3 November 2010

We’re back from a mostly wet and rainy Italy and we LOVED it. In fact, we went on quite an exciting journey with definitely a good amount of excitement packed into just four days. But you know, we now live be the famous Mamma Mia motto:

“It’s an adventure Harry, it’s good for you”

(Do you think that this is not a famous quote? Do you not recognize it? Maybe you are not a proper ABBA fan than, because seasoned ABBA fans who, like us,  have seen the film many-a-times (for remedial purposes only of course) will know it. Anyway, I am digressing again, back to our holidays).

Adventure 1: Thursday

As usual, we left much later than anticipated. We had planned to leave in the morning, but thanks to my husbands work we were on the road mid-afternoon :), our car tank half filled with petrol. Since petrol is still not available everywhere and thus expensive, we decided to fill up in Italy. We made it to the border on a almost empty fuel tank, the car making funny grinding noises near the front tyres and we had a fancy assortment of warning lights brightening up the dashboard: One to tell us that one of the headlight bulbs had gone, one to tell us there was no water left to wash the windows, one to tell us there was something wrong with the brakes (this light comes on at random intervals, although our brakes work fine) and  the warning light to tell us that we were almost out of petrol. We did indeed make it through the Frejus tunnel which takes you right through from France to Italy, but we unfortunately zoomed past the first petrol station. We could not go back to it, the way the road was laid out did not allow for this… Needless to say, Rolf and I got just a bit tense in the car… Luckily we had had such a steep ascent up to the tunnel, we could now just roll down the hill for 13km to get to the next petrol station. There we filled up the 75l tank of our car with 77.3 litres of diesel and drove on much relieved. It did feel like a close call….

When we finally got near our holiday destination, it was pitch dark and when I booked this place, I had no idea how far up in the mountains of Piemont it would be, nor did I have any idea of how narrow and winding the roads would be…..U-bends galore and in parts the sides of the road had been eroded so if you were unlucky and came off the road, it was straight downhill. Ah, I wasn’t tired at all when finally arrived! Luckily I had brought enough food for about two days (there was not a single shop within miles) and we were just pleased to be there and have comfy beds and a quiet night.

The house we stayed in is a converted stable, with just a kitchen at ground level and two small bedrooms and a bathroom on the second floor. You had to take an outside staircase to get to the second floor and the whole place gave us a lovely Heidi feeling. Although it was freezing cold! We city dwellers are so used to central heating and all the other creature comforts that come with living in a flat. In our little holiday home, there was no heating upstairs, just a wood fired stove and -heater downstairs. But there was plenty of good quality fire wood stacked up outside. My man, who likes starting a manly fire any time of the day, was very pleased to be able to provide warmth for his family in our little shelter  :).

Adventure 2: Friday

We went out to buy some more food on Friday morning. I freaked a little when I saw the road we had taken the previous night in actual daylight, though….

Our adventure for the day was getting lost. Linus and I had gone for a hike and somehow the map was not really precise, or it was me holding it upside down, whatever, we ended up not knowing where we were. And it was about to get dark too. Although I had a feeling we should take a certain direction,  I wasn’t sure, suddenly everything looked the same. I just decided to ask people living in a house in the middle of nowhere. This was a good plan, because the man who opened the door asked us in straight away, we got introduced to his mother, his wife and auntie. He then put on his boots and drove us straight back to our holiday cottage. His very elderly mother was so sweet, she kept talking to me about …I don’t know what … and we all laughed a lot. I had a little chat with the kind man on the way home too. My Italian is not great, I do understand a bit, but I can only speak very, very, very badly! He did neither speak French nor German, just a bit of English, but we communicated in various tongues and with a lot of gesturing on the way home. (This felt like a deja-vu! Rolf and I had got lost in Italy before, when a friendly Italian man kindly drove us back from the middle of nowhere to our holiday home). All this while Lucy had been to a riding lesson with our hosts daughter. Totally unexpected for her, but very much appreciated by Lucy, it made her day.

Isn't it great to get lost in such a beautiful area?

Adventure 3: Saturday

It was pouring with rain! The children spent a glorious morning riding goats, chasing chickens, feeding pigs and playing in the hay with our host’s daughter. In the afternoon we went to the overcast but dry Riviera, to a small resort called Spotorno, which was teaming with ghosts, witches and all other sorts of halloweeny creatures, adults and children alike, who went through the town centre tricking and treating in all the shops. We also spent a lot of time on the beach. The sea was so wild, I didn’t expect that at all at the Riviera, but at the same time turquois in colour, which  was a very beautiful sight. The kids had a lot fun finding stuff on the beach. We had taken along our hosts daughter to this outing, the kids just got on so well.

Spotorno beach

How to get wet most effectively without entering the water

Lightsabre practice in the surf

Lovin' the sand

Adventure 4: Sunday

We found a scorpion in the shower basin. The kids spent the days with the goats and in the haystack… Rolf and I went walking to the house of the nice man who had driven us home on Friday to leave some biscuits as a thank you. It turned out that this house was only about a ten minute walk from where we stayed if you took the route via the woods. By road, it took about 15 minutes in the car… I know now why they were laughing so much on Friday :). Lucy had another riding lesson on Sunday afternoon. We were lucky to get there, because we got stuck in the mud with our car. Entirely my fault, because I told Rolf, who was reversing out of the drive, to keep left instead of right. I sometimes confuse left and right… In this instance, I didn’t though. It all happened because I was looking backwards and my left was Rolf’s right. Anyway, we had our crafty host with us in the car, it all happened on her grounds, so she just hopped onto a tractor and pulled us out. We were on the road with about a 15 minute delay…

Adventure 5: Monday

We left to go home on Monday. The children wanted to stay, they loved the simple country life, I did too, but I realized a lot of things about how I like to live during our short stay there. Our adventure on Monday was that we went to a restaurant that was called Al Bue Grasso. Had I had more knowledge of the Italian language, I would have known straight away that this was NOT the place to eat for a vegetarian, but I have no clue, do I? It was amazing, I have never seen such copious amounts of beef being served with such little green to go with it. And there was no waste, all parts of beef were served from a huge trolley: from foot to tongue, everything a carnivorous individual might desire. They did a good spaghetti pomodoro for me though :). This and the pudding were the only courses I could actually eat out of a 5 course dinner…. And then we drove home. As soon as we left the tunnel on the French side of the Alps, the sun was shining, no more rain. There were no lights illuminating our dashboard, our tank was full, my hero had changed the faulty bulb and filled up the water for the window washer system. The light that kept telling us there was something wrong with the brake had decided to stay off too. There was only the grinding noise, but we got home safely and having it checked tomorrow.

It is  good to be home again!  … For more French adventures 🙂


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