Slipping and sliding

What a fantastic week in Viehhofen. We were joined by our wonderful kids Jack and Polly who flew into Salzburg for a week of skiing at Saalbach Hinterglemm. The weather was sunny and warm and we were assured the snow was great. 

At the start of the week the family competence assessment was that Roger and Jack were already confident skiers. I was very unconfident and Polly a complete novice. Lots of room for improvement. 

On our 1st day Polly went off for a lesson and in 4 1/2 hours learnt a huge amount and decided that no more lessons were needed. She very quickly grew in confidence and skill and skied all day, every day, getting better and better each time. How I admired her capacity to believe in the skill she’d amassed and just go with it! She was brilliant.  

 Jack was great too. Two uni skiing holidays had equipped him with good skills and he skied with calm assurance, giving lots of helpful advice, support and guidance to Polly and I. It was lovely to see Roger and Jack enjoying each other’s company as they went off together enjoying some more challenging runs. All was well until a heavy fall on a jump that left Jack with a few cuts, a poorly arm and probably most inconvenient, the loss of one lens from his glasses. It kept Jack off the skies for one day, but after that he was right back on it.   

 Roger was Mr consistent throughout, enjoying the skiing and supporting his family.  He took a few opportunities to go off do a few more challenging runs whilst we were otherwise occupied just to ensure his skills were up to scratch.   

  As for me, I had a mixed week. Seems that I had a bit of a mental block I needed to get over, but finally at the end of the week, under the watchful and supportive eyes of my family, I finally became a skier who could confidently and successfully get down blue runs. Thank goodness for that as it allowed a wonderful day when the four of us could ski together, with the special bonus of fresh, powdery snow to ski in – perfect. 

  
It was lovely to spend a week together, skiing during the day, eating together and playing games in the evening. Ligretto and Linkee being the top favourites. A week filled with love and laughter – thank you. 

  
Now we’re all heading home. Jack and Polly flying and us in the camper. Happy days. 

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Road Trip Part 3.

We left the Trulli which we had loved and headed north. According to our books, not many of the campsites along the east coast of Italy were open in March so we decided to head for the Republic of San Marino. A 400 mile journey so a long day and we got there. San Marino is an enclaved microstate surrounded by Italy. It’s just over 24 sq miles and an estimated population of 32,000. It claims to be the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. It is a country with more vehicles than people! We spent a day in San Marino on an overcast and cold day, but what a treat we had. We bought the multi ticket for all the castles and museum and set off into the castles. The two castles were magnificent. La Costa o Fratta – seconde Torre and La Rocca O guita – Prima Torre. Built on the edge of the cliff in good defensive positions but with fantastic views over the vast view.  

 
We then went and visited the parliament building and the basilica, both interesting and impressive. We also visited the state museum and art gallery, neither of which tickled my fancy.

Our next stop was in Ravenna, one of the towns highlighted in our guide book for its early Christian and Byzantine mosaics that adorn the churches and monuments. We were not disappointed and saw some wonderful mosaics in a range of public buildings, including the basilica if Saint Apollinaire Nuovo and the Neonian Baptistry. The buildings were lovely and the mosaics truly fantastic. Mostly these were on the ceilings, and were very detailed.  

   
We then continued north to Venice, one of Roger’s particular favourites. We walked miles but saw some spots that we’d not seen last time, including the Palazzo Ducale which was very large and impressive. Predictably I found the cell area of the building the most interesting! We also went into the Basilica and climbed up on to the roof. Very impressive mosaics again. We travelled on a ferry and had another good day.  

   
We then travelled further north crossing the border to Austria. We stopped just over the border in a snowy campsite which I loved. Nestled I a lovely snowy valley, we enjoyed good walking on a beautiful sunny day, and cold nights, down to colder than -5.8 at one stage. 

     

This brought us nicely to Viehhofen for a week of skiing with the kids. Let the learning curve (and falling down) begin!

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Apulia region and our Trulli

We arrived at our Trulli which was to be home for a week, and were awestruck by its beauty. A Trulli is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. It’s specific to the Itria Valley in the Italian region of Apulia. Ours wasn’t drystone, and had been made into a very comfortable house for us, and was stunning.  The two conical roofs were over the lounge and bedroom, and are magnificent to look up into from the inside.

    
 
Apulia is in the south of Italy, at the ‘top of the heel’. We knew very little about the area, but have learnt that this is an area where there are loads of olive groves, and lots of farms. The area is very cheap, for Italy, which was a nice surprise and the food has been great . 

We headed to Alberobello, where there are so many Trullis and were dazzled by so many in such a small area. All occupied, and many used as shops and cafes for the tourists to visit. Stunning to see so many together.  

 
We also visited Monopoli, a coastal town. There was a lovely thriving fishing port where the boats were loading bait, and preparing to go out to sea. The old town here was quaint, with the typical narrow lanes and a beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea. We went north up the coast to Polignano A Mare. A coastal town, built right on the edge of the cliff, with the path weaving in and out around the houses and then out to the coast. Quite lovely. 
   
We also visited the Sassi in Matera. A stunning town  and UNESCO World Heritage site. The Sassi are ancient cave dwellings in the ancient city and are suspected to be the among the first human settlements in Italy. They are houses dug into the Rock. Many of the dwellings are only caverns and they are sited on top of each other, jammed in. Whole families lived together in these caves together with their animals. They were occupied until 1950’s when the government forceably relocated  most of the residents to areas in the modern city. The occupants were riddled with malaria and were very unhealthy. Some of the Sassis are now reoccuppied and many have been returned to how they were in the 50’s. So interesting and such recent history. Amazing to think that families lived in such conditions up until relatively recently. Unsurprisingly there were a number of churches carved out too. These were surprisingly ornate with frescoes, many of which were still intact. A stunning place to visit.

   
   
Other towns were also beautiful and include Ostuni, the White city, Locorotondo and Martina Franca. This area is so lovely and seems quieter than other parts of Italy that we’ve visited. The prices were great too.

We’re now about to leave and start on the journey north. It feels like we’re starting our journey home.

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Road trip part 2

We left our beautiful villa by Lake Lugano, going via Switzerland to fill up with fuel, so much cheaper than Italy, then headed south. We were planning to visit the Cinque Terre on the med. As we travelled south, the weather got wetter, and wetter. Not what we’d ordered at all. The Cinque Terre are 5 villages nestled into the hills around the Mediterranean, all south facing they are not accessible by car. The villages are built into the cliffs, and the remaining cliffs being terraced and used for growing vines and olives. Some of the farmers have set up monorails which allow them to bring their produce down more easily. We took the train to Riomaggiore the furthest east of the five. There was a very easy path around the sea, but this was closed, so we walked over the top to the next village Manarola. This was a path through the terraces, going up and up over a scramble path, but the views across the top and out into the med were magnificent.  

 Manarola was also beautiful and after a picnic lunch by the sea, we set off by train to Corniglia, the next village as the coastal path was closed. Corniglia is the only one of the 5 villages where the town is up on the top of the cliff away from the sea, so off we set up the hill to what was another beautiful walk but this time the rain had started. Despite out waterproof coats and trousers we did get very wet, although not cold as the walk was such hard work. Vernazza, the next village was lovely, but all the bars were filled with people like us trying to keep dry! As such we headed back on the train to get to Monterosso, the last of the Cinque Terre. Much more open with a beach, but still built into the surrounding cliffs. 

    
 Such a lovely area and definitely worth a return visit. There were some fab walks that we didn’t do due to the weather, but glorious.

Our next stop was Pisa. We popped into the square just to make sure that the tower does lean, and can confirm this is the case! What was perhaps more impressive were the buildings in the same square, the cathedral and the baptistery. A beautiful setting and one that we were pleased to have seen. 

    
 Visiting on a Sunday, gave us the added bonus of being able to drive into Pisa and park just around the corner from the square with no parking charges.

We had planned to then visit Florence, but the weather had taken a definite turn for the worse and we didn’t relish the prospect of site seeing the great city in the rain, so decided to put this off. Maybe on the way north again. 

Instead we headed for Rome, we had tickets for the Vatican museum and decided that an extra day in Rome was no bad thing. We visited many of the same places that we did last time, but also spent a good time wandering around the Vatican museum. The museum was huge, with loads to see, but I most enjoyed the map room. This is one room with painted maps of Italy. These was beautiful. We also really enjoyed looking at the Pope’s official carriages and cars. The whole museum is very ornate with painted ceilings and really most impressive. The Sistine chapel was the main reason for us going and was certainly impressive, but with the benefit of hindsight not the most impressive of the things to see. It is obviously wonderful, but so much of the rest of the museum is as wonderful too.

    
   
Rome was wonderful. Of note we went to Scara Sancta basilica, where there is a flight of stairs that can only be climbed on your knees up to the altar at the top. Very humbling to do – but very painful. Loads of magnificent buildings, packed in so closely that you can’t seem to get far enough from them to see them, just lovely. At the end of our trip there, we treated ourselves to a Segway ride in one of the parks. A fun way to finish Rome, and gave the feet a rest from pounding the footpaths.

Our next step was Pompei. Such a huge site. I loved the sunken roads, which are worn with cart tracks. Whilst the site is in ruins there was much to see, and you got a good impression of how it might have been, amazing to see the painted frescoes on walls that were painted prior to Vesuvius erupting in AD79. I was surprised at how ornate and sophisticated. Buildings would have been. 

   
We had wanted to climb Vesuvius but were thwarted due to the entrance we found being closed, and the Italians not seeming to like helpful tourist direction signs. Together with the driving around Naples, which was particularly disturbing, it was a pleasure to head east towards our next stop in Apulia region.

A lovely road trip, and our spirits weren’t dampened by the wet weather we had. Lovely views, sites and lovely people. 

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