Saturday, 4 May 2013


... and so it has come to pass. Our last day and the last blog.

We had out in some very strenuous days walking and decided to take it easy on the last and final (yes, both of these) days. Drive down to Lerici, walk along the promenade, visit whatever castles were open and generally Kick Back.

I shall let the photos tell some of the story, and here are some descriptions:

Grazyna engages in some vigorous discussion (in fluent Italian) about parking times and prices with some locals;
A lady chats with some chums;
A chap with an Australian wife runs a little fish and chip caboose;
A fishing smack lands and unloads its catch;
A couple plants geraniums in the wall cavity/planter;
A huge seagull nesting in the walls of the Lerici castle gets angry at perceived human interference with its nesting duties two chicks and a few eggs under her/him.
A last photo of Andy and Grazyna on one of our walks.

... And that really is all there is to tell in the blog. Other great things happened and lots of ordinary events took place, but there is no time and we are both running out of energy sitting here at Heath Row. Still two hours to take-off and nothing more to do now that the blog is finished.

By Jiminy Cricket, are we ever looking forward to getting home and catching up with chums! Look out for some pretty Huge Hugs! Hell, why not have us over for dinner? Put on a lovely meal and we can fill in a few of the blogger gaps. Now THAT sounds like a PLAN!

See you then!


Pitelli - home!

Now is the time to write about our abode in the 5-T - the Cinque Terra - so here goes.

One of the Bunch Boys from Wangaratta, Dave Montgomery, had suggested the Hotel Doria in Lerici. He and Jacinta stayed there last year and they said it was a good jumping-off point for the 5-T. They were far from wrong.

Grazyna had been tasked with the job of finding accommodation for us and she really put the creative juices to work. Long story short, Graz found THE PERFECT PLACE. High on the hill overlooking the Ligura Sea, perched high on the hill in a national park, this Villa Rosa (as it is called - I kid you not) had The View to Die For! Down to the left lies Lerici. Right in front is Muggiano, in the distance is Portovenere and out to sea are the ships, boats and ferries.

Pre Dinner Drinks (PDDs), lunch and breakfast can all be taken on the patio overlooking the splendor below. It was a little on the remote side, did not possess a kettle or have wi-fi, but everything else about it was wonderful. YOU LITTLE BEWDY GRAZ! Just check the photos! Look on Google Earth. The closest town is Pitelli.

Also perched on the ridge high above the 'action' below on the coast is a restaurant called Pin Bon. A seafood restaurant that was delightful in all respects. Eight 'first plates', comprising lots of delicious little thingies. THEN. Second plate of as many scampi and prawns and fish as you needed. On our first visit I had a second helping, cooked separately, vigorously encouraged by the gorgeous waiter Lorenzo, for whom nothing was too much trouble. Desserts were then produced and later a complementary limoncello! The view was the same as ours at Villa Rosa. Splendiferous!

We definitely needed a car for this accommodation. This little extra cost was well worth it though, especially with two couples involved.

Just check he photos. You will soon see what I mean.


San Fruttuoso

San Fruttuoso can only be reached on foot or by ferry. Having driven west, we caught a ferry, sailed in to the cove and walked out. On May Day. Lots of Italians had made the decision to spend their holiday in this way and had made a bee-line for the beautiful port of Camogli. Looking at the craggy cliffs as we sailed around to the cove, our hearts knew that another enormous walk lay ahead.

... but only after a bite to eat and a coffee and an ice cream at the little cove. From the observation point afforded by the cafe/restaurant, we observed the frolicsome activities of Italians at play on the beach. Not too much swimming - the water much too cold - but lots of lying on sun lounges (no sand here, only rocks) and stone-throwing into the water by little boys. One older chap went in the water, slowly slowly - just like DJ does - and finally plunged in. Very soon after there occurred more chap-plunging, probably because they had been out-maneuvered by an older man (around 62-year-old) and were feeling as though un-manned. Go the older chap!

The walk out comprised, as predicted, lots of up. Right to the tippy top of the mountain and down the other side. Through lovely green forest and one surprisingly remote cafe. Many holiday makers had taken refreshment at this cafe as we would well have done had we known of its existence. They passed us moving down as we made our way up.

The walk back down to Camogli, where we had parked the car, took us down narrow lanes and past gardens that one can only dream of in happy dreams about Italian gardens and narrow windey lanes. We found a tiny delicatessen (I don't know the word in Italian) and bought the makings for an omelette. [This turned out to be a disaster because we didn't get enough eggs and the pan was coming apart at the base.] Back to the car, drive for yonks on the autostrade and back home to Pitelli (look this up on Google Maps).

These have been endless days of head-pillow-hit-immediate sleep!

The last photo here shows an example of trompe l'oeuil (in French), of which there are many in and around these here parts.


Pisa and Lucca

Pisa! Yes! Who guessed it?

Two of the Four Find-outers had been, but DJ and I had totally NOT! Imagine going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa (LTP)! Well, we did. And we had fun.

Apparently Galileo never went there (Andy told me this), but we DID. We didn't climb LTP, but we did walk up to it and touch it. TOUCHed it! I suppose you are saying to yourselves, "What would happen if EVERYONE who visited LTP went up and touched it?", but I am if the view that nothing would happen. This is totally the opposite of stealing daffodils from fields.

Andy is full of contrary-wise ideas like this information about Galileo. For example, he said that the real meaning of 'enormous' is not 'big', but 'bad', as in, "the occupation of France by the Nazis had an enormous effect on the country." Andy told me lots of interesting stuff like this.

You can all pretty-well imagine what Pisa was like and what you conjure up in your mind will probably be right. Lots of tourists (imagine what the joint will be like in summer), lots of stalls selling trinkety nick-nacks, heaps of touros taking funny photos of their friends holding up the tower and/or pinching it from above to stop it falling.

Our tickets, while not letting us up the LTP, did give us access to a mausoleum (wonderful) and a huge round structure that DJ assures me was a place for baptismal rites and such. Both were stunning, and definitely worth the visit.

Pisa was not our only destination for the day. No. We had got a bit lost getting there and had come within a stone's throw of Lucca. It is to this city that we returned when we had finished with Pisa. AND WE WERE NOT DISAPPOINTED!

First-off we lucked in to a cafe for lunch with the most friendly and helpful waiter that has ever pulled on a waiter's uniform, even though his uniform was jeans and similar attire. Lovely chap, good food. The cafe, as with most of the town is located inside some pretty lovely ramparts. Not only ramparts, but a moat as well! It is a much bigger city than Beaune, but every bit as lovely. Risty-twisty streets, towers, churches and cathedrals. This is a place to come back to (for us) and for you to make into a destination. It would not be outside the realms of probability to get yourself a little apartment, either. Think about it!

Photos attached.



There is really only one word to say to our blog-followers, and that word is "SOR-RY". Lots has been happening and there has been little time for writing, but the thing is, you see, there has been no Internet in our gorgeous rental house here in Pitelli. In addition, there has been no phone shop from which to buy data phone credit. So there! Apology accepted?

La Cinque Terra (5-T) has been astonishing. There have been countless adventures had by the Fabulous Four (DJ, GCR, Graz and Andy) that there is only so much time and space available, and I cannot relate it all here. Again - so-RY!

Lots of our chums had experienced 5-T before and had told us how much we would enjoy it. This is always good to hear, but it leaves one with the residual fear that perhaps we bloody-well WON'T enjoy it. Hands up those who have had THAT feeling? Also, there was still stuff to do in Beaune, and maybe we shouldn't have come to Italy and instead stayed at home (in Beaune) and finished off a few tasks. Looking back into the past retrospectively, as we steam into Milan for our flight to London and home I can tell you now that WE MADE THE RIGHT DECISION!

5-T is all that it is cracked up to be. The five towns themselves are a splendiferous collection of architecture, culture, magnificence, history and beauty. Nothing more to say. We observed them by train, on foot, by car and on the ferry. Amazing.

It was not possible to walk between all the towns as the floods of 2011 had washed most of the track away and officially only one of the walks was open for us - that from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza. This was the longest and 'toughest' walk according to the guide books, but no probs for any of the Four Findouters (apologies to Enid Blyton again). Vernazza was beyond description, so I won't try. You need to go there yourself.

This traverse completed, we decided to walk to the bit on the track that marked the blocking off of the path, but no barrier materialised, so we continued on to Corniglia ( I hope I am getting these towns correctly spelled and in the right order). Another gob-smack here, but again, indescribable. The reason I am telling you all this is so that you will make sense of the attached photos.

To begin this, as it turned out long, walk, we had set off on the ferry from our 'home town' of Lerici. This (ie the ferry) was a great way to get the lie of the land and to gain our bearings on the geography of the area. Sail to the further-most town, calling in on the 5-Ts on the way, and walk back. DO IT!

On other days we took the train to the towns we missed on the walk and just 'hung out' (as today's young would call it). Lost of lovely ice-creams, coffees, lunches and toilet breaks to be had along the way.

The 5-T was great, but we did more! On one gloomy-looking day we hopped into the hire car that Andy and Graz had and tootled off somewhere else. WHO can guess where we went?

I shall report in the next blog.


Saturday, 27 April 2013

Getting away

You will have noticed that I made no reference to the leaving of Beaune in any way emotionally. It was not possible at the time of writing. It was too painful.

What made it somewhat bearable, however , was the change in the weather. Gerard, our fellow 'syndic' member who, with his wife Simone had had us for drinks one evening to 'get to know' us, told us some incredibly low number of hours of sunshine to date this year. [The syndic is our body corporate.]. Ben, the husband of our property manager Libbi told us that the weather prediction for the next few weeks is very bleak indeed, with heavy frosts and lots of cold rain. Our two weeks of sun have turned out to be fortuitous in the extreme!

On the subject of Gerard and Simone, it apparent that the Big G is the captain. He is the captain at home. He was the captain at work (now retired from his job at Pernod Ricard) and appears to be very much the captain of the syndic. Roger and Anna had accompanied us to drinks and Roger's assessment was that we had made a hit. This view was probably rammed home manifestly at the moment I looked deeply into Big G's eyes and solemnly vowed that the Roses were hell-bent on doing nothing but the RIGHT THING by the commune of residents at 28 Rue de Lorraine.

Six of us ripped through two bottles of cremant (Burgundian champagne) that night , accompanied by some lovely hors d'oeuvre prepared by Simone's own hand (or so we assumed). The evening was politely pleasant an we 'etrangers' beetled up to Appartrment Rose to a slightly overcooked bouff bourgignon accompanied by lashings of potato, salad and Bordeaux red wine. How perfect!

But back to departure time ...

The rain could be heard on our roof all night. We had done much of the packing and sorting the night before (the practice known in our family of "Boadle-Frawley-ing"), leaving only a little bit of cleaning to do on the morrow. I must say that the sound of rain on our roof was most comforting and reassuring in a funny kind of way. It was raining and we were snug as bugs in our own beds, inside our own apartment, inside the walls of our own town.

When you come to stay it will be YOUR bed in YOUR apartment (and so on). Go on, make a plan RIGHT NOW to come.


Leaving Beaune

Well we're all packed and ready to catch the 9:00 am train to Lyon, then on to Milan. My only other experience with Italy was not a good one because I had spent a 9-month cycling in Britain (in 1980) and a goodly part of Spain, Portugal and Switzerland and was yearning for the parched plains of Australia. I was not in a good mood.

So Italy now beckons with a whole new perspective in prospect. We will catch up with Andy and Grazyna again and it will be a hoot to hear of their adventures since we saw them last in Beaune. Graz is learning Italian, so she will be pretty headlong into the culture. As you all know, I am pretty fluent in that language, so I hope I don't upstage Grazyna with my rapid-fire conversations with the locals.

Anyway, DJ is giving me the 'look', so I had better hop up out of bed and get on with some serious train-catching.


Pat's for lunch

Bloody hell, I haven't told you about our afternoon at Pat's joint! This is a serious oversight, as this WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE DAY OF MY ENTIRE LIFE! [All excepting our wedding day of course.]

Pat embarrassed me totally by arriving at our apartment while I was out walking. I arrived home to see her chatting away with DJ, Roger and Anna. She had her latest beau with her- a lovely chap called Andre. From Annecy. Pat invited us four for lunch the next day (Sunday). It was great news, because Pat's neighbours Daniel (pronounced "Danielle") and Michelle were going to be there too. I had met them on my earlier trips.

Pat's son Sache came and collected us in Pat's car and five of us scorched our way up the valley to Echevronne in a four-seat Renault. Well, what a lunch! The meat was wild pig ("sanglier") roasted to within an inch of its life. [Succulent AS!]. The cheese, the desserts, the veggies - all gorgeously presented and YUMMY!

But the wine! The wine was beyond belief. Grand Crüe, every one, but get this - the first two bottles (after the sparkling and the vin blanc) were dated 1998. The last bottle to be wheeled out was 1993! With dust and cobwebs ALL OVER IT. Dark, brooding and foreboding, this was a serious wine.

This wonderful, long lunch was enjoyed in Pat 's dining room in a 16th Century house that had once been the presbytery of the village church. Pat pointed out that the garden was the site of an ancient cemetery and it was not unknown for her to dig up bones and other body parts in the past. Now that's pretty special.

Conversation bubbled and squeaked throughout the afternoon, with Andre who had worked for Rolex and sported a most impressive heavy gold one. He is Swiss and speaks French and German, but not so much English. He was sitting at my end of the table.

Pat was seated next to Andre, just near the door to the kitchen. She bustled and busyed herself all afternoon, with absolutely nothing that was too much trouble. I think Pat is one of my favorite people in the world!

At the other end were Daniel and Michelle, whose French was brilliant, but whose English is on a par with my French. They are retired art and craft teachers and they both continue their work with great enthusiasm. Now what these two lacked in English language they certainly made up for with conversation. This sounds odd, but there were no lengths to which they would go to get a point across. They were such fun! Daniel with an enormous laid-back approach to life and Simone with her genuine interest in we strangers was such a refreshing and enjoyable experience. We walked down to their house after eating and they showed us around. Wonderful house, sculptures, handicraft and ambience to the whole property.

Throughout the afternoon, the gorgeous 5-year-old Stella (Sache's daughter) and the same vintage (age) black labrador Goofy entertained and annoyed us in turn (mostly entertained, I have to admit). I have referred to these two before. Goofy can't speak any human language, but Stella makes up for this glaring shortfall in English and/or French as and when needed.

Sache hadn't appeared for lunch, but materialised when the time came to take us home. We had drunk quite a lot of wine, but did not feel particularly intoxi-bottom. Needless to say , however, we tumbled to bed that night with very little else by way of victuals.

An overwhelmingly sumptuous day!

None of we Australian guests took photos of this day, so the word pictures painted above will just have to do.


Friday, 26 April 2013


Bike riding has been most joyous. It is a pursuit that tends to be more enjoyable when undertaken on one's own vehicle. We collected our new bikes on the first Tuesday of our trip and were then able to travel out to the hardware shops and supermarkets that lie to the north of Beaune, right beside the tollway. We could now do it without the need to walk, or to wait yonks for a bus. Delicious!

Not only can we conduct house setting-up and maintenance in this way, but also venture well beyond the ramparts on tours to pastures green and wineries dormant. This we did on three occasions - twice to points south, viz Santenay and Chalon, and once to Point Snorth, ie Nuits-Saint-George.

I have regaled you with descriptions of these rides in prior postings, but no word can capture the splendor of this area. There are always new and wondrous sights to behold, as well as the familiar, everyday scenes of workers going about their daily tasks with good humour. Rolling through the vines, approaching a village or hamlet, then cruising their winding streets, by town squares and gorgeous parks, the cafes beckon for a stop and a coffee, all too easy to give in to.

We have worked out the best day's plan on the bike. First leave Beaune around 9:00 am. That's when the hire place opens and bikes for visitors can be collected from Cedric or Florian, two of the most helpful bike hirers IN THE WORLD. These chaps will let you know of any number of rides to be undertaken out of Beaune, all with good grace, understanding and enthusiasm, but I digress.

Leaving much after 9:00 am leaves too little time for lunch which, in France, waits for no man (or even DJ). So, morning coffee is taken in the morning, around 10:30 am in the town square of Meursault. This revives the cyclist and prepares him/her for a goodly grunt up an incline of moderate proportions and back onto some rolling countryside, passing an ancient windmill up on the hill to your right.

If lunch is not taken at the 3-hat at Puligny-Montrachet, or any of the other cafes in the town, one needs to bear in mind that the next opportunity lies quite some way off in Santenay, BUT ONLY IF ONE ARRIVES BEFORE 1:45 pm.

Roll on after lunch to the canal. Turn left onto the tow-path, on past the fisher-folk (men with extraordinarily long fishing poles) and canal-boaters, and on to Chagny, the train and home to Beaune.

Cost of train - 3.50 euros; cost of bike hire - 18 euros for the day. Value of day's experiences - priceless!


Restaurant Montrachet

One-Hat-Michelin. One-Hat-Michlin!! Did you hear that!??? DJ and I have done it. TWICE! One-Hat-Michelin. "How did this come to pass?", I hear you ask. Well, I shall tell you.

We knew about Resaurant Montrachet from our trusty bike hire chaps - Florian and Cedric, and had cycled past some time last year, pausing only to press our noses up against the window pane. This time we made plans to EAT THERE. Think of THAT!

Andy and Graz and we two tootled down one day in a hire car, and Roger and Anna and we two (again) cycled down one week later plus one day. That is, on Wednesday one week and Thursday the next. Twice WAS a little over the top, but R & A's son Hugh had just won a job at Vue de Monde in Melbourne and we were desperate for some bragging rights with him.

Well I have to say that I completely enjoyed the experience, even though I am certainly NOT the type of chap who enjoys fine dining (said as one would imagine Christopher Pyne saying it). There was more style evident these days as one would encounter anywhere on the north-western hemisphere. Thee courses were interleaved with palate-refreshers to absolutely die for! The courses themselves, it goes without saying, were delicious. All for the bargain-basement price of 28 euros! This smacks very much of a loss-leader to me, and probably was, but it allowed a pleb like moi to cut it with the hoi-polloi, if only for a couple of hours (times two).

It most likely that I will never again experience a Michelin anything ever again in my life, unless Hughy Allen invites me to a nosh-up in some high-faloutin' restaurant he runs for Shannon Bennett. And I don't deserve it - let's make that clear.

Looking great was easier last week with Andy and Graz because we were in a car on our way to Vezelay. With the Allens it was tricky because we were on our bikes, but with good clobber in bike bags and backpacks. A convenient park near an ancient cemetery provided the cover we needed for a quick change prior to sashaying in. Afterwards the gang used the conveniences, while I quickly changed my dacks in the street while watching the bikes.

That's enough for now. I'll leave you with a few shots from the trusty iPhone.


Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Daffodil thieves

WHO would ever think of DJ as a Daffodil Thief? Well, it's very sad to say, but its TRUE!! I shouldn't be surprised, really, because she does have FORM in this regard.

There was a time on an earlier trip when DJ and another friend whose moral compass I rate at a high level - Nada Cunningham - leapt a fence and gathered poppies from the roadside.

DJ and Susan Anderson once ripped down a poster advertising an art exhibition in Haute Provence (concluded the week before, to be fair) and took it for her own use.

... So here we see DJ AT IT AGAIN, this time with the assistance of GRAZYNA KULIG! Attached find the PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE of this nefarious behaviour.

Dear Jude, I arks you: "What would happen if EVERYONE who went by picked the daffodils!???


Monday, 22 April 2013

Bike ride

The four of us cycled south on Wednesday, off through the vineyards of the Cote de Beaune. The weather could not have been better, with cool breeze and blazing sun. Very friendly bike hire chaps - Florian and Cedric - saw us off at around 10:00 am (no one gets carried away with early departures here in Beaune) and we were soon wandering the slopes of the old Cote d'Or. There are a few up bits, but overall it is a gentle roll along through Pommard, Volnay, Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet, down to Santenay, along the canal for a while and finally back to Chagny for a train ride home to Beaune (around 3 euros each).

You're right, of course, we did the same trip last year with Ally - "It's what you do". DJ and Grazyna got a little bit burnt, but only on un-sunscreened legs, so there's a lesson for us all.

One teensy mistake we keep making is almost missing lunch. DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU IN FRANCE! Lunch goes off at 1:45 pm, so get to a restaurant in plenty of time. We paid the penalty today and only ended up with a scrummy cheese platter and salad, but there was no other choice at Restaurant Terroir ... We will return to this little gem, however, it looked great inside and comes with good recommendations.

The 45 km ride was just long enough for the gang and we caught the little train back to Beaune, where Florian happily retrieved his bikes and sent us off home for a lovely meal of left-overs from earlier gastronomic triumphs.

Wandering through vineyards in this way cannot be beaten - not on foot (too slow); not on a motor car (too quick); and certainly not hopping (too awkward, too silly). Rolling countryside, delightful villages, great company and the prospect of fabulous food. Words are not enough at times, are they?!


Saturday, 20 April 2013

Luxembourg TDF

We didn't have much time in Paris (two nights, one full day), but managed to fit in quite a lot of experiences. On our departure day there was a little bit of time available so we toddled down to the Luxembourg Gardens.

Now on an earlier trio we had seen a photographic exhibition of some tribes of the Sahara desert - the Tiguans and the Touregs. What caught our fascinations this time were the photos on the garden walls of past runnings of the Tour de France. Here are a few snaps.