but on this original postcard you can clearly see them. What a terrible thing war is.

Old Postcard of The Trench

Old Postcard of The Trench you can see the bayonets

http://www.worldwar1postcards.com/the-trench-of-bayonets.php
(you can read about the trench here)

Time was running out so a quick tour of Verdun was all we could manage (we plan to go back) we had lunch on the Quai de Londres (The London Wharf). It’s an area on the ‘left bank’ of the river Meuse which has many cafes, restaurants and shops…a place for the boating fraternity to pull up and stay for a few hours or days. A very pleasant lunch was taken.

Boats at the Wharf and pretty houses on the other bank

Boats at the Wharf and pretty houses on the other bank

Lunch at Verdun

Lunch in Verdun

We made our way to Arras having booked accommodation in La Cour des Grands  just outside the town. The hosts were welcoming and so helpful. There was no restaurant but they booked a meal for us at Amarine. The Man said he had the best fish and chips ever…must admit they looked good and didn’t resemble anything bought at the seaside fish and chip shops in England.

Fish and Chips?

Fish and Chips?

Naughty Pudding...I just had a spoonful...

The Man indulged in dessert…I just had a spoonful…

There was so much history to see in the Verdun area The Man and I plan another visit next year. In fact, we’re thinking of taking a six month or one year road trip, travelling around France, Spain, Italy and anywhere else the fancy takes us. Not sure I want to be that nomadic and I’m not sure what Jpeg and Mickey would think of it…

Gotta go…it’s up in the high 30’s here at the moment so need to get down to the beach for a cooling swim.

By the way, the first traffic jam we encountered on our road trip was when we hit England! The queue for the Dartford Tunnel was a mile long!

Colourful Hotel in Dijon (not ours) Such a fun picture I think.

Colourful Hotel in Dijon (not ours) Such a fun picture I think.