Note Number 20…A Glimpse of Madeira and the High Life…

The Hotel Taken from the pool and Reid’s Tea Terrace 

We have just returned from an amazing ten-day holiday at Reid’s Hotel in Funchal Madeira. It was a holiday of a lifetime, (apologies for the cliché).
We should have been travelling to Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, but after a busy 2016 I just couldn’t face the lengthy flights, but, we wanted a little bit of winter sun so ended up in Madeira, spending about the same money as a two-month vacation in the Southern Hemisphere! However, I’m not sorry.

The hotel did not disappoint and the room with a promised view of the sea, was spacious, with a desk and two armchairs as well as an enormous bed. A luxury marble bathroom and separate WC. I loved it! Reid’s has been around for 125 years and the atmosphere is unique. Photographs of rich and famous people who have visited in the past are kept in glass cases in a large walk-through lounge which joins the old hotel to the new bit (you can’t tell the difference between the two).

Room with a View…and early morning sun…

The gardens at Reid’s are tropical and lush with paths and seating areas throughout. I cannot emphasise the beauty of the place enough. The staff at the hotel were friendly and rushed about attending to our every need and appeared to enjoy their job. I don’t generally like being waited on, but they made me feel as though it was no trouble at all and that they genuinely wanted to help make our holiday the best it could be. On the tables by the pool there were little buzzers that you could use to call a waiter.

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The Buzzer or Call Button…

It took me about half an hour to pluck up the courage to ring it one morning, as it seemed such a decadent thing to do, but when the smiley waitress arrived, happy to serve me with a cocktail and a sandwich all my concerns vanished. Other guests were similar to us. I had expected a lot of stuck up toffs but on the whole they were ordinary people enjoying spending their well-earned money. There were of course a few whose opinions and demands could be heard above all others. But, as one waiter told us, ‘We learn to be just friendly enough and we respond to how we are treated, if the person doesn’t smile or speak well to us, then we serve them but we don’t make good conversation. We leave them alone and give them the bare minimum.’ Most of the older staff have been with Reid’s for many years, over twenty at least, which has to be a good sign. Although the hotel was originally family owned, it is now in the hands of Belmond (new branding for Orient Express) but, essentially, the atmosphere remains that of a family run business. That is probably the secret of its success. A grand hotel which feels like home from home.

A little slide show for you….

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We didn’t manage to take a basket sledge because by the time we had reached the top of the hill on the cable car it was too late…another time perhaps.

The breakfast was the best spread I have ever seen in a hotel, there was literally everything you can imagine, the choice was unlimited…fresh fruit, cereals, bread, croissants, pastries, cheese, ham, smoked salmon and other fish, plus bacon, eggs, vodka and champagne, etc., there was literally everything you could wish for.

Amazing Breakfast…and…

Amazing Desserts…and…

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Amazing Tea on Reid’s Tea Terrace… (oh and we also had scones).  By the way, the little round brown cake at the back with an almond on the top I believe is a Madeira Cake…they don’t have anything like the pale lemon flavoured cake that we know as Madeira…how about that? 

I have been thoroughly spoilt and The Man was responsible. We did attend the fitness centre (him everyday and me for seven out of the ten) and tried only to eat breakfast and lunch or breakfast and dinner never the three. On two occasions we ate breakfast and then a Reid’s tea. We walked from the hotel to Câmara De Lobos, about 7.5k…we got a taxi back then I went swimming and The Man went to the gym. Câmara De Lobos, was a place often visited by Churchill where he sat and painted the little fishing village. He also stayed regularly at Reid’s with Clementine, I believe.

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Câmara De Lobos – Churchill’s Favourite Village on Madeira (so we’re led to believe…)

Random Snippets about Madeira…

It’s an island in the Atlantic approximately 1000k South of Portugal and close to 600k from the North African coast.

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Over the Sea and Far Away…Madeira sits in the Atlantic…

 It has several micro climates so you cannot easily predict the weather but it is warm most of the time. We experienced between 13 and 23 degrees for our ten-day stay. Rain in the morning and sun in the afternoon or vice versa. Five of our days were sunshine all the way.
Bananas grow everywhere.

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Bananas – taken through the mini bus window…hence the reflection

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Sugar Cane also grows in Madeira

Espada (pronounced ESHPAADA)is the local fish and it is not pretty . Apparently it looks a bit like an ugly eel. We were told that it is line fished from more than 2000 metres deep in the sea around Madeira and that when it is pulled up the pressure causes the fish to burst so that all the innards come out negating the requirement to gut and clean the thing…sounds disgusting doesn’t it? You eat it pan-fried with banana, if you want to have it in the traditional way.

Limpet Rice served with Espada and Banana…

The poncha drink is local rum, honey and lemon… (It tasted a bit medicinal I think)
Tea at Reid’s hotel is a must for any tourist.

img_3245Poncha…as drunk by me…

Madeira has the highest cliff in Europe and you can stand at the top of it and look down through a glass platform.

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It’s a Long Way Down…

There are Levada (irrigation channnels) walks that can be taken but we didn’t go on this occasion, but if you want to see more look here

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Somewhere in this photo is a Levada Walk…I know because our guide Christina said so…

A replica of Christopher Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria is moored in Funchal and does daily trips out to sea…not sure it’s entirely propelled by sails now though….

Painted Doors in Old Funchal Town….

There was so much to see and do in Madeira, we merely covered a few of them. A day trip out took us to the North side of the island and the weather was very changeable from wild, windy, misty and wet…to sunny and bright, although the sea remained monstrous.

Changeable on the North Coast…these photos were taken less than ten minutes apart.

One of very few places on the list for a return visit…Have you been?

A little bit of this…a little bit of that…

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I should have written this blog about Venice a while ago…in the middle of May in fact, but as so often happens life and other business gets in the way. My feet hardly touched the ground after our Venice trip as I only had one day at home in Petritoli before rushing back to England for the final show of the Hartley Williamson School of Dance. A North Devon Dancing school that I began over twenty-five years ago and which has been running ever since. When I left the wonderful Maralyn carried on without me and then Davina, a former pupil of ours worked first with Maralyn and carried on to run it on her own for a few years. It was an emotional day with lots of flowers, ballet shoes, tutus and of course tears. But all good things come to an end and we hope all the little ballerinas will find somewhere else to follow their dreams.

Before I go back to Venice I must mention something I forgot to tell you about on our road trip from England to Italy. We went to visit the Bayeux tapestry, a truly magnificent sight and well worth a detour if you’re in the vicinity. They have the whole tapestry behind glass and you follow the story via a recording on a personal handset. I remembered so well being taught in school about this famous tapestry and the killing of Harold with an arrow through the eye. It was amazing to see the REAL thing. Sadly, the weather was atrocious that day so we didn’t really get to see the town at it’s best but I can say the bit we did see made us want to go back one day. Sorry no photos…like I said it was raining, but I have put a link for the museum. Click here

Now to Venice! If you have never been to Venice then it should be on your list of places to go. I have now visited twice and will be happy to return again. You need to get out of the main tourist areas and into the back streets which twist and turn and weave their way over tiny bridges crossing the many small canals that network their way through the town. It’s a place where people live normal lives and go to work. So many tourists, it seems only go to St Marks Square, drink a coffee at one of the famous cafes and queue for ages to go up the Campanile, into the Doge’s Palace or the Basilica…all of these things are great to do but there is so much more to Venice. Also, eating or staying anywhere near this popular area will cost a whole lot more than off the beaten track. It’s the most wonderful city. We travelled this time by train and when you arrive at the station and walk out of the main entrance the first thing you see, apart from a mass of people, is the Grand Canal.

There are no cars, taxis or buses…but there are, of course, plenty of boats! Everything is done by boat so all the services, the police, the ambulances etc., and all the tradesmen travel by boat everywhere. It’s like nowhere else I have ever been. We took the water bus (Vaporetto), you can buy a weekly season ticket for 60 euro which is worth it because otherwise each trip costs €7.50. As the bus is the quickest way to get around then you soon get your money’s worth.The Grand Canal is also serviced by Traghetti, these just cross from one side to the other. They are the same shape as a gondola but have two boatmen on board. It costs around €2 per person.

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A Tragetto

I have never been on a gondola and really don’t wish to. There are so many of them now there are often gondola traffic jams. I think maybe, a hundred years ago it would have been a romantic and inexpensive thing to do but nowadays, it very much a tourist attraction, and I did see more than one gondolier on his smart phone…enough said.

We walked a lot in Venice, mostly around museums. I liked the museum of Modern Art (The Ca Pesaro) which housed some famous works, it gave me a bit of a buzz to see Rodin’s The Thinker and actually touch it, when I had seen it so many times in books and like the Bayeux Tapestry I had been taught about it at school. There were a few modern pieces I couldn’t ‘get’ at all, one that was deliberately unfinished and another which was just a slab of granite on the floor…I’m sure I should understand this stuff but it does nothing for me. I suppose at the very least I’m discussing these pieces!

We did do a couple of touristy things, we took a guided tour to Murano and Burano and I would recommend this to anyone thinking of visiting these two islands. For one thing, if you get a good guide, which we did, then you will learn a great deal about Venice on the boat trips and secondly you will get to visit the glass factory in Murano and watch the masters at work. It was fascinating to watch a ball of hot shapelessness turn into a delicate rearing pony. Most of the glass work on sale at the factory was out of our price range, one beautiful sculpture in the style of Picasso was €28,000 – hey ho…not for us I fear.

Burano is known it’s quaint multicoloured houses and  for it’s lace making which, is sadly now on the decline. There are only a couple of ladies still stitching, it seems the younger generation have no interest in carrying on the tradition. Shame.

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The gorgeous tablecloths and napkins were however, more in our price range so I bought a set plus a table runner. Very pretty. We were told by our guide that the houses were painted different colours so that when the fishermen came home on a friday night, went to the bars and got very drunk they would be able to find their way back to the right house by virtue of which colour it was painted!

 

We took a trip to The Lido and on the boat trip across The Lagoon, (La Laguna) we saw two ships that could not have been more different. One was a beautiful three masted, tall ship, an Italian training ship I believe. It was tied up alongside the Arsenale, it was a sight that draws one quickly back into history and nostalgic for times past. Just after we had passed it by, I turned to look on the other side of our boat and there, I saw it, an absolute monstrosity. A cruise ship looking like a block of flats on the water. It was so big and ugly I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was being guided in by two tugs boats, one pulling from the bow and the other tied to the stern, presumably to keep it on course. It passed us and headed in towards Venice and as I watched it turn the bulk of the ship dwarfed the buildings in St Mark’s Square, in fact the ship blocked our view. No wonder there have been many complaints from the residents of Venice about these cruise ships visiting.

 

The Man decided it would be a good idea to walk the length of the Lido…actually we managed about two thirds of it. I’ve been walking a great deal lately and keep my eye on the ‘steps app’ which told us at the end of the day that we had walked over 23,000 steps!

I LOVED a particular place on The Lido (even though it had cars, buses and trucks on it) We had walked through the main town and out through a bit of an industrial area along the footpath until the footpath no longer existed and then we were walking on the road. I was in the mood for turning around but then we arrived at Malamocco. A gem of a place, away from all the tourists, clean, pretty and a bit like a film set. We found a trattoria for lunch which was busy with local people and a few visitors like us. The waiter was a short older chap with a quick and friendly manner, ‘we got mussels, we got fried fish, we got pasta with fish sauce…’ he actually spoke in Italian though…It was a take it or leave it menu, which we love, so we took it, along with a quarter carafe of white wine for me and a litre of fizzy water for The Man.

At the end of our walk we came upon the Film Festival venue, an ugly looking place…why do the powers that be have to do that? Why could they not have built something classical and attractive instead of a concrete monster? Perhaps I’m a bad judge of architecture…but it wasn’t to my taste.

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The food in Venice was great but expensive even though we ate outside the main tourist areas. I think one can expect to pay between €30 and €50 a head for a decent meal. It was our wedding anniversary one evening, so we felt that splashing out was perfectly acceptable. We arrived at A La Vecia Cavana by accident and it turned out to be one of the best places to eat according to our guide book, (which was ten years old – sorry). I think the reason we liked the restaurant so much was not just the excellent food but the service, our waiter made us feel important and he did all the right things to make sure our meal was the best experience it could be. The walls of the restaurant were covered in photos, some famous people and some family and they had a great piano player which added the final romantic touch to the evening. My mother would have loved it, all the old familiar songs.

One of my sons has an Italian girlfriend and her sister works in a bar in the San Polo district of Venice and after many wrong turnings we eventually found it. It was packed with young local people, not a tourist in sight and we enjoyed a drink for a normal price, a glass of Prosecco and a glass of Crodino for only 5 euro. It was supposedly called La Poppa, but that was one of the problems we had when looking for it, the name was in the process of being changed either from or to La Poppa but no-one seemed very sure. Typically Italian.

I took hundreds of photos of Venice and I would love to upload them all but that could be boring so I’ll leave you with these…

 

We’re now in Puglia so I’ll let you know about this area of Italy in my next post which I hope won’t be too long away.

Back to Le Marche…

If I’m honest, I wasn’t ready to return to Italy and our townhouse in Petritoli, not quite – I was still in honeymoon mode with Dorset and Bridport. But, once in the car and heading towards Poole to get the ferry to Cherbourg I became preoccupied with the ‘road trip’ and excited about travelling. I love a good road trip with the dog and The Man – we are all good travelling companions… something that The Man’s daughters could never quite understand… ‘you mean you’re going to spend five days in the car with…HIM? How could you do that?’ But, we rub along fine and always have plenty to talk about and when not talking we listen to audio books.

The ferry left Poole at 8.30 a.m. and we had to be there by 7.30 because of the dog, we decided to leave our little Dorset hamlet on Wednesday evening and stay the night at the Thistle Hotel, only a few minutes from the port. The weather was atrocious…rain falling in biblical proportions – very unpleasant. It was difficult to appreciate the close proximity of the hotel to the water until, also biblically, the sky cleared and sailing boats came into view… however, it only lasted long enough to walk the dog before bedtime.

Jpeg is a star traveller. She never complains and as long as she has her own bed, food and a chance to smell the local area, pee accordingly, then she will settle down anywhere, as long as we are there too. We have only been on Le Shuttle with her previously and the ferry was going to take 5 hours (should have been 4 but the French dock workers at Cherbourg were on strike so…). She was so good in the car. I gave her a herbal tablet to calm her down, (should have taken one myself) and thank goodness, they didn’t enforce the use of the muzzle…all that effort getting her used to it and then we didn’t need it. You’re allowed to visit your dog half way across the channel, which I did and taking advice from other experienced ferrying dog owners, I only crept up to look into the car without her seeing me. She was fine, sitting up looking out of the back window of the car across the blue, flat calm sea to the horizon. We were the last car parked, facing aft (get the nautical term?) and there was a wide opening through which she could see. I think she had a better view than we did.

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Leaving the ferry behind us for it’s return trip to England we headed for St Vaast La Hoogue – twinned with Bridport, which is of course our hometown in the UK at the moment. It was a pretty little place with plenty of still busy fishing boats, the main catch being oysters. We wandered around the town in the French sunshine and from one lookout point it was possible to see the age old fortifications of Vauban along the coast, erected in the 1690s.

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Utah Beach

The Man wanted to visit the Normandy Beaches, I was interested but knew little about D-day except for scant history lessons many *coughs loudly* years ago.

There are many D-day attractions (that doesn’t seem quite the right word) to visit but for The Man it was a must to go the Pegasus Bridge the sight of the first landings by glider and parachute. The museum was full of original artifacts, photographs and so much information I couldn’t take it all in. A film was shown in English which made things clearer for me. I came away at the end of two days knowing so much more about the occupation and the liberation of France. It was of course both moving and upsetting. All those young lives lost and what for?

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It broke my heart to read the headstones at the cemetery in Ranville just a few miles from the Pegasus Bridge. English, French, German, Irish, Canadians and more, the majority of them under twenty-five.

Because we had taken the early ferry we had plenty of time to wander down the coast before arriving at our first night’s accommodation in Courseulle Sur Mer where we stayed for two nights. A fabulous spacious apartment, all brand new it seemed. We had to get there before 8pm because everything was locked up at eight…unusual for a hotel/accommodation until you realise it was actually an old people’s home. Well, an establishment for the retired, Domitys La Plage de Nacre – check it out. Great food taken in the town square at La Pecherie – so good we ate there two nights running. We love French food.

Next stop was Cahors a 770 kilometre drive – we listened to one of our audio books, The Elephant to Hollywood, written and read by Michael Caine. We can recommend it – loved his voice and his manner of speaking, he even laughed at some of the stuff he’d written. We felt, after several hundred kilometres, that he had been travelling in the car with us in the back seat. He’s now my best friend.

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We arrived just after six and as it had been a long drive in dreadful weather, we thought we would eat in the restaurant attached to the hotel Terminus. It is a wonderful art deco building with furnishings and décor to suit. We should have guessed that it was not going to be an average meal when the barman turned out to be a sommelier, who’d written a book, with his son, (a chef) about local wines.

It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten, but the bill for food was twice that of the hotel room! I had a half bottle of Sancere with the meal and The Man had the best quality sparkling water, (he doesn’t drink alcohol you see).

We slept well that night which was just as well because the next hotel room in Carcassonne was not quite what we expected…

Approaching the medieval city of Carcassonne is the most amazing sight… from a distance that is. It appears in the midst of the green valley rising up above the trees, a Disneylike castle with turrets, arrow slits, high walls and well…really quite magical.

The satnav took us down some very narrow streets to the door of our ‘hotel’. It was outside the old city walls, but only a short distance for us to walk and discover the enchanted city, the situation was the best and only good thing about this accommodation.
First we had to unpack, take the dog for a quick look around and settle her down while we had lunch. We parked and carried our bags up the four flights of winding dark stairs into a garret apartment which smelled of drains – dirty ones at that. Not a good start.

Lunch was wonderful though, in a busy French Taverna serving Cassoulet – excellent. Fully satisfied we began our walk into the fairy-tale town and anticipate the best – always a mistake. The wind was blowing like a giant’s parp in a drainpipe, we could barely stand up, but we made it up the hill and in through the main gate, to discover that the outside of the castle is most definitely the best thing about it. Once inside the streets are full of swag shops, restaurants and little else. There was a torture museum which I cannot comment on because we didn’t go in. Street after street looking exactly the same. We searched for a tea shop selling fancy French pastries but couldn’t find anything so ended up in a restaurant having a cup of tea and apple tart with ice-cream (a dessert). There are only fifty permanent residents inside this town, according to the man in the only shop we entered where we bought a teapot…we like teapots.

 

The accommodation, Residence Saint Simon, in Carcassonne was truly dreadful and The Man has entered a review on Booking.com accordingly, but it’s still in moderation a week after writing it so I suspect it has been blocked by the owner.

The apartment was advertised with ‘toiletries supplied’ above is the sum total of those toiletries. Not even a bar of soap. Oh and the fridge had a welcome pack of stuff that were leftovers from the last visitors! 🙂

 

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Next stop, San Remo and we drove there via the Camargue. I tried to photograph the famous white horses but whenever there were plenty of them grazing I didn’t have my camera at the ready so you’ll have to make do with a couple in the distance. We only saw a few black bulls, also famous in the area, but we did see what looked like several rice fields and on investigation, discovered that they do indeed grow rice in the Camargue. We took a detour through Arles hoping to get a glimpse of the famous bridge painted by, among others, Van Gough, but we hated the town, the traffic and gave up looking for the bridge pretty quickly and drove on to Aigues Mortes where we picked up a coffee in the pretty square. A medieval walled town that we would definitely visit again when we have more time.

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Square in Aigues Mortes

San Remo was fantastic! We loved the place and it was 27degrees, sunny and friendly. Our apartment was superb, central, clean, modern and equipped with everything we could need for a one- night stay. The owner, Alessandro, could not have been more helpful and welcoming. He certainly knew how to treat a paying guest. We can recommend Colombo Apartments in Piazza Colombo, San Remo.

As usual the dog behaved impeccably, as mentioned before, she is the perfect traveller. Her only problem is little white poodles which, when she sees them, turn her from the placid fun loving dog into a teeth bared, growling monster (I exaggerate of course). I leave you to imagine what our evening stroll by the port in San Remo was like as every other dog was a white ball of fluff either tucked under the arm, in a handbag or prancing along the pavement in a taunting fashion…

We said goodbye to San Remo and Alessandro and set about getting back to Petritoli on the last leg of our journey. We only stopped to empty ourselves and the dog and take on more water, coffee and fuel – it was another 700k drive.

Happy to be back on her own turf, Jpeg rushed immediately out of the back door to chase the local cats as though she had never been away.

I hope you enjoy reading my blog – I certainly enjoy writing it.  You may like to know that I have published a collection of short stories, The Cherry Tree and Other Stories, available here from Amazon.co.uk

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Spot the Tomato…

Spot the Tomato!

Spot the Tomato!

At the back of our house is a little bit of waste ground that nobody bothers about so The Man decided he would make it a project and set about improving the look of it. He made terraces using some wooden beams taken from the roof when we made a roof terrace and arranged a wine press ( an old one that we don’t use) in an artistic way, threw in a couple of green vintage wine demijohns (even more artistic) – put down some paving and gravel. The Man generally made a rather good job of it and proudly announces to everyone, ‘I did all this without spending hardly any money, only hard labour and all the materials are recycled. I only spent €10 on screws!’

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I was in charge of filling the beds so I bought lots of rosemary plants, lavender, sage and other herbs. Then I decided to put in a couple of tomato plants. Yeah what a good idea. I thought I’d bought those cherry ones and looked forward to lots of little red jewels to put on our salad.

Everyone grows tomatoes here without any problem. I watered and fed them and they grew like triffids…amazing! They grew huge and are taking over the whole of the area but they are devoid of tomatoes – or are they? I have now spotted one or two but they are the buffalo variety – shock horror – where are my dainty little gems? Sadly they are taking a long time to get to anything like the right size for picking and as for going red…hmm – I think I’ll be making a lot of green tomato chutney this autumn.

Spotted one tomato...

Spotted! One tomato…

I had also put in some strawberry plants which did quite well and look as though they’re spreading well so next year there should be a better crop – if only I can stop the cat and dog using that particular area as their toilet. Not sure if it improves the taste of the strawberries as I was rather put off trying them…

On a brighter note, my flowers have done extremely well this year and I’m very proud of my cascading petunias, a wonderful burst of colour – aren’t I clever?

Petunia you adorable lady, well done!

Petunia – you adorable lady, well done!

And – I hope I don’t speak too soon – I have six oranges on my little tree, with a bit of luck they’ll be ready for Christmas!

Oranges...(or greens as they are at the moment)

Oranges…(or greens as they are at the moment)

Gubbio for R&R…

Our Hotel in front of the main square

Our Hotel in front of the main square

The Man and I were feeling a tad fed up so we thought we would spend a couple of nights in one of our favourite Italian towns – Gubbio. If you remember we visited there last year and were pretty impressed and promised that we would return. We had hoped to go back in June 2014 but it didn’t happen so this June (2015), finding ourselves in need of a little R&R we toddled off in the VW Polo just after lunch on a rather miserable Wednesday last week. Jpeg and Mickey (the dog and the cat respectively – you should all know them by now) were given strict instructions to behave themselves while we were away, Jpeg was left in charge – it was her turn. A kind neighbour was going to pop in several times over the two days to deal with food and exercise etc.,

Oh the freedom of the open road and no responsibilities – for a short while anyway – it recharges the batteries like nothing else can. By the time we arrived the clouds had cleared away revealing blue skies and a warm evening.

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The Man Relaxing with a cuppa after a two and a half hour drive – By the way, I did the driving!

Our choice of hotel was the Relais Ducale – same as last time but a better room than before – a suite no less and with a the private terrace with stunning view. If you’re going to stay in a hotel for a couple of nights for a break then I think it’s a good idea to go for the best.

View from Terrace and Me!

View from Terrace and Me!

The first evening we went to the Taverno Del Lupo restaurant, we’d visited it before and found the ambience pleasing, if a little old fashioned and the food excellent. We were not disappointed for our second visit. The lamb was as good as ever.

Taverna del Lupo

During the day on Thursday we took in the town, it doesn’t take long – beautiful architecture and The Man has a fascination with the doors – which meant I had to take lots of ‘door photos’ with my iPhone as The Man doesn’t have a camera and has an old fashioned brick for a mobile – which by the way he never carries on him!

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A selection of Doors – Interesting – maybe

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Beautiful little Alleyway with Flower pot in the centre

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The view from the main piazza looking down over the town and into the distance.

Gubbio has a Funivia – a cable way is the direct translation but one could expect a cable car or chair lift. What this is actually is a cage which holds two people and maybe a child but you have to stand up. We watched the ‘cages’ coming down and round and there seemed no time at all to get on or off. We agreed to give it a miss this time and save it for the next. I’m not good on those sorts of things but know that I must do it sometime. I blamed the windy weather this time, not the sort of thing to do in a force 10. (Sorry no photo but you can google it to see one!)

Roman Theatre

Roman Theatre

Our second night found us wandering around and leaving the city walls for a look at the Roman theatre. There’s not much of it left but enough to imagine a few Roman actors strutting their stuff.

On our way back up to the town we came across a restaurant we’d not seen before – it was the Officina dei Sapori (Workshop of Flavours although I prefer to translate it as the Flavour Garage). It was a real find. We were treated well, shown our seats and immediately given a glass of sparkling rosé and the menu card, which reminded me of an old telephone numbers pad we had in leather when I was a kid. You run your finger down the index and flip up the course you wanted to see – interesting.

Restaurant

Restaurant

Menu Card

Menu Card

We are spoilt for local restaurants back in Petritoli but this had just that something different. Modern décor, unusual menu, good food and excellent service. Three courses and wine (which was organic) for a total of 67 euro. Wonderful – we’ll be visiting there again! Although not many people were there when we arrived at an early 7.30pm by the time we left they were queuing for tables.

On Friday morning we made our way back to Petritoli but made a stop in Jesi something The Man had wanted to do for a long while. I’ll blog about that next week but here’s a photo for a taster.

Jesi - Anyone know the name of the square?

Jesi – Anyone know the name of the square?

Creating, Cooking and a little Confession…

This morning I was determined to get on with writing. I’m part way through two online courses and I need to GET ON with both of them. One is memoir writing which I’m really enjoying but it tends fill me with nostalgia so I have to be in the mood.

The other course is for Creative Writing and the module I’m working on right now involves writing the synopsis for a novel and character studies for four of the main characters in the book, ‘piece of cake’ I hear you say well…I’ve got about as far as the title.

writing

I was also hoping to have been at Swanwick this week in Derbyshire but circumstances did not allow it. I was sulking this morning and day dreaming about being there and wondering what delights I was missing.

I sat and looked at the blank computer screen for about five minutes and knew I wasn’t going to write a single thing so I decided instead to cook. I made a banana cake and then launched into making my own pasta tagliatelle – the way Roberto demonstrated back in July.

Getting Ready

Getting Ready

I gathered all the ingredients together, flour, egg, oil, vino cotto. Took out my pasta board and rolling pin inherited from an American lady a couple of years ago. I don’t know where she got it from but today was its first outing, I hauled from it’s hiding place and put it to use.

 

Flour, egg, oil, vino cotto

Flour, egg, oil, vino cotto

 

I did everything exactly as I remember Roberto showing us. I mixed with my fingers and kneaded with love and emotion. My wrists ached and my mind wandered as boredom struck after only five minutes. I carried on, even though my carpal tunnel pain started up. The mixture was not doing what it was supposed to. It remained more like a cricket ball than a dough ball. Despite that, I thought I would have a go at rolling it out but it was dry and reluctant to stretch or roll out any bigger than a tea plate.

 

 

Rejected Pasta

Reluctantly, I threw it to one side and began again.

Now, here’s where the confession comes in. I made another lot but this time I mixed it in the Kenwood food processor (embarrassing admission) but it worked a treat! I had to roll it out by hand of course, to a paper thin translucent state, and cut it up and that was done without the aid of a machine – except for the rolling pin. This time it was entirely successful!

Perfectly Rolled Out

Perfectly Rolled Out

Looking just Like Roberto's

Looking just Like Roberto’s

 

tagliatelle

I wasn’t sure how long to cook it but I guessed about 5 minutes. I made a sauce of onion, mushroom, pancetta and wine with chilli and a small amount of cream added at the end of cooking. The verdict? Scrumptious.

Finished Dish served with Salad

Finished Dish served with Salad

It was easy to make the pasta when I used the machine and why put myself through the pain when the end result was so much better?

GBTasing

The Man was thoroughly approving and has requested that more should be made tomorrow!

Dining, Dancing, Doting Nonna…..

Viareggio

Viareggio in the Evening Sun

Long time no blog. That’s because Olivespastavino has been travelling – a lot!

In the middle of March we drove up to the North of Italy, first to Viareggio inTuscany, then on to Apricale in Liguria and finally a visit to Gubbio in Umbria. It was fabulous. We absolutely loved each place and plan to visit Gubbio again in June, specifically the Relais Ducale. Another Blog post with more info to follow next week.

Apricale

Apricale Piazza

Gubbio

Gubbio Hotel Relais Ducale

At the very end of March I jumped on a flight to the UK to meet up with my lovely daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, they live in New York so this was an opportunity to meet up. Sadly they were visiting the UK because of bereavement on my son-in-law’s side of the family.

The weather was fabulous and despite a sickness bug (for them not me) we managed to have a wonderful time. A visit to Hampton Court Palace Gardens was the highlight. A truly English experience. Spring flowers, shrubs, trees, foot paths and all beside the river Thames.

flowershcp

Spring Flowers in Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Wide Pathways and Beautiful Trees Hampton Court Palace Gardens

Wide Pathways and Beautiful Trees Hampton Court Palace Gardens

It really is truly wonderful being a grandmother, Nonna in Italian.  I love it! Of course I have got the most beautiful granddaughter in the whole world…who hasn’t? Every moment spent with her is precious, she lives so far away.

Nonna and Grandchild

Nonna and Grandchild

I returned to Italy for just one week and then went off again. This time to Northern Ireland for a grand dinner and knees up…splendid do, The Man polished up quite well for this and he was a lot better than the dog at selfies!

3photo

From Belfast we travelled over to Bristol where again the sun shone. After visiting Cardiff for family business The Man and I went our separate ways for a few days, him to London and I stayed in Bristol where I suddenly got the fitness bug!

My friend Jan took me to the gym, I don’t often like them but this one was rather lovely…Bristol Health and Fitness I did ten minutes on the bike, ten minutes on the running machine and then five minutes on a machine for toning biceps and triceps, it was a bit like riding a bicycle with my arms. Think I only covered a few metres though. We then had a swim, me in the slow lane and Jan in the fast. I never was any good at swimming.

This is Jan not me!

This is Jan not me!

Jan gave me some of her old gym clothing and I invested in a good sports bra – very necessary! The very next day I borrowed a pair of trainers and I went for a run, yes a RUN – well a walk with a bit of jogging thrown in for good measure. It took me half an hour, up the road and round the park.  I felt very proud of myself.

Back in Italy I am determined to carry on what I have started but so far the bra has only had one outing and I’ve yet to buy the running shoes. BUT – today I collected a registration form from the local gym in Valmir. Not quite up to the Bannatyne standard but what the heck. Watch this space.

Hope you all had a good Easter, our Sunday lunch was taken at Parco Galeano again this year, 33 euro for a meal of several delicious courses, wine, coffee and liqueurs thrown in! No wonder I need the gym!

Easter Sunday Lunch

Easter Sunday Lunch

 

easterlunch2

Thanks for the photos Ivo!