Days 29 – 30 Venice

There’s a Monty Python ‘Travelogue’ called ‘Away From It All’ (here it is on youtube) that was released as a curtain raiser for Life of Brian that has a bit about Venice – it has a bit like this:

And so back to Venice, Queen of the Adriatic, here certainly we have peace and tranquility and more of those f*cking gondolers. We need more of those like we need a hole in the head

So I’ve always wanted to go to Venice. However…

I reckon Venice is another one of those places that would be a nice place to visist if it wasn’t for the tourists. Never have I felt more claustrophobic than I did near the Bridge of Sighs and San Marco Piazza. There was a couple of ginormous cruise ships in town, including the Queen Victoria and they spewed all of their guests into Venice in tour groups, who walked around like no-one else was there.  In the end Louise and I decided to find some of the less crowded areas of Venice so we caught the Vaporetto (water bus) back to where we we staying and found a lovely Piazza not far from our hotel and decided that this was much nicer than the major tourist spots – Campo San Magherita.

I guess I’d better post some pics.

In the end Louise and I were pretty happy to be getting on the ferry for Pula. OR SO WE THOUGHT…

(Stay tuned)

Days 26 – 28 Grado

Louise has spoken a lot about here visit to Grado 2 years ago and how beautiful it is, and I wasn’t disappointed! It’s been a highlight of the trip so far…

We booked into the Hotel Savoy, along with about a million German/Austrians and went straight to the pool – it’s still hot and had a poolside lunch accompanied by the biggest beer I’ve had so far – a 1 litre stein of beer. That’s how the germans roll.

The following morning we walked a short distance into the main shopping area and cashed up. If you think australian ATM fees are steep, how about 3.50euros to get a couple of hundred euros out! Sheesh!

Louise did her best to boost the local economy again and bought more clothes. She will be the best dressed person in Geelong this summer.

During out time in Grado, Louise and I did most of our exploring by bicycle.  I don’t think I actually believed that Louise would ride a bike, but credit where credit’s due, she was quite proficient, although she did nothing to assuage my fears by falling off about a minute into her first ride when she decided to practice before I was ready. Other than a dent in her pride there was no damage done and after quick seat adjustment and putting the chain back on the spokes, we were on our way. Thankfully there were lots of bike paths and we only had to venture out into mad italian traffic on a couple of occasions.

We ventured deep into Grado Vecchio (Old Grado) and looked up Calle Tognon and Calle Lunga where Louise’s Dad was born and raised before emigrating to Australia. Grado Vecchio is beautiful and I’m not sure the pictures do it justice. We had pizza on a park bench for dinner one night (I love that you can buy pizza by the slice – especially since we didn’t have  a fridge and couldn’t eat the cold leftovers for breakfast (@soopofficial).

Also during our stay in Grado, we caught up with Louise’s Zia Santina (Rino’s Cousin) she cooked us every kind of fish in the Adriatic Sea, including canocchie (prawns are a poor cousin to canocchie), rombo fish and a beautiful delicate-flavoured zucchini risotto. No dinner that night – thankfully we were able to shed a few calories on the bike ride home.

We also had an fantastic dinner with Massimo and Sarah, their daughters Lucia and Anna and Georgio and Lizzi (another cousin of Rino). 

I know this blog is starting seem a bit like a gastronomers tour of Italy, but many of our memorable moments seem to revolve around food.  On our last night in Grado, Louise and I had dinner at a tiny little restaurant in Grado Vecchio and had Risotto Vongole (like pippies) which was also beautifully prepared and tasted unbelievably good.

Note: we ran into a few people in Grado who remember Rino – he is known in Grado as Nino Riso (should be Riccio – Curly).

More photos here:

Aside

We’re approaching the end of our holiday and I’m miles behind. It’s been hard to find the time/energy to keep the blog up to date.  Consequently, I’m in a mad rush to try and post some updates so that the last few bits are relatively up to date.

Apologies for my tardiness…

It feels like cramming for exams, or writing a business case in time for the next portfolio board meeting.  I’ll do my best though…

P.S. Theres a few updates behind this aside.

Days 22 – 25 Monfalcone

Arrived in Monfalcone having successfully navigated the Trenitalia website to book train tickets, find our way around Milano Centrale Stazione, catching the FrecciaRossa (red arrow) to Venice Mestre and then the regional train to Monfalcone, which happened to be the scenic route via Gorizia and Udine. The supposed 1 and a half hour trip took a shade over 2 and a half hoursand at one stage google maps seemed to be suggesting we were in Slovenia. Anyhow, got to Monfalcone and Zia Vittoria pulled up at the station in her lime green 1980s 2-door Daihatsu, parking on an angle like Starsky and Hutch. We hightailed it through the streets back to the Collaute residence – set in a beautiful vineyard. Zia Vittoria made us most welcome and we met Husband Alfio and their son Max and daughter in-law Cinthya and grandson Luca. We had meat-stuffed green and yellow peppers for dinner and they were maginficent.

We spent the next few days wandering around Monfalcone and soaking up italian life (many espressos and cappuccinos) and having lunch at various ristorantes and always stopping on the way home for a gelato. I’ve raved on about the cheese and the cured meats a bit, but the gelato is fantastic. Not sure we have anything that comes even close in Australia. Still loving the food – especially my breakfasts which consist of formaggio, proscuitto, fresh italian bread and the sweetest grapes ever. Buonissimo!!!

Obligatory photos from Monfalcone here:

Days 20 & 21 – Rho

Not much to report here – a trip into Milan (Garibaldi) to have a look around – some awesome architecture and great food along Como Corso. Louise also emptied the H&M store so not sure how we’re going to get all the shopping home at this stage – looks like we’re gonna need a bigger suitcase.

A couple of snaps around Garibaldi to keep the punters happy…

Love the Unicredit Bank building…

Day 18 & 19 – Genoa

Louise and I decided to catch a train to Genoa and so we did.  We stayed at an awesome hotel called ‘Romantik Villa Pagoda’ I guess it was a bit romantik – it’s about 300 years old and was once the home of a wealthy Genovese merchant – and it had a swimming pool which we availed of.  Although a bit ‘Fawlty Towers, we fell in love with it. The lift was ancient and I timed it once and it took 5 and a half minutes to get to level 2. We think there were some ghost floors, coz when we got to level 2 it seemed like we were a long way up. We had dinner at the Hotel the first night (I had seafood because the beef had run out (even though we were the only ones in the ristorante) and betroot gnocchi for Louise) and I decided to have an after dinner dessert wine – only to be told I couldn’t have it  in no uncertain terms – ‘not available’ apparently – so I had a prosecco.

Pics of Villa Pagoda and surrounds

Day 2 of our Genovese escape was a bit of a disaster – we decided too head into Genoa Central for some sightseeing only for me to leave my mobile phone in the taxi – realising I didn’t have it just as the taxi drove off. A futile run down the road was to no avail. The phone and it’s associated features (google maps, …etc) were pretty much our lifeline – I don’t think I realised how much I rely upon it until the very moment it disappeared into the distance. Pissed off doesn’t quite capture how I felt… 

Anyhow, after a couple of espresso coffees (which really wound me up, and after some helpful spanish tourists let me ring Villa Pagoda, we started to track the taxi down, and after returning to the hotel, it wasn’t long (using find my phone on the computer) that we able to track the taxi down and, thankfully, have it returned. Phew!

Anyhow, we think Genoa is a nice city and we don’t have any photos to prove it.

We returned to Milan to gather our strength for the next leg of our journey to Monfalcone, Grado, Venice and Pula.

 

Days 14 to 17 – Rho

Louise and I spent 3 or 4 days with Romana soaking up the local way of life in Rho and Milan central. We’ve had to pick our expedition times carefully to avoid the hot weather and to not coincide with pomeriggio (the afternoon nap).

For my benefit, Romana showed us around Rho – it really is a gorgeous town with narrow streets and crazy drivers. Romana just lets them go around her and pays them no heed.

A handful of pics here:

 

Now, I’m just going to get this out there at the start of our time in Italy (and with the benefitof hindsight). Cured meats in Italy are THE. BEST.*  Yes, I’ve read the research that says cured meats are no good for you but I DON’T CARE.  In Italy, I can have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner and no-one bats an eyelid. And the cheese OMG!!! I’m in heaven…

On Thursday, Louise took me on a day-trip into Milan to see Duomo – and we had lunch at the top of Rinascente (guess what? cured meats and cheese!). I reckon this is the best spot to see Duomo from – you can almost reach out and touch it. Pics here…

 

On Friday night we took Romana out for aperativo at Bar Nazionale and then dinner. for Prima, I had Spaghetti Vongole (clams) – simple but utterly delicious. Louise had frutti de mare fritti (calamari, prawns, octopus but no fish)

For secondi I had a pizza with sausage and it was humungous, but tasted delicious.  I couldn’t eat even a quarter ofit after my spaghetti dish, wo we took it home and stuck it in the frigo. Home early so Romana didn’t have to drive in the dark. I’m not big on posting food photos, bet here ya go…

 

 

*I acknowledge over-use of capitalisation/fullstops to make a point.

Louise’s right of Reply re: driving around Ireland

Auntie Weeza Online 😎
Hello everyone, finally I get to use a bit of technology whilst Peter is otherwise being entertained with his second passion, BEER Tasting compliments of my cousin Max !!!!!

Abbreviations: ” Nora ” the name we gave to the female voice on his Mobile Phone that tells us what road to take 5 minutes after the turn.

I’m going to start on the Monday before we left, having already decided and packed the smallest suitcases we could find, Peter was adamant he didn’t need to use the Man Bag loaned to us by Baz….. So I had my bag, loaned from Marilyn, with our cabin bag full of of stuff and his heavy Back Pack ( which he couldn’t remember where he put things in anyway ) never even opened on any flight !!!!!!! Which all could have fitted in our suitcases anyway.
The Back Pack left no room for Peter’s feet on the plane and so we took turns. I also now had the Passports and tickets organised and ready to whip out at a seconds notice 👍👍👍 I know.

So friends, the end of this story is as I imagined, we have no Back Pack, no Travel bag, and my bag is now a Man Bag and holds everything we need safely…..all IPads, LapTop & associated x3 million attachments and cords are always in the suitcase……mind you” Principessa Louisa ” or Princess Louise was very lucky that Peter carried all of them anyway, because it was so hot the first few Days…. We are now like a well oiled machine in our packing, although Auntie Romana has her bedroom full of our shopping and unused bags….. We are going to have to buy a bigger suitcase for the trip home.

Nora played a big part in our journey that began in Ireland, initially I was confident that in today’s technology she would guide us safely to our destination without any problems……not knowing then that there were no street signs in Ireland…….as Peter mentioned the good old fashioned Map, (you know the coloured ones that show you where you really are ) was a million times more accurate than Nora, and Peter actually turned into streets using MY VOICE instead of that bloody lying Nora Bitch !!!!!!
I think most of you know that I am directionally challenged at the best of times, and this was no different….the L roads seemed to extremely confusing and with no Landmarks to speak of, a ” wonderful debate ” between Peter and I commenced ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Another issue arose to complicate our already escalating ” debate ” with Peter continually trying to negotiate with Nora, whist driving on those extremely narrow L Roads !!!! Did I mention the signs that directed him to slow down at blind corners, NOT, and NORA continually turning off, with Me trying not to add to his already alarming nervous demeanour ” YES Peter who is usually so cool calm and collected.
I tried to help by watching Nora’s green arrow, and found out later from Peter that it was going the wrong way !!!!!!
Luckily a MotorWay sign appeared out of the Blue…. Yippe, a Toilet, a Fag & Coffee and a Map saved the Day and we kissed and made up. Peter continued to trust in Nora….. Me, I had the Map which continued to keep me calm and was used pretty much from then on…..I’m sure Peter felt sorry for her, BUT ME, she’s a pice of crap !!!!!
We did manage to laugh about it all and had a wonderful time in Ireland, it was a Magical Place xxxx Louise

What I learned in Ireland

  1. People like a drink
  2. Orla’s family are amazing – we should have spent more time with them (especially Ruby!)
  3. The food was much, much better than expected.
  4. Irish strawberries are far, far superior to Aussie strawberries
  5. ‘L’ roads are to be avoided at all costs (apparently)
  6. How to drive (thanks Louise – I didn’t know I’d been doing it wrong all these years)
  7. The weather in Ireland is more changeable than in Melbourne.
  8. The local ales are awesome
  9. The Irish love their sport as much as we do and – and with even more parochialism.
  10. 10 days in Ireland is nowhere near enough – we’ll be back for a longer visit.

Day 11, 12 & 13 – Dublin

Mostly a travel day and didn’t encounter any ‘L’ roads. Getting back to the Thrifty rent-a-car drop point at the airport in Dublin raised some minor challenges – filling up our little Peugeot 308 before return was certainly a challenge!

Got an awesome Taxi Driver – full of ‘Yes Ma’am’, ‘yes sir’, ‘not sure if sir knows this’… He was so nice we booked him for the return trip to the airport in a couple of days.

Checked into the Trinity City Hotel – which was very nice indeed – if you like purple (which Louise does). Check out the groooooovy decor here:

We walked into Temple Bar for Dinner and had dinner at one of touristy-type restaurants and had a quite nice cottage pie.

On the way backLouise stopped to check on the Guarda who were comforting a passed out reveller – to see if they were doing it right. Fortunately the young woman was pink and breathing regularly and Louise was satisfied she was in good hands.

Some things we saw along the way included a sweets shop that sold ‘Runts’ and ‘Fluff’.

Tried to get a cappuccino on the way home, but the staff at Insomnia obviously don’t have it – the shop was closed and the staff were at home fast asleep.

Sunday the 20th saw us seek out Trinity College to view the Book of Kells and the old library.  This was a must see for us – and it didn’t disappoint.

In the afternoon, I took a tour of the Guiness storehouse whilst Louise did girlie things. The best part of the tour was watching our far east brothers and sisters trying to pretend they like Guinness at the various tastings.  The Gravity Bar provides an awesome 360′ view of Dublin and was a great way to finish the tour.

Pics here:

Took me 2.5 hours to get home on the bus – crowds from the gaelic football semi-final b/w Kerry and Mayo – it was a draw 2-14 to 2-14and the crowd was  ~80,000 – were streaming through the streets. It reminded me of the MCG after a big final; there was a real buzz in the air.

Neither of us felt like eating out – it was a big night and I’d had my fair share of Guinness, so we had dinner in the hotel bar and had an early night.

More random pics of Dublin here:

On Monday, our friendly taxi-driver showed up on time and took us to Dublin airport well in time for our flight Dublin-Brussells-Milan (Malpensa).

Not going to talk about this much, suffice to say (and here’s a bit of free advice). DON’T. EVER. CHOOSE. A. FLIGHT. PLAN. THAT. INCLUDES. A. STOPOVER. IN. BRUSSELLS.

We arrived at Malpensa at about 8.00pm and promptly had an airport coffee – nectar – and finally arrived in Rho at Auntie Romana’s house at 9.30.