Change of plan…

Do you think the weather is following us? C had just remarked that we haven’t really had any decent weather since Christmas. That’s probably true, although we have had a couple of days when we have been outside and it’s not been bitterly cold, windy, snowing, hoofing down with rain or any combination of those things. Yesterday there was some good news: it wasn’t so cold you didn’t want to venture outside. But the wind was blowing a gale and was accompanied by squally showers. We did think about moving from our pitch (with Doris’ bum into the wind), but I thought if we moved into the campsite we might be attacked by an uprooted tree. I remember reading Catherine and Chris’ account early last year (see Inspirations) about their van being hit by a bill board which fell down in the middle of the night causing damage that needed professional work. We don’t need that sort of hassle…

welcome to Greece

welcome to Greece

The thing is, are we bovvered? Well not really. It would be nice to go for a cycle and be pestered by Mrs Sun to the point where you having to say ‘go away and find someone else to play with’. To walk to the showers without having one on the way there. I actually didn’t go for a run yesterday afternoon for fear of being hit by flying objects or getting heaved into the sea – which, I have to say, is looking all mixed up with greys, blues and whites in any and all combinations you can think of. Like bringing together all the bottom righthand paint pallet at B&Q with the elderly lady assistant sucking what’s left of her teeth muttering under her breath ‘I wouldn’t have that colour in my front room ‘. Indeed.

I wouldn't have that colour in my front room

I wouldn’t have that colour in my front room

We did get out. We cycled to the next village along. It’s a lovely touristy place based round a small bay, but most of it was shut up for winter. There was a v posh cafe open with a large panoramic balcony enclosed by v good quality plastic sheeting. We practised our Greek on the elderly owner, sank decent coffee (welcome back to earth, at €3 a piece) and sort of had a look at the sites of Greece we should really visit using both the glossy D&K and the detailed and, at times incomprehensible, Green Michelin Guide. Olympia (home of the Olympics) is just down the road and there are a couple of world class sites we need to gawp at before we get to Athens on 1 March to meet Jen and James.

image

We cycled back the other way and down to a tiny harbour just down from the campsite. Is v agricultural round here with plenty of poly tunnels. In comparison to Italy it wins in that it is much cleaner, but loses by not looking anywhere near as prosperous, which says something. In comparison to Northern Europe that comment puts it somewhere close to sub-Saharan Africa. But, following the theme from yesterday, the cafe owner could not have been nicer and everyone waves at us – which is strange because we look like we could be German – who aren’t the Greek’s favourite nation at the moment.

coffee was had here

coffee was had here

Back in Doris we had a late lunch and then spent sometime designing our dream house (it’s a modest two-bed affair and involves a special carport for Doris; we’re not that ambitious). It’s C’s favourite topic and one that I engage in when it catches me. We now have a semi-blueprint…we just need to work our exactly where in Europe we might want to live. Any ideas?

Next it was cake and bread making time. The bread is key as, as far as we can tell, there doesn’t seem to be a shop of any description round here and we had chomped the last bit for lunch. There was a bit a competition about whose would rise higher than whose. I lost miserably, but my excuse is that I use the brown bread mix and C has the Ciabatta which seems to require less elbow grease. Anyhow we have restocked the larder. The next issue will be when the wine runs out. At that point we’ll be having a go at our wrists with some sharp objects unless we can think of some clever way of distilling something alcoholic in the next forty-eight hours.

my bread's bigger than your bread

my bread’s bigger than your bread

And, finally, a change of plan. I checked the long term weather forecast last night. The west Peloponnese has rain, wind and little sunshine for as long as the forecast extends – ten days. Athens, the other side of the Peloponnese (but just north of Corinth) and just one hundred driving miles away, has what looks like dawn-to-dusk sunshine. It may be by being further east they’re missing this huge low that is sitting over Central Europe at the moment, or it could be the range of mountains that occupies the centre of the Peloponnese that helps. Whatever, late last night we calculated that we have seven weeks before we need to be heading north to meet Steven and Rebecca in the Alps. Spending ten days hunkered down against rubbish weather does not seem the best use of our time. So we’re going over the hills and slightly North to the other coast. What happens then is unclear, but I’ll let you know.

I'm going out, I may be sometime

I’m going out, I may be sometime

And really finally, before I sign off two things: first a very happy birthday to my brother yesterday. It’s testament to the new way of things that I actually remembered. Second my secret project. I’m writing a book. It’s not a travel book (this thing is bleeding me nicely dry), but a lightweight thriller. It’s called An Unsuspecting Hero. I have written a bit already and intend to publish it here, under a new drop-down page. My ambition, which is designed to put me under a bit of pressure, is to publish a chapter a week along with the Sunday post. I would hope to have it finished by the summer at which point I might put it on Amazon (taking it off of the blog). Ned (read his book from Amazon – When The Fat Man Sings – it’s v good) has said he will help me with the whole Amazon publishing thing. Please don’t feel the need to read it, but if you do I would welcome any comments positive or negative. You can, if you like, be my on-line editors.

Fingers crossed… Have a great weekend.

Advertisements

Greece – tah dah!

We are pretty expert on ferries. Between us, including childhood, we have years and years of experience crossing from England to Germany and back again (and Scotland to Northern Ireland). Both of our parents were Army, and both of us in our respective careers and then as a married couple spent a lot of time in Germany. The race from Minden to Calais was exactly that. A race. And with German autobahns unrestricted how we all managed to stay alive long enough to play our part in bringing down the Iron Curtain will remain a mystery. But we did, and that, I guess, is all part of growing up.

can you just make out C sleeping on the floor?

can you just make out C sleeping on the floor?

The night before last’s ferry was, therefore, no surprise to us. Folk without cabins, and there were a lot of them, slept where they could: in alcoves, on the floor, on benches and taking up whole sofas. It was every man (and woman) for himself (eh, herself, Reg. Good point brother. Or sister, Reg. {Life of Brian, I’m afraid}). We ate C’s remarkably good salad and then found a piece of floor to call our own. We were up again at four when the boat docked at Igoumenista and then slept in the bar across a couple of chairs and sofas. C produced breakfast from nowhere and whilst we could hardly say we were well rested, we felt we had earned the €100 we didn’t spend on a cabin and had some sleep.

Greece - tah dah!

Greece – tah dah!

The ferry was late into Patrasso and took an age to unload. Doris purred off the ferry (I’ve included a technophile’s paragraph at the end with some news from fellow full timer Eric about contaminated fuel in Morocco) and, after a quick sort, we were on our way.

when will we dock?

when will we dock?

First impressions? Lots and lots of coastline and more islands than you have Long John Silvers for. It looks poor and a bit run down but there were one or two smart villas. The language is, as we know, indecipherable. We popped into two shops: a garage where Shell Diesel plus was just €1.04 (yippee) a litre and further down a Tabac to buy a map book – and everyone we bumped into spoke English and were lovely. Big smiles, a joke or two and very relaxed.

Doris' new home for a bit

Doris’ new home for a bit

We aimed for the first ACSI campsite heading anticlockwise round the Peloponnese called Ionion Campsite – recommended by Sandra and Iain who are a couple of weeks ahead of us. It was a straightforward journey along mostly unpotholed roads. The route was parallel with but not along the coast, but we were never far from it and we often caught a glimpse of Kefallonia (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin) and Zakinthos, just off to one side. At first glance the site was lovely. Right by the sea with views over to the islands, heated shower blocks (a first), free wifi and just us and one other British camper taking up all the space. The weather was iffy, but a good few degrees warmer than recently, although there was snow on the high hills – apparently you can ski round here?

the view from our pitch

the view from our pitch

We were tired by the time we set up, supper was schnitzel, home made chips and salad and we vegged out in front of Mrs Henderson presents.

This morning it is sunny with mixed cloud, but a strong westerly which is blowing the trees about as if they were reeds. Not sure about today, other than we will stay put and plan the Peloponnese. Have a great Friday.

[technophile report. Doris was not better. Post cleaning the EGR valve she seemed immediately fixed, but the next time we took her out she coughed again. And again. I checked the inlet and outlet pipes of the EGR valve and, most of the time they were both hot, so the assumption was it was opening. The common thread seemed to be cold weather. When it was cold, and recently we’d had some v cold days, she doesn’t like it, especially accelerating at about 1500 revs. Yesterday coming off the ferry having been stood still for twelve hours, she was perfect. The ambient temperature? Fourteen degrees. So what? I’m not sure….but something that reads and acts on ambient temperature seems to be key. Could the MAF sensor not be reading correctly? But wouldn’t the diagnostic check have thrown up an error? Mystery…

As an aside, I’m following Eric and Shazza – see Inspirations – they’ve just returned from Morocco where it seems he took on board a tank full of water contaminated diesel. I won’t dwell on this, except that they’re now back in Spain (after some interesting trips to assorted back street garages) sorting the problem out. His latest post is worth a read.]

Greece – Eh, yippee!

I write this on the ferry from Brindisi to Patrasso. On the ferry is exactly the right expression. The assumption that we are actually moving would be a wrong one. We were asked to line up at 6pm with a sailing time of 8pm. It’s now 9pm and we’re still in the dock. It’s a thirteen hour crossing (via Igoumenitsa) so I’m sure we’ll catch the additional time up with the accompanying stiff northerly breeze.

image

We didn’t do a great deal yesterday. We thought we would park up in Brindisi and do some admin (post blog, buy some postcards etc), but in the end we drove straight to the port and, second guessing every turn and complicated signage, parked outside the Grimaldi shipping terminal. The clue that we might be somewhere we should be was the large neon displaying: Grecia – Albania. We only wanted to go to one of those. The man behind the desk was lovely. We had two choices of destination: Igoumenitsa which was just south of Albania (hopefully not in it as our insurance doesn’t cover us there); or Patrasso, which was half way down the Greek mainland. ‘How much for the first one?’ €145. ‘And the second?’ €145. ‘The same price?’ Yup. Ferry leaves at 8pm (more realistically 9pm, come on). Whatever, €145 seemed reasonable for either port.

The cabin was a whopping €100 surcharge, so, as we had no plan we decided to go and have a coffee in the terminal and pour over a map to help us make a decision. You would have thought we might have had some idea as to where we were going and how we should get there. But, alas, no. At least we had arrived at a port that would take us to a country we thought we might like to visit.

I really haven’t got the energy to describe the encounter I had with the girl behind the coffee shop counter. She got the coffee order wrong on two occasions and, in v good English, blamed me both times – with complete disdain. At one point I though I might have been in a cafe in Paris, such was the abuse. Oh well. I guess she has the right to be miz if her boyfriend had walked out on her the night before for her younger and better looking sister. Or some other equivalent seismic misadventure.

Back to the maps. We are due to meet Jen (younger daughter) in Athens on 1 March. That’s about four weeks away. If we landed in the North we would probably have to rush to get down and round the Peloponnese (spidery thing hanging down from the rest of Greece like an udder) in time for then. If we landed at Patrasso (the gateway to the Peloponnese) we could spend a leisurely four weeks pottering around the place and then pick up the North later on.

‘No cabin, though?’ Agreed and sealed in blood. We would probably regret it.

Innocenti 950, mmmm

Innocenti 950, mmmm

We booked in and then drove back into Brindisi to post the blog and such. It was a short trip, in and out, and then back to the port. C spent most of the rest of the afternoon preparing supper to take on board (a brill salad thing with bacon and nuts – it must have a name) and I faffed about under Doris’ bonnet, but without any real ambition. To while away a bit of time I skipped for twenty minutes (at one point I counted 175 and was completely knackered) and we both had a shower. We packed up as much comfy stuff as we could so that we could try and sleep on the boat and then, having fed another couple of cats (they’re being notified in advance by some form of cat morse code), made our way to the queue.

Doris at the port

Doris at the port

The ferry is a container ship with a relatively small area for passengers, a small shop and cabins. Doris is the only motorhome; I think there must be about ten cars and vans and the rest of the space is juggernauts. Most seem to be from Bulgaria, although there are a number of Italian trucks and at least one German. The boat is a Grimaldi Lines boat, a company which seems to operate throughout the Med and Adriatic. I believe it’s Italian, operating out of Naples. It is a big ferry with trucks on three floors and poor little Doris squeezed in between them on the top deck, exposed to the elements. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

Doris on deck

Doris on deck

C and I are the odd couple. There are probably no more than seven women passengers and everyone else appears to be a truck driver. Built in the truck driver mould. Legs just long enough to reach the pedals, arms and shoulders circular in nature to grip the steering wheel, and a big tummy to rest your beer on. But, unlike the UK, we didn’t feel as though we were in a transport cafe. Everyone was quietly going about eating goat loads of pasta with chips and I didn’t see a lot of alcohol being consumed.

a bit of our boat

a bit of our boat

Posting this now at Iguomenitsa at four in the morning as the port has free wifi. We have both slept (a bit), but I hear a coffee calling. We’re in Greece. Yippee!

Trulli scrumptious

I don’t think I’ll need too many words today. I have a couple of pictures which, by themselves, will paint more than a thousand words. Alberobello was spectacular. Is it the best thing we’ve seen in Italy, better than, say, Pisa, Tropea, Matera (on a previous tour), parts of Rome, Pasteum, El Bahira campsite (and all those climbing bums), the whole of Florence, Etna from the north and parts of Rome? Possibly. Whatever, with Matera just down the road (a town built into the rocks) and the Paestum temples just a couple of hours away, it’s got to be a good reason to come this far south in Italy.

Hobbitland

Hobbitland

We left the v cold and uninspiring Acquaviva and made our way across country to the local Lidl at Turi. We foraged for a trolley load of stuff only managing to get there after waiting endlessly at two level crossings, wait for it: manually operated by crank handle and notified by bells and telephone. If that doesn’t explain a lot about the Italian economy, then I’m not sure I can elucidate much further.

image

the mother of all Trullis

the mother of all Trullis

We parked up in Alberobello in a car park with clear signs that said ‘no campers’. However we are now used to the Italian way so weren’t concerned, knocked up a picnic and wandered off into town looking out for the Trullis. We made it to what we thought was the tourist information centre, but turned out to be a super-sized Trulli that was privately owned, but accessible for a small fee. The inside was interesting enough; what made it special was the Italian lady’s historical brief on our arrival – which imageshe gave in v good English but with such a strong accent that I tuned out and had to get C to brief me later. In short the Trullis are Turkish in origin. It seems that sometime in the sixteenth century some Count or other was awarded the local forest after helping the King defeat bazillions of Saracens. He then turned over the forest to arable farming and with the help of some ex-Turkish POWs asked them to build grain storage in the only way they knew how. The outcome was millions of round stone houses with pointy hats.

image

We passed loads on the way in. They are now mostly lovingly restored. Some are used as storage, some as v small dwellings (which probably work well here in southern Italy but would be useless in, say, Holland where everyone is unnecessarily over six foot), and some have been expanded and extended to accommodate normal sized folk. Alberobello has a large wedge of them close to the centre of town. It is hobbit land on a grand scale and absolutely wonderful. Think Cornish cottages with pointy roofs. Without photos I’d have to describe them as boob-like, but then that says more about me than it does your average Trulli.

image

We spent a couple of hours wandering around, poking in the corners of this fabulous town. We had lunch in the main square where, against the predictions of a dull, flat day, Mrs Sun had made a guest appearance in second and third acts that made our visit that extra special (we had previously taken coffee in the same square where I managed to post the blog). Not untypically we were joined by a couple of cats who had more of the cold meat for lunch than I did. Oh well, there’s some cat food back in Doris if I get hungry.

image

We left Alberobello fully touristed out and headed for the coast and Brindisi – and our, as yet unbooked, boat to Greece. The area was tidy stone wall to stone wall vine, fruit and, we think, nut farming. It all looked v prosperous and well attended. We were unaware how high we still were until we came across the mother of all escarpments looking out over the Adriatic; quite a sight. And to round off a visual feast of a day as we drove along the southeasterly motorway to Brindisi we saw five murmurings of starlings cross from right to left over our heads. These were proper, Somerset Levels affairs, thousands upon thousands of birds moving about in an ever changing splodge of black and grey, touching the ground and then turning and twisting back into the air. To see one on The Levels is special. To see five in a row here was murmurising (do you see what I did there?).

Brindisi harbour

Brindisi harbour

We parked up harbourside in Brindisi and walked what seemed forever along the huge breakwater as darkness fell. Supper was a stir fry affair and we watched one of the DVDs Annie had brought with her. There’s now some discussion about when we travel. We have some stuff to do which we need to get done probably this side of the water, so may pop into the port today and check times and prices. I think we’ll probably be on the ferry tomorrow. Greece. How exciting! (After note – ferry tonight, may be no post tomorrow.)

Doris for the night

Doris for the night

Over the heel…

An interesting and cold day. I’ll start with something new. As I draft this (the night before) I’m listening to BBC World Service on my fairly decent Roberts short wave radio. It’s v crackly and tunes in and out like a drunk standing at a bar, but for me it’s workable. I have to listen to it through headphones otherwise C would almost certainly have launched a hard object in my direction. But it works and this is on top of the BBC taking World Service off of 648 MHz, which used to broadcast pretty much throughout Europe. I think I’m picking it up via Nairobi.

on the route west

on the route west

Second I spoke to my tax office yesterday morning before we left the Hotel sosta. Annie, who’s acting as our PA (we have all of our mail delivered to her address – thanks Annie), brought over our outstanding mail. One piece was from the Inland Revenue’s ‘checking’ department (they have a proper name, but to all intents and purposes they periodically check the tax returns of those who complete their own on-line). They have done a review of my 13/14 tax affairs and everything was in order (phew) except they needed to charge me £1050 as I had earned over £50,000 the previous year and, as I had one child, I fell into the new tax regime where they uber-well off are taxed on their child benefit. Fair enough. I’ve never seen the rational behind giving out government money to those of us with children who could probably afford not to have a hand out paid for by everyone’s hard earned taxes. I’m probably alone in this view.

However, the thing is, our children (bless them) are twenty seven and twenty five. Indeed, as I’d had the snip in 1999 (too much information, I know) we’d have struggled to produce a third. And every other child before then, illegitimate or otherwise, would be beyond secondary education by now.

I made this point to the very nice lady over the phone.

“So, you haven’t got any children living with you at the moment?”

Looks round Doris…

“Eh, no. Not as far as I can tell.”

“Well, we’ll sort that out. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

How does that happen? Oh well, it’s seems to be sorted now.

imageThe drive (Doris coughing, doh…) over the heel of Italy was lovely. The motorway which pretty much heads west to east is fabulous and free. It’s not quite alpine in its grandeur, but there are plenty of high hills and deep gorges to keep you on your toes. At one point lorries were taken off of the motorway (under 3.5 tonnes and wider than 2.30m this way please) but we stuck at it – nervously. The reason for the diversion was that half of the bridges were down and being repaired. The deviation looked like it would take forever, and whilst we had to breath in a couple of times, we made it unscathed.

Up on the hills the plateau flattened and the outcome was lovely rolling downs. Lots of agriculture and plenty of collective granaries and the like. In weak sunshine (and still cold wind) it was lovely, reminiscent of Salisbury Plain – actually now I come to think of it the roads, which were at times dreadfully uneven, we’re just as I remembered the range road on the Plain. Except then I was in a 25-tonne tank with nothing but a few soldiers in the back to break. But the views were lovely and we stopped in a lay by for lunch and reminded ourselves how good it was to be travelling again.

Salisbury Plain?

Salisbury Plain?

We parked up short of Alberobello (the home of the Trullis, our visit for tomorrow) in the small town of Acquaviva dele Fonti – chosen because it has a free Sosta. After a cup of tea we wrapped up well (if it rained it would snow) and walked into town. It’s a funny place. The cathedral gets a mention in D&K but wasn’t fabulous and the town was a mish-mash of narrow streets without any central focus. We wandered around and brought some stuff for supper (sausages, new pots and veg). It remained cold, but dry.

Acquaviva - not that interesting

Acquaviva – not that interesting

Back at a Doris we settled into our routine and kept warm. It’s bright sunshine this morning. We think we need to do something with Doris before we get on a ferry, but I’m still not clear what that is. We’ll see how she is this morning. Have a good Tuesday.

as cold as it looks

as cold as it looks

The Amalfi Coast

I was bitten by my own penny pinching today – and it was much deserved. We delivered Mary and Annie to Naples airport in good time and then did the Amalfi Coast (more eulogising of which later) and on the way back into Paestum we stopped to top up the hire car. You’ll all know that if you leave the car empty of fuel they charge you to fill up at a rate much more than that at the pumps. Anyhow we spotted a petrol station and pulled in. There’s a funny rule here. If you serve yourself there’s no extra charge, if someone serves you you’re either expected to give them a tip, or there’s a surcharge per litre. I’d never checked the surcharge, but you’d expect it to be one or two cents per litre if that.

image

I pulled up and was met by a v smartly dressed young attendant. ‘Fill her up please.’ In English with appropriate gesticulations as my Italian has yet to make it out of the cafe. As he started to fill the car I checked the price. The pump read €1.50; the price on the forecourt was €1.29 – that’s a 16% surcharge for asking someone to do what I was perfectly capable and willing to do myself. I quickly remonstrated. The young man stopped at €10, took my money and pointed to the next pump where I could fill with fuel myself.

We drove on. It didn’t feel comfortable with staying at that station. We stopped at the next where the fuel was the same price, €1.29. However, as it was a Sunday it was unattended but fully automated. We had used these a lot in Italy. You put your money in a slot, choose a pump and it delivers the exact amount you put in. The problem today was I was unsure how much money was enough. I’d done a quick calculation and thought the old girl would take a further €40, we had, after all, been too and from Naples twice and driven round the Amalfi Coast. So I suck in €40 and let it go…..

….€32 later I could’t put in a another drop, no matter how hard I tried. Not a drop. I’d lost the €8 as there’s no rebate. B*gger. If I’d let the young lad fill her up we’d have had change out of €50. Serves me right I guess.

Capris

Capri

The Amalfi Coast, that quintessentially English resort based around Sorrento and Positano, two towns bolted onto sheer cliffs that have attracted the British middle class for decades, was a much longer drive than I remembered. On the face of it, it’s a short peninsular with the island of Capri bolted onto the end of it. But the coast road hasn’t a single straight in it. It switches back and forth and then forth and back. It’s narrow, even narrower through the villages (how we made it through four years ago in our medium wheel based Peugot camper will remain a mystery, certainly to me – and I was driving) and whilst the traffic was light I had to concentrate the whole way. But the views were fabulous. The light wasn’t perfect, Mrs Sun popped in and out, but there was enough to give the huge cascading hills that plummet into the sea extra special edge, the colours sharpened and shadows darkened. We stopped for coffee at far end of the peninsular and whilst sat outside in the ski-resort cold conditions we couldn’t quite see Capri, it only took a v short walk to the other side of the road to get a front-row view.

Sorrento

Sorrento

I don’t remember the south coast road being quite so fabulous. I think I’ve remarked before that we have now seen nearly all of Italy’s west coast and much of its east coast and there are plenty of spectacular sights. Surely the Amalfi is considered too special, too over-written – not worthy even? I take it all back. Even without the summer sun, the white gin palaces snuggling into the inaccessible (by road) bays and flowers in full bloom, it is a peach of a drive. Positano is everything the middle class expect it to be: rows and rows of white and pastel coloured houses toppling from a high height into azure blue sea. Yes it’s over crowded and I guess v expensive. But it looks every part the Hollywood playboy’s set. Just fabulous.

the quite fabulous Positano

Back at Doris we repacked everything that we had unpacked a week before. The roof box was still letting in water, so I had a go at that, and we put the boat back on the roof. By the time we went for a brisk walk down the beach to open our lungs we were ready for the off.

The lady from the hire car shop is coming in about an hour and then we’re off over the ankle to the heel to catch a ferry to Greece. A must see spot is Alberobello, the centre of the southern Italian ‘trulli’ collection: houses with pointy roofs. That’s probably on tomorrow’s agenda. Cold sunshine and showers here for the next couple of days. Heater’s on! And, quietly, it’s a big day for Doris. Hopefully she’s over her cough…

Have a great week.

Annie and Mary

That was a full day. Breakfast was served in the hotel at 8.30 and from then onwards we seemed to move seemlessly from cafe to picnic site to Doris for tea to the hotel for supper. Between food stops we also did some stuff. But to be clear C and I ate more in one day than we had done in the preceding five. Fabulous.

image

There were many highlights, including looking over the temples of Paestum for the umpteenth time, coffee and cake at our local cafe, a trip round the castle at Agropoli (which C and I had visited before; great views over to the Amalfi Coast), followed by a super drive up into the mountains negotiating hill top village alleys so narrow that Doris would have got stuck (no problems in our nippy Clio), and then posh supper at the hotel. All of these in the great company of Annie and Mary. Fabulous.

walking along the Paestum lane

walking along the Paestum lane

But two things stood out as particularly memorable.

from Agropoli's castle

from Agropoli’s castle

First, after coffee and delicious cakes, we popped into Eurospin to get the bones of a picnic. The weather was sunny but with a cool northerly wind. We were determined to imagesee as much as possible and picnic if we could. The three girls went into to shop and I stop outside and soaked up the gently warming sun. I noticed an attractive Italian lady push her trolley out to a silver grey Alfa 155. She then spent fifteen minutes trying to get into the car. She tried both front doors, turning the key left and right and trying it upside down. She then tried the boot. No luck. She tried all those things again. She then started to get a little exasperated. So she phoned someone, I’m guessing her boyfriend or husband. She tried it all again.

I could t help noticing that three slots down was an identical 155, the same silver grey colour. It wasn’t quite the same; they both had different dents and one had a yellow sticker in the back window. But to the casual observer they were very similar. I had to ask myself if she was trying the wrong car? I almost walked over and pointed out the second car, but I didn’t have the heart. Surely she wasn’t trying to get into someone else’s Alfa? Anyway she tried again and still no luck.

About two or three minutes later a young chap came out of the shop and did what I had thought about doing ten minutes before. He very gently pointed to the second Alfa. Sure enough you could hear the loud ‘Doh’ from across the carpark as the lady realised her mistake. Bless her.

fabulous street art in Agropoli

fabulous street art in Agropoli

The second highlight was post picnic lunch (overlooking the Med in a small carpark C and I had found the previous weekend – four old people sat in their car chomping away at their sandwiches. What a sight we must have been). We drove into the hills, up to over a thousand metres, with fine views back across to Paestum, Agropioli and the sea. The hills were white rock with deep fissures, decorated with dark green bushes and a fair few deciduous trees (including oak). As we came off the hill C got it into her head that Annie (both sisters sitting together in the back seat) needed to see a buffalo. For the uninitiated they milk buffalo to make mozzarella, but unlike the UK where the cows that give us milk are on display in fields for all to see, over here the buffalo are discreetly hidden away. Like almost invisible. Could be a deceit. Anyway, as I drove along (‘slow down, you’ll miss the buffalo) the two of them looked left and right and then , all of a sudden, in a shed as big as Cambridge there they were. The screeches that came from the back were of two women returning to their childhood: “buffalo, look (I can’t, I’m driving), look. Lots of them. There they are.” I’m so glad we did that.

sunset was obliging

sunset was obliging

Actually the real second highlight was post supper in the hotel where the owner’s daughter brought out a recent big hardback book on Operation Avalanche, the Allied invasion of Italy, focused on the Salerno beaches. This caught our imagination for two reasons. First the photos showed quite clearly the landings on our beach, just where we were now – but without any of the current buildings apart from a single beachside tower and the Greek temples in the background. Everything around us yesterday evening, including the hotel, was post Second World War vintage. Second, Annie’s and C’s Dad served with Monty in the war and whilst there is nothing definite about him landing in this part of Italy, we know he spent some time just up the road in Naples. He must, therefore, have landed around here at some point. It was, post a couple of glasses of wine with supper, quite something to feel that he may have once stood where we were sitting. The book had hundreds of military photos, plenty with British officers and Tommies, but we didn’t have the energy to check each one. Maybe next time.

US signallers after Avalanche landings

US signallers after Avalanche landings

It’s been a great couple of days, but we must take Annie and Mary back to the airport this morning. C and I hope to come back from Naples airport via the Amalfi Coast before we swop shores and get on a ferry to Greece. The next chapter of the great adventure. Yippee!

Have a great Sunday.