A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

and their crazy drivers!

sunny 32 °C

Another quick update. The kids have got a bit slack on the journal writing so I thought I would drop a word or two instead.

We are currently camping beside Lake Maggiore in north west Italy. We arrived here today after two beautiful days in Pisa and Florence. But first the drive over...

After our two nights in Frejus laying by the pool and basically recharging for our next leg we packed up and headed east. We bypassed the coast line opting instead to travel by motorway all the way over the Pisa. The French side of the border the motorways were fine - wide lanes, considerate (to a degree) drivers, but this all changed as soon as we hit Italy. The lanes narrowed considerably and the driving standards dropped a thousand degrees. I'm sure I aged at least 10 years on the journey over to Pisa and I was just the passenger. Hats off to Ali for the amazing job he did. It didn't help of course that the road was windy and there were tunnel after tunnel after tunnel to pass through. It was a horrendous journey but one we made unscathed.

We headed into Pisa, parked up in the massive carpark and followed the tourists into the city to view the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Bibliotheque and Cathederal. It was exceedingly hot, but another one of those WOW moments for the kids. The obliquatory tourist photo was taken 'leaning up' against the tower, before gelato and the tramp back to the RV and on our way to Florence (Firenze) for two days.

We only had directions for one campground (of which I remembered it's location from 18 years ago). Unfortunately the GPS took us through and round the city at peak hour. Once again Ali's driving skills rose to the fore and we arrived unscathed. The location was magnificient. Just along from the Piazzo Michaelangelo where we walked up to and watched the sun set over the city with views to the Ponte Vecchio, the Dumos and Old Town Hall. Breathtaking.

Tuesday was spent walking around the old part of Firenze. We all climbed the 467 stairs up the Dumos for magnificient views of the city. Designed by Brunelleschi in the 15th century it marked the beginning of the Renaissance period and his dome was something not seen since the Parthenon in Ancient Rome. After a day spent wandering we headed back for camp for a quick drink and freshen up before a wonderful dinner was had out at a restaurant located just behind the Piazzo Michaelangelo. Sublime! Afterward we wandered over to the Piazzo to view the city by night.

Today we packed up camp and headed out of the city (an easier route was found by following signs!) and up to Lake Maggiore, passing around Milano on our way. An afternoon swim in the lake, an early tea and many games of Boggle before retiring soon for the night.

Tomorrow we are off to Switzerland. The kids are looking forward to it as at least they'll get another stamp in their passport as Switzerland is not part of the EU. Things have definitely changed since I travelled and having to stop at each border crossing to get your passport stamped. No more.

Hope this finds you all well and will try and update again before we head to Malta next week. The plan for the RV in the next 7 days is to head into Switzerland for a couple of days before heading up to Neuschwanstein Castle and making our way back to Frankfurt.

We're all well and still loving life on the road.

Posted by richardson 13:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Two weeks down..

still 4 weeks to go

sunny

Thought I would write a word or two (though the kids are doing a fantastic job).

We've been on the road 2 weeks now, travelled some miles and seen a lot. According to Ellie it's 3 castles, 2 forts, 1 garden and lots of walking!

After landing in Frankfurt and picking up the RV (or Camping Car as the French call it) we made our way north up to Koblenz. The drive up the Rhine was amazing. So many castles line the valley and the barges travelling up and down the river are a site to see. We stayed two nights in Koblenz, making our way into the town for a day of sightseeing. Koblenz is situated where the Rhine and Mosel Rivers join. The kids even managed a swim in the Mosel River where our campsite was located.

On the Monday we packed up and heading over to Versaille passing through Luxemborg on the way. We ended up driving over 7 hours that day. The campground in Versaille was lovely and we stayed there four days. Two of the days we headed up to Paris via the train. The first day we went up the Eiffel Tower (the kids were pretty awestruck by the sight of the tower), and walked down the Champes Elysees viewing the Arc de Triomphe (though at 34 degrees we were too hot to climb up that).

The following day we heading to Chateau Versaille. An amazing Chateau. We spent hours wandering around with our headsets on listening to some wonderful commentary. We wandered the vast gardens as well and ended up hiring a row boat and rowing on the "Grand Canal". Once again it was mid 30s and rather a hot experience.

Paris awaited up the next day. We headed over to Notre Dame and were lucky enough to be in the Cathedral when a service started. The organ made a beautiful sound. After Notre Dame we went shopping (as you have to do in Paris!). Luckily for us it's sale time in Paris and a bargain or two were picked up - mainly for the kids I may add! We then wandered back down to the Sienne and jumped on a boat for a ride up and down the River.

Friday we headed up to Normandy and to our wonderful friends Duncan and Lucy's house (vacation house). It was Zack's 12th birthday on Saturday and I must say Lucy out did my past birthday efforts, having made a cake, organised an English Tea Party inviting the French neighbours over (though champagne was the drink of choice, not tea) and we even had a bonfire and fireworks to finish the night off. I think Zack will remember this birthday for quite a while. Sunday was spent just catching up and nattering most of the day.

Monday we started out trek south. We drove around 360kms that day and pulled up for the night near Chatreaoux. Tuesday was even more driving to reach our destination of Cenac.

Cenac was never on our list of places to go until we managed to end up bidding for a house there at the Wilston beach party back in February. I must say though Cenac is located in the Dodogne Valley which has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. (A rather bold statement I know). The area is just sublime and we spent two days there trying to fit as much in as possible. A week wouldn't even do the area justice. The highlight of our time there would definitely be the 9km kayak the four of us took down the Dodogne River. It was absolutely tranquil (though a little effort was required) and a great way to see the area.

After much washing, and repacking of the RV south we headed again. Unfortunately you should not rely too heavily of a Navman we found out as it took us on the most convoluted course possible ending up with Ellie being rather car sick and seeing the rest of the journey out in the front seat with me being relegated to the back with Zack. Once back on course we headed to Millau which is the world's longest and tallest viaduct. An amazing engineering masterpiece.

We stayed at Arles that night (a dive of a campsite) but a very old city we wandered around the next morning where we say probably one of the world's oldest stadiums (built 2000 years ago) that is still being used for bull fighting (but not the killing variety).

We then headed across to St Tropez and Frejus and after one dodgy campsite which we continued on from rather quickly have found ourselves in the hills outside Frejus spending two nights here just to unwind and spent some time by the pool.

I think I can say for all of us that we are having a ball. The kids are making there way through their school work (some more slowly than others!) and we're enjoying not having the idiot box to watch. Many a game of Boggle and Yahtzee have been played after dinner. We've found out that Ellie still has trouble with travel sickness but Zack can spend hours in the back reading or playing his PSP and not once complain. I've had a bit of a drive of the RV but most of those duties have been left up to Ali as he seems to be a lot more confident at it than me. We are even getting used to the rather hard beds though I do still end up whacking my arm if I try and turn over too much at night. We are all picking up the language though Ali is much more proficient at it than us and tend to leave most of it to him.

Our next stop is Firenze (Florence) via Piza tomorrow before making our way up to Lake Como, into Switzerland and back into Germany. We will then head over to Malta on the 23rd July to meet up with the rest of the UK family for a week of sun, boating and relaxing.

Posted by richardson 02:57 Archived in France Comments (0)

Kayaking on the Dodogne River

by Ellie

sunny

Thursday we went kayaking down the Dodogne River. We went 9kms. I was with mum and Zack was with dad. It was fun!

We got stuck in some rapids and I had to drag us out. After kayaking we went to some caves. There were remains there. We went out for tea at Domme. I had the tastiest chocolate mousse ever!

Posted by richardson 02:51 Archived in France Comments (0)

Castlenaud and the gardens

by Ellie

sunny

On Wednesday we drove to Castlenaud. We walked up the hill to get to the castle. The castle is from the time of the 12th century. In the 100 year war between England and France it changed hands 7 times.

We saw lots of trebuchets. One was being worked on by a man. We took a tour around the castle. It was very interesting. We went up the keep of the castle. There were lots of spiral staircases. There was a museum p the top. In it there were lots of suits of armour and swords. There was a rope going all the way from the bottom up to the top to transport cannonballs up and down.

After the castle we went to the gardens up the road a bit. They are beautiful. We had lunch there and we also found a maze. It was fun. Me and Zack played in it for a long time. We had a drink there and then we drove home.

Posted by richardson 02:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

Castlenaud

by Zack

sunny

Today I went to Chateau de Castlenaud. Castlenaud means new castle.

The Hundred Year war was fought between the French and the English and during this time Castlenaud changed hands seven times. At the end it was in the hands of the English.

There were Trebchets there. Trebuchets are weapons of war. They have a big arm and at one end there is a weight to move the arm and at the other end thee was a piece of leather tied to two ropes to hold the rock that it was firing. There was a total of four trebuchets in Castlenaud but only one of them belonged to the English. The other three were a part of the French assualt team to capture Castlenaud. One of the trebuchets was only a defense trebuchet, the other two were heavy attack trebuchets that could fire rocks that weighed over 60kgs over a distance of 200 metres.

I bought a toy trebuchet from a shop and it can fire a marble 4m.

At the end of the 100 year war the French pushed the English out of France.

Posted by richardson 02:35 Archived in France Comments (0)

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