This chapter will cover my (our) various activities from age about 37 to 47.
So the major subjects covered will be homemaking, holidays, Mr Baggins' demise, professional progress and anything else that comes to mind.
Since this was a decade of stability with no major life-changes, I shall concentrate on our holidays, at home and abroad.
|Venice 1980 - from our album|
We watched some Holiday Programme on the telly about Venice and thought that it looked a bit different - we booked the exact holiday that had been shown. I think that the tour operator was Pegasus (now sadly no more) and the hotel was the Luna. We arrived at Marco Polo airport after flying low over the lagoon and Venice itself. A water taxi then sped over the waters leaving a great V-shaped wake behind us - it disapeared into a maze of tiny canals then burst forth on the other side of the city, turned right, and there was The Doge's Palace and St Mark's Square in all its glory. We were deposited at the landing stage of our hotel - very posh, though it had seen better days (It is now the Luna Baglioni and rather expensive). After getting ourselves settled in, we ventured outside - St Mark's Square was about a hundred yards away and was almost deserted (it was March).
We walked around the Piazza and through the Piazetta, past the Doge's Palace and onto the Fondamenta facing the lagoon and St Georgio Maggiore.
In every one of our photos (which have sadly turned sepia) there are hardly any other tourists to be seen.
We were only there for a few days, but did all the usual tourist things except taking a gondola ride (our budget wouldn't stretch that far).
Although we could only speak a dozen words of Italian, we got around OK (only getting lost about twice an hour) and managed to eat and drink well at small trattorias and the like.
Although it was cold, rainy and partially flooded (and decidedly spooky at night), we fell in love with the place, and were to return to Venice (and the rest of Italy) many times in the future.
I shall see if I can find the original negatives for these pictures and get them processed again.
|View from Balcony|
I was promoted twice in 1980, first, in February, to Senior Systems Programer grade 2 then, in October, to grade 1. In my seven years at British Aerospace my annual salary had risen five-fold - that's why we could now afford all these foreign holidays.
Our first holiday that year was to Florence - our first return to Italy. We stayed at a hotel overlooking the Arno, and had a standard tourist itinerary, visiting the Uffizi gallery, the Duomo, Baptistry and all the famous churches and other sights. It was a good holiday, and we saw lots of fine art and architecture, but we much preferred Venice.
|Atop the Schilthorn|
|By a Frozen Lake|
|From the Three Passes|
We had a third holiday that year - a long weekend in Suffolk. It's not quite so mountainous as Switzerland, but has its charms. We stayed at an old coaching inn in Ipswich that could have come right out of Dickens. On the coast, we visited Dunwich (the village that is now under the sea), Minsmere nature reserve and Aldeburgh. Inland, we visited Flatford Mill (Constable country) and a country house with a moat that might have been Melford Hall (but I'm not sure). We had an excellent lunch at The Buttery, at Orford. This is a small, crowded restaurant specialising in very simple but very fresh seafood.
|Suffolk Landscape||On a Suffolk Beach|
In February 1982 I bought my first home computer, a BBC model B microcomputer - complete with a cassette recorder. It had a truly tiny amount of memory, much of which was taken up by the operating system. But it was really very good; I particularly liked the version of BASIC that was a joy to program in - it even included an assembler that you could call up from inside the BASIC programs. But saving files to cassette tape was a chore and, the next year, I installed a disk interface. In March 1986, I traded it in for a BBC Master and, in the following year for an Acorn Archimedes. You can read all about these wonderful machines on Wikipedia. Although I eventually bought the first of several PCs running Microsoft Windows, it wasn't until 2014 (when I moved to a small flat) that I gor rid of the Archimedes.
In April 1982 we visited France for the first time - a long weekend in Paris. We arrived at Charles De Gaulle airport and were driven by coach to our hotel - a bit of a dump, with a tiny bedroom, but close to the heart of Paris.
|Notre Dame de Paris|
Our second holiday that year was to Scotland. Mr Baggins stayed with Maureen's parents, as was usual then. As I had never driven that far before I greatly overestimated how long it was going to take us, and had booked us in for a night at a hotel in Richmond, North Yorkshire. We drove up the A1 and it was obvious we were going to get there too early so we made a little detour and had a long walk along a wooded river valley in Wharfedale - very pleasant. Our room at the Frenchgate Hotel was rather cramped but the evening meal was quite good.
It was on this holiday that Maureen started to keep a detailed diary - so there should be more details from now on - e.g.
Dinner - Saturday 15 May 1982
Starter - Pear and Walnut Salad in Yogurt Sauce (Maureen), Mackerel (Jeff)
Main Course - Sea Trout in Prawn Sauce (Maureen), Fillet Bourgygnon (Jeff, garlic!!)
Afters - Chocolate Brandy Cake (Maureen), cheese (Jeff)
Bottle of French white wine, coffee in the lounge.
Stop me if this gets too boring.So, after a hearty breakfast we were on the road again and turned left at Scotch Corner, across the top of the Pennines (fairly spectacular), up the A6 to Carlisle and over the border at Gretna Green, stopping for lunch in Dumfries (fish and chips as everything else was closed). The scenery was getting decidedly Scottish as we ended up at the Milton Park Hotel in St John's Town of Dalry (no, I had never heard of it either). We went on a circular tour, through Galloway Forest Park, Gatehouse of Fleet and Castle Douglas before returning in time to get ready for dinner. We realised that we didn't have a key to our room and discovered that they don't bother with such things!
On the telly in the lounge, the final of the Snooker tournament was in full swing. Everybody else was for Ray Reardon, but we wanted Alex (Hurricane) Higgins to win. It was very close, but the hurricane won and was very emotional as he received the trophy.
Dinner - Sunday 16 May 1982
Orange juice, then Seafood Cocktail (with mussels)
Roast Galloway Beef, vegetables and Yorkshire pudding
Peach Pavlova then coffee in the lounge
We went out for a stroll after dinner and found a small lake which we named Loch Baggins.
Dinner - Monday 17 May 1982
Minestrone soup with Parmesan cheese, Danish hors' de ouvres (scrambled egg with caviar)
Fresh Salmon (enormous) with Mayonaise, vegetables and salad
Half a bottle of Chablis
Strawberries & cream (Maureen), Brie (Jeff)
Breakfast next morning was rather hit and miss as a conference party had arrived and they were too busy. We checked out and drove north along the loch, up Glen Falloch, down Glen Lochy to Lochawe and past the impressive Cruachan hydro-electric power station. On through the Pass of Brander and then a very narrow road to Kilchrenan, and Ardnaiseig - a hotel whose grounds are open to the public. We spent some time in the gardens and woodland and then went in for lunch (we were shown into the library). It was very elegant and really much too posh for us. We had delicious fish mousse with toast, and some white wine, and then sweets off the trolley - chocolate mousse with rum and raisins (Jeff) and lemon souffle (Maureen). We had a chat with the young waiter who said he didn't like the work or the people, but it was either that or forestry.
Dinner - Tuesday 18 May 1982
Smoked Mackerel Salad
Venison à poirve with a selection of vegetables
a bottle of Haut Medoc
Cheesecake (Maureen), Peach Gateaux (Jeff)
large cups of coffee
We went for a stroll around the grounds and then retired to the bar where Maureen had a Grand Marnier and I had a Drambuie, and we listened to a fascinating conversation between the hotelier and his friends.
Dinner - Wednesday 19th May
Loch Awe Salmon with hollandaise sauce, new potatoes, green beans and carrots
Raspberry cream crunch
Blue Brie (Maureen), Stilton (Jeff)
bottle of Beaune Blanc
Coffee in the lounge
After another excellent breakfast we hit the road again, heading south under grey skies, stopping for some surprisingly good fast food at a Little Chef, we got to Moffat about 2.30 and booked into the Moffat House Hotel. We looked around the town, bought some Moffat Toffee, and went into the churchyard. The man mowing the grass showed us the grave of McAdam (Tarmac roads) and told us a dodgy story about the stautue of a ram. We got some leaflets from the tourist office and took a trip to The Grey Mare's Tail (a waterfall) then via St Mary's Loch and Tweedsmuir, back to the hotel.
Dinner - Thursday 20th May
Venison paté (very tasty)
Local Sole with real tartare sauce (Maureen), Chicken Kiev (Jeff)
bottle of Pouilly Fumé
Coconut ice-cream (Maureen), Pineapple in Kirsh (Jeff)
Selection of cheeses
Coffee in the lounge
Watched the progress of the war on the telly in the lounge, went to bed, and drove home in the morning - through an insignificant little town named Lockerbie.
Dinner - Friday 21st May
Individual cheese soufles
Chicken soup with rice
Veal escalopes (Jeff), Honey-baked ham (Maureen, far too much honey!)
didn't bother with coffee
Saturday morning, the eighth of January 1983, I got up as usual to make a pot of tea. I could see Mr Baggins stretched out under the swivel chair in the living room. Nearby was a big hairball that he had sicked up, so I cleared it up and, when I returned he hadn't moved. I stroked him and he was cold. I called up to Maureen and she came down very distraught. Eventually we put him in a shoebox and buried him in the front garden, later planting a miniature rose bush over him. His fur was still very soft and sleek. We couldn't stop crying all day - it was a good job it was a Saturday and we didn't have to go to work.
|Mr Frodo Baggins - April 1971 to January 1983 - R.I.P.|
For our first holiday we returned to Italy - this time rather off the beaten track.
We travelled with "The Magic of Italy" to a Sale Marasino, a small resort on Lake Iseo.
"The Magic" was a small tour operator specialising in Italy - sadly it has now broadened its horizons to other countries, specialised in villas and only popular resorts, and become "The Magic Group" - not what it was.
We had an early flight from Gatwick Airport so booked into a nearby motel for the night. Our flight, which only had 28 people on board and was only 10 minutes late, left from the satellite which was connected to the main terminal by an automatic shuttle train. Breakfast on the flight was a standard English fry-up; weather was good, but there was heavy cloud over the Alps so we couldn't see them. Bit bumpy on the descent into Treviso, a military airport with a very small civil terminal attached. There was no waiting around, and we were met by the Magic rep, Jenny Morton. We were the only people going to Lake Iseo so we had a minibus to ourselves - driving for two and a half hours through flat agricultural land with crops, meadows and vineyards (Soave and Valpolicella). Earlier rain had cleared up by the time we arrived at our hotel (La Posada), and were met by the proprietor, Waldes Morandi, and shown to our room which had a view up the mountainside.
We went out to look for lunch, but it was a small place and we couldn't find anywhere - we had a chocolate ice-cream to keep us going. We had a walk along the lake front, and found the church, the boat-stop and a small outdoor market. There were lots of men fishing, and lots of lizards sunning themselves. We went back to the hotel and had a drink in the bar before getting ready for dinner. Apart from Jenny, we were the only guests - we couldn't practice our Italian as Waldes wanted to practice his English (very few foreign tourists here).
The local train line behind the hotel woke us up early, and we had the usual continental breakfast with a cappuccino. We took the ferry to Montisola (the largest island on any European lake), landing at Carzano and started to walk to the Sanctuary at the top. The mule-track was steep and rather rough (no walking boots in those days) and we pased workers making hay or tending their vines, and walked through meadows of long grass with purple, blue, pink and white flowers - the cow-bells made it just like Switzerland.
Dinner - Monday 9th May 1983
Vegetable soup (Jeff), Antipasto (Maureen)
Escallopes of veal with spinach (delicious)
Bottle of house white wine
Cheese (Jeff), Ice-cream (Maureen)
Coffee in the lounge
|Lakeside - Montisola|
Next morning it was back over the ferry to Carzano, and we walked along the lake to Pescheria.
Dinner - Tuesday 10th May 1983
Risotto with Funghi (lovely and creamy)
a large thin Beefsteak with mixed salad
Fresh fruit (grapes and a pear) (and a large bowl of water which we knew what to do with)
Bottle of Valpolicella
Coffee at the table
Next morning was nice and bright. Jenny picked us up in her car just after 10 and we drove down the lake to Iseo then around to Lake Garda. She made a detour along the lakeside at Salo and then dropped us off in Gardone. We walked along the lake-side promenade and investigated the town. There were lots of places to eat but they all looked the same - we chose one at random that turned out to be full of Germans, so that's what the waitress thought we were (and wouldn't talk Italian). We started with spaghetti with a nice tomato sauce, then I had roast veal and Maureen had grilled trout. I finished off with cheese and Maureen had a cream caramel. We were flummoxed by the bill which was in German.
Dinner - Wednesday 11th May 1983
Pasta (snail shapes) with a creamy, meaty sauce (delicious)
Saltimboca (veal and ham) with Artichokes
Bottle of Franciacorta (white)
Cheese (Jeff), ice-cream (Maureen)
The next morning we got up a bit earlier than usual and caught the ferry to Iseo for the weekly market. The boat, which went via a couple of stops on the island, was rather crowded with locals. The market stalls were quite interesting, especially the ones selling food. We wandered round the town and saw some nice old churches and the castle. Not much else to do there, so we caught the ferry back to Sensole and walked towards Pescheria. It started to rain, so we went into the Albergo Forest for lunch, where were allowed to order in Italian and were actually understood. Maureen started with Ravioli and I had Lasagne. Then we had Corregone fillets in breadcrumbs again, with a nice salad of lettuce, tomatoes and sliced radish.
Dinner - Thursday 12th May 1983
Zuppa di Parvese (Jeff - clear soup with bread and egg), Antipasto (Maureen - ham and salami, rice salad with smoked sausage and cheese)
Fillet Steak with spinach
Cheese (Jeff), Strawberry and Almond "Cake" (Maureen)
Bottle of Franciacorta (red)
|High on Montisola|
We missed the ferry to Sulzano, so walked there instead. It was quite reasonable walking, through meadows and vineyards and, at the highest parts, views over the whole lake. We climbed up to the same level as the Sanctuary and it was sunny and getting rather hot so, when we came to a road that descended towards Sulzano, we took it. We had a quick look round the town and then it was time for lunch again (Have you noticed the emphasis on food in these holidays?). We had gnochetti verdi in mozzarella and tomato sauce (very good) then fillets of sole with chips and salad chosen from a trolley. Then Maureen had strawberries and I had a mixture of fruit for a change, and we finished up with coffee. We had had a bottle of water with our usual half litre of house white wine as we were thirsty after our hot walk.
Dinner - Friday 13th May 1983
Rollate - baked pasta with ham, cheese and spinach
Grilled Trout (Maureen), Veal chop (Jeff) both with chips
Bottle of house white
Cheese and ice-cream as usual
Settled our bar bill and gave Claudia the waitress her tip.
Dinner - Sunday 15th May 1983
Prosciuto and Melon
Grilled trout with a mixed salad
bottle of Soave
Cheese and ice-cream as usual
a Grappa and a Sambuca with our coffee
Two cats lived a few houses up at number 1. Suzy was the most adventurous, Tufty (because of his whiskers, don't know his real name) was the most friendly.
Tufty often used to visit us after Mr Baggins had died, and we had a cup of tea with him on the morning of our departure.
We set off about 11 o'clock and drove towards the local airport at Cambridge, stopping for a ploughman's lunch at "The Ancient Shepherds" in Fen Ditton.
Cambridge had only a small airport with a little waiting room and a small refreshment place outside.
We took off on time in a Vickers Viscount turbo-prop - a nice smooth flight to Jersey, where we picked up our luggage and checked in with the second airline. We had a Pepsi and a danish pastry while waiting. The flight to Guernsey was in a 16 seat Britten Norman Trislander - wonderful low-level flight with perfect views all around. The Premier Travel rep met us at Guernsey airport and transfered us to the docks in a mini-bus. After a 30 minute wait a small boat took us to the small island of Sark. There are no cars allowed on Sark, but none of the waiting tractors was for us - someone phoned the hotel for us and it seemed that they didn't know which boat we would be on. We got a lift to the top of Harbour Hill and sat on the grass to wait. Eventually Mr Peree turned up with his tractor and a sort of metal box on the back. Maureen sat in the box with the suitcases and I walked until outside of the town then sat behind the driver. This is illegal, and at La Coupée we bumped into the Seigneur (the feudal chief - though he used to work for British Aerospace). We arrived at our little hotel, La Sablonnerie, tired and dusty and dinner was just starting. Our room was very small, and the bathroom and toilet were through the dinning room - not very convenient. We shared a table with a Scottish couple (Donald and Eva McDonald) who were OK.
|Dinner - Saturday 16th July 1983
Waldorf Salad (Jeff), Asparagus with York Ham (Maureen)
Iced Cucumber Soup
Salmon with Lemon sauce, potatoes, courgettes and broad beans
Fresh Fruit Salad then Cheese
bottle of Chablis
Coffee in the garden (to cool off)
|Dinner - Sunday 17th July 1983
Frogs Legs in Garlic Butter
Mackerel with Gooseberry sauce (Maureen), Greek-style Lamb (Jeff)
Orange segments with green figs, then cheese
bottle of Fleurie (a red Burgundy)
Coffee in the lounge
|Mr Peree's Boat|
|Dinner - Monday 18th July 1983
Artichoke Hearts Mornay
Stilton and Port Soup
Grey Mullet with Mustard sauce (Maureen), Pork Tenderloin with Cider sauce (Jeff)
Sherry trifle (Maureen), Fresh fruit Salad (Jeff) then Brie
bottle of Puilly Fumé
|Dinner - Tuesday 19th July 1983
Coquilles St Jacques
Fresh Raspberries (Maureen), Zabaglione (Jeff)
bottle of Pinot Chardonnay
|Dinner - Wednesday 20th July 1983
Apple and Cheese Salad
Creme Washington (sweetcorn soup)
Veal La Roma
Fresh Fruit Salad (Maureen), Gateau (Jeff)
bottle of Chablis (cold)
|Dinner - Thursday 21st July 1983
Parma Ham with Melon
Camembert and Champaigne Soup (better than it sounds)
Lobster (Maureen), Quails (Jeff)
Strawberries (Maureen), Fresh Fruit Salad (Jeff)
(wine not recorded)
|Dinner - Friday 22nd July 1983
Frogs legs (again)
Brandied Figs and Oranges
(wine not recorded)
|Last walk over La Coupee|
This was just a weekend break, and Tufty came to see off as before. We drove there through light traffic and arrived too early to check in to the Maid's Head Hotel so went for a wander. The Parson Woodruffe had gone down market and was now the Pink Elephant. We had a light lunch in Skippers - Paella and lemon cheesecake (Maureen), Smoked Venison and cheese (Jeff). Checked into our hotel and went out in the afternoon for a river trip from Elm Hill - nice weather, entertaining commentary and lots of coots, moorhens and the odd grebe. We ate in the hotel that night (OK but not brilliant) . . .
|Dinner - Friday 23rd September 1983
Cream of Asparagus Soup
Dressed Crab (Maureen), Beef Chasseur (Jeff)
bottle of Soave
|Dinner - Saturday 24th september 1983
Salmon and Fennel Mousse with salad and brown bread
Pedgeon, Duck and Orange Pie with vegetables
Chocolate, Orange and Brandy Mousse (Maureen), Lemon and Cointreau Syllabub (Jeff)
bottle of Fleurie
I have previously told you that I had failed my GCE "O" Level French exam at school. When we went to Venice for the first time we bought a little BBC book called "Get by in Italian" - it was meant as a brief starter for tourists and business men, and in a touristy place like Venice, it was all that we needed. Back at home, a little later, we noticed that the local college would be running an evening course called "Italian for Pleasure" - we enrolled. It was an Wednesday evenings at Shephallbury and was run by an Italian lady named Liana (who had learnt her English as a nurse in Glasgow!). There were about a dozen pupils, mostly OK and some still friends. We enjoyed the lessons and there was no homework - we went for several years. We invested in two further BBC publications that came out in the following years - Buongiorno Italia (had a cassette and also TV programs), then L'Italia dal Vivo (cassette only, and much harder). Liana eventually married and moved away - she was replaced by Alessandra Nichol (an Italian lady married to an Englishman). Alessandra was very nice, but was a proper language teacher and actually gave us homework. We resented this at first, but it was the right thing to do and we went from strength to strength, finally passing our GSCE exams with A* grades in 1994. I was quite proud of some of the stories I wrote for homework and shall try to find them (they are not on the computer). Although the classes have long finished, we still keep in touch with Alessandra and Les (now deceased) and have seen Liana and her husband a couple of times (though they have retired to warmer climes).
An early cup of tea (with Tufty as before) then off to Luton Airport (our closest) for the 7.05 flight to Naples. It was a reasonable flight, followed by a wait to get through passport control as an Italian passenger had lost her passport. Hung around for our luggage, then it was a 90 minute coach drive, initially along the clogged up motorway. The drive through the Latteri hills was more pleasant, with orange and lemon trees, vines and olives. At Ravello we were set down in the main Piazza, where we had to wait half an hour for two taxis to take thirty people to different hotels and villas - ours turned out to be 5 minutes walk away. Our hotel was white, Moorish and elegant. Our room was down three flights of stairs and out onto a terrace overlooking the bay.
|Outside the Garden Room|
|Dinner - Saturday 2nd June 1984
Fettucine with tomato sauce
Fish Soufle with a mixed salad
Mirafoglie (Maureen), Cheese (Jeff)
bottle of white wine (the owner's own production)
Cappuccinos in the lounge
|On Our Terrace|
|Dinner - Sunday 3rd June 1984
Ravioli stuffed with cheese
Orato (big white fish - Maureen), Roast Veal (Jeff)
Bieta all'agro (cold leafy beet in oil and lemon)
Strawberries and cream
Coffee in the lounge
|Dinner - Monday 4th June 1984
Frutta di Mare (mussels, cockles and razor-shells etc in a clear soup)
Bistecca in a peppery sauce, potatoes and zucchina "Al Inglese" (ie on the same plate)
house Red wine
Coffee in the lounge
|In the Rufolo Gardens|
|Dinner - Tuesday 5th June 1984
Fusilli with cheese sauce (Maureen), Tomato Soup (Jeff)
Veal burger with cheese on top, potatoes and carrots
Cream Caramel (not as good as Maureen makes)
bottle of Vino Rosatto (Rosé to you)
Coffee with Mrs Jordan in the lounge
|Dinner - Wednesday 6th June 1984
Spaghetti with seafood (Maureen), Pea Soup with Pasta (Jeff)
Dentrice (Maureen), Agnello (Jeff)
Fruit (Maureen), Cheese (Jeff)
|Dinner - Thursday 7th June 1984
Melanzane (Aubergine) al forno with Mozzarella
Sole with white wine sauce (Maureen), Pollo alla Siciliana (Jeff)
Profiteroles with rum and chocolate sauce (Maureen), Cheese (Jeff)
Coffee in the lounge with Mrs Jordan until chucking-out time
|Dinner - Friday 8th June 1984
Fettucine with mushrooms, ham, peas and cream
Salsice with chips and mixed salad of green beans, artichoke heart, beetroot, leafy beet, asparagus and spring onion in a mint dressing
Fresh fruit salad with ice-cream
bottle of the house red
Cappuccinos in the lounge prepared by the night-porter
Our second holiday that year was a long weekend in the Peak District in Derbyshire. On the Saturday morning, Maureen had her hair cut, then we drove north up the more interesting A6 rather than the fast M1. Wrong decision - between Bedford and Northampton our windscreen shattered. I made a hole in the crazy glass and drove slowly to a petrol station where we phoned for help. We ate our sandwiches while waiting for the man to turn up and fit a replacement (£105). The A6 goes through far too many towns, and it wasn't until 5 o'clock that we reached the Hathersage Inn. The proprietor was a bit odd, but the food was good.
|Dinner - Saturday 29th September 1984
Paté (Maureen), Fish Paté (Jeff)
Halibut (Maureen), Chestnut Loaf (Jeff)
not recorded (Maureen), Squirrel's Delight (Jeff)
We flew from Gatwick to Milan (Malpensa) on an afternoon flight, then were driven by coach to our various hotels (we were at the Regina Palace). It was raining, and would continue to be wet for some days. Unpacked and went down to dinner.
|Dinner - Friday 10th May 1985
Salmon (Maureen), Lamb with rosemary (Jeff)
Strawberries (Maureen), Torta (Jeff)
Half bottle of local white wine, water
|Dinner - Saturday 11th May 1985
Macaroni with tomato and basil
Fillet of perch
Two different tortas
The rest of last night's white wine and water (waiting for us on the table)
|Lunch - Sunday 12th May 1985
Lasagne al forne (Maureen), vegetable soup (Jeff)
Pollo arrosto (Maureen), grilled pork chop (Jeff)
Fresh fruit salad
Mezzo litro vino rosso, acqua minerale, cappuccinos
|Dinner - Sunday 12th May 1985
Prosciutto di Parma; Cold salmon and egg with mayonnaise (left over from a wedding reception we think)
Beef Wellington with green beans and croquette potatoes
(wine not recorded)
|Lunch - Monday 13th May 1985
Ravioli (J), tagliatelle (M)
Whitebait (or similar small fishes), mixed salad, mezzo litro vino bianco
|Dinner - Monday 13th May 1985
Smoked lake trout (whole fish!)
Supreme of chicken, aubergine, chips;started another bottle of vino bianco
Torta (alcoholic) (M), pineapple (J)
|Lunch - Tuesday 14th May 1985
Fried plaice, green salad
Apple and blood orange
The normal mezzo litro vino bianco and water
|Dinner - Tuesday 14th May 1985
Seafood cocktail (M), pilaf (J)
Pork chop pizziola (M), turket fiorentino (J)
Cheese and torat, vino bianco etc
|Dinner - Wednesday 15th May 1985
Noodles with a meat sauce (M), ox-tongue with green sauce (J)
Chicken of some sort; bottle of prosecco, water
Cheese; alcoholic ice-cream bomb (M), creme caramel (J)
|Remains of lunch - Baveno|
|Lunch - Thursday 16th May 1985
Tagliatelle with ham and cheese
Grilled salmon steak with chips (M), veal with a picquant sauce (J)
Fruit; wine and water as per
|Dinner - Thursday 16th May 1985
Spaghetti alle vongole
Beef braised in barolo
Cheese; two different tortas; half bottle of valpolicello, water
|Lunch - Friday 17th May 1985
Penne with a meat sauce
Braised hare with polenta (very tasty)
Cheese (J), strawberries with lemon (M); the usual wine and water
Just after we had our new kitchen installed, we went to Oxford for a shortish break. I drove Maureen's mum and dad to the station for their holiday on the Isle of Wight then, after a sandwich for lunch, we drove to Oxford and booked into the Royal Oxford Hotel.
We had a short stroll to get our bearings then, after changing, went out to dinner.
|Dinner - Saturday 14th September 1985 - La Cantina
Timballo (sort of lasagne with a fishy sauce)
Involtini alla Siciliana (M), nodino di vitello (J)
Fresh fruit salad (M), stuffed pancakes (J, could not finish)
(wine not recorded)
|Lunch - Monday 16th September 1985 - Brotherton's
Blinis (took for ever to come)
Pollock (J), some other fish (M)
No afters or coffee (we would have been there all day!)
|Dinner - Tuesday 17th September 1985 - Pratt's
Stuffed tomatoes (lukewarm)
Chicken supreme stuffed with ham, overcooked veg
Cheese rather than anything from the dull sweet-trolley
An early alarm clock got us to the station for the 06.46 train to Kings Cross, getting to Gaatwick airport at about 8.30. We flew uneventfully by British Airtours, arriving at Galileo Galilei airport at about 1.30. We had to wait for fellow travellers on a delayed flight from Manchester, so didn't board the coach till 3.15, travelling via Florence to Colle Val d'Elsa. We checked into our hotel (La Vecchia Cartiera); having been warned by the courier that many rail and bus workers were on strike, we discovered that the hotel's restaurant staff were also striking.
We set out at 7.50, through drizzle, for dinner at La Velettia. They seemed reluctant to take us, and only offered us a limited menu. All our table of six plumped for tortellini and then either veal with mushrooms or an arroso misto. It was there that we met Thelma (an elderly teacher who travelled to Italy frequently - we would remain friends for years), who recommended the Vernaccia di San Gimignano to drink (which we shared with her). Maureen and Thelma got their pasta after only a three quarters of an hour wait; eventually I stormed into the kitchen to complain, only to find just one little lady draining a huge pan of steaming pasta - eventually (just two of is at a time) served at 9.30. The veal was OK, and my mixture of rabbit, chicken and pork had been grilled over charcoal and was delicious. After all that we had a coffee with Thelma at a local bar and eventually got to bed.
After an early breakfast we set off for Florence, arriving at 9.30. We were shown where to pick up the return coach and were left to our own devices. We went across the Piazza della Signoria, over the Ponte Vecchio to the Pitti Palace - very interesting, we especially liked the inlaid marble work, and Fra Filippo Lippi's Madonna and Child.
We sat on the steps at the back for a while and then set off for the Academia to see Michaelangelo's David, afterwards having a pizza, salad and a half bottle of vino bianco for lunch (near the duomo). We had a liitle stroll, an ice-cream, and then a drink at a table in the Piazza del Signore (very expensive lemon juices, but thirst-quenching). Back to Santa Croce to gather for the coach, waited for two late-comets and started back, stopping for a ten-minute view at a very crowded Piazza del Michaelangelo.
Back at the hotel we were told we would be eating at the same place as last night. There was much grumbling, but we were shown into a back room and our hotel manager was there to get things organised. The pasta lady explained in Italian that she only had one pair of arms. The food came much quicker and was all very good. At the end of the meal the electricity failed so we went out for a coffee and sambucca with Thelma again. We went for a late-night stroll, finding a very modern and striking branch of the Monte di Paschi Di Siena (world's oldest bank).
The next morning we went out for an early-morning stroll, up the steep hill to Colle Alto - goldfish in the piazza's fountain, and lots of cats - and returned via the old walls for breakfast (served hesitantly by the manager). We set out at 9.30 for Siena, passing through pleasant country. The courier showed us where to meet the coach back and led us up the main drag to the Campo (where the Palio is held). We went for a stroll, noticing the signs of the various contradas on the buildings, ending up at the cathedral - very ornate inside, with nice wooden panels on the seats behind the altar, and a memorable altar by Pisano. We went to a bar and, for lunch, had panini (with tuna), a small slice of panforte and lemon-sodas. In the afternoon we visited the town-hall museum (famous frescos) and had another wander, finding that the pinacoteca was closed, and evenutally made our way to the coach point outside San Domenico (modern, deep-blue stained glass). We had a rest at the hotel before venturing out for a preprandial drink and then on to the same restaurant for dinner (tortellini, pork stew, fresh fruit) and the same bar for coffee etc.
After breakfast the next day the coach took us to San Gimignano, dropping us off at St John's Gate. Celia, our guide, took us all up through Piazza della Cisterna to the cathedral square; the cathedral has lots of good frescoes. We then walked up to La Rocca (ruins of a castle, great views), had a sit, then down via little back streets and visited the Museo Civico. We stopped and had a drink in the square, then did a little shopping (local wine, panforte, guidebook). We then had a two hour coach ride to our second hotel - The Grand Hotel Excelsior at Chianciano Terme. Dinner was pasta, crostini, roast veal with chips and green beans, torta, fresh fruit.
The next day was the day of the wedding of Prince Andrew but, even though we had a free morning, we didn't bother watching TV but went for a walk with Thelma and Celia, and looked round the market and then a small Etruscan exhibition. We bought freshly made panini in a little shop for lunch. After freshening up at the hotel we left for Montepulciano, having to walk up a steep hill to the little town (ice-creams on the way down). We drove back to the hotel with a short stop at Pienza. Dinner, with Thelma as usual, was pasta, rice salad with ham, fish in mayonaise, chicken breast with cheese, torta, fresh fruit.
Our next day's visit was to Perugia in Umbria. Our route took us past Lake Trasimeno and we nearly knocked down a man painting white lines in the road. You get to the old town up an escalator through La Rocca; we did the sights, had a drink, then Celia showed us the Etruscan well (I went down, but the steps were too slippery for Maureen). We had another walk about and went back to the coach which made it way to Assisi, stopping at the church of Santa Maria del'Angeli (where Saint Francis founded his community) but were chucked out after 5 minutes. Celia again escorted us up the main drag in Assisi and then on the a self-service restaurant for lunch. Then we visited the Basilica of St Francis (frescoes by Giotto) and returned to the lower town and visited the church with frescoes by Cimabue. We wandered back, stopping for a refreshing drink in a little garden with splendid views. We then popped into the basilica again, this time looking at the lower church and the crypt. The coach stopped at the same place on the way back, and we went to the rose garden (statue of St Francis, real doves). Dinner that evening was crespi (three different fillings), spinach and egg pie, veal chop with zucchini and chips, torta, fresh fruit (coffee at a bar with Thelma).
If it's Friday, it must be Orvieto. On the motorway Celia lectured us about the Etruscans. The coach had to park at the bottom of this great outcrop of tuffa on which the town is built and we were walked up by Celia. We were impressed by the Duomo, notwithstanding scaffolding and protective cladding against vandals. We found Michaelangeli's wood shop (featured on Buongiorno Italia) and bought a couple of little animals (still got them - a gatto nero and a grillo). We then had a good walk round the town, noticing other places featured in the series, had panini for lunch. On the way back to the hotel the coach stopped for us to look at an Etruscan necropolis. Dinner was spaghetti with a tomato sauce, rice salad, veal, torta, cheese (coffee and amaretto in a bar with Thelma as usual).
On our last day we drove up through the Pisan hills and stopped for half an hour to see the Leaning Tower, the Duomo and the Baptistry. Then on to the airport and home.
This was to be the first of many times that we joined the Lancaster University's Summer Programme - a way of providing income when the students were not being taught. They offered a range of full day or half day academic or activity-based courses, and put you up in the unused student accomodation. This first time, we both enrolled on the full-day course "Nature in the Northwest", adding an extra day of sightseeing on the way up. On Saturday morning (August 9th) we drove up the A1(M) and then the A5, through Leicester and Derby, arriving in Dovedale about 1.30, booking into the Izaak Walton Hotel at Ashbourne. We went for a little walk through the village of Illam and a small National Trust park, back through Thorpe Cloud and along the banks of the Dove to the hotel where we changed for dinner (not recorded). On Sunday morning we set out, after breakfast, for the National Garden Festival at Stoke-on-Trent. We wern't very impressed, and left at 2 p.m., heading up the M6 towards Lancaster. We were allocated a double room in the Cark building of Cartmel College, then went to a meeting where the workings of the summer programme were explained to us. At dinner, you sit at a big table for about eight people and a waitress dumps the food in the middle and you help yourself - not bad, considering. We met one of our tutors (Dr Trevor Pierce) and the other five people on our course.
Friday 3rd July - We dropped Munchkin off at the Happi Kat Motel and drove to Bristol to visit my mum. After lunch we continued down to Devon, eventually finding the Higher Bowden Cottages about 5.15. We had to get help from the local farmhouse to open the doors, but then everything was OK - we even had a little courtyard we could sit outside in. Unpacked, freshened up and went out to the local Sportsman's Arms for a meal (sardines in garlic butter (M) whitebait (J), rabbit pie (M) Greek-style lamb (J)).
Saturday - We woke up early and, after a cup of tea, went for a stroll to get our bearings. We then drove into Dartmouth and had a good look around (St Petrox church very nice) and did some food shopping, took the food back to the cottage and went out for an exploratory drive - Stoke Fleming to Torcross and on to Start Point and Great Mattiscombe Sands, where we had a nice circular walk. Drove back to Torcross for lunch at the Church House Inn (skate and chips (M) crab salad (J), Devon cider cake with clotted cream). After lunch we drove to Slapton Sands for a snooze and a walk, but the local grasses didn't do Maureen's hay fever any good. In the evening we set out for dinner - couldn't get into Dartmouth because of a carnival, the Laughing Monk at Strete was full, we ended up at the Stoke Manor Hotel in Stoke Fleming (melon balls, chicken in a lemon and almond sauce, raspberry meringue (M) souffle (J), bottle of Soave).
Sunday - Maureen was feeling sick (hay fever etc) so I had breakfast and walked into Stoke Fleming for a newspaper - Maureen was sitting in the courtyard on my return. Had a restful morning and a salad for lunch. In the afternoon we drove to Sharpitor? near Salcombe and had a look at some National Trust gardens (overgrown, but glorious estuary views) and walked to Sharp Tor? and back. Into Dartmouth for dinner that night - ended up at the Tall Ships on the quayside (spicy crab au gratin (M) avocado with cheese (J), shark steak (J) lemon sole (M), raspberry ice-cream (M) chocolate fudge cake (J), bottle of muscadet).
Monday - After breakfast we walked down to Blackpool Sands and had a paddle, sunbathe and read, having an ice-cream on our way back for lunch. In the afternoon we drove into Dartmouth and had a river trip on the "Heart's Content" up and down the river Dart. In the evening we returned to Dartmouth for dinner at the "Cherub" (crab cocktail (large, M) smoked prawns in garlic (J), fresh Dart salmon with hollandaise sauce, chocolate orange cheesecake (M) chocolate fudge cake (J)).
Tuesday - Spent the morning on the beach as yesterday, then had lunch at the Sportsman's Arms (various ploughman's) before driving to Castle Drogo where we looked round the house and spent quite some time walking round the grounds. Back to Dartmouth for dinner at Bistro 33 (ricotta gnocchi with a sort of pesto, fish ragout in a provencal sauce, pistacchio & almond loaf (M) gooseberry & elderflower fool (J), house white).
|Maureen on the Devon coast|
Wenesday - Drove into Dartmouth, parking at a NT carpark, then walked along a footpath towards the sea and eventually back along a higher path (lots of interesting birds and flowers). Lunch at the King's Arms in Strete (crab salad, rhubarb crumble) then in the afternoon we had a guided walk around Slapton (interesting talks about the different habitats as you move inland from the shingle). Dinner at the Hungry Horse at Habertonford (seafood chowder (M) cheese & crab souffle (J), fillets of John Dory in a ginger & lime sauce, cherry pie (M) chocolate & almond roulade (J), bottle of Italian Chardonay).
Thursday - Drove to Torcross and walked the South Devon Coastal Path to Beesands for a sunbathe then back to Torcross for lunch at the Sea Breeze restaurant (ploughman's). After lunch we went into Dartmouth and walked up Dyers Hill and back early to the cottage. Dinner this evening was the Carved Angel (Joyce Molyneux's restaurant in Dartmouth) - rather upmarket than we were used to but very good, and probably the most expensive and probably best meal we had ever bought (smoked haddock quenelles ("free" extra), tarragon noodles with a lobster & tomato sauce (M) fishy hors d'oevres (smoked salmon, stuffed squid, John Dory, terrine, ceviche) (J), Dart salmon with samphire, melon and champaigne sorbet (M) goat's cheese brioche, salad with a borage flower (J), summer pudding (better than I make), coffee with sweatmeats (£64)
Friday - After breakfast we packed, cleaned the cottage, paid for our electricity & milk then set off back to Bristol (salmon salad and cakes at mum's) then back to Welwyn to pick up Munchkin and home.
This was our second holiday as part of the university's summer programme. In the mornings, Maureen was doing Caligraphy and I was doing Music for Pleasure; in the afternoons we were both doing Local Rambles.
Saturday 1st August - We took Munchkin to the Happi Kat Hotel this evening so we could pack and then get an earlyish start tomorrow.
Sunday - Left about 9 o'clock, driving up the A1 to Wetherby and then across the Penines, stopping at the Wharfedale Gate in Ilkley for lunch (lasagne verdi (with chips!)). We arrived at Lancaster about 3 o'clock and got booked in (separate single rooms on opposite sides of a corridor in Lonsdale College). Had a walk down to the duckpond, then back for the opening talk and dinner (fruit cocktail, chicken, lemon meringue tart, cheese). We then split up to go to the introductory sessions of our courses. After the intros we had a quick drink at a reception do then headed off to our rooms.
Monday - Maureen found the caligraphy very absorbing and seemed to get on with it OK. I have no notes about my course, but seem to remember the tutor (Frank Salter from Preston University - more about him later) making Latin puns. After lunch we were driven north (in a minivan) through Lancaster and Carnforth to Arnside Knot on Morecombe Bay where we climbed up to the top and enjoyed fine views of the bay and the Lake District. There was a short, sharp shower on the way down but we only needed to put on our waterproof jackets. We then walked along the muddy estuary to Arnside itself then got the minivan back just in time for a quick change before dinner (egg mayonaise, smoked gammon, chocolate ice-cream and meringue, cheese, bottle of muscadet - the half bottle of soave that we left on the table last night had vanished). After dinner we went to a reasonable lecture "In defense of modern art" but didn't fancy folk singing in the bar so called it a day.
Tuesday - Maureen cleaned yesterday's muddy shoes and we had a cooked breakfast. Maureen did capital letters! Lunch was a cold buffet then we changed into our rambling gear. We were driven south to the pretty village of Scorton then walked up hill to Nicky Nook (bit boggy at first). Had our drinks break at the summit, with views of Morecome Bay, Lake District, the Isle of Man and Blackpool Tower. Walked back down via a river and reservoir and got back to the campus quite dry. Dinner was paté, trout, orange & chocolate gateaux, cheese. Didn't go to the lecture ("Will Maggie go on for ever?") but did go to the barn dance - didn't get on too bad, but very strenuous.
Wednesday - Went for a walk round the duckpond and got our shoes and socks wet so had to change before breakfast. Maureen did italic and was shown diferent types of parchment (including a whole goatskin) and how to sharpen the nib of a quill. After another cold buffet lunch we were driven to the Trough of Bowland where we plodded up to Tarnbrook (boring companions) and had a drinks break by some waterfalls. Some of us continued further up and some (including Maureen) just sat in the sun. Dinner that evening was melon, turkey, sherry trifle, cheese. Lecture by Ian Whyte on "Man and landscape in the Lake District" then Preston Opera performed "Ballads, Songs and Snatches", Frank Salter compering and playing piano.
|Me at the top|
Thursday - Had another walk before breakfast, including the Scott Gallery. Maureen did Gothic this morning, and ground her own ink (from inksticks bought in Liverpool's chinatown). After another cold lunch we set off for Clougha (the local "mountain"), walking up from Birbank car park over high stiles and boggy bits, in one of which Maureen got stuck and had to be pulled out. The climb sorted out the sheep from the goats and we were somewhere in the middle. Same sort of views as yesterday from the top, then set off down again, over some large rocks, heather and bracken - weather nice and sunny. Dinner was prawn cocktail, roast beef, fresh fruit, cheese. Lecture was "Voices in the crags" (about Cumberland writers - a bit strange).
Friday - Maureen's group did some lettering for the end-of-course exhibition. As it was wet and miserable weather (and we didn't have proper boots) we gave the ramble a miss and went to look at the university's library. Changed for the sherry reception (and exhibitions) then the last dinner (more formal). We were sat with Music for Pleasure people - smoked trout, escalope of pork, pineapple pavlova, cheese. Some speeches, but no lecture - we didn''t bother spending time at the bar, but were disturbed by people who did coming back late at night.
Saturday - Had an early breakfast and set off back home through the Trough of Bowland, stopping for a pub lunch at Long Bennington. Home about 3 p.m., Sainsbury's shopping, picked up Munchkin.
Sunday 18th October - Munchkin put up a fight, but eventually we captured her and took her to Mrs Goater's (Happi Kat Hotel) in Welwyn. Breakfast, taxi to the station - trains running late (because of Thursday's hurricane?) but got to Victoria OK and then the 12.10 to Gatwick. Visited the duty-free and bought some Glenfiddich and Dunhills that Thelma had asked for. The flight took off ten minutes late because of some late-comers - good flight, with fine views of the Alps. Landed at Treviso airport and, after sniffer dogs etc., met the Magic of Italy rep (Australian lady).
Monday - We woke up fairly early and, after a cup of tea and a biscuit, we popped round to a local grocers (since closed down) and bought panini, butter, cheese, milk, acqua minerale and some washing-up liquid (all in Italian - the washing-up liquid needed gestures etc). We then went for a short walk and bought a local paper (Il Gazzettino) then back to the flat for a late breakfast. After that we set off, with our duty-free to find Thelma who was staying at the Pensione Academia (just past the gallery). We didn't get too lost, and found her in the lobby. She took it up to her room, then we went out for a cappuccino in the Campo San Stefano. Thelma had had to leave her home with next door's tree in her garden and the journey to Gatwick had been hairy. We agreed to meet for dinner on Friday - Thelma to book Da Raffaele's for 8 p.m., and we are to meet up on the Accademia Bridge a quarter of an hour earlier. She also told us about a cat show to be held on Saturday. We then set off on our own (in the totally wrong direction) but after retracing our steps we got to Piazza San Marco and found the tourist office (useless). We then walked to the Rialto (easy, signposted) then got lost again but, in the Campo San Paolo, saw signs to the Accademia and eventually made our way home. We decided to have a lunch rather than dinner so went to the Cantinone Storico (that we had noticed earlier) (gnocchi di patate in burro con salvia (M) seppie in umido con polenta (J) coda di rospo alla griglia (M), insalata mista, mezzo bianco, minerale, cappuccini - £51,000). After a quick return to the flat, we went to the Peggy Guggenheim collection of modern art (mostly very good) and then for a stroll back along the Zattere and round the edge to the Salute and back to the flat. After a rest and a shallow bath (strange plumbing!) we caught the No. 1 vaporetto to San Zaccharia where we bought tickets for an evening concert. We strolled along the Riva degli Schiavoni and back to the church and sat on hard pews waiting for the concert to begin. It turned out to be a gentleman playing a sort of concertina with a keyboard at each end (Cimarosa, Bach, Scarlatti and Handel). Walked back to San Marco and got the vaporetto over to the Salute (£1,000).
Tuesday - Had a cup of tea then popped round to the grocers for more pannini and cheese, and a local paper. We set out again and crossed the Grand Canal on the local traghetto (only £500 for two) - we sat down though the locals were standing. We went to the San Marco imbarcadero and bought day tickets for the vaporetti, then got the No. 5 circular that went through the Arsenale and round to the Fondamente Nuove. There we got the No. 2 to Burano and Torcello, stopping at San Michelle (cemetery) and Murano. We walked around Torcello, visiting the basilica (mosaics etc) and then had lemon sodas at a bar. Then it was time for lunch (sat outside with dogs, cats, chickens etc - risotto alla pesce, grilled white fish, insalata mista, fresh fruit salad, mezzo bianco, minerale (£51,000)).
Wednesday - After breakfast we used up our day ticket on a No. 1 from the Salute to the Ca d'Oro (good in parts) then on to Santa Maria Assunta (the Gesuiti - closed for repair). Then we visited the nice little church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, back past the Ca d'Oro to the church of the Madonna del Orta (10 minutes before it closed). On our way back we found a fresh pasta shop, so we bought some for our lunch, and changed some travellers's cheques at the Rialto. Then we bought some plum tomatoes to make a sauce and walked home past the Accademia. Lunch was late as the cooker was very inefficient. In the afternoon we found the English church of St George (closed) and walked over the Accademia Bridge and on towards San Marco, buying (then eating) a piece of torta di ricotta (£3,000!) in a beautiful shop on the way. We walked past the Luna (where we stayed before) and through the little streets past the "Chat qui riz" (now a self-service) and round back to San Marco, and wandered around for a while, past the Greek church, back to the grocers on the traghetto. Dinner that evening was at Ai Cugnai (gnoocchi al ragu (M) risotto al pomodoro (J), frittura mista, tiramisù)
Thursday - After breakfast we walked along the Zattere, posted some postcards, looked around the Gesuiti and caught the No. 5 to Giudecca. Walked along the front to the church of the Redentore then on the Santa Maria della Presentazione (closed) then back detouring round the back of the island. It started to rain then and we got soaked, eventually popping into a bar for a coffee. We then returned home, changed, and hung out clothes to dry, then went out to lunch at the Trattoria San Trovaso (rigatoni (J) tagliatelle con panna & funghi (M), petti di pollo con funghi (J) sogliola (grilled on the bone) (M), chips and insalata mista, mezzo bianco, minerale (£38,000)). After lunch we went round the Cini collection (good but oddly arranged) then over to the Accademia and back via a little shop that sold artistic postcards (bought six - they are framed together on my living room wall). While Maureen washed her hair, I went to a local supermarket and bought some biscuits, and some Amaretto to take home. Then we dressed up as posh as we could and set out for La Fenice, having a white wine at the crowded bar next door first. The opera was "Beatrice di Tenda" by Bellini - quite an experience, but the wooden seats were rather uncomfortable (we were up in the gods). One day I shall return (as it has been rebuilt after yet another fire).
Friday - Woke up to sirens warning of "acqua alta" - raining again - and Maureen popped out for breakfast provisions. After breakfast we visited the Salute then went over to San Marco, walking round the Piazza (some of which was under water) and into the Correr Museum. After that we walked over duckboards into the Basilica to see the Pala d'Oro, then out to look for lunch. Fund a place that looked OK and had a "menu turistico" (zuppa in verdura (M) maccheroni with tomatoes and pinenuts (J), frittura mista (M) braciole (pork chop) ai ferrai (J), tiramisù, coffee, mezzo bianco, minerale (£44,000)).
|Maureen & H.M.S. Bristol|
Saturday - Fog horns woke us up today - but at least it wasn't raining. After our usual breakfast we set off, over to San Marco then along the Riva to the Naval History Museum - rather large, but very interesting. We then meandered to the Rialto and looked around the markets, then on to San Polo and on to the Frari, stopping off at a trattoria for lunch (paglia & fieno alla panna & prosciutto, scallopine ai funghi, inslata mista, zucchini trifolati, mezzo bianco, minerale (£43,000)). Walked in a large circle to the Scuola San Rocca (closed for lunch) and on to San Giovanni Evangelista (via kitten asleep in shop window) and back to the Scuola (some nice paintings by Titian, Bellini etc). We then saw a "Light, Sound, Waves" exhibition advertised and went in - a Japanese lady pianist played Mozart for an hour and a half (it was a sit down).
Saturday - Set out after breakfast, looking into the English church on our way (and being captured by the vicar, then saved by the captain of the HMS Bristol). We saw a poster advertising a special exhibition at the Cini Foundation so headed back to San Marco and over to San Giorgio Maggiore, the Cini foundation being next door to the church. The exhibition of sketches of Venice was very good indeed. We went back to San Trovaso for lunch (rigatoni alla San Trovaso (M) "woodcutter's" tortellini (J), frittura mista (M) soglio con spinaci (J), apple cake and tiramisù (shared). Meandered back via the Zattere, finished packing, put out the rubbish and left for the Salute vaporetto stop where we found Karen (a Magic rep) - back to Treviso and eventually home.
Sunday 22nd May - We took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's as usual, finished packing etc and got a taxi to the station at 11.15. We booked in our luggage at the British Airways office at Victoria and got to Gatwick by 11.55, the delayed flight eventually leaving at 15.40, arriving at Malaga but our luggage didn't. Another couple had done the same as us and were also missing their luggage - we won't do that again. Malaga looked a bit of a dump but the jacaranda trees were in full bloom. We had dinner at the hotel's restaurant (in our travelling clothes) - it had a fine view over the port (no choice - vegetable soup, salad with olives, swordfish, egg custard). We were woken by the porter just past midnight - my suitcase had arrived, Maureen's would be here mañana.
Monday - Maureen wore one of my t-shirts to breakfast, but her suitcase did actually turn up pretty quickly. Boarded the coach for a short tour of Malaga then off to Granada, stopping for a drink at Loja. We booked into our second hotel just after twelve, got our room keys (but no luggage yet) and set out for lunch. We found an open-air restaurant called "La Mimbre" by the entrance to the "Generalife". We ordered "plate no. 4" which was tortilla espanole, salad and something untranslatable that turned out to be a pork chop. All went down very well with some vino blanco.
|Maureen in the Alhambra gardens|
|Me in the Alhambra|
Tuesday - After a buffet breakfast, we set off on a tour of Christian Granada, the market and the Sacromonte. The guide's English was laughable, but we got the picture. We were then taken to see a deconsecrated Carthusian monastery (beautiful kitten in the courtyard), then after some free time (flower market) it was back to the hotel and out again for a late lunch at La Mimbre again (tortilla and mixed salad, white rioja). The alternative comedian Alexei Sayle was at another table with his wife, and one of our group asked for his autograph - and was told to bugger off. We wandered back to the Generalife (tickets still valid) and sat in the shade. Dinner that night was not much good - a soup of green beans and ham, chicken, watermelon, all accompanied by some medical students singing loudly.
Wednesday - After an early breakfast we were driven through fields of olive and almond trees, sunflowers and tobacco to Cordoba, stopping at Alcalá for a drink. We were all dropped off at the cathedral as the coach couldn't get to the hotel because of the feria (horse fair). We looked round the impressive mosque cum cathedral, then round the Jewish quarter. We then tried to find our hotel, getting lost and asking several times in dreadful Spanish - eventually found it (and our luggage). We had a lunch of tortilla, fish, salad, then wandered down through the feria (people riding around on horseback, the ladies in Sevilliana costume if riding behind a man, or in trousers if riding alone). Got a bit lost again but found the Alcazar gardens then back to the hotel. Buffet dinner was very good - gazpacho, cold meats and salad, beef in some sort of sauce (with chips), creme caramel. The feria went on all night but we managed to sleep through it.
Thursday - After a decent breakfast I nipped out to buy a Spanish newspaper and we set off at 8.45 for a quick tour of Cordoba and then off to Écija for a pleasant little wander and a drink then on to Seville. After checking in at yet another hotel we went out for a light lunch and walked to the Alcazar, being unofficially guided round some of it by a little old man. We then went to the cathedral (dreary) and back to the hotel for dinner - fried fish (heads on), pork chop with chips, an apple. After dinner we were taken to the Patio Sevilliana for a display of flamenco and other Spanish dancing - mostly very good.
Friday - The planned trip to Jerez was called off for no apparent reason so, after a nasty breakfast we walked to Pilate's house - in the Mudéjar style with a pleasant courtyard where we sat in the shade for an hour. We had lunch at a local bar (gazpacho, roast chicken and chips) then a siesta. Dinner was rather horrible.
Saturday - After a simple breakfast we set off again, past a reservoir where we saw several herons, up into the mountains (stop to photograph the Zahara) and on to Ronda where we sat on the terrace of the hotel waiting for our rooms to be ready. Then we sat in a bar and had splendid tapas for lunch (and two glasses of vino blanco). We walked round the quite nice cathedral and then got captured by another unofficial guide (French lady) who showed us the rest of the little town. Dinner was rather ordinary (soup, fried fish) then we sat on the terrace waiting for sunset.
Sunday - we were dumped in Torremolinos to wait for the flight home. What a truly horrendous place!
Saturday 23 July - Took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's in the afternoon, packed and watched Don Giovanni live from the Royal Opera House in the evening.
Sunday - Set off north just before 9, and stopped for lunch at the Cross Keys in Skipton (haddock and chips). We arrived at Lancaster about 2.30 and got booked into a double room in Cark 8 building (on the ground floor, next to a kitchen). After the same introductory talk as last year we went to dinner (tomato soup, roast chicken, lemon meringue pie, Wensleydale cheese) and then to the introductory course talks (Frank Salter for music, Ian Brodie for local rambles). At the wine reception we met Dr Trevor Pearce from last year.
Monday - Woke up just before 7 for the weather forecast (cloudy with showers) then went to breakfast. The music course was in the Jack Hylton Music Room and was about Don Giovanni (very enjoyable). Lunch was asparagus and mushroom flan with sweetcorn and potatoes.
|Trudge, trudge, trudge|
Tuesday - Frank continued with Don Giovanni, comparing and contrasting a live performance from Covent Garden (Thomas Allen & Kiri Te Kanawa) with the Josep Losey film set in the Veneto - all very interesting. Cold buffet for lunch (had seconds of the gooseberry pie). We went to the bookshop after lunch and I bought a book of Italian short stories that had parallel English and Italian text. In the afternoon we were driven through Lancaster to Sunderland Point from where we walked across fields (lots of stiles - Maureen is not good with them) to Morecombe Bay where we walked along the coast to Sambo's Grave and back to Sunderland Point. Had to do a quick change for an early dinner (paté, roast lamb, strawberry sponge, brie) and then a minibus into Lancaster for a live, open-air performance of "As You Like It" in the Williamson Park, being led from scene to scene (from the Aston Memorial, pigsty, woodland grove, grotto, lake) often in pouring rain. The minibus got us home just before midnight.
Wednesday - The morning's lecture was about Weber's "Der Freischütz" - we liked the music but not the strange video. After lunch the walk was from Conger Green, over fields and more stiles to the Lancaster Canal, then along the towpath to Glasson Dock - weather dry and mostly sunny. After a decent dinner we went to a lecture on King Arthur (absolute crap from beginning to end) and then to a concert by the Preston Opera Group (Frank was his usual self).
Thursday - The music this morning was "Tosca" - CDs and videos by various people - very enjoyable. After lunch it was raining, so we put on our rain gear from the start. It was a circular walk from and to Abbeystead church, through long grass (very wet) and past a spectacular weir. At one point we had to scramble across a raging torrent that had been a gentle stream on the morning's walk. There were very many stiles and Maureen was quite tired at the end, though it was only a four mile walk. Back in our room we had a cup of tea and spread everything out to dry, stuffing newspapers into our boots. Dinner was fruit cocktail, roast beef, fresh fruit, cheese. The lecture was about bats (quite interesting) and this was followed by a balloon debate (I voted for Omar Khayyam, Maureen for Richard I, somebody else won).
Friday - Continued with "Tosca" this morning, moving to the Cartmel Lecture Theatre halfway through because of workmen clearing the roof of rain. We wore our wet weather gear again in the afternoon (but nobody else did) and were driven to Scorton, walking up a lane and down to the river. We walked along by the river to an aquaduct and a reservoir then uphill to an inspection tank where we had a drinks break. We continued up and over the top (only one stile today) then back in the minibus just as it started to rain again. In the evening there was a sherry reception and the formal dinner (we sat with ramblers) - melon with prawns, best end of neck, strawberries, cheese, lots of wine.
Saturday - Early breakfast and away by 8.40, getting home at 2.30 after a stop at The Fox for a ploughman's. Went to Sainsbury's and picked up Munch.
Sunday 11th September - Had trouble capturing Munchkin, but eventually managed it and took her to Mrs Goater's just after nine. We got a taxi to the station at about ten, a train to Kings Cross (via the Hertford loop), then the Gatwick Express from Victoria, booking in at 12.25. The plane was 20 minutes late taking off, and we had seats either side of the aisle. We were met by Silvia, the rep, and the coach took us through Lecco to Varenna and dropped us off at the hotel (Royal Victoria) before continuing to Bellagio and Menaggio. We went down to dinner just after eight - tagliolini (J) insalata alla caprese (M), lavorello (local fish) with almonds, apple tart with cheese (J) fresh fruit (M).
Monday - The church bells woke us up, and we went down to a buffet breakfast about eight. We walked around Varenna to get out bearings and then returned to the hotel for a meeting with Silvia - booked a trip to Bergamo on Thursday. We walked down to the lake and along the passerella, eventually deciding on the Trattoria Cavallino for lunch (pasta shells with sausage and tomato sauce, simple salad, vino bianco). We walked back to the hotel and sat on the terrace for a while, then walked down to the Villa Cipresi and walked around the gardens. The Villa Monastero, next door, was holding a conference on plasma physics. For dinner that night we had risotto alla zucca, plaice fillets, apple cake with fruit, rest of yesterday's wine. Afterwards I went to a little concert in the Chiesa San Battista (Maureen had a bad cough).
Tuesday - After breakfast we saw a sign pointing to the Castello di Vezio, so off we went. It was a bit of a climb, often over cobbles, but there were lots of wild flowers along the way. We arrived at Vezio after about three quarters of an hour - there was a nice little church, and we sat and rested by a little cemetery. Another little climb brought us to the castello ruins - there would have been a fine view of the lake but it was still very misty. We walked back down to Varenna, via the car ferry imbarcadero, and sat in the sun for a while on the hotel's terrace. We had lunch in the Trattoria Cavallino again - home-made lasagne and salad, vino bianco, ice-cream (£26,000). After a siesta we sat on loungers at the little beach and read our books and watched the fishermen preparing their nets. When it stated to rain we sat under the wisteria pergola for a while then went to the bar across the piazza and had a cappuccino. It brightened up about six, and we went for a stroll up past the Villa Monastero as far as the railway line (flowers, butterflies, sheep) then back under the railway. Dinner was orecchiette con formaggio e prosciuto, tacchino in vino bianco, fruit tart, cheese, corvo bianco.
Wednesday - After breakfast we went down to the imbarcadero and got the ferry across to Menaggio and on to Bellagio which is on a sort of promontory where the lake divides into two.
|A Varenna miscellany|
Thursday - After a late breakfast (the bells didn't wake me up today) we walked up past the cemetery and up some steps marked "al baluardo" (to the bulwarks). The path got too rough for Maureen so we turned back, walking along the main road nearly as far as the little village of Fiumelatte (whose river is supposedly the shortest in Italy - 290 metres). We stopped in an "alimentari" to buy panini and formaggio for lunch (on the terrace). After lunch we set off for the imbarcadero and caught the coach for the trip to Bergamo - taking about an hour and a half through rather a lot of industry. The città bassa looked chic and prosperous, and we were driven right up to the città alta, through St Augustine's gate and round the walls. It started raining as our local guide (Fiorella) walked us up the main drag to the Piazza Vecchia where we sheltered under the justice hall for a mini lecture. Thunder and lightning then accompanied us across to the civic chapel (dark, but nice wooden marquetry panels) and it was bucketing down as we dashed next door to the Colleoni chapel. After that we dashed to the nearest bar and had a cappuccino and walnut cake, then back to the coach (most people were early) - I must return in better weather. Traffic was very heavy on our way back, but we caught the weather forecast for tomorrow (reasonable). Dinner was gnocchinetti di patate, pollo con tartufo (M) cervo (J), apple tart, bottle of Verduzzo (frizzante).
Friday - After breakfast we caught a ferry across to Cadenabbia and had a quick look round (nothing much to see) then went to the Villa Carlotta. Only part of the villa itself was open (paintings by Gainsborough, Reynolds etc), had a quick look at the botanical garden then walked to Tremezzo and got an aliscafo back to Varenna for lunch at the Trattoria Cavallino - ravioli, salad, apple cake (£25,500). After lunch we went back to the hotel for our anoraks and walked up towards Esimo. It wasn't very interesting walking so we branched off to Vezio again and sat in the sun for a while before returning to the hotel. Quieter for dinner as the physicists had gone - lasagne, sea bream with saffron sauce, tiramisù, bottle of Gavi.
Saturday - Sat on the terrace for a while after breakfast, then went to the Villa Monastero to look round the terraced gardens. We had lunch at the Trattoria dei Pescatori for a change - gnocchettini verdi al gorgonzola, lavorello alla griglia (M) calamari fritti (J), salad, vino bianco (£44,000 but very good). The weather was warm and sunny so we spent the afternoon on the terrace reading and dozing. Dinner was farfarelle with a tomato and meat sauce (J) buccharoni with spinach and ham (M), veal vutlet (J) medaglione di manzo with peppercorns (M), torta di frutta, cheese, local wine. Something to do with the Grand Prix was happening in the square - flash cars and ladies in microskirts.
Sunday - Went for a morning stroll (Radio Milan van still in the square but nothing else happening) along the front nearly as far as the tunnel then back via the imbarcadero (loads of cyclists waiting to cross) and the passerella. Said goodbye to Alberto (the hotel's black cat) and took our suitcases down to reception. Had lunch at "La Varenna Vechia" with a table on the terrace next to the lake. It was a set menu with many small courses, each accompanied by a glass of something appropriate. An aperitivo of some fried morsel on a stick and a glass of sparkling wine - antipasto - insalata capriciosa ("freakish salad" on the English menu)- seppioline in a tomato sauce with peas - penne in a beer sauce with bacon - risolinno al Barolo - lavorello with spinach (main course - very good indeed) - ice-cream with sultanas soaked in a liqueur and a chocolate sauce - coffee (£70,000 and worth it). Back to the hotel and the coach (I nearly got left behind in the loo). It took over two hours to crawl through the traffic - plane was 45 minutes late taking off - engineering work on the line between Kings Cross and Stevenage - got home just after ten.
Following the "Music for Pleasure" courses that we had enjoyed at Lancaster University Summer Programmes, we had developed a liking for Opera, and had been going down to London to see several at the London Coliseum (sung in English by the English National Opera). This year Lancaster University, in an extension of its Summer Programme, had organised a study trip to Verona with the irrepressible Frank Salter - we just had to go.
Sunday 9th July - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's last night so that we could set off earlier than normal. Got to Gatwick just before midday to discover that our flight was delayed by a couple of hours - had a tasteless salad for lunch. We eventually boarded the plane just before six, and it took off at 6.45 (we should have been in our hotel by then). It stopped in Trieste first, then flew low (14,000 ft) to Verona where a coach took us to the Hotel Catullo in Bardolino. After picking up our keys we were all ushered into the dining room for a very late dinner (rigatoni al ragù, cotoletta di vitello, peaches and ice-cream - all went down a treat). We went to sleep rapidly, but were woken up again by a violent thunderstorm.
Monday - After a simple breakfast we went for a stroll down the lakeside and through the town, getting back in time for an initial meeting at ten. Frank explained the Verona system to us and handed out tickets. We then went for another stroll in the opposite direction and then had lunch in a little trattoria (ravioli with ricotta, mixed salad, vino bianco, acqua minerale). Had another stroll along the lungolago until it started to rain when we sheltered in a bar. We went down to the lungolago again and sat and read the plot of "Aida", returning to the hotel for dinner (farfalle with a vegetable sauce, grilled steak with Swiss chard etc., fresh fruit, bottle of Bardolino, minerale) followed by Frank's first lecture (in the dining room) after which we went out for a coffee. Had a good night's sleep!
Tuesday - After breakfast we had a two-hour lecture on Aida and then it was time for lunch (gnocchi di semolina, turkey stew, ice-cream). We set off to the coach park at 4.30 remembering to take our room key with us because we would be late back. We got to Verona at 5.15 and didn't have much of a look round because we were advised to start queueing - we just bought some panini to eat later, and had a quick look at Juliet's balcony (local tourist trap), touching her left breast for luck. We were in the "seconda graduata" queue while Frank and a few others were in the "prima graduata" one - hmm.
|The Arena in Verona|
Wednesday - We were woken up by wind rattling the shutters and workmen digging up the road. After a late breakfast we had a lecture on Nabucco then popped out to buy some panini and a bottle of acqua minerale. We ate our lunch down on the lungolago then in the afternoon we set off on a coach-trip to Vicenza, arriving about 2.45. A local guide arrived (good English, and very interesting) and we were driven to the Villa Rotunda (by Andrea Palladio) - we recognised it from the Joseph Losey film of Don Giovanni. A very worthwhile visit, and beautiful surroundings (especially in the blazing sunshine). Back in Vicenza, we went to the Teatro Olipmpico - a fascinating place, like a wooden arena with a strange stage depicting the seven streets of Thebes in a sort of perspective. We somehow missed the final visit (to the main square) but caught up with everybody back at the coach. Dinner was cannelloni, insalata caprese, gateau. There was a concert in the square that evening - the town band and a choir - mostly popular songs.
Thursday - There was a trip to Venice organised for today but we had decided against it. It was a brilliantly sunny day with clear views across the lake. We walked north, along the lakeside, all the way to Garda (full of Germans), had té freddo, a quick walk round the town and then got a boat back to Bardolino, having lunch at a fish restaurant that had been recommended - trota salmonata and salad - delicious. After a siesta we walked along the front but it was very hot so walked up to a park and sat in the shade before going back to the hotel. Dinner was spaghetti with an anchovy sauce, tonno e fagioli; this was followed by an hour's lecture on Nabucco
Friday - Got up late so abandoned our plan to walk up to La Rocca so did a little shopping instead. This morning's lecture was on "La Forza del Destino". It was very hot at lunchtime and, after a short stroll along the front, we had lunch in the hotel (tagliatelle with a creamy ham sauce, grilled lake trout with fennel) then a siesta (noisy workmen still doing the road). The coach left at six and we were a bit late, having to park the coach on the other side of the Adige. Queues were longer than last time but we got in eventually and, without stopping to rent cushions, we went up to the left of the stage and eventually found a place at the very top (with only a thin railing to stop us plummeting). We ate the panini and apricots that we had bought earlier and then it started to rain and get rather cold. An announcement said it would last for 40 minutes, but it got heavier and heavier with thunder and lightning and, at about 9.45 everybody started to move towards the exits - we followed. All the bars were full of steaming people so we made our way back to the coach, soaked through. Some local kids came round and bought our £15,000 tickets for £10,000 (they would get the full price tomorrow, but we couldn't be bothered). We got back to the hotel by midnight and hung up our wet clothes - an evening to remember.
Saturday - After breakfast we went for a walk and found the Chiesa San Zeno. A second lecture on "La Forza del Destino" took us up to lunch (pasta with devilled chicken (M) ravioli zuppa (J), medallion of beef, bottle of Soave). After a siesta we went for a walk and sat and watched a lizard chewing a large insect. We bought panini and provalone, and some little cakes, for the opera then got ready for the opera. We got to Verona earlier than yesterday but the driver had problems finding somewhere to park. We got to the arena queue in reasonable time and got in fairly early, finding somewhere to sit on the left of the stage, in line with the conductor. We got ourselves settled in and ate our panini etc. The opera started on time. Maria Chiara sang Leonora and was very good; the typical Italian tenor sang better than he acted, but still got plenty of bravos. The opera finished about 2.15 and we made it back fairly promptly.
Sunday - We had a fairly early last breakfast and went for a walk - it was hot and sunny (I was wearing shorts!). Lunch was tagliatelle with prosciuto and cream (M) rigattone al quattro formaggi (J), scallopine al vino bianco (M) ditto al limone (J), insalata mista, mezzo bianco, minerale, frutta, cappuccino (£42,000). After lunch we walked round the headland and sat somewhere shady. The coach left at 4.30, our flight was late arriving and we eventually boarded at 9.15 - bit of a panic for the unnumbered seats. The pilot told us that French air-traffic control was on strike so we were rerouted via Austria, Germany and Belgium. The pilot attempted a takeoff but had to do an emergency stop because of a red warning light - took off OK on second attempt. We landed at Gatwick at 10.40 UK time and got through the formalities very quickly, getting home at 1.15 a.m. Got up early the next morning, picked up Munch and went to work.
This year we both went on their walking "course" called "Lakeland Walks for Softies". These were full day walks that were designed not to be too strenuous, and to always include a lunch stop at a country pub or similar.
Sunday 6th August - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday evening. We had an early breakfast, did a few chores, then set off just before nine. Traffic was not too bad, and we stopped for a quick lunch in Ilkley like last year (cheese salad, beer). We were getting to Lancaster quite early, so we turned off an had a little tour through the Trough of Bowland, Tarnbeck and Abbeystead. When we booked in we were allocated a pair of single rooms in County College, almost opposite each other. After the usual introductory talk, dinner was soup, chicken, lemon meringue pie, cheese; then we went to the course introduction and the sherry reception as usual.
Monday - After breakfast Maureen went to the Summer Programme office to complain about having no reading lamp by her bed, and no mug for morning tea. Then we boarded the minibus (one of a pair for this course) and set off through Galgate and up the motorway towards Kendal, branching off to Grange-over-sands. We walked up through Eggerslack Wood (stiff climb in hot, sunny weather - old woods coppiced for charcoal) and up again to Hampsfield Fell (limestone pavement) stopping by the tower at the top for a drink. The descent down the other side, through fields of cows, was steep in part but we arrived safely in Cartmel about noon and had a pub lunch at the Cavendish Arms (ordered the night before via Ian Brodie) - beef and ham sandwiches, "death by chocolate" (very good). We wandered round the town and were then shown round the Priory, before walking back up Hampsfield Fell through the golf course and back to Grange. Had a look round then were driven back to Lancaster. Dinner was fruit juice, gammon, cheese (we gave chocolate ice-cream a miss). We went to Ian's talk on "The Cistercian Way" - included today's walk to Cartmel.
|A lakeland miscellany|
Tuesday - We drove up the motorway to Ambleside and then through Windermere and up the Langdale valley, parking in a National Trust carpark. We set off up and over a river, round the bottom edge of Lingmoor Fell and then there was a steep ascent over to the Little Langdale valley (stopping at the top for a drink) where we walked over a road and round the right-hand side of Blea Tarn (of which more in 2014) and through woods, rhododendrons and bracken to the head of the valley, crossing a little stream that had sundews by it. We walked over fields and a stone bridge to Tilberthwaite for lunch and an hour's rest at the Three Shires (paté ploughmans, beer - excellent). Off we went again, round the edge of Lingmoor, past Eltermere and back to the carpark (about 8 miles walk in total). Dinner was tasteless veggie paté, roast lamb, gateaux, cheese. We went to an interesting lecture by Dr John Walton on "Fish & chips and the British working class 1870-1930" and then on to the barn dance. Staggered to bed just after eleven.
Wednesday - Raining, and set to be wet all day according to the radio. Drove towards Grange, as yesterday, parking at Mill Side just off the A590. We walked up the road and then a bridleway through woods past Witherslack Hall and through more woods and past the cliffs at Whitbarrow. We had a drinks break in the pouring rain and then walked through more woods, emerging onto the A5074 at the Lyth Valley Hotel for lunch. We were warned that it was a posh hotel and we would have to stand up to eat it, but we were shown where we could put our wet boots, and then to bathrooms where we could dry off, then welcomed (in our socks or bare feet) to tables in the public bar. Lunch was ham sandwiches, sticky toffee pudding - not bad. We struggled back into our wet boots, but our waterproofs were all now dry. We retraced our steps a little then worked our way up through fields and moorland to the top of Whitbarrow (drizzle, then more steady rain); views of Morecombe Bay and the Isle of Man were hidden by the mist. Getting down was a bit hairy in the wet (Maureen had to go down on her bum at times). After waiting for everyone to regroup we set off again through more woods and down to Beck Head then got the minibus back to Lancaster. Dinner was melon, trout, sherry triffle, cheese. We missed the lecture and went back to stuff newspaper in our boots then got down early for Frank Salter's evening of Gilbert and Sullivan - very enjoyable. Went to the balloon debate and then to bed.
Thursday - We learnt later that the plan was to cross the Morecombe Bay sands today, but the weather made it too dangerous. Anyway, after a cooked breakfast we put on our still-damp boots and set off as before through Ambleside and turned off over Peter's Bridge and parked. We walked along by Rydal Water (a group of better walkers going over the top of Loughrigg) past a slate quarry to Grasmere. We walked round the edge of the lake to Grasmere village, waiting 20 minutes for the splinter group. Went to see Wordsworth's grave (American tourist with a video camera asked us what town we were in) then had lunch in Tweedies (vegetable soup, tuna salad and chips). We went into the W. Heaton Cooper shop and bought a print of Blea Tarn (still over my mantlepiece). We all then walked up past Dove Cottage and past Rydal Mount to the carpark. Dinner was prawns & pineapple, roast beef, fresh fruit, cheese. We went to "Ask the Family" (not very good) and then to bed.
Friday - It was another rainy day so we drove to the Brockdale Centre and had a short walk through green lanes. We had lunch and then a film show, then a walk down to the lake and back to Lancaster [diary ends here]
This holiday was organised by Pegasus Travel, a company that sadly no-longer exists - they went where no other company (certainly not the boring Citalia) went.
Thursday 14th September - Took Munch to Mrs Goater's as usual, then had breakfast, packed and did a few chores and had lunch. We got a taxi to Luton airport at 2.30 and gave the driver our return flight details so he could pick us up again. Flight was delayed by 15 minutes to clear rabbits from the runway. We landed at Pescara and had to wait half an hour for a short connecting flight to Ancona - we were early, and the rep was still in the bar and transport had not arrived yet. At 10 p.m. we boarded a minicoach for an hour and a half's drive up the motorway to San Benedetto del Tronto where we were met by the hotel minibus and the hotelier's English (well Geordie) wife, and his young son. At the hotel (O'Viv) we were shown straight into the dining room - vegetable soup (had seconds), chicken with peppers, aubergine and a lemon sauce, pineapple cake, coffee, bottle of white wine on the house. Our room was very small with a tiny cupboard and hardly room to move round the bed - it had a ceiling decorated with blue shells in Liberty style.
Friday - Birds, bells and the clock tower woke us up at seven. No water in the bathroom (or anyone else's) - aparently the plumbers had been in the day before and turned off the main stopcock and the tank had emptied overnight. Breakfast was a bit disorganised but coffee arrived after the water returned. Went back and did our ablutions then down again to meet the minibus. Piero (the hotelier) drove us all to Offida where we met the rep. We started in the Piazzale del Merlettaia where there was a modern bronze showing three generations of lacemakers. We walked up through the old town where ladies were sitting outside their houses making lace (opportunity to buy!). The town is quite nice with plenty of good churches (especially Santa Maria della Rocca, which is very popular for weddings). Back in the main square we stopped for a drink and then got the minicoach back to the hotel for lunch. The waiter realised we were English, panicked, and phoned Muriel who came down and asked us what we wanted - tagliatelle coi funghi, insalata mista, minerale. We had a siesta and then went out to explore the little town. There are little nondescript streets, medieval walls and good views over the surrounding countryside; the main square is dominated by the Rocca - splendid views from the top, and a nice little garden under the walls. Went back to the hotel and had a shower - the shower wets the entire bathroom so you then have to paddle to the loo. Dinner was fusilli with peas, ham and cream, pork chop with parsley, peas and chips, millefiori, bottle of rosso piceno.
Saturday - Plenty of hot water in the bathroom today. After breakfast Maureen went to the local farmacia for some anti-histamine cream (she thinks she was bitten when we sat outside at Pescara airport). We were supposed to visit a farm today but plans were changed (supposedly because it was too wet but Maureen had overheard a heated conversation in Italian that hinted at something else). Anyway, Muriel drove the minibus to the nearby little town of Ripatransone (Riccardo, the little boy, came too). We walked up past a market to the main square, on the way walking up and down the suposedly narrowest vicolo in Italy (43 cms wide). We were shown the Palazzo Podenza, the magnificent town hall and a nondescript church then let loose for an hour and a half. There were many fine views to be had, but the countryside looked dry and barren because all the crops (sunflowers, maize etc) had been harvested. Several of the churches had onion-shaped domes; saw many well-fed cats, then a group of nuns and a monk in a bubble-car. Had a drink and a pastry at a bar in the main square while waiting to be picked up. Back at Acquaviva Picena most of the restaurants seemed to be closed but eventualy we found one that was open and had a cold lunch - prosciutto & salami, formaggio, pomodori, insalata with olives, peppers, aubergine, onions and mushrooms, bread, vino bianco, minerale. We bought postcards, stamps and a local paper on the way back to the hotel, then went down to the park under the Rocca for the rest of the afternoon (wrote a postcard in Italian for Alessandra, our Italian teacher). Dinner was crepes filled with smoked salmon, bardellino? (shredded beef rolled around a wooden stick and grilled), Dutch apple pie, cappuccino (finished off last night's wine).
Sunday - A rest day! Had a late breakfast with no rolls (always late on Sundays) and, afterwards, we set off west and then turned southerly towards Monteprandone. There were plenty of wild flowers, lizards and thing to look at, but it got hotter and hotter and, eventually, we decided to turn back. We walked up to the Bar Centrale and had a limon-soda. Then we carried on past the Agip station and down the Via Francesco and found a track up to the Franciscan church and monastery, and the cemetery (very busy today). After a quick stop off at the hotel we went out for lunch at La Cripta (in the crypt of the San Rocca church) - penne di vampire (J) spaghetti carbonara (M), scallopine al limone, insalata mista, vino, minerale. After a siesta etc we went for another stroll, past the cemetery and down the road that leads to San Benedetto (views of the harbour and shipping); we turned left and climbed up through smallholdings of vines, olives and vegetables then up an unmade road past new apartment blocks and up through a gate by the Via delle Mura and down by the church of San Nicolo and back round to the hotel. Dinner was very leisurely - antipasto (left over from a christening in the afternoon), pasta squares with a bolognese-type sauce, scallopine all'arancia, chocolate and fruit cake, bottle of rosato.
Monday - After breakfast we all set off for the Sibillini mountains, going through Offida (where we dropped off an older couple) and headed west, the countryside getting greener and hillier - I was sitting in the front, next to Piero, and little Riccardo sat on my lap (even though it was the first day of nursery school) - we chatted to each other in some sort of Italian, and he was fascinated by my beard. We stopped at Montefortino for a drink and comfort break. The last part of the increasingly steep road was slow and bumpy, but there were lots of wild flowers to see (scabius, gentian, bellflowers, corn-cockle, knapweed, agrimony, harebells). We put on our trainers and set off on a track to the Gola dell'Infernaccio. According to Piero the valley used to be a pass through to Rome but an earthquake had closed it off. The going was not too bad, but we would have felt safer in our walking boots. We were then driven to a picnic site and Piero put bottles of wine and water into a mountain stream to cool off. We sat at wooden benches and ate our panini and fruit (and cool wine and water) then had a cappuccino at a nearby bar. We had a look at a little chapel, then headed back, stopping at Amandola where we walked up the hill to yet another baroque church (remains of old frescoes in the vestry). We had very nice gelati at a fashionable bar (had to change a £50,000 note) then headed back to the hotel, Riccardo sitting with the women and falling asleep. Dinner was risotto al forno with a meat sauce (we both had seconds), beef braised in Rosso Piceno, pear gateau (M) pecorino (J), Rosso Piceno. Slept very well.
Tuesday - Wrote a letter to Thelma (she would like this hotel) and posted it after breakfast. We had a stroll, sat on the belvedere in the sun, and visited the church of San Nicolo, still decorated from a recent wedding. The minibus set off at ten for the hour's drive to Ascoli Piceno; we popped into the tourist offce to get a map and brochures - the Palazzo del Popolo is next door and nearby is the church of San Francesco. We wandered down to the river and back and then found the Pinacoteca near the Piazza Arringo (£2,500). Some very nice pictures including one by my favorite artist (Carlo Crivelli) - coming out we saw lots of marriage banns posted on the wall giving dates of birth and occupations (very useful for family historians (of which more later)). We had lunch in Il Ristorante del Teatro (the sign said pizza today, but the waiter said no) - rigatoni al teatro (M) bucatoni with spicy meat and tomato (J) - took forever to come, so didn't stay for coffee. Met up with the others outside the Palazzo del Popolo and were given a short history of the town, then walked down to the Roman bridge over the Tronto and looked at an old laundry with stone troughs and slabs. We bought a little ceramic dish (still got it) and went back over the bridge and visited a couple of other churches, then back to the centre of town to visit the Duomo and wait in the square for Piero to pick us up. Heavy traffic made him late and it was slow getting back to the hotel. Dinner was spaghetti with a fish and tomato sauce, cod with tartare sauce, (after a long wait) zabaglione, verdicchio, coffee.
Wednesday - After breakfast, we went and sat in the belvedere until ten when Piero was giving us all a tour of Acquaviva Piceno. Started at one of the oldest houses in A.P. that had been in the same family for centuries but was now lived in by two old men with no male heirs. Then down some steps to the Vicolo Trabucco (arts and crafts exhibitions) and the church and monastery of San Francesco of Asissi (in private hands), along and up the Via Marziale to another very old house (in disrepair with no money for restoration). We climbed the steps to the church of San Rocco (Roman legionnaire killed for becoming Christian); it's partially in a dangerous condition and needs special permission to hold services. Then on to the municipio (decorated walls and ceilings) and into the mayor's office (18th century oak furniture, walls and ceilings decorated with biblical scenes). Every five years 13 counciiors are elected (11 Christian Democrats and 2 Communists at the time) and they elect the mayor. Then on to the deserted Fortezza and the houses of the former Dukes of Acuquaviva; then down towards the gardens behind the Rocca and down a path to the Porta Vecchia (thick sliding doors, but the enemy could climb in through a window); the church of the Madonna della Pietà was "in restauro". We then walked up through another old gate into the town past the church of San Nicolo to the "new town" - there is a palio between the old and new town on August 4th, and a festa is held in the fortezza on the 6th. Then back to the O'Viv - it was an archbishop's palace, built just before 1500 (Piero had rented it for 5 years). For lunch most of us set out for a pizza at the Cripta. We rang the bell and a woman leaned out of an upstair's window, saw us and phoned for the waiter to come and open up. Six pizze della casa, four pizza quattro stagione, two salads, two bottles of wine, ditto water, two tortas della casa (£109,000 split between us - £11 Sterling each couple - very reasonable). We just had a siesta and a walk in the afternoon. At dinner, all the tables had been put together - award-winning paté of venison and grouse, home-made noodles with cream and smoked salmon, beef Wellington (with Brussel sprouts and salad!), baked Alaska, cappuccino and a liqueur. Everyone came up to see our bedroom ceiling.
Thursday - After breakfast we went for a stroll, bought a bottle of Rosso Piceno in the supermarket then went back to the hotel and paid our bar bill (£104,000). Muriel drove us to Cupra Marittima (on the coast) where we transferred to the minibus to Ancona airport - after all sorts of delays and false starts we eventually took off at 4.50 arriving back at Luton at 6.15 (had to phone for the taxi) - home at 7.30.