A Travellerspoint blog

Scotland The Brave

Temperature gauge struggled to get past 20 degrees, but this was no obstacle to a great time

all seasons in one day 18 °C

After spending a busy week in London, catching up with Wills, Kate, and baby George, we then sought refuge in nearby Newbury with Lisa's friend Michelle. A few quiet days were spent reviving tired legs and wallets, and we were ready for our foray north.

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Fife

We spread the trip up from the south of England over 2 days, so we were feeling fairly fresh as we crossed the impressive Forth Road Bridge, and turned right for the fishing villages of East Neuk. I'd memorised the B&B we were staying at in Lower Lago, but hadn't bothered to write down the name and address.

As we cruised through this sleepy town, none of the names along the road were ringing any bells, so I turned around and tried again. Same result ... so plan B was to stop at the main hotel in town, and ask to use their wi-fi. No dice - they were too busy! Frustration was building now (not to mention some increasingly fidgety children), so I drove to the villages on either side ... still no joy. Finally I stopped at a little B&B and asked the very nice lady (Evelyn) if I could use her wi-fi, explaining my predicament. Just as I called up the reservation email, she said "you're not the family of 4 coming tonight are you? I would have said something earlier, but you don't sound Italian!" Another one for the travel memoirs ...

the ever kind Evelyn with some slow Aussies ...

the ever kind Evelyn with some slow Aussies ...


18th hole at Carnoustie ... just one of 100's of golf courses dotting the countryside

18th hole at Carnoustie ... just one of 100's of golf courses dotting the countryside

Anyway, the main purpose of our brief stop here was to show Lisa and the girls St Andrews, which happily enough was hosting the Women's
British Open that week. Gabi and Nat were underwhelmed at the chance to watch the best players in the world on the world's most famous course - the highlight was getting a golf ball each from the nice South African pro Ashleigh Simon - whilst Lisa enjoyed herself, and thought it was a much better spectacle in the flesh than on TV. I returned again on the last day of the tournament by myself, and witnessed an exciting finale with Na Yeon Choi coughing up a three shot lead, and allowing the charging Stacey Lewis to claim the prize [photos posted shortly].

Banffshire Coast

Following on from Fife, we spent a week on the north coast of Aberdeenshire near the charming town of Banff. This was a chance to explore the nearby fishing villages in an unhurried fashion, which included Cullen (home of the famous Cullen Skink - a haddock based soup); Pennan (location for the filming of Local Hero); and Crovie (pronounced 'Crivie', and Europe's best preserved fishing village). Many of the villages along this coastline are absolutely gorgeous, and one suspects it is only their remoteness and less-than-warm climate which keeps them under the tourist radar.

Aberdeenshire is also the home to many of Scotland's famous distilleries, so we squeezed in a trip to Glenfiddich along the way, which was surprisingly interesting and good fun.

Duff House, Banff

Duff House, Banff


part of the walk from our apartment down to the village of Portsoy

part of the walk from our apartment down to the village of Portsoy


Gardenstown x 4

Gardenstown x 4


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Pennan

Pennan


Pennan, and the phone box Peter Riegert's character used to call his boss in 'Local Hero'

Pennan, and the phone box Peter Riegert's character used to call his boss in 'Local Hero'


Portknockie and the Bow Fiddle Rock

Portknockie and the Bow Fiddle Rock


bottlenose dolphins elusive at the Moray Firth, but we found some nice Mancunians instead

bottlenose dolphins elusive at the Moray Firth, but we found some nice Mancunians instead


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Cairngorms

The largest national park in Britain, the Cairngorms didn't disappoint despite the drizzly weather throughout the day. Our main mission was to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd (reintroduced to Scotland in 1952), but we also enjoyed canoeing on Loch Insh, and a drive up to the funicular base station of Cairn Gorm (the mountain). The station is at 635 metres, and the peak - the 6th highest in the UK - is 1245 metres and provides reasonable skiing in winter.

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Isle Of Mull

A visit to Scotland wouldn't be complete without seeing one of the famous islands, so after some careful consideration we opted for Mull. Like most visitors, we caught a 50-minute ferry ride from the 'mainland' town of Oban, then continued on foot to our campground. Now, before anyone thinks that we actually got down & dirty with tents, campfires, and drop dunnies, please refer to the photos below! Glamping, as I think it is now referred to, would be a more accurate description, and these 'shielings' (originally a shepherd's summer dwelling high in the hills) provided all the creature comforts.

The weather in Mull was extraordinary to behold. Think of Melbourne in early Spring or Autumn, and multiply the effect tenfold. In a thirty minute period we would experience drizzle, then sunny calm, then the clouds would roll in with a breeze, and finally either solid rain or a sun shower. Sounds like a trial for the traveller, but watching it unfold inside our tent was actually quite enjoyable.

Gabi and Nat loved our campground, as it was car free, and had plenty of other Scottish and English kids to play with, along with a playground and a communal campfire (monopolised by the young French group of around twenty uni students ... how did they find cold, bleak Mull I wonder??). We made the short trip to Duart Castle - home of Clan Maclean - and also caught the local bus around to picturesque Tobermory where we lunched on some fine fish & chips.

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Tobermory day trip

Tobermory day trip


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After three nights on Mull our Scottish trip came to an end, so to finish with a flourish we drove back through the magnificent Glen Coe region (see photo at the start of the blog) on our way to the Lake District in Cumbria, England.
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Posted by happellfamily12 14:04 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland golf highlands st_andrews mull cairngorms Comments (0)

Croatia calling ...

Porec, Rovinj, Motovun, and Trieste

sunny 29 °C

Porec

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After the blissful nature experience of Slovenia, we weren't quite sure what to expect of North Croatia (the Istrian Peninsula). With only five days to spare, we elected to stay in just the one place - Porec, which is nearly 2000 years old - and make a couple of day trips from there.

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looking toward Porec with a good example of the 'rocky' beach

looking toward Porec with a good example of the 'rocky' beach

As it turned out this coastal part of Croatia was very busy with holidaymakers. Our 'resort' - a hodge-podge collection of 3 hotels and a group of apartments run by a mob called Valamar - had a sprawling car park, so each day we'd walk along with the kids and play spot the number plate (all EU members list the country on the licence plate). The count as such usually revealed over 50% Austrian (a throwback to the 19th century Austrian rule perhaps?) followed by Croatian, German, Dutch, Czech, Slovenian, Italian, and Swedish ... an eclectic mix of non-English speaking countries.

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"ok, hands up who can spot the tourists ..."

"ok, hands up who can spot the tourists ..."

Whilst the resort had a few pools, most activities centred around the beach area 500 metres away, and the 1.5 km pathway around the coast that led into the centre of Porec. There was nothing fancy about this beach area - which was refreshing - and activities from water slides, diving boards, mini golf, mini trains, banana boats and parasailing kept the masses happy. The days we spent here usually involved an early morning dip, breakfast, then a few hours lying on the rocks near the water slide with a picnic lunch. After a siesta, we'd then stroll into Porec - a charming town with the beautiful Unesco listed Euphrasian Basilica.

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Premantura & RT Kamenjak

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We made a day trip to this nature reserve, which was an hours drive south going past the main coastal town of Pula. Whilst the terrain was dry and scrubby, there were a number of gorgeous inlets to swim and relax in, and we also tracked down the quirky and very popular Bounty restaurant.

pmlg.jpgpminlet.jpgloving those cevapcici Nat?

loving those cevapcici Nat?


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Rovinj / Rovigno

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As with most main towns in this part of the world, the name is also listed in Italian, reflecting Italian rule between WWI and WWII before this part of the peninsula reverted to Yugoslavia. Rovinj is the tourist highlight of the Istrian Peninsula, and is a stunning town jutting out into the Adriatic (it was once an island, but the gap was filled in 1763). Of course such beauty doesn't come without a cost, and the tourist numbers were high in the cobbled streets. We spent a pleasant few hours walking these streets and alleyways, and departed with ambitions to return again one day (in a large boat as Lisa was dreaming!).

Lisa proudly displays her new 3 euro hat ... 'Aussie chic'!

Lisa proudly displays her new 3 euro hat ... 'Aussie chic'!


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Motovun

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We visited this spectacular medieval village on the drive up to Trieste. Unbeknownst to us, most of the village had been booked out the week before by some Google heavyweights for a wedding, so the arrival of a bedraggled Australian troupe hardly caused a ripple! Lovely views across the nearby valleys are the norm, and we ate a traditional Istrian lunch at a place called Pod Napun.

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Trieste

the new Costa ... one of many cruise ships through the busy port

the new Costa ... one of many cruise ships through the busy port

The drive to Trieste passes through three countries in quick succession (Croatia, Slovenia, Italy), and we empathised with the huge logjam of cars coming the other way - passport control still exists between Slovenia and Croatia, so they were in for a 3-4 hour wait.
Trieste is only 30kms from the Slovenian border, and was a key port in the Habsburg Monarchy during the 19th century. After WWI it became part of Italy, and is now capital of one of Italy's most prosperous regions.

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We enjoyed a couple of days here soaking up the port atmosphere, and visiting the main attraction which is Castello Miramare - built in 1856 for Archduke Maximilian. A four hour train ride on Monday - via Venezia - returned us to Bologna, and our additional suitcases! London was beckoning ...
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Posted by happellfamily12 14:56 Archived in Croatia Tagged trieste pula rovinj premantura motovun habsburgs Comments (1)

I feel S(LOVE)nia

canoes, caves, horses, rock-climbing, lakes, gorges, coast, history

sunny 27 °C

I feel S(LOVE)nia

This is the current Slovenian Tourist Board slogan, and from our perspective it is very aptly named. The idea to visit came from a book that was given to us called “Travel with Kids” (thanks Pam!). Although Dan had read that it was a great place to visit, we were unprepared for how beautiful it was going to be. After a 4.30am start from Sicily we picked up a hire car at Trieste airport (what a lovely change). An hour or so on the freeway and we were then on the quiet and stunning country roads leading to Lake Bohinj. When we arrived at our destination we were amazed; it was where the forest meets the lake, sparkling and pristine. Our first excursion was a canoe on the lake. Paddling at a leisurely pace we rounded a corner to find a small bar with a trampoline to jump from the jetty into the lake. The water was crisp but three courageous members braved the elements. Unfortunately we had no money for a cold beer however!

Canoeing on the lake and Jumping in feet first

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Vogel and Slavica Slap

Packing a picnic lunch we took the short drive to Ukanc, which is the base point for the chair lift up to Mount Vogel. Vogel is a ski resort near the lake, and for about 40 aussie a day you can ski over 26kms of runs (Nov-Apr). The mountain at 1800 metres is also popular in summer with trekkers and a number of the restaurants are open. Once again this was also an amazing spot, very low key, with views of the lake and the dramatic Julian Alps. The kids loved the fact that cattle, sheep, and goats were grazing on the now lush ski slopes. Following our walk and sampling of the local apple strudel we descended on the cable car and drove to Slavica Slap (slap being the Slovenian word for waterfall). Walking up about 700 steps we reached the waterfall. The fall at times runs behind the rock face, and eventually cascades 60 metres down, spilling into a green pool below.

Vogel and Waterfall

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After all these adventures we realised that it was mid-afternoon, so we found a quiet spot on the lake and ravenously tucked into our lunch, including a delicious local cheese we had purchased, before enjoying a relaxing swim in the chill waters. We topped off the day with another canoe trip for Dan and Nat, and a bike ride for Gabi and I (this time we did have the money for the beers!). While we savoured the local brew - Lasko - in the most magical of settings, the words from the song ‘The Riddle' by Nik Kershaw kept going around in our heads, as they had played it up on Mount Vogel. See the video below if you want some 1980's punishment!

Lunch on the Lake

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Nik Kershaw Song

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Nature was certainly all around us, and that night we had a visit from a furry friend. Dan woke me from a deep slumber and put me into a mild panic when he mentioned that there was a large rat in the room. With both of us hiding in the bathroom we witnessed this bold thief as he pinched an apricot from the bench and then scampered out - fortunately not a rat but a squirrel! For the remaining nights the brave Happells slept with the doors and windows closed ...

Lake Bled and Vintgar Gorge

The following day we decided to move in more touristy circles and visit Lake Bled (where according to Dan, Gerry Harvey of Harvey Norman fame named one of his horses after the iconic hotel - Vila Bled). Our first port of call was hiring a row boat and rowing out to Bled Island - this is the only natural island in Slovenia. The island also has a beautiful church built in the 17th century. After a swim and another row it was time for a lovely lunch at a traditional Slovenian restaurant on the lakefront - the intriguingly named Osterija Peglez'n.

Topping off the day we paid a visit to Vintgar Gorge. This 1.6km gorge allows you to follow its path along timber platforms that twist and turn and cling to the high rock walls. Underneath the water rushes past in a series of waterfalls and plunges over rocks and into deep green pools. The colours are enhanced by the limestone rock, filtered sun and the stunning dense forrest. In parts we could see small trout swimming against the current. The place was magical and we passed very few tourists.

Bled and Vintgar Gorge

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Climb every mountain

Lake Bohinj is certainly the outdoor adventurer's mecca. Rock climbing was next on the agenda, and Gabi was soon kitted out in a pair of climbing shoes, hat and harness. Her instructor was a local Slovenian guy - barking out instructions in a firm but friendly way. After a nervous start and jelly legs Gabi soon overcame her fear and managed to make it to the top of her rope course and ring the bell, with strong praise ringing out below from her parents and instructor. Nat also managed to have a turn, but got a bit stuck near the tree and had to be helped down by the enthusiastic instructor.

Another canoe expedition was in order; this time including a picnic by the lake. On this occasion we managed to paddle right across the lake and found a quiet spot under the trees. However, as is the way of mountain life the skies soon darkened and we were surrounded by dark and threatening clouds, with lightning strikes in the nearby hills. Should we stay or should we go now as The Clash once posed? Paddling into the middle of the lake with metal oars would have made us sitting ducks, so we stayed and sheltered under a thick canopy of trees. Passing a wet and cold 15 minutes with terrified children as massive thunder claps and lightning surrounded us was an unforgettable experience. We also nearly lost the canoe as the wind picked up and turned the once calm lake into a choppy, white capped maelstrom. Finally the storm abated, and wet and cold we paddled quickly back ... a shower and hot chocolate in our b&b room had never felt so good.

Rock climbing and calm before the storm

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calm before the storm

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Horse Riding and Mostnica Gorge

Our last day commenced with horse riding. This low key establishment (no public liability insurance or flashy advertsments) was based in a lovely nearby town called Studor. All the houses are built in the traditional alpine design, with sloped roofs, timber shutters and flower boxes filled with colourful geraniums. The kids had an opportunity to ride on Icelandic horses (known for their calm temperament and sure footedness), and they loved the experience.

With horse riding now under our belts, we piled into the car for the trip to Mostnica Gorge. Arriving and parking the car we unfortunately missed the small 30cm sign pointing to the main path for the gorge. After an hour of walking we eventually found the correct path. This gorge is also stunning, and quite different to Vintgar as you walk along paths very near to the river. Unfortunately the camera ran out of batteries so I only managed to take a few photos.

Horse Riding and Mostnica Gorge

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Ljubljana, Postojna Cave and Piran

It was with heavy hearts that we left Lake Bohinj. This is certainly a place I would return to; it is so low key, no nasty fast food outlets or development, not overcrowded, pristine and beautiful. I just hope that it doesn’t become ruined as it becomes more of a tourist destination. A passing visit to the capital Ljubljana did not disappoint. This charming city with its lovely streets, squares and the famous triple bridge was well worth the detour.

Piling back into the car we made the journey to Postojna Cave; these caves are over 20km long and were created by the Pivka River. It was certainly clear that this was a top tourist site: plenty of massive sign posts, huge car park and a multitude of restaurants and tourist shops. Since it opened to the public in 1819 it has had over 35 million tourists. A train network takes you through most of the 5.3km of cave that is open to the public, followed by a 20 minute guided tour in a language of your choice. It was hard to believe that we had only seen 5.3km of this massive network as it seemed to go on forever. We completed our tourist activities with a visit to impressive Predjama Castle 10 kms down the road - a Renaissance castle built within a cave mouth.

Ljubljana

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Finally getting into the car before another downpour we drove down to Piran on the Slovenian coast. Slovenia only has 46kms of coastline, and Piran is one of the three major towns on the Slovenian Istria. The town has medieval architecture, with narrow streets and compact houses. Our hotel (Tartini) was right on Tartini Square - a perfect location to explore the streets and duck down for a swim in the warm Adriatic waters. Our dinner on the first night was on the rooftop terrace, which provided a spectacular view of the sea and town. We have a motto with the kids on this trip that they must try everything once. Ordering the fish plate for two, Dan and I soon regretted this motto as the kids helped us polish off the delicious gamberini (prawns), cozze (mussels) and other tasty fish morsels. Next time fish plate for four! We spent the next two days here jostling with the other human seals for a place on the rocks, exploring the streets and enjoying the culinary delights of Piran.

Alas this was to be the end of our I feel S(LOVE)nia tour.

Piran

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Posted by happellfamily12 13:39 Archived in Slovenia Comments (0)

"Oh Sicilia, you're breaking my heart ..."

with apologies to Simon & Garfunkel

sunny 30 °C

With school finished for the girls (Jun 21), and a decision made to return to Australia in late September, we now had just under three months to look forward to before confronting the world of job seeking, house sales, school decisions, and the many other responsibilities of ‘real life’.

Choosing our first travel destination was easy. Sicily has always been high on our wish list, and the chance to sneak down there before the July/Augusts hordes (and inflated prices) was too good to pass up. ItaloTreno whisked us from Bologna to Napoli in a tick over 3 hours – fantastic going compared to driving this route which would be around double that duration. We had built-in half a day in Napoli (before catching the overnight ferry to Palermo) with the thought of making a rushed trip to Pompeii, but in the end took the easier option of staying in the town centro.

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Nat contemplating eruptions of yesteryear

Nat contemplating eruptions of yesteryear

The first hiccup of the trip was encountered at the ferry terminal – we could store our two smaller suitcases there, but the big black Tosca (at over 20 kgs) wouldn’t fit in the locker. Without any obvious alternatives, I then spent the next four hours lugging the stupid thing around the busy streets of Naples. Funny to look back on now, but at the time it caused a fair bit of ‘Italia bashing’! Our main trek was to the Castel Sant’Elmo via the Vomero funicolare – a medieval fortress which afforded lovely views of Italy’s third biggest city - but overall in our short stay we failed to warm to this bustling, grimy metropolis.

arrivederci Napoli ... look out Sicilia!

arrivederci Napoli ... look out Sicilia!

The ferry trip to Palermo (over 12 hours) was completed without incident, and the kids had a great time exploring the innards of the big Tirrenia ferry, then finally collapsing in their top bunks for a deep sleep as the ferry rolled across the Mediterranean swell. Upon arrival at Palermo, we caught a taxi to the main train station, and then a regional train to our first destination - Cefalu.

CEFALU

no doubt this scene hasn't changed for many, many years

no doubt this scene hasn't changed for many, many years

Cefalu, the name of Greek origin, has seen a number of invaders over the centuries (like most of Sicily), and nowadays is a popular and delightful seaside town on the north coast. The main natural feature is La Rocca, which looms over the populace like a foreboding ogre, whilst the cathedral is the most famous man-made attraction.

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looking down from our bed and breakfast terrace ... Lisa preparing for her morning swim

looking down from our bed and breakfast terrace ... Lisa preparing for her morning swim


Gabi, Nat, and Tia ... end of another glorious day

Gabi, Nat, and Tia ... end of another glorious day

This first leg of our summer trip was enhanced by sharing it with our friends the Natale family. From Vermont, Lou, Katie, Tia, and Rowan had also elected to take a year off and live in Bologna, and we spent a lot of time together in language classes, at soccer games, and most importantly over restaurant tables. Our kids are similar ages, so it was great fun to spend time at the various Cefalu beaches, as well as ascend La Rocca one morning when it wasn’t too hot. They have now returned to the USA, and we hope to be able to visit them at some time in the future.

Katie and Lou looking well chilled with their granitas!

Katie and Lou looking well chilled with their granitas!


happy campers after the ascent of La Rocca

happy campers after the ascent of La Rocca


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We stayed a total of five nights in Cefalu, and aside from some long days at the beach, enjoyed walking the narrow and atmospheric streets of the old town; tasting the local treats of granita (fruit flavoured crushed ice) and cannoli (delicious cream filled pastry); and of course sampling the delicious seafood, headlined by swordfish. It was therefore with some regret that we caught the train to Milazzo – a port town further along the coast that supplies the ferry services to the Aeolian Islands.

most of these flavours sampled, and given a tick of approval

most of these flavours sampled, and given a tick of approval


Piazza Garibaldi humming at aperitivi time

Piazza Garibaldi humming at aperitivi time


Sicily's famous cannolo - worth travelling a long way for ...

Sicily's famous cannolo - worth travelling a long way for ...

LIPARI

Lipari's cleverly named 'small harbour'

Lipari's cleverly named 'small harbour'

The most populace of the Aeolian Islands, Lipari is not glamorous, but certainly retains a rustic charm in the few villages that dot the coastline. Upon alighting the Ustica ferry, I walked straight into tourist error #2 for this trip – a 10 euro taxi ride to the hotel that took two minutes! A cursory glance at Google maps before the trip had suggested that it would be too far to walk … this was patently not true as we discovered to our detriment.

Gabi emulating Melissa Wu perhaps?

Gabi emulating Melissa Wu perhaps?


lip_harb_view.jpgthe Aussie contingent - Gabi and new buddy Isabelle select their fish of the day

the Aussie contingent - Gabi and new buddy Isabelle select their fish of the day

Four nights in Lipari was not enough as it turned out, but we enjoyed many highlights including: a day trip to the other side of Lipari & Salina by small boat; getting lucky with our hotel, which had a lovely pool, and was not busy (Hotel Aktea); walking around to spiaggia bianca (the white beach); eating a Top 10 meal – involtini di pesce spada (swordfish rolls) - at a terrific place in town called La Cambusa; and finally meeting a nice Aussie family who were currently living in Bucharest, Romania of all places – Damien the dad was in the mining trade.

setting off on our very enjoyable trip to Salina and the other side of Lipari

setting off on our very enjoyable trip to Salina and the other side of Lipari


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girls took a shine to the 2IC


Lisa looking content after lunch in Lingua, Salina (Lipari in the background)

Lisa looking content after lunch in Lingua, Salina (Lipari in the background)

As always with travelling the good goes with the bad however, and our return ferry trip to Sicily proper (this time to Messina) was in an airless, smelly ferry that had both girls feeling unwell, and made poor Nat sick. At Messina we had a short wait before jumping on the train to Giardini Naxos.

GIARDINI NAXOS / TAORMINA

looking up to Taormina from the bay of Giardini Naxos

looking up to Taormina from the bay of Giardini Naxos

After our underwhelming experience in Positano last year, we had vowed to avoid glitzy, heavily touristed destinations (read Taormina – Gai Waterhouse’s favourite holiday destination no less!). However we were eventually flying out of Catania on the east coast, and I had purchased two opera tickets for Lisa’s birthday to the famous Teatro Greco, so back to the American/Russian ‘tourist experience’ it was ...

north from Taormina to Letojanni

north from Taormina to Letojanni

Hilton may be showing its age after 30-odd years, but the hotel garden is reaping the benefits

Hilton may be showing its age after 30-odd years, but the hotel garden is reaping the benefits

Giardini Naxos is at the other end of the bay from Taormina – around 5 kms away – and retains a distinctly 1970’s scruffy feel. It does have better beaches however, and we managed to score a reasonable deal at the Hilton for three nights. We didn’t plan anything more ambitious than a few lazy days by the poolside/seaside, along with an afternoon trip into Taormina (day trips to Mount Etna were quite expensive, and Gabi’s ongoing travel sickness issues ruled it out unfortunately).

Lisa in Piazza IX Aprile, but where is Gai?

Lisa in Piazza IX Aprile, but where is Gai?


restaurant - check; menu - check; now to find a cracker meal and vino to match ...

restaurant - check; menu - check; now to find a cracker meal and vino to match ...


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To be fair to the Taormina locals, it really is a stunning town sitting atop the rocky outcrop – not their fault if every second rich tourist wants to parade up and down the main promenade Corso Umberto I. Lisa and I arranged a babysitter at the hotel on our last evening, and caught the bus into the centro, from which the Teatro Greco is a short walk. Built in the 7th century BC , it is a lovely intimate amphitheatre, and we both enjoyed the performance of Rigoletto.

tao_isola.jpgcute Isola Bella

cute Isola Bella

tao_rigo_1.jpgfuzzy first photo, but super experience seeing Rigoletto at the Teatro Greco

fuzzy first photo, but super experience seeing Rigoletto at the Teatro Greco

A nasty early start the next morning (4:30am) to ensure that we arrived at Catania airport on time, and then it was off to Slovenia, a country neither of us had visited before!

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Posted by happellfamily12 15:19 Archived in Italy Tagged beach friends sicily ferry cefalu palermo naxos taormina natales giardini lipari aeolian isalnds Comments (1)

A taste of Italy

Bologna, Ravenna and Venice plus a bit of food and wine

sunny 19 °C

Sue's Visit

It was with great excitement that I saw Sue’s smiling and enthusiastic face at Bologna Airport in May. It was lovely to catch-up on all the Sydney news after a year away.

An action-packed week was planned with a tour of Bologna, cooking class, regional food tour, and trips to Ravenna and Venice amongst the activities organised. On day one we took Sue on a tour of Bologna including her first true taste of Italian coffee and a brioche con crema at Gamberini (the oldest bakery in Bologna). This was followed by a visit to the Archiginnasio - a 16th century building commissioned by Pope Pius IV including a fascinating anatomical theatre. A walk up to the top of San Luca and then lunch at Trattoria Fantoni may have left our guest with a slightly swirling head with all the stimuli!

Bologna Sights

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Once again we enjoyed fantastic dinner at Drogheria della Rosa, where the gregarious owner Emanuele took a bit of a shine to Sue presenting her with a free bottle of red.

Dinner

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It was a foodie week, and Wednesday we undertook a pasta making course at La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese. Making fettuccine, tortolloni and tortellini was hard work, but at the end we could enjoy the fruits of our labour and mangiamo (eat) the fine fare that we had produced.

Cooking School

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Thursday morning was an early start at 7am - we were waiting outside the apartment to be picked up by our limo service for the start of our 'Taste of Italy' Tour. This tour commenced with an insight into the production of the beautiful Parmigiano-Reggiano. Sue and I put on our special outfits for the day and then entered into the factory looking very glamorous!

The production of the cheese is extremely skilled with fresh milk coming in daily from approved cows, and only one man qualified to lift and cut the cheese from the amazing copper pots. The cheese is certainly beautiful and it was amazing to see the work and care that goes into the production.

Parmigiano-Reggiano

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Following the cheese factory we went to the balsamic vinegar factory - or aceto balsamico. The balsamico is aged from one to twenty five years in special barrels called batterias. Each year the basilico is moved from the bigger barrels down to the smaller, and these are stored in the attic to allow for variations in temperature and certain bacterias to play their part.

These vinegars are certainly far superior to the average bottle that you buy in the supermarket, and a taste-test with strawberries and ice cream (believe it or not) certainly delighted the tour group.

Aceto Balsamico

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Our final destination was the prosciutto factory, and then a five-course lunch at a local trattoria. Our local tour guide kept us entertained with stories and jokes, and we were finally rolled back into the car in a food-filled stupor for the trip home. Not even room for one little wafer at the end!

Lunch and Prosciutto

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On Friday we took the train to Ravenna so Sue could see the beautiful frescoes, and we also undertook a bit of shopping (thanks Sue for my beautiful birthday bag). As if we hadn’t eaten enough food the day before, we 'had' to enjoy a delicious lunch in another local trattoria. That night we picked up Sue’s friend Annerose from the airport ready for our girls' weekend in Venice.

Up early we packed Dan and the kids off for their weekend in Le Marche with friends from the school. Sue, Annerose and I then had a quick tour of Bologna altough heavy rain limited our tourist possibilities. Catching the train to Venice (12 euro each – thanks Italo) we arrived and found our way via traghetto to our accommodation. Leaving our bags in the room, our first stop was prosecco and pizza to celebrate my birthday. A bit of a rest and then dinner at a local restaurant (fortunately we stumbled onto a good one ranked high on TripAdvisor). Following dinner we wandered through the streets and into St Mark's Square, although heavy rain ensured we were rather damp on our return.

Venice - Day 1

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Sunday morning we had booked a two-hour walking and gondola tour. This was a terrific way to see the sights and hidden streets away from the maddening tourist crowds.

Walking tour and Gondola

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Following our tour we found a great little spot for lunch. This provided the fuel for the rest of the day where walked many of the streets and saw lots of sights. Dinner topped off the day (again by chance we found one of the top-rated restaurants in Venice), and we then caught a ferry back late at night to our accommodation.

Venice Sights

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Sue and Annerose departed early for their trip back to Germany, and I caught the ferry to Murano - the famous island that produces most of the Venetian glass. It was lovely wandering the streets and taking in the sights, plus it wasn’t too overrun with tourists in the morning. An action-packed week, but I think Sue certainly experienced the tastes and sights of Italy.

Murano

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Posted by happellfamily12 09:56 Archived in Italy Tagged venice bologna ravenna Comments (0)

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