Well Done Pierre Gasly


Well deserved.

And what a boost for F1 with all the young guns up on the podium.

We need more races like this. Turned a typical Hamilton dominated parade into an exciting race.

Whoohoo !!!

Italian Adventure Part 8 – Hunt The Olive Tree


This was to be our last venture out before heading for home. As usual the weather forecast was mixed but, fingers crossed, we headed out. But, not before a couple of pictures taken from our hotel room.

Our target destination was the¬†¬†Olivenbaum, at Marciano down near the tip of the Sorrento peninsula. As far as we could determine this is a piece of “folk art” initiated and maintained by the local villagers.

The satnag took us out from our hotel, weaving through Vico Equense,  Montechiaro and Meta along  the usual route to Sorrento.

From here we headed out into the countryside, into unknown territory. Needless to say we were presented with many beautiful views, although there wasn’t always anywhere to safely pull over and get the camera out. We did get some pictures ……

and there is more ……

The church and cemetery were situated on, by far, the quietest road that we had driven during our stay in Italy.

OliveTree7
View from via Nastro d Oro, over a small gorge, towards Capri

The following picture, taken by Gerry, shows three rocky islands ….¬†The Sirenusas

OliveTree12
The Sirenusas – Gallo Lungo – Il Gallo Lungo, La Castelluccia & La Rotonda

So named as legend has it they were inhabited by sirens.  The most famous of whom were Parthenope, Leucosia, and Ligeia. One of them played the lyre, another sang, and another played the flute.

In more recent times the islands have been owned by Rudolph Nureyev, purchased in 1988. Following his death, they were purchased by  a local Sorrento hotelier.

According to Wikipedia: The property has been on and off the market for years, most recently a public listing of the three islands in 2011 was for US$268,000,000.

We never did find the Olive Tree. The satnag led us round in circles, telling us to turn when there wasn’t a turning. On one occasion we came across a narrow road/track, which might have taken us there but the road signs were confusing. Implying no vehicular access. Since there were no signs regarding the Olive Tree, we didn’t fancy hoofing it into the unknown.

Never mind, we were enjoying the views, the peace and quiet of the countryside. Well, peace for the most part. However, we were treated to a 21 gun salute. We had seen some signs for a military establishment and they were evidently practicing with their cannon. The puffs of smoke can just be seen in the following photo …

OliveTree11
Gun smoke ?

As I said this was our final day exploring the Sorrento Peninsula. Sadly, it was soon time to head back to the hotel and the inevitable suitcase packing.

Just time for one more shot of Vesuvius, across the bay from our hotel ….

OliveTree10
Mount Vesuvius – Viewed from Towers Hotel

So that is it, the end of our Italian Adventure.

Well not quite, our journey to the airport was nearly as complicated as driving to the hotel on day one. However, we made it to the airport, eventually found our way into the car rental compound and ultimately made our flight back to the UK and home. It was amazing how rush hour on the M25 seemed so tranquil, compared to the roads around Naples and Sorrento. And quiet, not on single toot of a car horn. And so few motor cycles.

 

 

 

 

Italian Adventure Part 4 – Spa Day


Typical, about as accurate as any British weather forecast, the local Italian forecast was for rain and thunderstorms today, 65% chance of precipitation. So far we have had a mix of blue skies, sunshine, and clouds. Yes there were a few specs of rain, but nothing that would have stopped us from doing that touristy thing. Because the forecast was so dire we had opted to stay at the hotel and for Gerry to visit the spa.

After breakfast we dropped in at the spa reception and booked Gerry in for a Hot Stone and full body/facial massage. Her session was booked for 14:00, which left us with a couple of hours to fill.

We went for a stroll  round the grounds and took a few external photos of the hotel.

Whilst standing down on the dock, we were accosted by a lady offering to take our photo. We gratefully accepted and then I  did the same for her. As we were chatting, I asked her where she was from.

Well, what a small world. Turns out she is from the other side of Waterlooville, where we live. Much of her family are scattered around roads close to our home. After a bit more chat we went our separate ways.

By the time we reached the pool Gerry decided it was warm enough to brave catching some rays by the pool.

Meanwhile, I was foolish / brave enough to test the arctic waters of the pool.

Towers Hotel - Pool
Towers Hotel – Pool

Bearing in mind this is an outdoor pool, unheated and we haven’t seen any real sun for a couple of days. Despite knowing this, I still went in. Although there weren’t any icebergs it certainly felt cold enough for them to put in an appearance.

To be honest, once I was in, it felt ok. And after a few lengths, I was so acclimitised, I was reluctant to get out. There is a shower room close to the pool which I made good use of. Back in dry clothes once again, we strolled along to the bar for tea and coffee before Gerry headed to to the spa for her hot rocks massage.

Castellammare15
Although no storms or rain the wind had picked up. These two guys had to walk backwards to carry the pictures or risk having them bent and broken by the wind.

Having escorted Gerry down to the spa reception and made sure she was checked in OK, I headed back to the bar for a spot of lunch. Tuna & Tomato in a Ciabatta roll accompanied by, yep you guessed it, a Nastro Azzurro.

Gerrys spa treatment lasted for just about an hour and by the time she caught up with me at the bar it was time for her to have a plate of fries and a Nastro Azzurro all to herself.

We then headed back to our room to finish of that second bottle of Sicilian Syrah.

Our room has windows looking both North and East which makes it a great vantage point for any nautical activities.

And to finish off for today here are a few photos from my phone.

Well that’s it. Going for dinner shortly as it is just after 20:00

Good night all.

Italian Adventure Part 3 – The Amalfi Coast Road


It blew a hooley last night and the industrial structure that is our hotel, has a number of features which shrieked and howled. Strangely, Gerry missed all of that but was awake for a full-blown thunderstorm, forked lightning, the works. Somehow I managed to sleep through the thunderstorm, even though I was awake every 90 minutes or so during the night.

All of the overnight weather had set us up for a fairly dull day, although it was probably for the best. Who wants to sit in a car being baked by bright  sunshine.

So, sat nav, camera, and water suitably prepared, we set out for Amalfi. Our route initially takes us towards Sorrento. Just brushing the outskirts but giving us some superb views…….

Lido Marinella - Meta
Lido Marinella – Meta

Coastal View Near Meta
Coastal View Near Meta

 

Then onto the Amalfi Coast Road proper. Everything you read about driving this route warns you about the narrowness of the roads and the tightness of the bends. Oh and lets not forget the huge vertical drops to the sea.

I’m not going to say that all those writings are wrong. They are not. What I will say is that you have to drive with due care and patience. The roads are tight but certainly wide enough for two vehicles. After all, even the coaches have to pass each other. Where it gets interesting is when you encounter a coach on one of the many hairpin bends. They usually sound their horns to let you know they are coming. The general etiquette is that you give way to them. Back up if necessary. Many of the bends also have mirrors set so you can see if anything is coming around those blind bends.

Remember, these guys are professional. They drive this route many times during the year and some, multiple times a day.

Back to our journey, we were soon approaching Positano ….

Positano
Positano – Amalfi Coast

Positano
Positano – Amalfi Coast

As we started our descent into Positano we came to a halt and didn’t move for around 15 minutes. Quite a few passengers bailed out of their cars and coaches and walked down. We saw some re-board their coaches later on. I’m just glad it wasn’t a clear blue sky, sunny day.

Queuing Outside Positano
Just one of the inevitable queues on the road leading down into Positano

Coastal Road - Near Positano
You can just see part of the Coastal Road above the archway- Near Positano

We didn’t stop in Positano although it looked a great place to explore. Although this isn’t peak season there were people everywhere. The big issue with the coastal towns in this region is that they are the victims of their popularity. Hence the nose to tail traffic and a distinct lack of parking spaces. What it would be like in July and August I can only imagine.

So, onwards and upwards out of Positano, and back onto the coastal road. We were soon approaching Amalfi. The descent into Amalfi was, as expected, a bit of a stop, go experience although quicker than Positano.

There is some parking down near the harbour but, as expected, by the time we arrived all spaces had been taken.

Harbour - Amalfi
Harbour and Coach Park – Amalfi

In the above photo yo can see the coastal road leaving Amalfi. Just round the corner, out of sight, is an amazing underground car park on multi levels. The park has been hewn out of the rock. One oddity is the fact that they do not allow passengers to enter the park, only the driver. The good news is that there is a tunnel from the car park down to the Amalfi town centre which avoids the road route. And there are very good toilettes as part of the complex.

Moles - Amalfi
Moles, Harbour Walls – Amalfi

The end of the far harbour wall was absolutely swarming with members of the selfie brigade, selfie sticks to the fore.

Marina - Amalfi
Marina – Amalfi

Beach - Amalfi
Beach – Amalfi

Walking down from the car park, we decided to stop for a spot of lunch before exploring Amalfi. Pretty much the first eatery we came upon was the Gran Caffe Tea Rooms. We both had salads washed down with a couple of bottles of Astro Azzurro. We might be suffering withdrawal symptoms when we get home.

Gran Caffe Tea Room - Amalfi
Gran Caffe Tea Room – Amalfi

Energy levels suitably replenished we set out to walk the town. Like any seaside town there are many souvenir shops selling lots of typical mediterranean ceramics, a huge variety of fancy bottles containing limoncello and bags adorned with the Amalfi name.

Amalfi
Square – Amalfi

Also around every corner there are lemons for sale. The locally grown lemons are huge and are just begging to be paired up  with equally huge gin and tonics.

Coastal Residence - Amalfi
Coastal Residence – Amalfi

While Gerry was browsing the tourist shops I opted for a trip to the end of the harbour wall….

View From End Of Harbour Wall - Amalfi
View From End Of Harbour Wall – Amalfi

Amalfi - Viewed From Harbour Wall
Amalfi – Viewed From Harbour Wall

Duomo di Amalfi
Duomo di Amalfi – Saint Andrew’s Cathedral

 

Amalfi
Amalfi Showing The Coast Road to Atrani

Hotel - Amalfi
Convento Di’Amalfi Grand Hotel – Amalfi

Beach - Amalfi
Beach – Amalfi

Overlooking Cliffs - Amalfi
Overlooking Cliffs – Amalfi

I Want The Yellow Villa - Amalfi
I Want The Yellow Villa – Amalfi

Boat - Amalfi
Boat – Amalfi

Amalfi is a maze of narrow streets hiding restaurants, pizzeria, fish and chip shops as well as the usual tourist tat…..

Amalfi Mural
The Protontino Wine Cellar

Gerry had a look at really nice leather handbag. The seller tried to tell us that the 180 euros he wanted was equivalent to 70 pounds. Not the actual 158 pounds that it truly converts to.

We are not as green as we are cabbage looking.

Amalfi Narrows
Amalfi Narrows

The streets get narrower and narrower as you head to the back of the town.

Narrow Steps - Amalfi
Narrow Steps – Amalfi

The Duomo di Amalfi is very  popular, not least because of the many steps on which one can rest up from all the touring.

Duomo di Amalfi
Duomo di Amalfi

After touring Amalfi it was time to head back to the hotel before darkness descended. Google maps decided, since I hadn’t programmed any of the Amalfi coastal towns as vias, that our route would take us up over the mountains via Ravello. This route is almost as¬†entertaining as the Amalfi Coast Road, perhaps more so, as the clouds moved in and we were driving up the mountain, in torrential rain, along narrow roads with innumerable hairpin bends. At times we were driving in fog like conditions but after nearly an hour we descended to the coast again and were soon back at the hotel.

Unfortunately no photos. When there was a view it was lashing down with rain.

I would recommend anyone to try the Amalfi Coast Road. Just be patient and be prepared for a little tension especially when you see how close the coaches are to each other. Just don’t expect it to be like in the movies, cruising along in an open topped sports car, wind in your hair and open roads with no traffic. Not in these modern times.

It is still an enjoyable journey, we had a super day.

 

 

Italian Adventure Part 1 – Home to the Hotel


Not much sleep Monday night. Tried to get some shuteye but failed and eventually, 02:00 Tuesday morning, it was time to load the car and head off to the airport. The journey was uneventful apart from the small issue of the entry to the M23 from the M25 being closed.

Seems every time I go to the airport, these days, some part of the roads system is totally closed. Be it the A3, North or South bound, doesn’t seem to matter. Or the M25, so many opportunities to cause chaos. Anyhow, we managed to navigate around the road closure and were soon at the airport. At 04:00, it was a tad cool, actually just 3 degC and as usual there is a guy wandering around in shorts and t-shirt. I guess he was an optimist.

Our next hurdle was check-in / baggage drop-off. Having nailed the online check-in Easyjet are now trialling passenger self-service baggage drop-off terminals. Basically they have done away with a friendly person and replaced them with a computerised set of scales.

This was a painful, financially, experience. It turns out that our holiday deal, via Secret Escapes, only included 15kg of hold luggage. I missed that little nugget in the Secret Escapes paperwork. I already knew we were one or two kilos over our allowance after doing due diligence and checking Easyjets allowances on-line. 23kg it says.¬† We had 24kg. Our new friendly (sic) computerised scales cheerfully informed us that we were 9kg over our limit and that we would need to pay a charge of ¬£10 / kg. 90¬† jaw dropping quid. “Is that the total for the return journey ?” I enquired of a real human. “No, just the one way” she replied. She was a bit more helpful and suggested that once we were in Italy we go on-line and amend our booking, pay for extra baggage or another hold bag. That way we would pay a significantly lower fee.

Suitably chastened, educated, and therefore wiser, we coughed up and proceeded through security to go and find a cup of tea while we awaited our departure gates announcement. When said gate was announced we made our way to the waiting area. There we discovered that we had to take a bus ride to the plane. I haven’t had to do that since the seventies. The ride took so long we are pretty sure that, although we were booked into the Gatwick North Terminal, we actually departed from the South. Either that or, as one wag quipped, we had travelled half way to Naples by road.

Another niggle with the boarding process was that we had paid for extra leg room and priority boarding and should have boarded first. Instead it was more like the January sales. Two coach loads of passengers arriving at the plane together and boarding from both ends at the same time. It was never going to end well. I know, we all have allocated seats but it is the principle and of course, the money.

The  plane took off pretty much on time, we had a smooth flight and arrived at Naples airport around 09:40. Even at that time of the morning Naples was significantly warmer than the UK.

Our next challenge was to find the car rental office. There is a courtesy shuttle bus, apparently driven by the grumpiest, near mute, guy imaginable. He efficiently navigated the 5 minute drive to the rental offfice. Still no happier, he started to unload the luggage, then just wandered off leaving the rest for his clients to sort out for themselves.

The car rental experience was much more pleasant. An upgrade from a Renault Twingo, to a Citroen C3 with more luggage space and most importantly, for me, more head room. Also, surprisingly, we only had to pay around 20% of the deposit we had been told was due. i.e. 300 euros as opposed to 1500 euros. The lady at the rental desk was very helpful, providing us with clear directions to escape the chaos around the airport, and get us on our way to the hotel.

The journey to the hotel was not as slick as it should have been. It started well, using my phone as the satnav. However we entered a tunnel, after about 15 minutes driving, and the GPS lost it’s bearings and couldn’t¬† reconnect. It took us a while to find a safe place to pull over and restart the navigation exercise. We were then taken round in a huge circle. Having been through each of two tunnels twice in each direction, we weren’t sure the app and GPS actually knew where we were. So, another stop and restart seemed to sort things out and we eventually arrived at the hotel.

The Towers hotel is in a superb location and we are really pleased with the room, which has fab views, across the Bay of Naples. Mount Vesuvius is visible directly through our window. We both enjoyed lunch sitting on the terrace with Vesuvius as a back drop …..

….. and after a brief walk along the shore line we returned to our room and crashed.

But not before I had taken a few snaps of the surrounding area …….

 

 

Annoyingly, the cold that I had just over a week ago, has decided to put in an encore appearance. So due to that, and the rather large cheeseburger and fries for lunch, we decided to bypass dinner and headed for beddy-byes.

Ready For The Off


So here we are, suitcase packed and ready to begin our Italian adventure.

packed

That’s the good news. The bad is that we will have to set out at silly o’clock in the morning. Our flight is due to take off at 06:00 which means leaving the house at around 02:00, and that is my normal time for hitting the hay. So not much sleep tonight.

The flight gets into to Naples around 09:30, which means we will have the best part of  the day to really get our holiday started.

We are staying at the Towers Hotel Stabiae Sorrento Coast

towers

The hotel is a converted cement works ….

towers2

….. hence the fairly blocky, industrial appearance.

However, its position right on the beach and the superb views across the Bay of Naples more that make up for the external appearance.

The hotel is in the perfect location as a base to explore the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The great adventure starts tomorrow. I’ll let you know how our holiday progresses over the next 10 days….

 

 

Naples, Sorrento, Capri, the Amalfi Coast


In a few days my wife and I will be heading to Italy and the bay of Naples. We will be based at a hotel about half way between Naples and Sorrento. As this is our first time to this region it will be something of an adventure.

Obviously we plan to do the major sites, like Vesuvius, Pompeii (and/or Herculaneum). A day trip up and down the Amalfi Coast road, probably a day trip to the island of Capri as well as the Sorrento peninsula and Sorrento itself.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions with regard to any other “must see’s” or “must do’s” .

We will be out there for 10 days and have a hire car so can get around a bit.

We are not museum buffs, nor are we into adventure sports. We do like nice scenery and gentle walks, interspersed with a bit of food and wine.

So come on, hit me with your best shots. What are the less known about, perhaps less touristy things we should be considering ?

Family


After two nights in Troyes, the end of our holiday was looming on the horizon. But we still had two nights left. No dramatic sight seeing planned for this part of our holiday, we were going to visit family.

Gerry’s brother, Doug, has lived in France for many years and now lives near Arras. We hadn’t managed to get together for quite a few years. He works for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. ¬†Our timing for this visit, probably could have been better. With many Somme 100 remembrance ceremonies taking place on the 1st July he was very busy at work.

As we headed north from Troyes the weather gradually deteriorated, becoming overcast and persistently dull. The traffic also grew in density as we left the agricultural heartland behind and ¬†got nearer to the channel ports and channel tunnel. The amount of traffic was also probably influenced by our proximity to Paris, the centre of the French spiders web road system. Still, we made better time than anticipated and, as a result, there was nobody home when we arrived. They had all headed to Lille to collect Lynn’s¬†dad from the bus station. He had travelled down from Merseyside, by bus, leaving around midnight the night before. Now that is a trip I would not like to make. My days of long distance coach travel are long gone.

As an aside, nearly 30 years ago, Gerry and I did a coach based holiday picked out of our local paper. We travelled from Havant to Trento in Italy. The coach drivers took us on a torturous route through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. They seemed intent on avoiding all motorways and the journey took nearly 24 hours. I recall that, at the time, I had a theory that the drivers were pocketing the toll money hence no real motorway driving. Although the coach had seats that reclined they were not all that comfortable and, for someone who is over six feet tall, not much leg room. So I do have some experience of coach travel, and it’s not something I want to repeat.

So, back to France. We ¬†visited the nearby supermarket to pick up some alcoholic supplies to lubricate the imminent reunion. We hadn’t been back at Doug’s for very long when Andrew, Doug’s son, arrived and ushered us inside where we¬†were soon drinking tea and coffee.

Later, Doug and co. arrived and there was much fat chewing and chin wagging. Lots to catch up on. As we all sat around the table for dinner the alcohol we had purchased was put to good use and it’s lubricity investigated.

The following day Doug had to work, returning home at lunchtime to pick up Brian, the father-in-law, for an orientation briefing related to the Somme 100 activities. Both Brian and Doug were going to be guides on the bus’ bringing guests into the remembrance sites.

Note: The above photos are from a previous visit in 2009. The weather was much nicer back then. Access during last week was severely restricted due to the Somme 100 activities.

The weather outside was awful, ranging from mizzle to full pelt rainstorms. We took the opportunity to relax, happy to not be moving for a while. Apart from a short walk,¬†to the local school, to pick up ¬†Doug’s grand-daughter, Maddie.

Another super evening meal (thanks Lynn), with more wine, beer and lots of conversation. Then it was heads down to sleep.

Doug and Brian had a very early start the next morning. Up at four and picked up at five to begin their “guiding”. We had a much more leisurely start and while Gerry and Lynn took Maddie to school I loaded the car ready for our journey to the tunnel.

These pictures give you some idea of the drismal nature of our departure day. It matched the sad feelings we were feeling to be leaving family. It had been nice to catch up and of course we have all promised to not leave it so long until our next gathering. After all we are all just a couple of hours from the tunnel, on either side of the channel. No excuses.

So Gerry and I bid farewell to Lynn, having said our farewells to Andrew earlier in the morning, and to Doug and Brian the night before.

Au Revoir !!