A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Escapees

Amalfi coast-staying in Minori

This road is like the Great Ocean Rd on steroids! and you should see how buses juggle their way around roads about 10ft wide!

sunny 27 °C

Minori is our last destination on our Italian leg....
Its another 2 hour train trip down from Rome through incredible hills and stone villages....but not after a little drama back at the ranch...I couldn't find my passport as we packed up ready to get to the train....oh God, what a horrible feeling and in a rush as well...the whole gang chipped in and pulled all my stuff apart hoping to find the bloody thing...it seemed ridiculous that it wasnt there when i'd seen it the night before...anyway, we had to leave not knowing where it was and an awful feeling leave Rome on the train without it!....thank god, it was found when we got to Minori....damn thing slipped under a plastic bag inbetween the lining of my overhead bag=phew! but was rather upsetting and stressful to say the least- sorry to Clare,Mahony,Rob and lisa(caused a bit of angst I did!)
So we get to Naples and its bloody dirty,smelly,crowded and chaotic...we'd been told to expect that and not a place to hang around at all...so we got whisked away by a driver,Reno...Lisa booked him from Aust and fantastic to have that organised...Getting to amalfi from naples takes about an hour,depending on traffic and cost about 100 euro...easy for 5! and well worth every cent.
Minori is one of the smaller towns along the Amalfi coast...but really lovely and not quite as touristy as Positano of Amalfi itself...its also great cos its at sea level, unlike the rest of the towns that mostly seem to dangle of the edges of the Amalfi cliffs all the way around to Sorrento on the Bay of Naples- so we'd thoroughly recommend staying there cos you can actually swim in its beach...brown sand with small rocks and you can hire an umbrella/deckchair if you want.
As its our last week together!! yes, can you believe our trip is actually coming to an end this week!! we wanted to have a quiet week by the beach enjoying the Amalfi style of lliving....Jady ( Moys brother from Melb),Viv and their kids Miranda and Leo came over from their place in Calabria( they're living there for a few months) to have a week with us.

Things to do while you're on the Amalfi Coast- Beautiful azure ocean, brilliant seascape,white Italian villas carved into the cliffs,rocky backdrop of mountains behind- all simply gorgeous.
So take your choice of holiday things to do-
Eat, drink,Eat,coffee,drink,gelati,swim,shop,drink,walk,drink,run,eat,gelati,take a boat ride around to Capri and see the blue grotto or maybe take a BUS RIDE TO YOUR DEATH!!!!!!!!
There is only one road along the Amalfi coast- its about 4-5 metres across and less in some spots.It rises and descends around the cliffs to navigate its way from Salerno to Sorrento...a distance of only about 40kms but if you go in a bus it takes about 3 hours to get around. They have full size buses that travel in both directions...and often packed to standing room only. If you dont like heights,and dont like windy roads then whatever you do...dont do it...it could take years off your life and quite possibly take your life itself! so just imagine- 2 buses meeting on the top of a cliff on a hairpin turn,facing each other with no room for either bus to proceed. The driver has one hand on his mobile phone and chatting incessantly to his mates out the window.
All the traffic behind banks up....no where to go...so one bus backs up...yes, thats backs up so the oncoming one can scrape through any existing space left over the edge of the cliff. The wall edge is a tiny,rock wall approx 2 feet high and protecting you from a 600ft drop to your death in the beautiful Mediterranean ocean below! Oh my God, the most terrifying ride of my life!
Lucky for Campari and blood orange at Crystals ( the Gelati come Bar next to our place!) thats all I can say- well, that was the daily reward for suffering such agony!
We soon discovered that travellling by ferry was the only way to get around the Amalfi....and probably the way you're meant to...the road is only 50 years old....probably made for the odd donkey i reckon! still, they are incredibly relaxed drivers who do this everyday...and you have to hope they dont really want to die....and so probably do know what they're doing!
We hired a driver and spent a day exploring Pompeii ruins.....absolutely fantastic and highly recommended to get a personal guide ...cos its so big but really worth sharing the cost...then Francesco took us up to the very top of Mt Versuvious...rising an incredible 1km behind Pompeii. We got to the very top- not quite as hairy as the coast road, then you get to walk to the top on a track for about half hour....to see the crater and it was SMOKING!!! ssshhhheeeeshhh, could blow at any minute!! slightly unnerving to say the least- well, Jady,Viv,Mahony and Robyn walked the last hour or so....Clare,Lisa,Moy and kids enjoyed the cafe coffee and vino while the others sweated their way to the top!
Its a very impressive view up there!
It was a lovely week....very relaxing after 5 weeks on the go....Pompeii was such a treat too and incredible to witness. We even got to see some real skeletons that were preserved as they died during the eruption- quite a difficult thing to see really!
Robyn lost her wallet on that elusive bus....but looking back ...it could have been pickpocketed...they took her cash but luckily got it back complete with cards....thanks to the interpreting skills of Viv- cheers Viv!

So after a week there...we pack up our gear once again but this time to say goodbye to each other....
Lisa flying back to her mum and dads in Chester.
Moy and Mahony flying to Dublin for a week in ireland
Clare and Robyn flying to Greece for another 2 weeks.
Its been a fantasitic experience for us all....
we've seen so much!
and realise how lucky we've been to have had such a wonderful time.
Whats next ????

Posted by Escapees 13:57 Archived in Italy Tagged mt amalfi naples pompeii positano minori versuvius Comments (4)

When in Rome

Man, they drive like crazy people over there!

sunny 26 °C

So on we head from Florence down to Rome….a huge city bursting with life,ruins,people,noise,cars,vespas(!) and cobblestone roads everlywhere.
It takes about 1 ½ hours to get to Rome from Florence and a beautiful train ride down through the hills.We got ourselves taxied to Via Pesini…which is the tiny little cobblestoned st right next to the amazing Pantheon- what an address? A few steps to the most beautiful church that is still functioning as a church after 2000 years.Its quite beautiful with its enormous domed ceiling that features a 7ft hole across the top to allow light in ( and rain, but they thought of that and engineered the marble floor for special drainage!!!
Our appt was lovely but on the 4th floor, but thank god- it had a lift for aching pins!
The square around the Pantheon is so beautiful and busy as hell with buskers(fantastic lives music all day/night long), cafes,shops,fountain and what seems like zillions of people! A very happening place it is and great to be somewhere that doesn’t require much transport to get there.
A great version of the now infamous on/off bus is the Archeobus…that does a similar thing but around all the ruin sites..it took us around the Colosseum,Forum,Palantine Hill, up the Appian way (oldest Rome road where Sparticus and his 3000 marched)and onwards up to the Catacombs(miles of underground tunnels where they buried everyone- well, at least the dead ones!)
Mahony and I walked up past the Piazza Navona(with a stunning Bernini statue) up the Tiber(not the Kyber) right over the river to see St Peters basilica. After queueing for an hour or two we finally got into the church and what a church it is!??
Unbelievable and quite something to experience. Michaelangelos ‘Pieta’ to start with and then it just gets more incredible,opulent and downright overwhelming!
We did try and search for the entrance into the Sistine chapel..but of course, being Italy…nothing is signed anywhere and impossible to find without a map!! Nevermind, it was pretty much a stimulus overload as it was…on our way out we noticed a huge number of people in the St Peters square( which is round, by the way!) who were milling around anxiously waiting for the Pope to make his weekly appearance! Just as we walked by! Pretty good timing eh?
We all had a great time in Rome-
verdict….. a fantastic city with so much to see its hard to know where to start….shopping is fantastic but not perhaps as good as Florence…Restaurants wonderful but better if you stay away from the touristy bits…they’re always a bit xxxy and we learnt you can eat really well around Trevestere and the Jewish quarter( Clare,Mahony and I went for a walk one night and stumbled across a little gem called ‘Sora Ellas’ which is a fantastic little eatery on the mini island of Isola Tiberina between the 2 sides of the river just down from the main sights-) it must be good cos there were a heap of priests there hoeing into the local fare!
So much to see and you can walk the whole place( well, no room for cars and the ones on the road are bloody deadly,ripping around the place with little regard to any rules!!) but with all the cobblestones it can be pretty wearing on the joints….and once again, Moy takes a tumble….damn cobblestones…such an embarrassment being picked up off the streets by the locals!!lucky,no damage except to my ego!!
After 4 days in Roma we’re off to Naples and the Amalfi coast tomorrow- for a bit of sun,surf and sand....well, not sure of sand!

Posted by Escapees 13:52 Archived in Italy Tagged italy hill rome pantheon forum collosseum palantine Comments (1)

Firenze ‘Seen one stone willy- seen ‘em all!!

Lastra a signa or ‘Last time I’ve seen ya !’

sunny 22 °C

Well, after a few idyllic days in Venezia we got ourselves back to the station for yet another train journey to Florence…..hoping like hell it had to be better than the overnight disaster last week….and this time it was lovely…first class all the way and what a shame the trip only took 2 hours. Training it through the Italian countryside is a joy to behold! Such beautiful vistas around every turn- Terracotta rooftopped farmhouses, green rolling vineyards,blue hills and those incredible medieval hill topped villages-

Our accom in Florence is out in the Tuscan hills in a place called ‘Lastra a Signa’ and Villa Pandolfini is the 600 yr old villa( originally a hunting lodge for Italian Royalty- Bonaparte himself stayed there!) and has been kept pretty much original to this day- The estate boasts a vineyard, 1000 tree olive grove, a very impressive pine lined driveway and about 6 villas all well appointed for couples,families etc. Our enormous bedrooms had 20-30 ft ceilings with huge windows and a gorgeous terrace featuring a superb frescoed ceiling- quite stunning-

This place is run by an elderly but incredibly sharp lady called Tosca( Tosca from Tuscany sounds a bit corny doesn’t it?) who rules the place like a feudal lord- but wonderful to her guests and passionate about all things historically Florentine and Tuscan. We noticed on our first night there outside there glowed some sparkly lights and were amazed to find them to be fireflies- never seen them before and they are incredibly pretty-especially on a warm spring night. Cute little beasts they are!
It also has a cooking school in house for interested participants- personally, we all liked the idea of not cooking and eating out in many of the local eateries- and we found a great little local trattoria near the train station called ‘Enricos’ that proved so good and cheap we ate there 4 nights out of 7!! Lovely family and became quite good mates with them all by the end of our stay-

Again, our first day started with the on/off bus to get our bearings and before we knew it- we’d sorted Florence out pretty quick smart….its relatively small and once you know where the Arno( river) ,The Pontevecchio( bridge with shops on it!) and the Duomo( great big basilica in the heart of Florence….well, you’ve pretty much covered the whole place. From Piazza Michaelangelo ( a hill monument overlooking Florence- we had a very nice coffee at Loggia a wonderful restaurant overlooking the monument) you can see across this beautiful landscape and that Dome(Duomo) sticks out like the proverbial!
…and speaking of Dogs bits……well, we’ve never seen so many statues…and certainly so many nudies!! The Statue of David lives here, of course and the male genitalia features enormously in Florentine sightseeing!... I know its art but ssshhheesssh, so much and all above eye level so hard to avoid!Ha!

We thought we’d take in a bit of local culture and booked to see La Traviata staged in an abridged form in St Marks English Church- It was performed in full costume with wonderful performers singing in Italian, but had an English explanation of each scene! Quite remarkable given a piano and voices only resonating thru this lovely old church..and a very intimate audience of about 100 people…a great way to see an opera and not be too intimidated- I think its one of trip advisors best things to do in Florence- check it out!
As we stayed a bit out of Florence we needed to catch a local train daily..it became our routine to get ourselves in and out of the city ( about 20 mins train and about 20 mins walking!) lots of walking,…..and sore ageing pegs as we walked the streets of Florence for hours on end! So much to see and so much to BUY !!!

Hey, this place is shopping heaven…great shops with everything from fantastic clothes to the great leather goods that its famous for- leather, leather everywhere….and being the beginning of summer of here…fashions are incredibly bright and inviting ( and not too xxy either, well only in some shops)
We’ve all had a bit of a shop…and the weight of our baggage is beginning to show strains in our cases! God, help our excess baggage costs-

Gelati was invented in Florence and on every street corner you see the most incredible array of flavours and mountains of gelati imaginable- and everyone seems to walk around with a gelati in hand- and yummy they are making it a daily staple( just as well for the daily walking).

Mahony and Robyn did their dome climbing again and got to the very top of the Duomo- quite a feat when you see the very narrow internal circular staircase that gets them there!
Such adventurers these girls!
The Uffizi gallery is quite an event in itself and after queuing for about 1 ½ we finally got in- seeing Bottecellis’Venus” was worth the wait and simply the most beautiful thing there. Wonderful frescoes on every ceilings there and the odd De Vinci and a few other lesser knowns Caravaggios etc there as well- amazing! Heaps and heaps of statues of course with lots of eye-level you know whats!

We arranged with a local driver to take us up into the Tuscan hills for a day away from the hustle and bustle of Florence….Riccardo picked us up in his very lovely airconditioned( remember its high 20s here at the moment!) bus and took 7 of us
(including Anne and Merc) for a 5 hour drive around Tuscany…
Wow, what a place…and everything you’d dream it to be…
Our first stop was San Gimignano which is a medival fortress town atop a hill up in the Tuscan hills. Quite an outstandingly beautiful place that has 14 enormous towers that impose the landscape incredibly. Apparently in the middle ages you got a tax benefit from building a tower and everyone went berserk trying to out do each other…and at its peak there was 115 towers in total. Pretty good for a place the size of the MCG! Our trusty driver Riccardo advised us that its pretty touristy there and that if we went a little further to Volterre we’d get a similar place with far less people- so off we went. Volterre is equally as beautiful and is known for the quarrying of alabaster…so every shop had alabaster made into all sorts of stuff. Also known for filming ‘Twilight’ in the region!
We had a lovely lunch at a restaurant called ‘La Poggia’ quite appropriate given all the eating we’re indulging in at the moment…but after asking the waitress what it means in Italian we were told it means ‘at the top’! After a couple of hours drive home up and down windy roads( and some very hairy turns I must tell you!) we arrived back at Villa Pandolfini pretty buggered after a hard day touring! Bloody hard slog this travelling you know!
And how lovely and convenient to have our own driver….very cost effective for 7 of us and a great way to get around unencumbered by public transport issues.

By this stage as you can imagine…we are starting to accumulate quite a bit of excess baggage( leathergoods,clothes,books,souvenirs,glass etc) so Clare and I ( Moy) thought we’d inquire about a parcel or two home by Italie Poste…so after getting what we thought was a very reasonable quote we all confidently packed boxes of stuff and taxied ourselves down to the local PO to send it off…..not to be, sadly as the poor women behind the counter couldn’t speak English at all, had no idea what 7 women with huge boxes of stuff wanted to do…and was busy with her routine customers anyway…what a mess…so we all went home with our boxes and repacked our cases with bulging sides!!
Turns out it is extraordinarily expensive to post back to Australia…and we need to reassess what really needs to go- shhheesshhh, so bloody hard when you cant speak the language!

So our last day in Florence was spend wasting time in the Post Office…and then got the train back into Florence for one last look……and a wee shop just for posterity! Ha!

Off to Roma tomorrow and 4 days in the countries capital-

Posted by Escapees 13:29 Archived in Italy Tagged florence tuscany Comments (1)

Poor Marco……(you’ll understand why if you read on!)

This is NOT what we expected


Ok guys, so the next leg of our trip is the night train from Paris to Venice hopping to get there in plenty of time allowing for our mammoth baggage and get ourselves nice and sorted for this a really enjoyable night on the overnight train…..We boarded with about ½ hour to get sorted and pack away our luggage safely away in some sort of baggage compartment that we’d enjoyed on the eurostar etc… however our dreams were shortlived when we boarded the squashiest grottiest train imaginable…… we were booked on a couchette which is a 6 berth comp with pull down beds for a cosy nod-off cruising through the swiss alps!

You get very little notice at train stations when you travel in France….you can be waiting there for ages then they announce only 20 minutes before the train leaves………….then a mad dash to be seated quickly before the train takes off….doesn’t leave much time when we have 7 weeks of luggage, backpacks and a few groceries.
( wine, oil, vegemite(!),chocolates, tea, coffee and chocolates!)
When we finally find the right cabin we all poured in (literally) along with 5 huge cases and of course, who should be sitting there innocently, then a young Italian man…very well dressed and looking very calm up to that point!!! Can you imagine the look on his face when the 5 of us confronted him….he was positively shocked…5 Australian women and about 10 tonnes of luggage with no where to put it!!!
And his name?
...............Poor Marco……
Poor, poor Marco!

That was about all we could say to the poor bloke…he was so cute and tried so hard to help us in any way he could…he sat very quiet and still while he could then buried himself into a book to avoid making eye contact with the women he was about to spend the whole night with !!!! We’re not quite sure who was more uncomfortable….?
We struggled as we could, made requests to be moved, upgraded, anything really…even to take it inturns to sit or sleep!!
Oh, what a long night ahead……. And it was!!! Somehow,a few of us got a few hours sleep….god,knows how….claustrophobia +++++ and the smell coming from the train toilet was becoming increasingly nauseating……

Oh, the joys of travel!!!!!

At 9.30 the next morning we arrived in Venice after passing through Switzerland overnight….I did actually catch a glimpse of Lausanne and ? Geneva as we passed thru…it’s magical to see pretty fairy lights whilst squashed in a overnight train…still, at least I can say I saw parts of Switzerland….
Note for future travelling……1st class or travel during the day so at least you can see stuff!

Venice is absolutely beautiful and as pretty as you can imagine- we hopped a vaporetto from the Station, basically it’s a waterbus that travels around the canals there.
100s and 100s of islands around Venice and 415 bridges in Venice itself….we got some fantastic advice from Lynette( Rob Wartons sister) who is well traveled in matters of Venice…don’t drag big suitcases with so many bridges…..so glad we heeded her advice and de-canted some basics into a small bag each- well, enough for 3 days there and headed off searching for our accom. We were booked into Foresteria Valdese which is a Monestery Stay in the heart of Venice( thoroughly recommended! Cheap,basic and very clean-perfect for families) We had a dormitory style 5 bed room on the 2nd floor which had a view directly over the canal below….
What a strange place it is…..aside from the noise of the people.with no cars and only canal traffic, its an incredibly quiet place- the lap of the water with canal boats is lovely. It’s a really clean city and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t smell like so many people had warned us…the weather has been brilliant…so lucky with sunny,warm,spring days everywhere we go….
It’s a city geared for Tourism….Oh my God, I’ve never seen so much glass in my whole life…Murano glass is everywhere!!! On our first day we all went for a walk to St Marks square to see the Basilica…it’s a lovely place with the Grand Canal on one side, plenty of shops to browse and so much to see everyway you look. Lisas mum Anne and her friend Merc had come over to Venice and will travel with us to Florence after here! We all met up and decided to head straight down to the Gondolas for a ride!! Its xxxy and best advised to split the cost(120 euro for 45 mins!) but what a gorgeous thing to do…he took us around a few canals and saw Casanovas place….Marco Polos home and the famous bridge of Sighs.( a pretty little bridge that joins the Doges palace to the prison- hence prisoners sighing!! As they cross to their demise!)

Day 2 in Venice saw us catching yet another vaporetto over to Burano…. A most beautiful little village(Island) about 40 mins from Venice. Its renowned for the colour of all the houses there. Apparently, years ago the whole town decided to paint their houses all different colours and with the brightest pigments they could find- its quite an amazing place and certainly well worth the effort to get there and spend a day on the island.
We all wondered around for a few hours, shopping, taking in the sights….they have a very leaning tower there as well! We found a wonderful restaurant in the main drag there…canals there as well….and like Venice, you can wander around really safely and not get lost! So we all met at Romanos restaurant, somewhat famous in these parts for being there for years and years and having quite the celebrity guest( Keith Richards,Robert de Niro etc). and most famous for its lagoon fish risotto…We had a lovely lunch and a few great local wines…..the sun was warm and we are in a beautiful part of the world….Australia seems like such a long way away especially knowing that’s its got cold at home in Melbourne.
Mahony and Robyn climbed up the bell tower in St Marks square.... We had the famous Bellini cocktail in Harrys Bar ( along the grand Canal) apparently made famous by Earnest Hemingways freguent patronage(and other famous folk of the time!)- its an interesting concoction of white peaches and champagne….I bet Ernie didn’t pay 18euro for his bloody euro like we did….. it an expensive place so you need to watch where you eat….and drink… Most of the waiters wear dinner jackets and bow ties….very flash and wouldn’t think it would work it Sydney Rd….
Clare found us a great little place on one of the canals….. a local artist on the Grand Canal eats there…as does most of Venices gondoliers! So yep, that was a fantastic find, cheap, yummy and if the locals eat there…it has to be good!
We loved Venice….lots to do…lots of shopping ( could be dangerous to credit cards!) lots of gorgeous sights and truelly a very different kind of place to Australia being completely surrounded by water- and canal life is so different to home!
We visited the Teatre Fenice- which is the Venetian Opera House- a bit like a mini Versailles in its ornateness…but so beautiful …and somehow, the Venetians have a more subtle sense of colour than the brashness of the French it seems…..I guess they would argue the toss about that!
On our last night there we thought we’d visit the Casino….a rather grand building a few canals away….(you know the far canal-ha! )Well, apart from a bunch of really cranky old Italian gamblers most serious on their intent…it was a weird place and all of us came home with empty pockets…but thankfully, not having lost much! The casino is state run over there and incredibly strict with rules etc….and pretty well dead boring really!
Still, we live and learn!?
After a few lovely days in Venice we’re off to Florence by train tomorrow-

Posted by Escapees 23:24 Archived in Italy Tagged burano venice palace grand glass canal murano doges Comments (1)

Amboise sur Loire

Whats it like living next to a castle?

sunny 20 °C

Now, off to the Loire Valley and a lovely little place called Amboise-

and just a little apology to all friends and family in Aust.....our communication has been bloody awful with little or no internet and phone access.....sorry and we try and remedy as we go from place to place!!!

Note for future travelling…….smaller luggage is essential when trying to negotiate
the Underground,Metro or any kind of public transport really- 5 women lugging 5 heavy suitcases around is not an easy task….and whenever we got help from anyone, they’d say…..sooooo heavy…big trip…non? But of course, the problem is also our shopping potential…how can anyone resist so many beautiful things?
We’ve already sent home a couple of parcels to lighten the weight load and fully expect by the time we get to Venice, Florence, Rome and Naples that we may need to do that once more!

We hopped a train from Paris to St Pierre de Corps…somewhere in the middle of the beautiful Loire valley…about an hour out of Paris…can see why all the Chateux were built there! After collecting our hire car- thinking that Amboise is about ½ hour out in the country….we all piled into our Mercedes Vito 9 seater diesel wagon! OMG….how big is this tank? I drove for the first time with everything on the wrong side of the carthen had to tackle French right side driving….all rather frightful I might add but made incredibly easier by Lisas navigation and constant reminders to stay on the right side of the road!
(It is safe to say at this point that we are all very grateful to Moy for driving us all whilst in France but the likelihood of her ever getting a job with Linfox is not on the cards and counseling anxious drivers is probably not high on the agenda either.
We arrived in Amboise…a beautiful medieval French village avec enormous castle hovering above it…right on the Loire river.
So pretty,so French and so chic!
After finally locating our 400 year old appt building and parking this enormous tank of a care we settled ourselves intoVilla concorde- this would’ve been a doctors house(or equivalent) to the castle. The castle wall was about 10 metres away with a huge moat between us and the building. Our appt was on the first floor( more luggage lugging!ugh! but featured a beautiful wooden spiral staircase,low timber beamed ceilings and beautifully appointed with original furniture)

Our first day was spent wandering around getting acquainted with this delightful little place…such a lovely change from the hectic pace of London and Paris!

We discovered an amazing little café/patisserie called Bigots….has been owned by the same family for over a century….but unbelievably wonderful chocolates, coffee, cakes……..aaaarrrgggghhhh heaven!!! And we’ll never forget the chocolate chantilly- an irresistibly chocolaty hot choc with whipped cream on top! Aarrgghhhhh, heaven!

Our first morning in Amboise was spent watching the Royal Wedding of Kate and Wills….very amusing on French television with French commentary….. highly amusing! But wished we were hearing more detail of the whole shebang- it was nice to see the whole place as we’d seen it a day or two before…giving us a clear perspective of London geography.
After we’d all separated exploring this lovely little town( great shops too!) we met up on the top of the hill in Amboise and sent thru Clos de Luce- a smaller chateau built for Leonardo De Vinci by Phillipe 1st of France. He’d asked Leo over to come and stay(?) and do a spot of painting, inventing, etc and Leo fell in love with the place and spent the last few years of his life there. He is buried in the main Chateau there. Its a beautiful place to visit and highly recommended to anyone who loves such history. They

have recreated about 40 of his early inventions including the ball bearing, canterleaver gates, an early tank, transmission,helicopters, machine guns and all sorts of incredible things I didn’t know he was responsible for!

Clare and Lisa cooked us a lovely chicken we bought at the local market- big chooks they have in france complete with head,feet etc to show the freshness! Incredible cheeses,wines and other local produce including horse meat….which made me gag slightly!
On Saturday we got going early for a day at Chamont sur Loire- oh, just another chateau down the road/river…..on the way we came across some very interesting dwellings – troglodytes….inhabited caves by the locals who renovate and live very comfortably in them! They’re everywhere around the Loire and arose from early cave dwellings! Apparently, they’re very comfortable and keep a constant temperature throughout the year…plumbed and wired very successfully and the only problem seems to be humidity and that is solved with efficient ventilation! Bit like our Coober Pedy counterparts I guess!
Robyn( our resident Garden designer!) had spent countless hours planning her visit to Chamont dur Loire- apart from being a fairytale castle it boasts an international garden show of world renown- garden designers worldwide are invited to plan and construct these amazing horticulture/artistic exhibits- It was a fantastic day seeing unbelievable feats of horticulture in a medieval castle setting…set off by a suberb lunch in the restaurant- in the morning we did the gardens, lunch,wine then sauntered over to the castle for a bit of a tour!Nostradamus lived there for a time..as did Catherine De Medici! All quite extraordinary really!

Things are a little quiet in the evenings in rural France! Well, actually nothing happens much and a bit the same on Sundays….so just as well we could partake of the local reds,whites and bubblies! Sunday was a bit lazy and after doing a bit of a walk Mahony and I discovered you could hire Segways to get around in…and after sore and blistered feet from castle crawling we thought it the perfect opportuntity for a bit of fun…so off Clare,Lisa, Mahony and I trotted to meet our trusty French guide who spoke pretty good English- he gave us all a quick lesson in how these weird contraptions work then off we shot….all over Amboise, up hill, down dale, saw Mick Jaggers place!around castle walls and even down very scary inclines….very cute he was telling us to be not ‘impressed’ because it is very ‘impressive’ down there! We think he meant scarey and to not be scared….but believe me it was a bit hairy at times but we all stayed on and looked the gorgeously awkward middleaged Australian women that we are! Ha Ha….that was such fun and intend on chasing up a similar opp in Rome…apparently, segways are legal( considered pedestrian vehicles…they only go 25kph) and are used by police and all sorts of people very commonly….so much fun though and incredibly operated by mere balance! Lisa googled them for Aust and apparently not legal at home?????? Think we’re a bit behind cos they’re really safe and seem to move around walking traffic really easily….our guide videoed us zooming around…will post that soon!

Our last night in Amboise we had a lovely dinner at a typical restaurant there and Clare had foie gras…..she loved it but me (Clare here, just doing a bit of proof reading and I got to say I did not enjoy my foie gras but thought it necessary to try once, felt very guilty, very, very guilty)….eeeeyyyyeeww! apart from being exceptionally cruel in its process I reckon it tasted like fatty tasteless mush- just as well I’m not a gourmand cos I wouldn’t make a very good one!
Conclusion of France=
Wine cheap and yummy,
Coffee crap,
Brekky weird,
Baguette and patisserie wonderful especially Lauderee or Fauchon macaroons!!!!!!!
Food in most eateries pretty ordinary on the whole but the odd one lovely,
Cheese exceptional,
Black footed chooks!
Loved the busking on the metro and got the hang of how to get around really well.
Hawkers and gypsies
Gargoyles and chateaux ++++++
Local people seem to be happy and comfortable in their own skin….nearly everyone we met was nice to us and after trying our basic French were more than happy to oblige us with help!
We loved the Seine….such a romantic place to be with 4 women friends!!! Ha, not

Posted by Escapees 06:40 Archived in France Tagged garden sur festival international loire amboise chamont Comments (1)

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