This chapter will cover my (our) various activities from age about 47 to 57. So the major subjects covered will be redundancy/retirement, holidays, Munchkin's demise, arrival of Pippa and anything else that comes to mind.
Throughout the late 80s, and in the early 90s, British Aerospace was in a state of flux and workers were being laid off in their thousands. In October 1992 I, with lots of others in the computing department, received a formal notice of redundancy, effective from the end of the year. After much kerfuffle this was delayed until the end of April 1993 and, at the start of December, it was rescinded. Others were not so lucky as wave after wave of reorganization took place. Computing departments at other BAe sites were closed and one of our tasks was to take over the other systems, modifying them to suite our own methods if possible. It was not a pleasant job interviewing other systems programmers to pick their brains before they were put on the scrap heap. But all the time, you couldn't help thinking "this could happen to me".
In January 1993 I was promoted to Principal Systems Programmer and, in August of that year I received a long-service award (a camera, rather than a clock). In November it finally happened (after a fashion) - it was announced that we were all going to be outsourced to another company, but would continue to do the same job for the same money. On the 1st April 1994 we were transferred to CSC, an American company who had gobbled up people like us many times before. We were not happy. Some people (mainly senior) would be kept on as members of BAe staff, and some would be offered early retirement. In July 1994 CSC announced that it was going to consolidate all the data centres into one - and it wouldn't be Stevenage, but Bristol (Filton). Most of our operators would be let go, but just a few would be transferred to Bristol (if they agreed); but us systems programmers would continue to support Stevenage software from Stevenage. In July and August of that year CSC were doing consultancy work for Railtrack (British Rail IT people had, like us, been outsourced) and I had to travel to Crewe several times - since Railtrack no longer exists, I have no idea what happened. In October 1994 CSC announced a series of redundancies, and asked for volunteers. I asked for such severance and, in February 1995, this request was granted - but no date was given (it was explained that the move of Stevenage mainframe systems to Filton had to be completed first). In March and April we moved the systems from the commercial mainframes (all systems were closed down, backups of all the disk packs were taken, ferried down the motorway, and restored onto brand new kit, then the mainframe connected to this kit was started up (network reconfiguration taking place at the same time) - it all worked a treat, hardly anybody noticed the change. Of course, you had some very sleepy sysprogs on your hands - we had been working through the night down at Filton. So, at the end of May I was formally made redundant and received a lump sum and a pension from CSC. They had promised that the monies woukld be exactly the same as if we had been made redundant from BAe. It wasn't so - they hadn't really understood the BAe redundancy system (and I had documentation to prove it). After much hassle I eventually got what I was due - they were not very happy (but I was).
I was now officially unemployed (even though I was receiving a decent pension) so I had to look for work (or I would lose my state benefits). This meant going to the Jobcentre, filling in forms and being interviewed by clerks who knew that there was no job available for me. I read the computing papers and sent off my CV like a good boy and even went on a couple of useless courses. In October 1995, one of the companies (Tesco) invited me for an interview, then offered me a job (as a DBA at their headquarters in Welwyn Garden City). It seemed to be quite a good job (with a salary only a little less than I had been getting at BAe), and the people were all very friendly, so I accepted, joining in June 1996. After a slow start, I got into my stride and really enjoyed the work and the people. But I was also missing the free time of being "retired". They were happy for me to work part time (this had been discussed at the interview) and I reduced to four days a week in January 1998, and to three days a week in August. In September of that year I received a phone call from a manager at BAe - "Would I like to come back and shepherd the IMS systems through the year 2000?". Like a fool, I said yes and left Tesco and rejoined CSC for a fixed term contract. I hated it - I could no longer do things my way, and the CSC project managers treated me like dirt. Luckily I was on one week's notice - so I left, and have been properly retired ever since.
Meanwhile, the closure of the Warren Spring Laboratory had been announced in early 1993 and Maureen was offered early retirement on the 10th January 1994. Since the only alternative was relocation to Oxfordshire, she accepted (Bernard Bushby was too young for early retirement so relocated). A closing-down "do" was held on the 30th March followed by a meal (at the local Harvester) in the evening. Maureen signed on for her unemployment benefit on 7th April and was sent on a Job Review Course in October - but by then she was truly retired, going to yoga classes, walks in the local countryside etc. though, of course, continuing to sign-on every week. However, in January of 1995 she was tempted to a job interview with the William Ransom company in Hitchin (they make various natural products extracted from plant material); in May she had an interview with Roche in Welwyn Garden City and in September one for a crystallographt job at Birkbeck College in London. WSL was later demolished and Glaxo are now on the site.
|WSL group photo|
One evening, shortly after I had rejoined CSC, I was on the PC upstars when Maureen called me down. Munchkin was walking round and round the living room like an automaton. After some experimentation we realised that she coudn't see. The next morning we took her to the vets - he said that she had had a stroke and would probably be OK if looked after. He prescribed a low-dose aspirin. However, she had a couple more strokes and eventually couldn't stand up. We took her to the vets and, very sadly, had her "put to sleep".
|Pippa as a kitten|
This was a coach tour of the South of Italy run by the late-lamented Magic of Italy company.
Saturday 5th May - We got a taxi to the station at six o'clock then, via Kings Cross, Victoria and the Gatwick Express and enormous queues at Gatwick, we checked in at 8.40 and eventually took off at 10.10. Breakfast was sausage, bacon and mushrooms, roll and marmalade, tea. We landed, with a bump, at Napoli at 1.30 local time, the coach setting off at 2.30 (with a strange bunch of fellow travellers) down the motorway towards Bari. Lots of broom and nice wild flowers on the way, we stopped at a service station for a drink (spremuta di pompelmo (M) cappuccino (J)) and arrived at the Hotel Trani about six. Dinner (tables for six) was penne, veal in a neapolitan sauce, salad, fresh fruit, vino bianco and water.
Sunday - After breakfast the coach set off south, along the coast to Bisceglie. A pair of locals was consulted about how to get to Castel del Monte, and we had to stop and ask two more times before we got there (In case you need to know, it's on the SS170 (near the SP234) south of Andria). It was built for Frederick II, and is octagonal with a central courtyard - interesting, if rather strange. We made our way back to Trani, stopping at a bar for a gelato (melone e fior-di-latte) on the way. We looked round the cathedral and the church of Santa Maria delle Scale then walked down to the port where there were stalls with fishermen selling their catches. We had lunch at "I Templari" - no menu, but shown a table from which we chose antipasto (lovely tender octopus, stewed peppers, sardines and other fried fish) - then shown a live lobster (refused) and a huge dish of macaroni (ditto) then just had a simple salad. We got lost on the way back to the hotel so asked a small boy "Sempre dritto!" - he was right. After a delay because a lady had had her bag snatched, the coach set off again, this time to Bitonto. We had a quick look at the old town, then went to the cathedral (Apulian Romanesque - very good). Onwards went the coach, getting lost again (this was the first time the tour had been held), meeting a herd of goats and long-legged sheep ("the politeness of Apulia") and stopping at Molfetta. After a drink at a bar on the front we looked at the Spanish-style church and had a quick stroll. Back late to the hotel, dinner was cappelletti, fritto misto, cheese, vino bianco and a glass of moscato di Trani; coffee in the lounge.
Monday - A late start because we had to stop at the police station to retrieve yesterday's snatched bag. We drove along the motorway into Bari and visited the church of San Nicola (told to leave all valuables in the coach). A lady (Welsh?) and her friend tried to get a taxi to the local war cemetery to see the grave of her husband, but there wasn't enough time. The statue of San Nicola, and several "relics" were on display ready for the festa in two days time. After a quick look at the crypt we went through the old town to the cathedral, the sacristan showing us the early Christian church underneath. We then drove to the castle of Frederick II (only four of us were under 60 so had to pay) - so so. Most people only wanted a snack for lunch so we drove to a nearby Motta and had a slice of pizza and a pastry. We then drove south and then inland, stopping near Locorotondo to look at a trullo that was being done up for modern habitation, then on to our next hotel, "L'Aia del Vento" in Cisternino - nicer than the last one. We had a little wander round the town, bought postcards, stamps and a bottle of water then back to the hotel for dinner - macaroni with peas, ham, funghi, cream and oregano, pork with mushrooms and chips, fresh fruit salad (M) cheese (J), local vino rosso - then coffee at the bar.
Tuesday - The coach set off quite early, got lost as usual, and we were dumped in the piazza in the middle of Lecce. Barbara (our guide) walked us to the recently restored church of Santa Croce (lovely golden sandstone, but a bit baroque for me) then on to the cathedral which was full of scaffolding - hideous. We made our way back to the piazza via a couple of other nondescript churches. We then had a lightning visit to the museum (some nice paintings but not much else) then back to the piazza for a snack lunch at a rosticeria. After lunch we visited the ampitheatre (tick) and bought a guidebook. In the afternoon the coach got lost on the way to Oria where we visited the castle and practised our Italian on some children. Had a drink at a bar (lemon-soda) and didn't have time to visit Ostuni (whoever designed this tour hadn't looked at a map!) so drove back to the hotel. Dinner was orecchietti in tomato sauce (I had seconds), cotoletta milanese & salad, cheese then coffee and sambuca at the bar (had to ask for the three coffee beans).
Wednesday - Weather fine and bright again, we set off the Egnazia (on the coast, south of Bari), visiting the Roman ruins and then walking round the headland - the Adriatic was a beautiful, clear blue - and the museum (nice mosaic pavements). We were shown round the necropolis by an Italian girl (difficult accent), then the coach took us just down the coast to Savelletri where we had a drink and looked at the stalls selling fish (zaragosa was £40,000 a kilo) - Antonio the driver bought insalata del mare for his lunch. We then drove to Alberobello (the "village of the trulli", and a god-awful tourist-trap where the people spoke German to us as they tried to lure us into the trulli/shops). We had lunch at a pizzeria and bought a postcard for my mum. Back at the hotel I got a stomach ache and had to take a paracetamol and lie down, Maureen got a few twinges later - avoid Alberobello if you can! Feeling a bit better, we went down to dinner - spaghetti with ham, a strange mixture of salad, tepid spinach, prosciutto, a small panzerotto, tasteless cheese - I didn't have any wine so Maureen shared with somebody else. Maureen woke up in the night with stomach twinges and had a paracetamol.
Thursday - Still feeling a bit tender, we packed our bags and had an early breakfast, setting off through Martina Franca, the outskirts of Taranto, then Castellaneta Marina eventually to Matera. After the usual rigmarole of finding where to park we walked to a bar for toilets and a drink (previously we had started a trend for lemon-soda, today we did the same for glasses of acqua minerale). The Carlo Levi exhibition was closed so we went straight to look at the sassi (ancient cave dwellings), several of which were still occupied - young couples waiting for a council flat can claim one just by putting up a door. Rainwater was the only safe source of drinking water, otherwise it's the river below and take your chance with cholera, typhoid etc. We had a snack at the local bar - ham and cheese sandwiches and a sort of cheese pie, water and a glass of vino. We then had a very long drive, via Potenza, to San Marco above Castellabate for our next hotel, the Approdo. Took ages for our cases to arrive and then there wasn't any water in the bathroom - had to ask for it to be turned on. We had to dust the wardrobe before we could unpack - I don't think this room had been used for some time. Dinner, eventually, was sartù di riso (a sort of flattened risotto of meat and cheese), roulades of pork (M) ham and cheese (J) (so so), vino rosso (although asked for rosatto). Avoided the "American piano bar".
|Maureen at Paestum|
Friday - After a horrible breakfast we set off for Paestum. We started off in the museum, being shown round by Dr Nunzio Daniele, who certainly knew what he was talking about, but whose English sometimes let him down. Then, after a short time to look round by ourselves, we were shepherded across the road to look at the two temples (mass of school parties). As we have been there before, I won't describe them again. After time for a drink, the coach set off for Santa Maria del Castellabate in time for lunch. We found a fish restaurant ("L'Arleccino") on the front (our guide and driver were there already - a good sign) - swordfish and pimentoes (J) frittura mista & insalata mista (M), very strong wine. Then the coach headed south down the coast to Velia - this was less commercially developed than Paestum. We walked up to Ponta Rosa and the Acropolis, then drove back to the hotel. At dinner (even worse than last night), whatever wine people had ordered all came uncorked; one lady complained and the waiter obviously stuck a cork in the bottle and then uncorked it again. They obviously had some sort of scam going.
Saturday - Breakfast was bread with square cheese and square ham. Off we went again, to the Hotel Sonia in Santa Maria del Castellabate, where the rep checked up on our flight (delayed). Eventually we made it to Naples airport and a bumpy takeoff. Made it home for sandwiches at Maureen's mum's, then picked up Munchkin.
This holiday was organised by Lancaster University Summer Programme, with Frank Salter as lecturer.
Saturday 11th August - The taxi came at five a.m., and we were at Gatwick Airport by seven (Munch to Mrs Goater's last night as usual). Frank was at the front of the queue, and we recognised several people from last year. After a delayed takeoff (9.45) we had a cooked breakfast, and arrived at Pisa airport at 12.30 local time, luggage taking an age to come onto the carousel. By the way, this was the first time that there had been any restrictions when flying - we had to put cameras and any electronic equipment in our hand luggage. No sign of the courier, but Frank found the coach and talked to the driver in French (their only common language). After stopping to ask several times, we eventually found our hotel (the Mediterraneo) in a side street of the commercal district south of the Arno. Our room was OK, if a bit small, and had a balcony with a view of a building site. After a short rest we set out to explore (we got the hotel manager to show us where the hotel was on our map), turning right and heading down to the river (green with algae). We came across a strange octagonal church (San Sepulcro) that was quite nice inside, then continued along the Lungarno Galileo Galilei to the small Gothic church of Santa Maria della Spina, set right on the river bank - rather like a wedding cake, with graceful spires. We then passed through the Logge dei Banchi (used to be wool and silk markets) and sat by the church of San Paolo a Ripa d'Arno (in scaffolding) before turning back towards the Piazza della Republica and buying ice-creams. We walked up and down the Corso Italia then went back to the hotel. Dinner was minestrone, slices of unknown meat with potatoes and salad, ice-cream, cheese.
|Flag waving in Siena|
Sunday - After an early, but nice, breakfast we set off on a day trip to Siena and San Gimignano (still without a guide/courier, but Frank was the only person bothered). We turned off the motorway at Poggibonsi (one of my favourite Italian placenames) arriving at San Gimignano about 10.30 (you could see its towers from afar). Domenico (the driver) dropped us off by the gate and arranged (in French) to pick us up again at 11.50. We walked up through the Piazza del Cistino to the Piazza del Duomo and looked at the frescoes in the cathedral. We bought tickets that covered all the museums and went into the Etruscan Museum (not much cop), the Museo Civico and the ornithological Museum. Beautuful black cat in a shop doorway, and a beautiful ginger and black one that didn't want its picture taken. We were then taken to Siena, being dropped off at the usual place and told to meet the guide in the Campo two hours later. The Campo was being prepared for a Palio so we had lunch in the posh Ristorante da Guido some way away - ravioli al burro e salvia (excellent), mezzo bianco (served in a jug on a silver gilt coaster - the Italians at the next table had Chianti in an ice bucket), scallopine (M) cinghiale (J) (ditto both) (£59,000, which was cheaper than the menu turistico). The guide did not appear so we did our own thing. The Pinacoteca was closed (again) so we did the Duomo, then the Museo del'Opera Metropolitana next door. We climber a spiral staircase for the panorama then, as I was preparing to take a photo, my panama hat blew off and landed on a rooftop below (how will people know I'm English?). It started to rain a little later so we sheltered and watched some banner-waving. The rain got steadily harder so we went into a bar for a while, bought some riciarelli and panforte, then dashed for the coach. Dinner that evening was prosciutto e melone, chicken, fruit tart. It was a hot and sticky night so slept with no covering - Maureen got lots of mosquito bites.
Monday - After another nice breakfast (other people had bites as well) we had our first study session (Madama Butterfly), in a proper lecture room. It was very hot and stuffy; Frank found some fans but they had to be turned off during the music because of the noise. At lunch break we just bought some filled panini then bought some bottled water at the supermarket. After the afternoon lecture, dinner was soup, veal, fruit, cheese.
|Maureen at Torre del Lago|
|Maureen in Pisa|
Tuesday - The morning's lecture was Act I of Tosca, During the break I went to the bank down the Corso Italia and changed some traveller's cheques; Maureen popped into Upim for some insect repellent (didn't have any) then into a farmacia and got some. After a short lunch break (just a panino) we had a guided tour of Pisa (usual places) then we had some time to ourselves so we looked round the Camposanto, and then found a replacement hat. Early dinner was pea soup, meat with some sort of sauce, desert. Then the coach set off, and we reached Torre del Lago about 8.00 (on the way, Frank dished out a refund of £5,000 because of no guide in Siena). We walked down to the lakeside, past Puccini's house, and bought a souvenir programme with libretti for both operas (£12,000). You cross a bridge over part of the lake to reach the open-air theatre - there were two policemen with swords at the entrance. The performance was a bit mixed, some of the singers wern't particularly good and the "special effects" were a distraction; there was a second interval between acts II and III - I prefer them to be played as one with the "humming chorus" to link them. There was a bit of a scrum to leave, and we got back to the hotel about 1.30.
Wednesday - Lecture continued after breakfast, then we had lunch at the Spartaco Ristorante - fettucine ai funghi, insalata mista, vino bianco, minerale, coffee (£40,000). Tosca lectures continued in the afternoon, then dinner was pea soup, cold pork with capers and a sauce, torta. Off we went after dinner, arriving at 8.30 in plenty of time. The opera was very good indeed, though Tosca kept having trouble with the train of her dress, and her final leap wasn't very convincing.
Thursday - After a later breakfast, we went to Torre dell Lago, all trouping down to Puccini's hous where we were shown round together (the guide had nice slow Italian). After a little free time, we had an early lunch at Antonio's - ravioli ai nocci (delicious), insalata mista, mezzo bianco e minerale (£31,000). Then we rejoined the coach and were taken to Lucca where we parked in the Piazza Verdi. We walked up the Via San Paolino to the Via di Poggio and the Casa natale di Giacomo Puccini. Our Italian guide had been born in Liverpool. Then we walked round the corner to Piazza San Michele (nice church with elaborate facade) then the Piazza Napoleone and the Piazza San Martino to the Duomo (the tomb of Ilaria del Carretto is fenced off as her nose is being worn away by people touching it for luck). We walked through the town to the Torre delle Ore and had a drink, then to the Palazzo Guingi (tower with trees on top) and into the elliptical Piazza Antiteatro (on the site of a Roman ampitheatre). After visiting the Romanesque church of San Frediano we went out onto the walls and looked at the fortifications and walked back along the walls to the Piazza Verdi. Dinner, back at the hotel, was soup, rabbit with polenta, dessert.
Friday - Some people were having a trip to Florence today, but we just did our own thing in Pisa, lots of walking about visiting churches etc in the morning. We had lunch at Spartaco again - raviolo with a creamy mushroom sauce, fritto misto, insalata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale, coffee (£61,000). After a siesta we went to the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo (nice paintings upstairs), then walked back through the Giardini Pubblici. Dinner was soup, fish with salad & spinach, profiteroles, vino rosso (plus a bottle of prosecco per table).
Saturday - After breakfast, we packed and went for a short walk, then the coach took us to the airport. Plane diverted over Nice and up through France. Back eventually.
Tuesday 2nd July - Munchkin had been taken to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual. The taxi came at 6.15 for the station; we got to Kings Cross at about 7.00, then it was Piccadilly Line to Heathrow at about 8.00 and booked in at the Swissair desk in terminal 2. Ate our sandwiches and had a drink. The delayed flight (in an Airbus 310) eventually took off at 10.50 and we were given a reasonable breakfast and landed at Zurich at 1.10 p.m. local time. We had to rush to get our train from the airport to Zurich Central, then found the right platform for the train going to Milan. The train announcements were in German / Italian until the St Gothard Pass, then in Italian / German. The train was quiet, smooth and seemed to be travelling slowly; the scenery was lakes and hills then mountains; we had a beer from the trolley that came round about 4 p.m. The rep (Christine Lee) met us at Lugano station, but our luggage would arrive on a later train (it missed the connection). A minibus took us to the Hotel Internazionale au Lac (on the lakeside but close to the centre of town) where, at reception, our Italian was ignored and we were firmly talked to in English. We had a small but pleasant room on the 3rd floor; we had a bath and changed into what spare clothes we had carried in our hand luggage and went down to dinner - salmon mousse/jelly, consomme with vegetables, turkey escallope, cheese, mezzo bianco & minerale. We went for a short stroll along the lungolago and called it a day.
Wednesday - After a reasonable breakfast (continental, with extras charged for), we looked round the hotel's garden (steep with terraces to sit on) then went out for a look round the town. The shops and restaurants look expensive. We sat in the rose bower of the Parco Civico for a while and went back and looked in the church of Santa Maria Degli Angioli (nice frescoes) then returned to the hotel to meet the rep (booked a few trips - but not St Moritz as it's on the day we fly home). We bought two focaccio topolino (cheese, ham, salad - 5 Fr) in a shop on the Piazza Riforma and some water in a supermarket - ate them in the Parco Civico. We walked on to Castagnola and the Villa Favorita but it was shut; so we walked back, buying a local newspaper and a drink of lemonsoda on the way. We sat on a wall in the park where a river flows into the lake - then bought some gelati and ate them strolling along the lakeside, then found a little park that had modern sculptures (including one by Jean Arp). Dinner was antipasti ticini, soup with beans and pearl barley, lamb chops with rosemary, fruit boats, rest of yesterdays wine and water.
|A Lugano miscellany|
Thursday - An early breakfast before the coach trip. A coach went round all the hotels picking people up (mostly English and German), then we were transferred to another one in Paradiso. At the Chiasso border our passports were checked - my European Union one was scrutinised but Maureen's nice, old-fashioned UK one was just waved away. At Como, we were set down in the square by the harbour and the guide gave us a quick tour of the cathedral (dark, with silk tapestries, nice rose window). Then we were escorted down the main shopping street and managed to escape when there was an "opportunity to buy" in a silk shop. We found the rather nice church of St Fedele then wandered back round to the cathedral, being accosted by an American lady who wanted to know what to do and see before her train left in 4 hours. We walked along the lunglago as far as the Tempio Volta but didn't have time to go in. We had a drink then wandered back to the coach and returned to Switzerland, being waved through at the border. Had panini in the park for lunch again then went to the Museo Cantonale d'Arte Lugano, mainly to see an exhibition celebrating the 700th anniversaty of the Swiss Confederation. Bought postcards and stamps then wrote them up and had gelati in the park on a bench with a lake view. Dinner was vegetable terrine with a sauce, consommé with egg custard, roast veal with zucchini etc., ananas with kirsch (undetectable), bottle of local Merlot. After dinner we walked into town and posted our cards then walked back through the jazz festival and had a coffee in a bar.
Friday - After breakfast we walked up to Paradiso and caught the funicular up to San Salvatore, having to change trains half way up. Then a five minute walk to the top and a climb up the church tower for a 360° view. The bar wasn't open yet so we went back down and walked back to the hotel. We had focaccio misto and water in the park for our lunch, then caught the coach for today's trip. It went through Paradiso then north up to Cadenazzo (the lowest point in Switzerland) and onto the plain of Magadino, crossing the Ticino river. At Lago Maggiore we turned up the Val Verzasca at Gordola, stopping for a photo opportunity at a hydrolectric dam. We continued up the valley, through the village of Vogorno, stopping at Lavertezzo then on up the valley to Brione and, finally, to Sonogno (a pretty village) where we bought postcards and a little jug (boccalino, since given away). We walked past the communal bread oven and up a country road by a river with mountains and little farms on either side - very hot, so we had a lemonsoda in a bar before returning. Dinner that evening was mushroom vol-au-vents, potage Léopold (dunno), grilled salmon steak, pear tart, rest of last night's wine and water. We went down to the Bar Cocodrilo for a coffee and called it a day (Maureen had swollen ankles and I had three bites there).
Saturday - After breakfast we went down to Lugano Giardino and bought boat tickets for Morcote (half price with Swiss Travel Card). We walked down to the park and back in time for the 10 o'clock boat ("Elvetzia"), sitting right at the front. The boat stopped at Paradiso, Melide, Melide Paese, Capolago, Poiana and Brussino before Morcote at 11.30. We climbed up to the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (nice frescoes, cool after the hot climb) then back down a more panoramic path. Lunch at the Ristorante al Batello was ravioloni, insalata mista, minerale (42 Fr). Sat for a while then walked up to the Parco Scherrer - very hot and sticky therefore lots of stops in shady spots. We had tè freddo at a bar on the way out then went back and sat on a seat by the lake and had gelati before the boat took us back at 4 p.m. Dinner was smoked trout with horseradish sauce, consommé, scallopine, caramel mousse. Had a passegiata then a coffee at a bar.
Sunday - After breakfast, we walked down to the Imbarcadero Lugano and bought boat tickets for Gandria (half price as usual). Walked to the park until the boat left at 10.30 and went via Paradiso, San Rocco, Caprino, Cantine di Gandria, arriving at Gandria at 11.15. We walked up and looked at the dark, dingy church. There wasn't much else to do so we decided to just get the next boat back - however, the several fish restaurants all looked good so we had lunch, plumping for that at the Albergo Moosman - insalata mista (with sauerkraut), filletti di pesce misti (M) coregone in a white wine and dill sauce (J), glasses of bianco and water, gelati (fatti in casa) (90 Fr but very good). We walked back to the jetty and got the 1.40 boat back. We went back to the hotel (Maureen's ankles swollen again), I changed into my shorts. We sat in the park for a while then went for a stroll. Dinner was carpaccio al pesto, potage Saint Germain (green pea soup to you), roast chicken, apple fritters with vanilla sauce, finished off last night's Neuchatel and started a bottle of Fendant Superior. Usual stroll and coffee.
Monday - Did a bit of shopping then got the funicular up to San Lorenzo (nice stained glass and frescoes) then made our way down to the town for iced tea and then lunch of focaccias in the park. Then it was time for the afternoon trip - the coach went into Malcantone then stopped at Cademario to visit some "botanical gardens" then on to Miglieglia. Maureen didn't fancy the chairlift, so we walked up and had another iced tea at the top. We walked down a shady "strada verde" in the direction of Novaggio, then back and had cassata in a cafe. The coach returned via a different route. Dinner (last one) was ham mousse, consommé with omelette?, braised steak, raspberry torte, finished up the wine & water. After doing most of the packing we went down to the Piazza Riforma where the silver band of the Guardia di Finanzia were playing (the announcer had wonderfull clear Italian). We stood and listened for an nour then had our usual coffee at the Bar Cocodrilo. The air was sparkling clear when we went to bed but we were woken up by a thunderstorm (and doors banging).
Tuesday - Had breakfast, paid our bar bill, then went for a stroll (there was a market in the Piazza Riforma), sat in the park for a while then bought focaccia to eat on the train. Coach to the station, the rep showed us how to validate our tickets. On the journey we bought a beer off the trolley and ate our focaccia and watched the scenery go by. Changed trains at Zurich Central and got to the airport in plenty of time. Bought a copy of "Oggi" and some "Toblerone" to use up our coins. The plane was only ten minutes late, and had Singapore Airline stewardesses - cold chicken curry, red wine (better than it sounds). Efficient baggage retrieval meant we were back in time to pick up Munchkin.
Wednesday 21st August - We took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's early, then I went to work and Maureen packed and did household chores. We got a taxi to the station just after 7 p.m. then train to Kings Cross and tube to Heathrow, and a courtesy bus to the Hotel Ibis for an overnight stay.
Thursday - Hotel bus to the airport at 6 a.m. then long queues at the Alitalia desk. The plane took off, only a quarter of an hour late, at 8.20 - substantial breakfast - arrived at Milano Linate at 11.05 local time and waited for a flight from Manchester. We were all then driven to our hotel ("Drago Center") at Assenza di Brenzone on Lake Garda (stopping for a panino at a motorway service station). Unpacked and went down to the bar for a quick drink, a short lecture and then an early dinner (spaghetti with a bacon and tomato sauce, roast beef, chocolate mousse). The coach got away just past six, stopping at Garda for Maria (guide) to pick up vouchers for our tickets. It was packed by the time we got in, but we managed to get reasonable seats at quite a low level. A nearly-full moon came out and then the opera (Rigoletto) started at 9 p.m. Our ears took some time to get used to the sound level, but we were OK by Act II. The singing was a bit mixed, but Gilda was very good. It ended about midnight, and we were back at the hotel before two (crickets chirping).
Friday - The lecture started with a post-mortem of last night's performance (we were seated in a different part of the arena from everyone else, and had seen several things that the others had missed). We had lunch at a ristorante just down the road - rigatoni con panna, pomodori & prosciutto, insalata, minerale. Had a quick wander round the town (doesn't take much time) then back to the hotel for a wine-tasting tour at 1.50. We picked up people at several stops on the way (Malcesine, Torbole and Riva) then we were off, up from Nago-Torbole into the Trentino-Alto Adige region, past Trento to Maso Rover. We had a quick taster of a Pinot Blanc then were shown around the vineyard to see the various grape varieties. Then it was back to the winery for a taster of a red, and panini with salami from the farm next door (they help each other out at busy times). A lecture on fermentation etc was followed by a single glass of a sparkling Moscato. We picked up our presentation pack of three bottles (some people bought extra) and we were back at the hotel by 6.30. Dinner was pasta, scallopine with funghi, fruit. Coffee at the local pizzeria, then back to bed with the sound of noisy crickets again (and some traffic noise as we are on the main road up the East side of the lake).
Saturday - After breakfast we had a trip, by private launch, to Sirmione. We crossed the lake and went down the west side, looking at several villas, including one of Mussolini's. Weather was warm and sunny, if a little windy on the lake; scenery got less mountanous as the lake broadened out. We walked down the main drag and then took a lower, panoramic route, ending up on the shore. Did some more wandering, and found the church of Santa Maria Maggiore (nice murals and modern stained glass). Getting rather hot by the time we returned to the boat; it set off back at midday, passing the villa on San Vigilio point where both Churchilll and Charles & Di have stayed, and getting back to the hotel at 1.15. Had lunch at the Ristorante Da Sole again - frittura mista, insalata, vino bianco, minerale. Frank's afternoon lecture was on Turandot, finishing early at 4.30 as some people were returning to Verona for a ballet. I popped down to the supermarket for more water, then had a swim in the hotel pool (rather cold). Dinner was tagliatelle al ragù, roast veal, rum & raisin ice-cream then went to Da Pippo's for coffee. Didn't join in the folk dancing in the street.
Sunday - This was a free day as most people were off to Venice. After a leisurely breakfast we went out for a walk, turning right by the church and up a road that turned into a mule track, up through olive groves with good views of the lake. Past the village of Sommavilla Pozzo it became obvious that the track was climbing for ever so we returned the way we had come. Bought a local newspaper (to see what was happening in the attempted Russian coup) then walked along the beach back to the hotel. After sitting in the garden for a while, we went to Da Sole's for lunch - tortellini con panna & prosciuto, insalata, vino rosso, minerale, cappuccino. After lunch Maureen washed her hair and I had a swim. Dinner was risi e bisi (meh), "cordon blu" (deep-fried ham and cheese), fruit.
Monday - An early breakfast for today's coach trip to the Dolomites, picking other tourists up at Riva, then heading along the Adige valley and up the motorway past Rovereto and Trento (flat country with the Predolomites towering above on both sides) - vineyards giving way to apple orchards. Non-stop commentary in English, German and Italian. We stopped at Ora for a coffee and strudel (German the predominant language). We then started to climb along the Val di Fassa but had to stop near Cavalese as one of the Italian ladies at the back of the bus was taken ill (ambulance called). Stopped for a photo opportunity at Rosengarten then arrived at Passo Pordoi where we had lunch at Maria's - polenta, salsicce & funghi, salad, beer - then a short walk (lots of wild flowers and butterflies, and definitely cooler). Back the way we had come, then turned up through Vigo di Fassa to the Carezza lake (photo stop) then back to the hotel just in time for dinner - tortelloni con panna & prosciutto (had seconds), trout, salad, finished up yesterday's wine & water. After dinner there was a heated discussion about when the excursion to Verona was (cancelled in the end).
Tuesday - Wrote postcards after breakfast and then went to Frank's morning lecture (more Turandot). Lunch was fuselli al tonno, salad, banana gelato. Frank finished off Turandot in the afternoon then we left reasonably early for Verona, having time to drive round the main sights (San Zeno, the Della Scala castle, the Adige bridges, Roman ampitheatre, cathedral). Walked to the Arena and picked up our tickets (prima gradinata today - some people had paid extra for poltroncine). We bought some panini and started to queue at 6.45 - weather clear but hot. We had reasonable seats, but I would prefer the seconda gradinata where you sit where you like. Everything about the opera was very good, staging, singing, acting - the late Ghena Dimitrova played the lead role. Had to wait to get in the coach back while the driver's lady friend made herself decent!
Wednesday - Did some packing after breakfast, then it was Frank's lecture on Nabucco. Lunch was spaghetti carbonara, pollo arosto, tiramisù, finished wine & water (bar bill £55,500 for the week). After the afrernoon lecture we bought some filled panini at the supermarket (made to order). Drove to Verona and picked up our tickets, queued up and eventualy found seats reasonably near the stage. Ate our panini and watched the performance (of the audience). The opera started at 9 p.m., and was very good (though the special effects were no better than at Preston), ending at 12.30 - back at the hotel by 2.
Thursday - Maureen finished packing and, after breakfast was the three hour drive to Milan airport then the flight was delayed by an hour and a half. Flew in over the white cliffs of Dover and got home eventually.
Saturday 11th April - There had been an IRA bomb in London so we decided to leave earlier than planned in case the Underground was affected. We caught the 8.53 from Stevenage to Kings Cross then the 10.00 Gatwick Express from Victoria, booking in at 10.45 without incident. There were long queues at security and passport control and then a long wait in the satellite building. The Dan Air flight eventually took off at 2.09 and arrived at Catania at 5.45 local time. Had to wait an hour for our luggage then there was a three hour trip to our hotel (Excelsior Palace) in Palermo. We dumped our cases then went down to a late dinner - prosciuto & mozzarella, cold chicken, ham & beef with tomatoes, cannoli.
Palm Sunday - After a nondescript buffet breakfast, we left at 9.30 with courier Alberto and local guide Nino (short for Antonino) to Monreale. You climb up from the coach stop to the cathedral - lots of opportunities to buy plaited palms and such. There was a service in progress so Nino told us what to look out for and let us loose. There was a very interesting procession as one service ended and a second began; the cathedral had very beautiful mosiacs. The earlier drizzle had ended and the sun came out as we left the cathedral and visited the cloisters (in restauro). We drove back to Palermo and had lunch in a pizzeria (with salad, mezzo bianco & minerale - £29,000 - very good). We had a little wander, visiting the Vergogna fountain and the Piazza Pretoria before returning to the coach. We then drove to Cefalù (on the north coast, east of Palermo), walking up from the seaside to the cathedral (strange). The symbol of Sicily is made from three legs, like that of the Isle of Man - the guide joked that they both represent seasons, and Sicily has no winter and the Isle of Man has no summer. You can't normally get fresh bread on a Sunday in Italy, but we saw it being sold from the backs of cars. We wandered back to the coach and returned to the hotel for dinner - conchilie al ragù, scallopine, mezzo rosso & minerale, fresh fruit salad, coffee.
Monday - After breakfast we had a little stroll before getting the coach at 9.00 and driving west along the motorway to Erice. We walked up through the town to a ruined castle where there would have been good views if it hadn't been misty, then through the so-called English gardens (friendly cat) and back through the town (useless museum) to the Bar Tupilano where we had very good cappuccinos. We then drove back to Segesta, having lunch at a small bar/shop/trattoria outside in the sun then going up to visit the Doric temple (very nice setting, with views over the Golfo di Castellamare and lots of wild flowers) and then across to the Greek theatre. Dinner that night was risotto con funghi, chicken with rosemary, tiramisù, vino bianco.
Tuesday - After breakfast (room full of Germans) we left for a tour of Palermo, visiting the cathedral and then the catacombs, then to San Giovanni degli Eremiti (garden full of citrous fruits - lovely smell) and the Cappella Palatina. We left at midday and drove south-west to Agrigento, stopping by the side of the road for lunch on the way (panini with prosciuto cotto & provalone, arancini) and arriving at 3.15. Alberto took us to the Museo Nazionale while he sorted out the hotel. We were picked up after an hour and taken to the Hotel Kaos (nice sea view); dinner was cavaletti with a tomato and aubergine sauce, involtini alla siciliana, insalata, fresh fruit. Early to bed because of an early start tomorrow.
Wednesday - An early 8 o'clock start - We picked up a local guide (Claudio) and went to the top of the Valley of Temples starting at the Tempio di Guinone (Juno) at the eastern end of the Via Sacra (good, interesting explanations by Claudio) then made our way along the sacred way, being shown (as well as the antiquities) acanthus (as in Greek decoration) and hemlock (death of Socrates). The Tempio della Concordia was the best preserved as it had been converted to a Christian church; next was a paleochristian necropolis, then a villa restored by one Alexander Hardcastle (Claudio had difficulty with that name) then, across the road, the final ruins of the Tempio di Giove, most of whose stone has been removed to build the port at Agrigento. At 10.30 we set off for the Roman Villa Casale near Piazza Armerina, stopping for lunch at a small trattoria. At the villa, the local guide only spoke Italian so Alberto translated. Aparently a large landslide had covered and therefore protected the mosaics - nicely laid out, with walkways above the mosaics, most of which were complete and all very interesting. At 3.45 we set off for Taormina, the countryside becoming less rugged with lemon and orange groves around Catania. Although it was sunny, the sky got darker as we neared the erupting Mount Etna and we had to divert up a hairy road with hairpin bends and had to transfer to the hotel minibus for the final part. We booked into the Hotel Jolly Diodoro (pronounced Yolly) at 7.15 and our luggage followed on, arriving just before dinner at 8.00 - ravioli di carciofi, pesce spada, torta, vino & acqua.
Thursday - After a large, very good, buffet breakfast we went for a walk through the local part of the town and then the giardini publici. Our fellow travellers were calling the hotel the "Jolly Deodorant". At 9.30 we were told that the Etna trip was cancelled and an alternative was to some gorges - we decided to do our own thing instead. We spent the morning investigating the town and doing some shopping, meeting groups of escapees now and again. We had lunch at "Mamma Rosa" - pasta con sarde (this is now something I make at home), fritto misto di mare (J) calamari alla siciliana (M), insalata, vino bianco & minerale, coffee (£51,000 - very good except for the accordion player). After a short siesta we had another little stroll and sat in the gardens until it got chilly. Dinner was very good - tortelloni in brodo (J) risotto con formaggio (M), scallopine alla Malfi (J) soglia con burro & limone (M), cassata alla siciliana (the cake, not the icecream), vino & acqua.
Good Friday - After a decent breakfast, the coach left at 8.00 for Siracusa, through dull, often industrial country in the drizzling rain, but the sun came out as we reached our destination. We picked up our local guide (Nino, an elderly gentleman with a sense of humour) who took us to the Tempio di Apollo, then through Ortigia to the cathedral (very old, originally a temple to Athena, very nice), then back through Piazza Archimede and a market to the coach that took us back to the mainland. On the way to the Greek theatre the guide pointed out a nespolo tree (he translated it as loquat, but I think it should be medlar). After the very large, and well preserved Greek theatre we went to the Latomia del Paradiso (ancient quarries) then the Roman ampitheatre (with a sort of pool in the middle to flush the blood away). We had lunch in the trattoria next door - macaroni alla siciliana (M) ditto arrabbiata (J), mezzo bianco & minerale (£25,000). After lunch we were taken to the papyrus museum (very interesting and everybody escaped without buying any!) then back to the hotel just at 5.15, when we went out for a cappuccino and a "n'zuddo" (hard almond biscuit) standing up at a bar. At seven we went out to watch the Good Friday procession but missed the cross and the local saint in his coffin so went back for dinner - macaroni ai funghi, tuna braised in onions and tomatoes, some sort of dessert.
Saturday - Had a cooked breakfast then wandered into town and bought some Marsala secco and some marzipan fruits before having lunch at Mamma Rosa again - gnocchi alla neapolitana (one between us), insalata mista, involtini di pesce spada (J) frittura mista (including fish with heads) (M), mezzo bianco & minerale (£48,000). Then back to the hotel and sat in the lounge until it was time to go - left at 3.00 and got to Catania airport at 4.30. Long queue to check in then the flight left at 7.20 (lady pilot). I got into conversation with a young chap from Catania who was going to England. He was a student and interested in computing - he taught me various Italian terms (e.g. "scoglio" which means a submerged rock but also a bug in a program) and I explained the English currency and showed him the coins. Landed at 9.15 UK time and picked up our luggage at once. Home before midnight.
This was another walking holiday organised as part of the Lancaster University Summer Programme.
Sunday 26th July - Took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual, remembering to tell her that she had had some teeth out recently and wasn't eating quite normally yet. We set off just after nine and reached Wetherby by midday, listening to the Headingly test match (against Pakistan) on the radio. We had lunch at the "Wharfedale Gate" in Ilkley again (scampi & chips (J) chicken marsala & rice (M)). We stopped again at High Bentham and ate some fruit while listening to the cricket, then continued to Lancaster, arriving about 3.30. We were allocated separate single rooms in Witherslack house (part of the John Creed building) that had en-suite facilities. Keith Percy gave his usual introductory talk, then dinner was a peppery minestrone, roast beef etc., apple crumble, cheese. Then we went to the course introduction - Paul Tolcher was leading this time instead of Ian Brody (there are only eight of us, plus Paul, his wife and their poodle). Went to the wine reception then called it a day.
Monday - Had an early breakfast, spoke to Ian Brody (doing Local Rambles, and about to give up teaching to become chairman of the Friends of the Lake District), then boarded the minibus and off we went just after nine. We parked in Grange-over-Sands and climbed up through Eggerslack Wood to Hampsfeld where we stopped for a drink (this was a similar walk to one we had done previously). There were a few drops of rain as we descended into Cartmel but they had stopped as we had lunch in the Royal Oak (open ham sandwich (M) cod in beer (J), chocolate fudge cake (M - hog!). It was a bit chilly but we warmed up climbing up through the golf course. Sat down at the top for a drink break and a view of Morecambe Bay. There was another short shower as we descended through more woods, and we ended up at the "Tea Trail" tea rooms (very good - I was tempted to a piece of carrot cake). Dinner that evening was melon, chicken Kiev (butter spurted everywhere), fresh fruit tartlet, cheese & grapes. Had a look in the book shop then went to the lecture on "Leisure Pursuits in the Early Nineteenth Century", then onto a team quiz (our team got 48 out of 60). Finally there was Frank Salter's "musical evening" - he talked and played CDs of overlooked or taken-for-granted pieces ("Entrance of the Queen of Sheba", "Scheherazade" etc.). Frank tells us that he will be taking an Italian opera trip to Torre del Lago and Macerata next year - we'll almost certainly go.
Tuesday - After breakfast we left in the minibus just after nine, driving to Settle (the way we had come) only just managing to park as it was market day. The walk started with a long, quite steep climb up a track and then through fields. There were good views over Ingleborough and you could see the copper cupola of Giggleswick School (where Russel Harty taught). The going was then gentle, over grassland, with good views (spotted some wheatears) and sunny weather that was not too hot. We went past Victoria Cave (where bones of pre-ice-age hippos and rhinos had been found) then started to descend into the village of Langcliffe for lunch - leek and potato soup, tuna sandwiches (M) ham sandwiches (J). The walking in the afternoon was easier but less picturesque, passing a giant lime kiln then down to the Ribble, following it back to Settle by 4 o'clock. Dinner was cheese and herbe paté, pork with apple sauce, coffee gateau, cheese. Maureen didn't have the legs for the barn dance, but we went to a crossword quiz (1 hour to do as much as we could of three different styles of crossword).
Wednesday - We set off, after breakfast, for Ambleside (Dan had a blister so didn't come; Tom came only to spend the day in Ambleside as he had hurt his ankle). We walked through the town, past a church and through some parkland then it was a climb first over tarmac then through a small wood and a rocky path through bracken. At the top we had a drink break with views of Windermere and Ambleside. The walking was then on the level and we came o a small tarn with water lilies, bog asphodel and cottontails. Descent was a bit rocky and Maureen was rather slow as usual. We passed Loughrigg Tarn and stopped for lunch at "The Oaks" - farmhouse platter (M) cheese platter (J), tea. The weather was cloudy and humid; we walked up a road then more rocky ground round Rydal Water to the slate quarry. Then we went down to the lakeside, up past Rydal Mount then back into Ambleside. There was heavy rain on the drive back but it cleared up in time for dinner - Florida cocktail, cold buffet, raspberry millfeuille. Afterwards I went to "Taste of Croquet" and Maureen went to "Gardener's Question Time". Then we both went to the Preston Opera Company's performance (with Frank as usual)
|Walking to Malham|
Thursday - After breakfast we set off to Settle again, then through Langcliffe and parked in a car park. We made the short walk to Malham Tarn then back to Malham Cove where we were met by a photographer from Lancaster University. We walked over a limestone pavement (part of the Pennine Way), down steps and into Malham village itself, having lunch at Beck Hall - ham sandwiches, strawberries & cream(M) spice cake (J). We then walked through the village and up a long road that was steep in places then over grass and some rocky bits to the minibus. Had a look at birds on the tarn, then back to Lancaster. Dinner was vegetable soup, braised steak (tough), meringue nest, cheese. Maureen went to a yoga taster and I went on a canal walk with Ian Brodie (ended at the "Stork" public house).
Friday - A full complement today; we drove to Skelwith, walked down the road and took a footpath back along the river to Elter Water with a view of the Langdale Pikes. We walked on through woodland to Elterwater village, stopping there for a drink and "comfort break". Then up again, mostly through woodland, past slate quarries and a potash pit and through a few field to the "Three Shires" for lunch - quiche & salad (J) Lancashire cheese ploughman (M). We walked towards Wetherlam and then through woods and fields to Colwith bridge and then on to Skelwith bridge where we looked round the Kirkstone gallery then it as back to Lancaster. Met Ian Brodie and Frank Salter at the sherry reception then dinner was avocado (insipid), chicken with mushroom and rice (boring), profiteroles, cheese.
Saturday - Uneventful drive home except for some roadworks.
Friday 18th June - Yesterday we had taken Munchkin to the Grey Shingles Cattery near Mardley Hill as Mrs Goater was on holiday - she seemed to settle in OK. Today we woke up early and the taxi came at 8.00 for the station. London was in the middle of the rush hour and everwhere was crowded, but we eventually got to Heathrow at 9.45. I always set of the alarm and get frisked. On the plane the Italian announcements were easier to understand than the English ones. Decent flight and good food; luggage came off quickly and we were whisked away to a motor taxi with another couple. They were dropped off near San Marco and we came round past the Salute, down a bit of the Grand Canal and then the Rio San Vio, stopping in front of the Hotel American where a Citalia rep met us. Our room was on the "primo piano", and was rather small. After unpacking we went for a stroll, down to the Zattere then turning off through tha Campo Agnese, had a quick look at the Gesuati ("in restauro") then back along the Zattere to the Stazione Marittima. We branched off inland and visited the church of San Trovaso (in the shape of a Greek cross) and looked at the "squero" (gondola repair yard). We then got a bit lost, and ended up in the Campo San Margherita where there were signs pointing to the Ponte Accademia. We walked back and had a look at the flat we were in last time then past the Guggenheim and to the hotel. After freshening up we went out for a pizza at the "Ristorante alla Zattere" then walked along to the Dogana and back to the hotel.
Saturday - Woke up to another sunny day with boats delivering goods and removing rubbish in the canal outside. Breakfast was slow to come and not very exciting. There was a French couple who actually spoke Italian to the waitress (a virtually unknown phenomenon). We walked down to the Zattere, bought our vaporetto tickets then got one over to the Giudecca. We turned left and walked down the Fondamenta right to the end where there were a couple of small exhibitions that were part of the Biennale - but they wouldn't be open for another hour and a half. We went "inland" and walked back through old and then modern flats where people were delivering new telephone directories everywhere. Popped into the Redentore then found a small park with a view of the Lido, then a nice-looking restaurant ("Altanella") that we earmarked for lunch. We stopped at a bar for a drink then visited the church of S. Eufemia (nice gold triptych), carried on past a group of photogenic cats and looked at the menu outside "Harry's Dolce" - rather steep so we returned to Altanella (not cheap but good value for money) getting a table on a little terrace overloking a canal - spaghetti alle seppie nere (M) polipetti (J), orata (M) seppie nere & polenta (J), inslata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale, sat for a while, formaggio (shared), cafe (£92,500 but very good). We caught a ferry back to the the Zattere then back to the hotel for a siesta. We set out again about 4.00 and walked past the Accademia through to San Polo (paintings by Tintoretto & Veronese and the "Way of the Cross" by Tiepolo (coins for illumination). We passed the Ponte dei Pugni (marble footprints) and looked into San Pantalon then ended up at the Riva del Vin by the Rialto then worked our way back to the hotel. For dinner that night we went to "Ai Cugnai" (same two ladies and old man running it) - tortellini in brodo (J) gnocchi al pomodoro (M), cotelette alla milanese (J) scallopa alla marsala (M) - plates turned up haphazardly - mezzo rosso & minerale (£55,000)
Sunday - Loads of French people at breakfast. We set off, on another hot and sunny day, just after 9.00, over the Accademia bridge and looked into the church of San Stefano (ceiling like a ship's keel) then went on to Campo San Angelo and through to Campo Manin. At the Rialto we continued north towards the Strada Nova, making a detour to look at the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli (in restauro), past La Maddalena (only round church in Venice, also in restauro). At the top of the Strada Nova we turned right to the Ghetto and sat in the piazza for a rest. We had a look in the museum (quite small) and then had a guided tour of the synagogues (had to wear a skullcap, quite interesting). We started to walk back and were captured by the patron of a snack bar and had a simple lunch of panini (very tasty, £10,000). We walked on to the Gesuiti then on to the Fondamenta Nova, where we sat and decided what to do next. We walked along the Fondamenta and turned inland into the Campo S.S. Zanipolo with the statue of Colleoni. We popped into the Scuola di San Marco where there was an art exhibition then sat outside at a cafe and drank a té freddo until the church of S.S Zanipolo (San Giovanni & San Paolo in Venetian) opened. It is a large, brick church with lots of tombs and monuments to doges - the Bellini polyptych was being restored. We went on to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa (church closed) and then through the Piazza San Marco, on to the Accademia bridge and home. We went to the "Agli Alboretti" restaurant, behind the Accademia, for dinner and were shown through to a sort of covered garden at the back - risotto ortolano (carrots, peas, zucchini), fegato alla veneziana (M, melted in the mouth) nodino di vitello with herbs (J), bottle of Bardolino (no carafe or half bottles) & mezzo minerale, coffee (£123,500 but very good).
|Maureen writing her diary|
Monday - After breakfast we set off, over the Accademia bridge, through to the Campo San Maurizio and looked in the church of Santa Maria Zobenigo (large paintings) then through to the Fenice where we looked at an expensive restaurant where the opera stars eat. Looked into the church of San Fantin (nothing special) then back past Harry's Bar into the public gardens and sat watching several ladies feeding the cats. We walked along the Mole to the Riva degli Schiavoni then through a little sottoportego to the Campo San Zaccaria (nice Bellini in the church). Next door was a moden art exhibition ("Artisti Dopodomani", not much cop). We went into the Istituto Elenco (next door to San Giorgio dei Greci, lots of nice icons but very hot and humid). We went back to the Fondamenta and had to shelter from a brief shower then walked on towards the Arsenale and popped into an offshoot of the Biennale (strange, but we survived). We walked down the Via Garibaldi and had a substantial snack lunch of schicchiale filled with prosciuto and salad then walked through the Giardini Pubblici to the Biennale itself. The national pavilions varied greatly - some were really good and others were total rubbish. After about three hours we escaped and walked back along the Fondamanta, stopping for ice-creams, skirting the Piazza San Marco and looking at the "snail staircase" at the Palazzo Contarino del Bovolo. We returned to the hotel via the Accademia bridge then, after a rest and a shower, went out to dinner practically next door at the Cantinone Storico, sitting inside by an open window - tagliatelle al ragù (M), raviolini ditto (J), San Pietro mugnaia, creme caramele, coffee (£67,000).
Tuesday - (25th Wedding Anniversary) - After breakfast we walked along the Fondamenta towards the port then wandered around by the Angelo Raffaele, the Ca' Zenobio then north parallel with the Campo San Margherita and on to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco (loads of Tintorettos on three floors). We then wandered almost as far as Piazzale Roma and sat in the Giardino Papadopoli for a while. Then we walked along the Fondamenta San Simeone Piccolo (one of the few places that you can walk along the Grand Canal) and, on the way to the vaporetto stop, found a little pizzeria ("All'Anfora"). So we went in and sat in the garden at the back - had calzoni (swapped halfway through), mezzo bianco & minerale (£33,000). We decided not to go back by boat so went to the Campo San Giacomo dell'Orio and sat in the shade for a while. Then we went to the church of San Stae that was open as part of the Biennale (floor converted into a white, raked platform - but is it art?). Then we worked our way along the Grand Canal past Ca' Pesaro (closed for June), the fish market (shut) and the church of San Giacametto (oldest in Venice), eventually back to the hotel. For our anniversary dinner we went back to Agli Alboretti (as we would for some future ones) - prosciutto e melone (M) carpaccio con funghi (J), scallopine alle ciglieie (M) cappe sante a Marco Polo (with cream and saffron, J), golosità di Torcolano (glass of sweet wine & dipping biscuits) (M) latteria vecchio (J, but we shared both), bottle of prosecco, acqua, coffee (£144,100).
Wednesday - I nipped out to get a local newspaper before breafast to check on the weather forecast (localised heavy rain). It was sunny with a clear blue sky as we walked all the way to the Fondamenta Nova and caught a No. 5 to the cimiterio at San Michele (boat full of ladies with flowers) - very large, and quite interesting - we found most of the famous graves. Came back and walked along to the Gesuiti, then back and inland to Campo Santa Maria Formosa (nice painting by Vivarini (with a free light switch)) then wiggled through to the Ca' Querini Stampalia where we got into the museum with reduced-price tickets (did they think we were students or OAPs?). There was an exhibition of painted bronze sculpture by the American artist John Seward Johnson II (very good). We had a snack lunch at a bar back in the Campo Santa Maria Formosa, after which we meandered (with Maureen navigating) to the Campo San Lorenzo (shady seats, lots of cats) then the Campo Bandiera & Moro then to the Arsenale where we found a fountain to wash the apricots we had bought. We didn't know where the Arsenale part of the Biennale was, and got lost looking for it ending up at San Francesco della Vigna where we sat for a while listening to the organ - then found we were locked in, but managed to find a side door and escaped. We went back to the Arsenale and found the Biennale, spending over two hours there (mostly very good). Walked back along the Riva and had another ice-cream, then got back to the hotel just as the heavens opened. After waiting for the thunder and lightning to subside we went out to the Trattoria San Trovaso for dinner - rigatoni San Trovaso (M) tortelloni primavera (J), frittura mista (M) ossobuco ai funghi (J), mezzo bianco & minerale, coffee (£67,000). Got back before the rain returned.
Thursday - Another hot, sunny day and, after breakfast, we went and sat by St George's English chuch facing the Grand Canal and wrote postcards, then walked along to the Salute and looked at the menu outside "Ai Gondolieri" (thought we might try it tonight). Then we walked past the Guggenheim, looked at a glassblower at work in his little workshop, then over a wooden bridge back to the Salute for a visit. Then back to the hotel to consult our address book (for the postcards), then off again, over the Accademia bridge to the Ca' Gustinian for another bit of the Biennale (so so) and the Palazzo Grassi (exhibition by Marcel Duchamp but we didn't bother). We saw a shop that had wonderful wooden scultures of things like woman in a shower, pair of pants hanging from a washing line (no prices!). Then we went to the Fortuny Museum where there was a Peter Greenaway exhibition (good in parts, but mostly video) and escaped in time for lunch at a self-service near the Rialto that was filled with Italian offce workers (panino, plate of prosciuto, ditto of cheese & tomato, salad, bottle of water (£17,000)) (by the way - it's the second one you come to downstream of the Rialto bridge on the San Marco side, and is very reasonable with a good selection). Back to the hotel for a short pause then back out to the Campo San Agnese for a sit. We did a bit of (food) shopping and looked in the famous "Ricordi" music shop. Then it started to rain so we dashed back to the hotel before it got worse. We went out for dinner just after 7.00 but Ai Gondolieri didn't open till 8.00. We were quite hungry so went back to Cantinone Storico - tagliatelle al ragù (M) affettato italiano (J), frittura mista dell'Adriatica (M) seppie alla veneziana with polenta (J), creme caramele (M) macedonia (fresh, J), mezzo bianco & minerale, coffe & amaretto (M) sambuca (J) (£80,000) (waiter talked to us in French because he thought we were Dutch !?).
Friday - Blue sky with flufy clouds. We got up early, finished packing and took our suitcases downstairs and had breakfast. The water taxi came (with the Citalia rep) just after 8.00 and took us to the airport, stopping near San Marco to pick up another Citalia employee). [By the way - it is no bother just to get a vaporetto to Piazzale Roma and then an ordnary bus to the airport. That's what we do now.] Uneventful flight and trains got us back home about 1.30. We picked up Munchkin in the afternoon and the lady complained that she had fleas - we won't take her there again.
This was another opera study tour organised by the Lancaster University Summer Programme.
Sunday 8th August - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual. The taxi arrived at 6.15 a.m. and took us to the station; train and tube got us to Heathrow at 8.30 - we should have checked in by 8.00. Eventually they let us check in at the gate and our bags were put through an X-ray machine and despatched down a shute. We met Frank, then boarded the flight to Bologna which left 20 minutes late at 9.45, the food was quite reasonable and we actually had real cutlery! We arrived on time at 12.35 local time but it took ages to get through passport control and customs. We were met by an "English-speaking driver" and the coach sped off down the motorway on the eastern coast of Italy, having a stop for a drink on the way. We turned off at Loreto and arrived at Macerata at 4.30 p.m., booking into the Hotel della Piaggia in the centro storico (pleasant modern room with air conditioning). After unpacking we went for a little stroll, had an ice-cream and visited the pinacoteca in the church of San Paolo. Back at the hotel, Frank was in a tiz as no lecture room had been organised. We went out to the "Piccolo Mondo" restaurant (sadly now gone) for dinner - penne con panna, funghi & prosciuto, involtone (M) saltimbocca alla romana (J), fresh fruit, vino bianco & minerale; coffee in the bar next door.
Monday - The hotel doesn't seem to have a dining room, so breakfast was just a crosissant and cappuccino in the bar. We had vouchers for the tickets, so went down to the ticket offkce - it didn't open till 10.30, so we went for another walk, down to the walls and then back and found the duomo (large and dark) and the seminary (nice bronze doors) next door. It's a typical non-touristy university town with lots of bookshops. We then sat for a while having a coffee at a bar, had another stroll and went to the ticket office and got our (and Frank's) tickets. We found a little trattoria full of locals and had pizza for lunch, then back to the hotel for the first lecture. It was in the hotel's office and was a bit cramped and hot and Frank had problems with his CD player, but we got through the first two acts of Le Nozze di Fagaro by 5.30. We all had dinner at Piccolo Mondo again (spaghetti alla carbonara (M) risotto ai quatro formaggi (J, stupendous), saltimboca alla romana (M) arrosto misto (J), loads of wine, gelato (frutti di bosco), coffee. Most of us had a sambuca at the bar next door then we called it a day.
Tuesday - After breakfast we walked down to the giardini pubblichi which are just outside the old-town walls and sat in the sun reading our books then walked back into town and did a few bookshops then went to the town-hall square and had a snack lunch. Frank finished off Le Nozze di Figaro in the afternoon, we had an early dinner in the same place again (penne con panna, funghi & prosciuto (M) spaghetti alla scogliere (seafood, J), salmone (grilled), fresh fruit salad. At 7.35 we left for the opera at the Teatro Lauro Rossi in the Piazza della Libertà - we had good seats just a few rows back from the orchestra. The opera was in modern dress; the cast were all young and energetic, and all the singing was very good. It didn't finish till just before midnight and some of us were nodding off in the heat. Air conditioning not working very well back at the hotel, but we got to sleep eventually.
Wednesday - Had breakfast then went to look at the market that stretched from down by the ticket office all the way up to the piazza outside last night's opera. The morning's lecture was Rigoletto after which we had another stroll and ended up at the Trattoria Crescimbeni for lunch (two pizzas, mezzo vino & acqua £14,000). Lecture continued in the afternoon, dinner again at Piccolo Mondo, then we trouped down to the Sferisterio where we had good seats close to the middle of the incredibly wide stage area. The opera was very good, the sets sliding back and forth automatically. Frank says the score used was Verdi's original without the normal later additions. The singing was good (Renato Bruson was Rigoletto) and the costumes were traditional tonight. It ended at 12.50 then we went straight to bed.
Thursday - We had breakfast and took our suitcases to the top of the street where a minicoach was waiting. It took us an hour and a half to get to Pesaro and then the driver had to ask several times before he found the hotel (Hotel Capital, close to the beach and only 5 minutes from the Palafestival but 20 minutes walk from the Rossini Theatre). Left Frank worrying about lack of lecture room and went for a stroll, finding the Rossini Theatre and the tourist office, having a snack lunch, then back along the front to the hotel. Frank has given up on lectures. We walked to the Palafestival (open but deserted, I had a wander round the arena) then on to the Rossini Theatre where we got our (and Frank's) tickets for the two operas (Maometo II and Armida - neither of which we had ever heard of. We then walked back down the street to Rossini's house and had a look round, then to the Tourist Office and picked up our tickets for the trip to Urbino tomorrow. At dinner there was no menu, Frank was on the phone so we started on his wine - rigatoni al ragù, scallopina with piselli alla romana, vino bianco, factory ice-cream. Frank had managed to borrow a private room in the headquarters of the hotelier's association.
Friday - We needed an early breakfast but the hotel wasn't interested - we went down to a beach cafe and had coffee and a brioche. An air-conditioned coach took us to Urbino through hilly countryside in about 40 minutes. There is a lift from the bus station up to the centro storico from where we climbed up to the main square. We popped into the Duomo first (nothing special) and then visited the Ducal Palace (very good indeed) - beautiful rooms with views of the countryside, very good paintings (some famous ones by Piero della Francesca). We had a little stroll round the town then went back down in the lift and got the bus back to Stressa where we had lunch at the Bar Ariston (prosciuto crudo, tagliatelle al salmone, insalata mista, mezzo bianco & minerale £38,000). Got back to the hotel and set off with Frank to the Associazione Pesarese Albergatori where there was a nice cool room with confortable chairs, Frank being behind a desk and lecturing on the music rather than the plot. Dinner at seven was fuselli, veal, peaches & plums after which we went to the Palafestival (big sports hall); Maureen and I had seats with Frank up on the left side of the stage, the rest having seats in the poltrone. The music and singing were very good (Cecilia Gasdia played Anna). It finished just after midnight and we all had a cappuccino back at the hotel. Left our zanzare machine on as Maureen had had bites earlier.
Saturday - After a reasonable breakfast on the verandah we had another lecture in the same place as yesterday. Lunch at Bar Ariston again was antipasto all'italiano (J) prosciuto & melone (M), insalata di mare (shared), vino, acqua, coffee (£48,000). It was very hot as we walked into town so we sat in the shade for a while then had a wander and did odds and ends. An early dinner was spaghetti then veal. We got to the Teatro Rossini at 8.15 where we shared a box with other people - a French girl had already bagged the best seat so Maureen sat beside her and I had a stool behind her (we swapped at half time). The opera (Armida) was better that I expected, the music especially being very good (the ballet scene was not nude as Frank had predicted).
Sunday - Home (no details recorded)
This was another walking holiday organised as part of the Lancaster University Summer Programme. We combined it with a visit to Buxton opera.
Sunday 24th July - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday as usual - she put up a bit of a struggle and hid under the bed (Munchkin that is, not Mrs Goater). We left at about 9.30 and headed north, stopping for lunch at the Travellers' Rest east of Otley about 12.20 - supreme of chicken with wild mushroom sauce (M) or with leek and Wensleydale sauce (J) - came (eventually) with chips, swede, carrots, cabbage and broccoli. We listened to the Test Match as we drove, and it was interrupted for a severe weather warning of heavy rain and thunderstorms in the north of England. They were right, we had several torrential downpours soon after. We got to the campus at 3.40 and registered - we were in two single rooms in Witherslack house of the John Creed Building - still raining. Usual introduction then off to dinner - melon, roast chicken etc., apple pie, cheese. Then we went to our course intro - Bill Hunter was running it - walking experience of the other people ranged from "round Tescos" to "walking in the Alps" (this from a young Italian lady). There is only one walk that we had done before (Grasmere / Rydal), and Bill has some shorter ones up his sleve in case of bad weather. Had a walk down to the duckpond then went to the sherry reception. (South Africa won the Test Match, Mike Atherton fined for ball tampering).
Monday - We had a cooked breakfast and then set off at 9.00, going south through Galgate to the motorway then up past Kendal and Windermere to Ambleside and beyond to the National Trust car park at White Moss Common. We crossed the road and went down a path, keeping to the north side of the River Rothay, crossing a bridge just before you get to Grasmere and coming to Loughrigg Terrace then, past a slate quarry and back to the Badger Bar at the Glen Rothay Hotel. It was too early for lunch so we did another short circuit. Sat next to the Italian lady and couldn't remember the Italian for "badger" (it's "tasso") - cheese ploughman (M) cream cheese salad (J). After lunch we went past Rydal church then uphill and west, along the "coffin trail" (stopping at the stone where coffins were rested) ending up at Dove Cottage where we had some free time (didn't go in, had a cup of tea and a cake in a local cafe instead). We wandered round Grasmere and bought a print of Blea Tarn at the Heaton Cooper studio/shop. Then we walked through the town and round the other side of Grasmere lake, mostly on tarmac to the minibus (that Bill had walked back to the carpark to collect). We got back quite early just before 4.00. The evening had a Lancashire theme - dinner was cold poached salmon (from the river Lune), Lancashire hotpot, Lancashire cheese & Kendal mint cake. We went to a lecture on "Food in Lancashire" based on oral history (very good), then a demonstration of clog dancing, then a lecture on Lancashire country houses (comfy chairs - Maureen nodded off).
Tuesday - Weaher forecast not good. Had a cooked breakfast, Maureen put padding on some sore toes. Bill said there was an alternative, longer route today if you wanted to do it. We left at 9.00 again and drove to Bowness-on-Windermere then crossed the cable-towed car ferry (quicker than driving round) then parked at the Sawrey Hotel at Far Sawrey and had a coffee (continuous heavy rain). At 11.00 we put on our wet-weather gear and set off through meadows saturated with water, missing our path at one point, for Near Sawrey (Bill had swapped the morning & afternoon walks because of the weather) popping into St Peter's Church on the way. A couple of the ladies went to look round Hill Top (NT - Beatrix Potter farm), another left to go back to the hotel and the rest of us went down to the lakeside (Estwaite) and back through the village (we could see the path we should have taken earlier). Back at the minibus we changed into dry socks for lunch - asparagus soup, tuna and cucumber sandwich (M) Cumberland sausage (J). It had stopped raining after lunch but we still had to put our wet boots back on. We walked up a lane, then a farm track to Moss Eccles Tarn (very pretty, water lilies) and then on to Wise Een Tarn (swans & cygnets). We didn't have time to see Three Dubs Tarn so retraced our footsteps and had tea sitting outside (sun shining in a blue sky) - didn't realise the time was slipping by and we missed the ferry so had to wait for the next one and were a bit rushed for dinner - herb & cheese paté, pork escalope with calvados sauce, apple pie. We went to Dr Trevor Pearce's lecture "Come to terms with worms" (didn't try the earthworm paté on offer) then I went to a circus-skills demonstration while Maureen went back and washed socks and dried boots etc.
Wednesday - Weather forecast was for showers. Minibus set out late as Bill couldn't decide which walk to do today (Tarn Hows or Grizedale Forest) - both are in the same general direction so he'll make up his mind on the road. He parked in a NT car park next to Tarn Hows and we started off walking clockwise round the tarn. Bill then explained that there was a higher route people could take if they wanted to - we plumped for it (with three others). It was a bit of a steep climb but there were very good views from the top. When it got rough, Maureen and I made our way down, through bracken, and continued on the lower path, catching up with the main party having a drinks break (other people only a few minutes later). We returned to the minibus to collect wet-weather gear etc. and set off down hill then along the flat to Coniston village. We went to "The Crown" for lunch - Cumberland ham salad (no bread). We left about 2.00, out through the back of the car park, through some woods and up the valley of Yewdale Beck. I showed Elena (the Italian lady) a teasel and explained that it used to be used for carding wool - she said that the plant is "cardo" in Italian and the verb is "cardare" (she will ask her granny if the plant was used for carding in Italy). We passed High Yewdale Farm, went up Mary Glen by a stream and waterfall through some woods and emerged at the lakeside near the carpark. [which lake? which car park?] Dinner that evening was egg mayonaise, pork escalope, lemon lush pie, cheese. No lecture that we fancied but we went to the Preston Opera performance (mostly Gilbert and Sullivan).
Thursday - Maureen cleaned the boots and then we had breakfast. The minibus set off up the motorway to Penrith and then through Keswick and down to Ashness Bridge where we stopped for a five minute photo opportunity before continuing to "surprise view" where we parked the minibus. After looking at the view of Derwentwater we set out along the road, then through woodland and along by a river. We came to a teashop/farm by a river and then it was a steep climb to the top (good views across to Scafell) then down the other side, over a bridge, and turning left into Rosthwaite for lunch at the Riverside Inn - Cumberland sausage etc. We went down a little road and then along the Derwent river to the village of Grange (Bill had gone on to bring the minivan there) where we had an ice-cream and sat on a rock by the double bridge that goes over an island in the Derwent. Back to the campus by 5.30 and we didn't do very much that evening.
|Sculpture in Grizedale Forest|
Friday - Today we drove up the motorway then west through Newby Bridge and up through Satterthwaite to Grizedale Forest. We stopped short of the visitors centre in a car park for the Bogle Crag walk - lots of sculpture in this wood, mostly good; we also saw a red squirel, and there was a good view of the Old Man of Consiton and the Langdale Pikes. We drove back to Satterthwaite for lunch at the "Eagles Head" - tuna sandwiches (M) ham & cheese ditto (J), sticky toffee pudding. We then drive up the road to the visitors centre, parked with difficulty and then did a couple of other walks before heading back (nasty accident on the M6). After the usual display of craft produced by this week's students there was a fruit-punch reception (maybe they had run out of sherry). Dinner was herb & pineapple roulade (odd), duck etc., a strawberry pastry with a peach something, cheese.
Saturday - After a leisurely breakfast we left for Buxton, branching off the M6 through Macclesfield and arriving at the hotel about midday (but took ages finding anywhere nearby to park, and then it was restricted to two hours). We had a short walk round the town and had a sandwich for lunch then, because we had to move the car, drove to Haddon Hall for the afternoon - reasonably interesting medieval house with a walled garden but not much art. Managed to park OK then had an early dinner in the hotel restaurant - wild mushrooms with rice, shark steak Schicci (with overdone veg), tasteless butterscotch pie. We went to the theatre which was just across the road, bought a programme and had a walk around the gardens. The first half was "I Pagliacci", which was quite good even though it was interrupted by a thunderstorm. After an interval there was "Gianni Schicchi" - even better (Pimlico Opera Co.).
Sunday - We had a full English breakfast, paid the bill (£105) and left about 9.40. and got home at 12.45 and picked up Munchkin.
Sunday 25th September - We had taken Munchkin to MrsGoater's as usual yesterday. Taxi for the station came at 11.05, then it was Kings Cross, Victoria, Gatwick Express to Gatwick (south terminal) at 1.05, checked in and had toasted ham and cheese sandwiches at a Garfunkels. The flight left at 3.35 (15 minute late), inflight meal was cold slices of pork, fish paté with asparagus, tiramisù, cheese & biscuits and we arrived at Verona airport at 5.10, got through the formalities quickly then found the bus stop and only had to wait 10 minutes. The bus only went to Verona station, so we had to get tickets there for another bus to take us to Piazza Bra in the centre of Verona. We walked along the Liston and found our hotel behind it. We were offered a choice of room and chose the one without an iron bedstead. After unpacking, we went for a walk round the town, decided we wern't hungry enough for a meal so just had tremezzini at Café Motta.
Monday - TV says there will be three days of transport strikes starting tomorrow. Decent breakfast, after which we went out for a stroll, first to Piazza Erbe then Piazza dei Signori (nice Loggia and portal to the Prefettura) and the Palazzo della Ragione to the courtyard of the Palazzo del Capitano (Roman excavations) then the Piazza Independente and a small park with a statue of Garibaldi. Back to the Piazza dei Signori and through to the Scaliger tombs (in restauro) and down the Via Cavalletto into Corso Santa Anastasia and then the church (good in parts, especially some fescoes). On leaving the church we bought a local paper (L'Arena) to check up on the strikes then walked down to, and along the Adige then back to the hotel where we managed to change rooms (to a quieter one with double glazing). For lunch we just had pizzas at the pizzeria next door (raining now). It rained all afternoon and evening but we did a bit more sightseeing, including a Tolouse-Lautrec exhibition, then went out for dinner at the Ristorante Rubriani in a corner of Piazza Bra - ravioli alle erbe aromatiche (v. tasty), nodino di vitello burro salvia (J) medaglioni di vitello con asparagi (M), mixed berries with ice-cream, bottle of soave, minerale (£115,000).
Tuesday - Buses disappeared from the streets just after breakfast. More sightseeing today - Palazzo Municipale, Via Maffei to San Fermo (double-decker church, annunciation by Pisanello), Porta Leoni, across the Ponte Navi, Palazo Pompei, Via San Paolo, then got lost for a while, San Giovanni in Valle, Roman theatre then lunch at the Osteria La Stueta - bigoli alla melanzane (J), gnocchi alla pastosardo, bacalà with polenta, mezzo bianco & minerale (toilet was a hole in the floor) (£61,000). Then we went down to a little park by the Adige and had a sit then walked back along the river, up Via Paolo to Via Terrà and along Via Padri Muro to the Giardini Giusti (good views of Verona, lots of cats). We visited the church of Santa Maria in Organo (very good) on our way back. We had dinner at the self-service on the Liston, then coffee at a bar.
Wednesday - After a rather late breakfast we walked down to the station to get a train to Vicenza, but we couldn't make sense of the timetable and, after asking for help, gave up for today as the best trains had already gone. We decided to get the bus to the station tomorrow so bought tickets in advance to save time. We walked back, turning left past the zoo and right at the Porta Palio, eventually back to the hotel to make more plans. We went to La Torre dei Lamberti, going most of the way up in the lift then a few stairs to the viewing platform. Good views all around, but the bell was VERY LOUD. We then went to the small church of Santa Maria Antica, then across the Adige to a trattoria in Via Seminario that we had seen yesterday, but the menu had changed and we didn't fancy it. We looked in another restaurant, but ended up at the Pizzeria Redentore by the Roman theatre - bigoli all'amitraccana (M) tagliatelle al pescatore (J), scalopina con carciofi, insalata mista, torta with grapes & peaches, coffee (£64,000). We sat in a small park on the banks of the Adige then had a stroll along the river and over the Ponte della Vittoria, walking past the Arche Gavi and Castelvecchio to the church of San Zeno (nice carvings, bronze doors, tryptych by Mantegna) then back to the hotel. Had dinner at the Ristorante Il Castello on the Corso Cavour - insalata di pere e pecorino con noci, coniglio arrosto con polenta, mezzo rosso & minerale, coffee (£74,000).
Thursday - After an early breakfast we walked down to Corso Porta Nuova and caught a No. 51 bus to the station. I bought the tickets (£9,200 each) while Maureen checked the timetable - we had just one minute to get the train and we made it. It was quite crowded but we managed to get two seats opposite each other (rather old-fashioned carriages) - we were the only people who had their tickets checked by the inspector. Dull countryside and rather misty. We walked up through the Campo Marzio and turned right into Corso Andrea Palladio where there were lots of palazzi. Half way along we turned right through the Piazza dei Signori (where there was a market) then back on the Corso as far as the Teatro Olimpico at the end. We went in the Palazzo Chiericati which is now the pinacotecca (£3,000 each, spent an hour and a half there), then the Tempio di Santa Corona (Baptism of Christ by Bellini) then back to the Duomo (closing till 3.30) and looked for somewhere for lunch. Settled on a trattoria "Antica Casa della Malvasia" - prosciuto crudo & fichi (M) paté di formaggio all'erbe (J), ravioli vegetariani (M) gnocchi al ragù (J), un insalata mista (with sliced red cabbage and fennel), mezzo bianco & minerale, coffee (£39,000 and very good but toilet was a hole in the floor type). We sat in the garden of the Teatro Olimpico until it opened at 2.30. Next we walked around to the left, over a bridge, to the Parco Querini (long grass, classical statues), then back over the next bridge, past loads of palazzi to the Piazza dei Signori (now deserted), had an ice-cream and walked back to the Duomo (just opened, very pink), then walked back to the station and got a fast inter-regional back to Verona then a bus back to Piazza Bra then back to the hotel for a rest. For dinner, we went to the Trattoria al Pompiere - risotto ai frutti di mare (came very quick therefore not freshly made), cotoletta alla milanese (J) fegato alla veneziana (M). Hmm.
Friday - After another early breakfast we got a No. 11 bus to the station then a train to Padova (being careful not to get the express to Venice). We crossed over and walked down the main drag (Corso del Popolo) to the Cappella degli Scrivengi in the Giardino dell'Arena (The £10,000 ticket was combined with the Museo Civico). The Giotto frescoes are very good (you should definitely see them if you are anywhere nearby) and although the chapel is quite small it takes quite a time to look at them all. The Museo Civico was quite disorganised and not much cop. We then carried on up the main drag to the Prato della Valle (in restauro) then round it to the Orto Botanico (circular with formal beds and a lily pond) which took us up to lunch. We found a trattoria that had a fish-only menu (it being a Friday) - risotto with prawns and mushrooms, baccalà alla vicentina with polenta (M) pescespada con dadoni? (diced tomatoes) (J), mezzo bianco & minerale. We then strolled around the Piazza dei Signori and the Piazza del Duomo and looked in the Baptistry (nice frescoes by a Giusto de' Menabuo). We caught the very crowded 16.00 back to Verona, sitting on little seats in the corridor, then a crowded bus back to Piazza Bra. We had an early dinner at the Pizzeria Olivio, leaving at 8.30 round to the Teatro Filarmonico for a concert (£40,000 each). A modern, atonal piece only lasted 15 minutes (thank goodness), then the Italian Youth Orchestra played Beethoven's 1st piano concerto and, after the interval, a Tchaikovsky sonata.
Saturday - After a late breakfast we wandered down to the Piazza del Signori, stopping of at Ricordi as they had a CD sale (bought Aida with Maria Callas & Tito Gobbi - £15,000). Had a sit-down cappuccini (came with a plate of biscuits) and watched the world go by. Then we walked over the Ponte Pietra and watched a wedding come out of San Stefano (balloons and doves!) then sat somewhere with a view and were joined by an elderly Italian couple and we had a reasonable conversation, then we walked along the Adige and ended up in the Quo Vadis pizzeria (were given a German menu). We walked back to the hotel, buying some biscotti & pastaccini, and tomorrow's bus tickets on the way. Then we went to Castelvecchio - it had sculpture from bombed churches, and a pinacotecca that included a Crivelli - and walked back, stopping only for gelati. Dinner that night was at the Torcolo restaurant next door - they had a special menu as it was their centenary - cozze & caposante gratinata, cold octopus (v. tender), tagliolini with white sauce and tomatoes, risotto al salume affumato, a mixture of grilled fish and a plateful of frittura mista dell'Adriatica, insalata mista, bottle of Soave, minerale, short rest, mascarpone with blackberries and pomegranate seeds.
Sunday - After breakfast we got a bus to the station where a blue airport bus was waiting (had to get tickets from inside the railway station). I bought a copy of the newspaper L'Adige for Alessandra, and we were given a free La Reppublica on the flight. Got home eventually.
This was a combined walking and cooking holiday in Tuscany organised by the Ramblers Association - they run a similar holiday still.
Saturday 3rd June - We took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's at about 8.30 then had breakfast, did the packing and other chores. After an early tea we took taxi / train/ tube to Heathrow and then a courtesy coach to the hotel (early start tomorrow). We were just going to bed when another couple arrived with a key to the same room! They got the room next door in the end.
Sunday - After a cup of tea, we checked out at 5.45 and got a taxi to Terminal 1. Found the Ramblers rep who ticked us off her list, then we checked in, read most of the sunday paper, then went through customs etc and the plane eventually took off, late, in the rain, at about 7.45. Had a very decemt breakfast (including porridge) and landed at Bologna (Guglielmo Marconi) at 10.55 local time. We were collected by Meryl and herded to the coach which took us across the Appenines to Vicchio where we were staying at the Hotel Soggiorno a Lago (doesn't seem to exist any more). We took too long unpacking and were late down to lunch - farfalle with asparagus. We all met up again at 4.30 and Meryl showed us round the town - the lago (in the hotel's name) had been drained by the council a few years ago (seems to be back now); there was a main square (Piazza Giotto) with a selection of shops, and she showed us where the stazione ferroviale was. At a house where Benvenuto Cellini lived was a marble plaque that I translated for everyone. Meryl also gave us an overview of the week's activities just before dinner - spaghetti al pesto, lasagne (excellent, had seconds), mozzarella & pomodoro (with chips!), beef slices with artichokes, fresh fruit, half of a bottle of vino bianco, coffee in the bar. A feature of this hotel is that you get two types of pasta for starters - way to go!
|We meet a farmer and his helpers|
Monday - We popped out before breakfast to buy some panini and apricots for lunch. Back to the hotel for a meagre breakfast then packed our rucksacks and went down to the main square, looking in the church while we waited for everyone. We set off south across fields, at the bottom of which a strip was roped off for cheese-rolling. We crossed the river Sieve to the fraction (hamlet that is part of a town) of Ponte a Vicchio and turned left past La Casa del Prosciutto, walking along the river for a while. We then turned right up a path through woods (lots of chestnuts) and brambles, climbing for about an hour (detour to ruin with view of Vicchio) - path now dirt and stony until we reached a ruined church where it levelled out. We passed an old farmhouse and stopped to say hello to the farmer and his albanesi help - got given home-made wine (continuously topped-up) and talked to them in Italian. Staggered on to a lunch-stop at a church at about 12.45, sitting on the steps to share our food with the ants. We were shown round the church by an American who was restoring it. We made our way back, partly by road and had to wait at the railway track for two trains to pass on the single-track. The temperature on the farmacia's sign was 26°C. We had a slump then went into town for an ice-cream with no success so walked back round the dried-up lake. Dinner was penne in a blue-cheese sauce, spaghetti in tomato sauce, scallopine pizziola, omelette with spinach & ham, zucchini & finocchio, torta with chocolate, rest of yesterday's wine.
Tuesday - After breakfast we trouped down to the station where we were given our tickets to Florence and shown how to validate them in the timestamp machine. It stopped at all the little stations and when we got there we checked times back, and to Pistoia for a possible solo trip on our free day - looks doable. Earlier rain had stopped and the sun was out as we went across to Santa Maria Novella to see the famous first use of perspective (Trinity fresco by Masaccio) and other pictures. We also went into its museum and the cloisters, then we walked past the duomo and baptistry (crowds of people trying to look at the bronze doors) to the Bargello (£8,000 each) where there was lots of very good sculpture. We then walked past Santa Croce and had lunch at the trattoria "La Maremmana" - antipasto chosen from a groaning table (J, very good) ravioli "nostra moda" (M), scallopina agli asparagi (M) ditto ai funghi (J), insalata mista, mezzo vino & minerale, coffee. We left at 2.30 and it was raining with thunder and lightning (we had anoraks and umbrellas) as we went to Santa Croce (had been before but is worth a return visit - saw Rossini's tomb). Rain had stopped as we left and we found "the best ice-cream shop in Florence if not in Italy" - Vivoli in Via dell'Isola delle Stinche, but we were totally full-up from lunch. We walked on through the Piazza dei Signori, past the Uffizzi (ginormous queues), along the Arno and over the bridge past the Ponte Vecchio then along the other side. We found the Chiesa delle Carmine (Massaccio frescoes) but it was closed on Tuesdays so we walked back over the next bridge and up to Santa Maria Novella and the station (checked times) and found our train (had to ask if it stopped at Vicchio). The rest of our group joined us after a while confused because its destination was Faenza and not Borgo San Lorenzo as Meryl had told them. Got back to the hotel OK but Maureen's ankles were quite swollen. Dinner that night was a thick minestrone, penne with zucchini, involtini (possibly of pork rather than veal), ice-cream, Rosso di Montalcino.
|The local alimentari|
Wednesday - After an early breakfast we went down to the station (via the alimentari "Luana & Betty") and bought tickets for Borgo San Lorenzo (andata & ritorno £3,000 each). This was only the next stop so, obviously, we all got off the next time the train stopped - wrong - that was a school stop - we all got on again). We all got off again at the correct stop (it had a sign) and walked to the bus station (there were two, and we found the right one second time) and bought tickets for San Piero a Sieve. Brigitta (the advertised Italian student who was going to walk with us and improve our Italian conversation) turned up - she is studying to be an erborista at Modena University. It was a short ride to San Piero a Sieve where we set off up hill leaving it quickly behind. We soon came to a Medici fortress that controlled the route between Florence and Bologna. We stopped to look at some orchids and resumed the walk behind everyone else, catching up at a wayside shrine (I was volunteered to translate it again). We had a drinks break at a rose-covered old house by the entrance to the Castello di Trebbio then stopped for lunch with a view at about 12.15 then it was all downhill to the bus stop and back into B.S.L. at 2 p.m. Today was a cooking day and we were in the second cookery group so had time to waste - we sat in the park for a while then caught the 2.50 back to Vicchio and had a siesta. Then we were put to work in the kitchen - I was making pasty from scratch and Maureen was making a cake (schiacciata fiorentina) and then frying thin slabs of polenta while the cake cooked. The polenta was then treated with a mushroom sauce and would be baked later. I also cooked cubes of veal with piselli. (A mature lady was in charge of the oven food and a young man everything else.) For dinner we had what we had cooked (the first group had cooked something different, and the chef finished things off) - polenta, crostini of veal paté, ravioli filled with herbs and parmesan etc. (all different shapes and sizes), shredded pasta in oil and garlic (hmm), veal & piselli with cabbage involtini, Maureen's cake - all surprisingly good.
Thursday - After an early breakfast, we walked to the station and bought tickets to Pistoia then got the next train to Florence and had a coffee while waiting for our connection. It was a stopper going to Rimini and we got to Pistoia at about 10.15. We walked up the main street and went in the Baptistry (very tall inside, green and white marble) and then into the Duomo (not bad). We popped into the tourist office next door and got a map, then sat down and decided what to do. We went to the church of San Andrea (Pisano pulpit) but it was closed, then strolled about a bit and then looked for somewhere for lunch - found "La Vela" by the fruit market - antipasto toscano, frittura mista di pesce, insalata mista, very tasty bread, mezzo bianco, acqua (£46,000). We went to the giardini pubblici for a short sit then walked round the ex-fortress of Santa Barbara, then walked back to the Museo Civico. It was quite good, but it was very hot and getting late, so we walked back to the station and caught the 15.20 to Florence then on to Vicchio where we bought some cherries. Dinner was a bit odd (we wondered if it was the chef's night off) - thick pea soup, pasta with a tomato sauce, salad, pizza, salami with ham and hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, coffee in the bar.
Friday - Breakfast was a bit rushed as there was only one waitress and we all had an early train to catch. We had to catch the Florence train but buy single tickets to Pontassieve and returns from Rufina - I left my change from a £50,000 note on the counter but the next person retrieved it for me. At Pontassieve we walked up through the town to a bar to wait for Brigitta, but she was late so we left without her (Meryl annoyed). We walked out of town and up a fairly steep climb (good views, blue sky) eventually to a castle and had a break (ate a few of our cherries). We then walked downhill for a bit, getting to the vineyard at 11.30. We dumped our rucksaks in the tasting room and were then taken on an explanatory tour of the vineyard, then looked round the gardens, cellars and a small museum. At the tasting, the first wine was a Selvapiano made from Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco grapes - it was very good, but too dry for some people (so I had what they didn't want). Then we had a 1981 Chianto Rufina which was also very good. Then food was served - two different types of delicious ham, salami with fennel seeds, slices of pecorino cheese with honey drizzled on it (very good). Brigitta had caught up with us earlier, and her boyfriend Piero now turned up - we had a long chat in a mixture of Italian and English. Then we were given a glass of a younger (1992) Chitanti (I preferred it). It was getting late so Piero gave some of us who were on the early cooking shift a lift back to the station in his car. We got back to Vicchio at 3.10. Maureen cooked tripe, cutting it into strips with scissors, then pan-frying it with galic and parsley, then cayenne pepper, then cabbage water, chopped beet leaves and tomato sauce. I was cooking rabbit, chopping them into pieces with a heavy knife (they were already skinned), then browning them with chopped garlic, onions and carrot then adding stock and a handful of olives. Other people made crostini, crespelle with ricotta & spinach, gnocchi di patate and a tiramisù. We sat outside in the sun then had a shower before dinner. All the food was good, but hardly anyone was tempted by Maureen's tripe.
Saturday - I went down to the alimentari and bought panini before breakfast. We walked north from the hotel, through fields; there were a few spots of rain but not worth putting waterproofs on. The track was a bit muddy through some woods but then we climbed through long grass to the frazione of Rupecanina (birthplace of Fra Angelico) - peacocks, fancy chickens and ducks in pens at one point. Then it was more woods and fields and a steep climb to another hamlet and up again to the top of a meadow where we stopped for lunch. Then it started raining heavily and I put my waterproof top on - but only for five minutes. We then started to descend, mostly on tarmac, through olives fruit trees and vineyards through the village of Casole and eventually to the Vicchio road. We went into town for a gelato and sat on Giotto's statue to eat them. Today's cooking had a medieval theme (we were on the second shift). I chopped up some chickens and cooked them with almonds, fennel and parsley flavoured with spices (very good indeed - I still cook it at home). Maureen made pinochetti (little biscuits with pine kernels and cinnamon), then two flans (with pastry made from flour, olive oil and salted water), one filled with spinach and ricotta, the other with garlic, ricotta, pecorino and saffron. Then I had to make some more biscuits and Mauren helped. All the food was really good, we finished with biscuits and vin santo. We noticed that other people staying in the hotel were also eating the food we had made - don't know if they had been told.
Sunday - Had breakfast. Coach got us to Bologna airport at 10.00. Flight was bumpy until we got above the clouds; pilot sounded ex-RAF. Home eventually.
This walking holiday was organised by the Lancaster University Summer Programme people - the idea being that you don't have the drive from Lancaster up the motorway to the lakes.
Sunday 13th August - Took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday morning as usual. We left at 8.40, driving north quite quickly with no holdups so it was too early for lunch when we passed The Travellers Rest. There was a traffic jam by Harewood House due to a Rolls Royce rally so we stopped at The Wharfedale and had steak & kidney pie, chips and peas. Sun and showers as we continued north, past our usual Lancaster turn off, to Kendal, Windermere and to Ambleside. We parked in the lower car park of the Charlotte Mason College (now a health centre) as instructed and booked in at reception. They told us where we were allocated (Fairfeld 2, across the road) and we moved the car and settled in. We went to the initial talk by Gerry Cotter and saw a few faces that we recognised. Dinner (better than Lancaster) was melon with a pineapple coulis, roast lamb etc., coffee & apple sponge, (no cheese course), coffee. We went for a stroll around Ambleside then met Paul Tolcher and the group at a reception in the Senior Common Room (dreadful wine). Called it a day.
Monday - Breakfast was a bit chaotic, after which we packed our gear for the day and went over to the Health Centre. We walked down the road, past the police station, out of town and up Clappersgate, stopping at the top for a drink and a view - overcast, fell tops shrouded in mist. We carried on round the south of Loughrigg Terrace, making a detour to Lily Tarn (water-lilies not out as not sunny, but plenty of scabious, sundew, heather and bellflowers). Then we headed south towards Loughrigg Tarn and into Elterwater village to have lunch in the "Brittania" (The "Oaks" no longer does food, only B&B) soup & a baguette (J), ham & cheese rolls (both). We climbed up past the Youth Hostel at High Close Cottage, through Deerbolts Wood and back to Lougghrigg Terrace, seeing clumps of grass of Parnassus and also sneezewort, just before we got to the cave (fenced off because of a rock fall). Then we walked down to Rydal Water and along to the Glen Rothay pub and up to the teashop at Rydal Mount (tea & a chocolate doughnut). Then walked back through grassland on a track to a road back to the college. Dinner was leek and potato soup, supreme of chicken, chocolate gateau, coffee. There was a minicoach trip to Ullswater organised so we did that instead of a walk round Ambleside - over the Kirkstone Pass, through Patterdale to the south end of Ullswater at Glenridding where we had a lakeside stroll.
Tuesday - We had an early, cooked breakfast then set off in the minicoach through Skelwith Bridge to Coniston, stopping in the carpark behind the church and putting our boots on. We walked up, mostly on tarmac (to a quarry) and along a bridleway across moorland below the "Old Man of Coniston" then down to Torver for lunch at the Wilson Arms - Cumberland sausage with caramelised onions, French bread and salad. We left over a humpback bridge, through some fields then down through a wood to the lakeside (of Coniston Water) then, afrer a drink break, we walked along the lake to Coniston. We changed out of our boots at the minicoach and went and had an ice-cream, eating it by a plaque to Donald Campbell. Had a wander up to the churchyard (Ruskin's grave) then back to the minicoach and back to Ambleside. Dinner was Greek salad, gammon & pineapple, blackcurrant cheesecake. Afterwards Gerry Cotter was doing a little walk up to Stock Force Ghyll - waterfall was not very spectacular because of the dry summer.
Wednesday - After breakfast we were driven to Elterwater, parking in the NT car park down by the river. We put on our boots and set off, over a bridge and turned right and climbed up past the timeshare holiday homes and then a slate quarry, past which we stopped for a drink break, the sun peaking through holes in the mist as we drank our coffee. We continued along the side of Langmuir Fell, climbing steadily then turning left and climbing more steeply, the Langdale Pikes and Little Langdale visible from the top. We descended the other side steeply, Maureen going very slowly, with Blea Tarn visible on the right. We turned left at the bottom, crossing several fields and reaching the "Three Shires" just after midday - leek and potato soup & ham sandwich (J) Lancashire cheese ploughman (M) & basket of communal chips. We left the pub at 1.15, turning left, then right through some fields and over a stream, then steadily down through woods to Colwith Force and then on to Skelwith Force (further down the Brathay). Then over several stiles we arrived at Skelwith Bridge where we stopped for tea then walked back along the stream and past Elter Water to the minicoach then back to the college. Dinner was tuna and sweetcorn vol-au-vent, sweet & sour pork. The evening's event was a talk by Gerry Cotter on "Gilbert White's Natural History of Selbourne", after which we just had a stroll round Ambleside.
Thursday - Today's walk was one we had done several times before, so we decided to visit Peter and Gill Gilpin, people we knew from opera tour holidays and Preston Opera. We drove south towards Windermere and past Brockhole then turned up the A592, past Troutbeck and over the Kirkstone Pass to Glenn Ridding and alongside Ullswater, stopping there for a little stroll. We drove up to Pooley Bridge and took the B5320 towards Penrith and turned right to Askham then south to Helton and Beckfoot. Just over a hump-back bridge is the Beckfoot Country Hotel where Peter and Gill have a flat on the end by the farmyard. Gill spotted us wondering where to park and called out. We got shown round the flat (nice views over Knipe Scar) and had a long talk (about the Lancaster University Summer programme, music etc.). Don, a friend of theirs then arrived and told us the history of the building (the flat was the ostler's quarters) then we all got in his car to go to the "Punch Bowl" at Askham for lunch (detour round Lowther Park on the way). After lunch we got a tour of Askham and then round Whale, Knipe, Bampton and Bampton Grange to Butterwick where we stopped to admire his new conservatory. We got back to the flat and said our goodbyes, travelling back through Askham and then on the A66 towards Keswick. We turned south at Threkeld going to Thirlmere and back through Rydal and Ambleside. Dinner was vegetable soup, steak & kidney pie, fruit salad. Went for an extended stroll and then watched a video of "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
Friday - After breakfast we were driven to Arnside then we climbed up to Arnside Knott and had our drinks break overlooking the Kent estuary with the hills of the Lake District beyond. Then walked down a different route back into Arnside to the "Albion" (on the promenade) for lunch (sitting outside at tables and benches) - ham platter (J) prawn platter (M). We had a little free time after lunch then met up at the fountain opposite the pub then walked southwest along the seashore, through a caravan site and back onto the shore. The tide was coming in so we had to retreat over rocks and round the headland, continuing through another caravan park, through fields by a pele tower and back to the minibus. Paul drove us to the Wolf House Gallery where we had elderflower cordial and mineral water, and a slice of apricot and nut cake. Then we had a look round the gallery and returned to the college. That evening there was a little sherry reception and an exhibition of paintings; dinner (with wine) was Florida cocktail, salmon with a creamy dill sauce, selection of desserts, cheese and biscuits etc. Our table (the walkers) managed to acquire a bottle and a half of wine from other tables. We listened to the Ramblers singing then sat in the lounge talking until the jazz started.
Saturday - We stowed our stuff in the car before breakfast and Paul brought us a brochure for courses at Higham Hall. We left just before 9.00, stopped for petrol near Windermere and then for lunch at the Ram Jam Inn then for some shopping at Sainsbury's in Stevenage.
Thursday 13th June - We had taken Munchkin to the cattery as normal yesterday. After a rushed cup of tea, the taxi arrived at 6.30 a.m. and took us to the station, then it was Kings Cross, Victoria, Gatwick Express to Gatwick Airport, arriving at 8.15 and were checked in by 8.35 ("Executive Lounge" courtesy of the Magic). We boarded the Monarch Airlines Airbus A320 (very modern) at 9.45 but it didn't take off for an hour - unexciting meal of prawn cocktail, chicken pie, apple pie - landed at 1.45 local time (33°C - phew!) where I picked up the wrong case (also had a Magic of Italy label). There were only sixteen of us on the tour, mostly older than us. We stopped on the motorway for a drink stop then, just after Terni, there was a thunderstorm with torrential rain - cooled it down a bit. Our guide, Dr. Norman Russell, seems to be very knowledgeable but doesn't lecture us to death. We then arrived at our hotel ("Hotel dei Duchi") in Spoleto, which seems to be a nice little hill-town. We had a quick unpack before meeting for a short tour of the centro storico to get our bearings, then is was time for dinner (tables for six) - stringozzi spolentina (spaghetti with a rectangular cross-section in a spicy tomato sauce, very good), medaglioni di sanato? (pork medallions) with zucchini, baked tomato and artichoke heart, some sort of creamy mousse with fruits of the forest, rosso della casa, acqua minerale. We walked up the main drag and had coffee at Vincenzo's while watching Holland beat Switzerland in the Euro96 football competition.
Friday - After looking at the weather forecast on TV (warm then thunder) we went down to a buffet-style breakfast then I popped out for a battery for my camera (warning light came on as I loaded it last night). We boarded the coach at 9.00 for the hour's drive to Perugia, passing Trevi, Spello and Assisi on our way. We met our guide, Eduardo d'Amico, at the foot of the Rocca Paolina; he gave us a talk about the Rocca in reasonable English. Then we went up Corso Pietro Vannucci, where we stopped for a cappuccino before visiting the Collegio del Cambio (or del Mercanzia?) (Sala dell'Udienza - frescoes by Perugino). Then we went to the Pozzo Etrusco, going right down to the arch across the well. Then we went in the little church of San Severo (fresco by Raphael, several by Perugino), then walked uphill to look at the view (it was windy, so Maureen held my hat while I took a pictture). Then we said "a domani" to Eduardo, went back to the duomo, and split up for lunch. We went to Falchetto in Via Bartolo - prosciutto di Norcia (M) rustici assortiti (J), umbricelli alla casalinga (like last night's pasta, M) penne norciate (J), insalata (£54,000). We all met up at the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria which is on the third floor of the Palazzo dei Prori - some very nice paintings. Then we all trouped back down the Corso, through the Rocca and caught the coach back. Dinner (table for four) was raviolini alla crema di noci (delicious), scaloppina ai funghi (J) sogliola al forno (M), yesterday's wine (J) new bottle of Grechetto di Caprai (M), minerale, then Vincenzo's for coffee.
Saturday - After breakfast we set off for Assisi, stopping on the way at the Tempio di Clitunno (a paleo-Christian church built from the remains of a Roman temple) - very good, and a beautiful setting. We stopped again to visit Santa Maria degli Angeli (been before, but saw several new things), then San Damiano (convent of Santa Clara where St Francis received his order to "rebuild the church"), then up to the car park by the lower basilica. For a quick lunch, we went to the self-service at Il Castello - cannelloni, insalata, quarto di vino (£40,000 - yesterday's meal in a proper resraurant was much better value). We then met Eduardo who took us first to the crypt (tomb of San Francesco) where we had a quiet lecture and then looked at the frescoes by Giotto, Lorenzetti. Cimabue etc. Then we went to the upper basilica and looked at the famous frescoes by Giotto (another lecture, with plenty of time to look at the pictures. We then went out, through a courtyard, and up the Via Francesco to Santa Chiara where Eduardo left us. We went down into the crypt to see the body of Santa Clara (looks like a plastic model) and the crucifix that "spoke to St Francis". We were then led back to the Piazza del Comune and had some free time - we had a gelato then popped into the church behind the Temple of Minerva and a small chapel with Pellegrini frescoes (and lots of praying nuns). Then we had a quick look at the archaeological museum, including the Roman forum under the piazza, and made our way back to the coach, and back to the hotel. Dinner was risotto alla gema di carciofi, faraona ai funghi porcini (M) cotoletta alla valdostana (J).
Sunday - Saw news of the IRA bomb in Manchester on the telly. After a late breakfast we had a little stroll then, at ten, the coach set off for Spello. We walked up to the Santa Chiara convent then down through the centro storico (within Roman walls), stopping for a te freddo in a garden with two tabby cats, before going to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore to meet Eduardo. We had a quick lecture in front of the frescoes by Pinturicchio before a wedding started. If we had come last week we would have seen the festa in which the road outside is covered with flower petals. We had lunch at "Il Cacciatore" which had a terrace with panoramic views - prosciutto & melone, ravioli alla casa (M) tagliatelle regina (J), insalata mista, mezzo vino, minerale, café (£54,000). We walked down to Porta Venere (Roman gate with two octagonal towers) then round to Santa Maria Maggiore to meet up with the tour party and headed back to the hotel to meet Eduardo for a walking tour of Spoleto - the teatro romano, then Sant' Ansano on the site of the Roman temple, then the Arco di Drusco e Germanico, then through the market to Via di Visiale and the Casa Romana (nice mosaics), then Santa Eufemia (nice altar). We approached the Duomo from the top of a long, wide flight of steps down to the piazza (frescoes by Fra Filippo Lippi, Pinturicchio etc). Dinner was gigli (pasta shape) con speck & zucchini, involtno con rucola e formaggio, insalata, crescionda (local chocolate pudding).
Monday - After breakfast we had a walk round the town then back to the hotel for a ten o'clock start. We drove through wheat, sunflowers, olives and vines to Montefalco where we were dumped in the main piazza. I asked the way to San Lorenzo - it wasn't far; the church is now a museum (cycle of frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli). Then we went up to the pinacoteca (a small but very good collection), didn't bother with the museo lapidario but went for a walk round the centro storico. Back to Spoleto for lunch at "Il Panciolle" where we ate on the terrace with a view - frittura di formaggio (M) antipasti misti (J), strengozzi ai funghi/tartufo, insalata mista, mezzo vino & minerale, café (£52,500). Then we walked round the town as far as the acquadotto, then down to the Via S. Agata and back to the hotel. Dinner that evening was timballo di tagliolini alle melanzane, filetto di pollo al brandy (M) arista di maiale al forno (J).
|Maureen in Urbino|
Tuesday - After an earlier start, the coach left, turning off at Foligno and up through the Appenines. We stopped at an albergo where Mussolini used to stay (they have preserved his sitting room as it was); outside is a gorge that is supposed to have had his profile (before the mayor had the "nose" blown up). We descended the other side into Urbino, parking in the car park and going up in the lift. We met out guide for a tour of the ducal palace - it was very crowded, and attendants kept moving our guide along if he stopped for a lecture (good job we had been before) - but we did have a good long look at the flagellation by Piero della Francesca. We ended up in the old kitchens and laundry. We had lunch at "Da Franco" - antipasti (shared), strozzapreti al pesto, insalata mista, mezzo bianco, minerale (£41,000). We all met up again and walked down the main street to the small guild chapel of Oratorio San Giovanni (sacristan had to be summoned - frescoes by Salimbeni brothers etc. - very good). We then walked down to the coach which took us on to Gubbio (half way up a hill) where we looked at the romanesque cathedral, and walked up to the ski lift etc. No time for a gelato before the coach took us home (dinner not recorded).
Wednesday - After breakfast the coach set off, through a more modern part of Spoleto, to Todi, stopping outside the town walls by the church of Santa Maria della Consulazione. We caught the local bus up to Piazza Jacopo and walked thrugh to Piazza del Popolo (palazzos on two sides, cathedral at one end up a big flight of stairs) where we had a short coffee break. Eduardo took us into the romanesque cathedral (wooden ceiling, nice carved capitols and wooden choir stalls with inlaid musical instruments). We walked back through the piazza to the church of San Fortunato then caught the bus back to the coach. We then drove west, past Lago di Corbara, to Orvieto, parking at the bottom and riding the escalator and funicular railway up to the town. We had lunch at "La Grotta" - prosciutto e melone (M) schiaccata di cinghiale (J), tagliatelle ai funghi (M) umbricelle all'arrabbiata (J), mezzo Orvieto secco & acqua (£70,000). Norman gave us a lecture tour of the cathedral (see Wikipedia) then we had the afternoon free. We had a gelato and ate it sitting on the edge of the city walls, then visited the church of Sam Giovenale - we got captured by the custodian who explained everything in lovely slow Italian, continuing even after I put some money in the box. After escaping, we walked round the centro storico, looked at the Palazzo del Popolo and made our way back to the coach. Back a different way (motorway and the Via Flaminia). Dinner was spaghetti con tonno e rucola (had seconds), pollo ai porcini, finished the wine and Norman got another one, then we all went out for coffee together.
Thursday - Had breakfast and settled our bar bill (£76,000), went out for a small shop at the local alimentari. The coach left just before ten, driving back the way we came. We had a drink stop at a motorway service station (spremuta d'arancia) and arrived at Ciampino at 11.30, checking in straight away. Flight was only ten ninutes late but the takeoff was rather shaky. Back home the usual way just after six; went and bought some fish and chips for tea.
This was a walking holiday based at Higham Hall in the northern Lake District. I can't remember the actual title of the holiday.
Saturday 2nd August - Yesterday morning we took Munchkin to Mrs Goater's as usual then in the late afternoon we went to London. We looked at the BP Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, had a meal at Cafe Uno, then walked to the Royal Opera House for the ballet "Mr Worldly Wise" with music by Rossini - Darcy Bussel had been injured so didn't dance.
So, on the Saturday, we left just before nine and drove up the A1 (some roadworks, but traffic not bad) and got to the Travellers Rest at 12.15 - venison sausages with onion gravy and mash. We continued through the Dales, through Settle and past Kirby Lonsdale onto the M6 to Penrith then turned left onto the A66 and found it quite easily. We settled in then went for a stroll, bumping into Joan and Paul Tolcher in the corridor. We went down to dinner and recognised several faces from Lancaster and Ambleside - vol-au-vents, pork yoghurt stew, sherry trifle or cheese. Afterwards there was a get-together to discuss arrangements, then a slide-show about Derwent Water.
Sunday - We gathered our packed lunch for the day then had a good breakfast. The minicoach left at 9.15, driving back along Bassenthwaite lake to Keswick, alongside Derwentwater (weather sunny and perfectly still), past the double-hump bridge at Grange and on to Rosthwaite where we parked. We walked west to the ford on the river Derwent, then northwest up Lingy Bank (view of the "jaws of Borrowdale") where we sat under the south of Castle Crag for a drinks break (coffee & home-made biscuits), looking across the valley and Rosthwaite to the path coming down from Watenlath. Then we continued south on the "Allerdale Ramble" until it divided; one path went west to the Honister Pass, and we went down (quite steep) into Seatoller. We walked along the road, past Low Stile Wood, until we reached Seathwaite Bridge where we left the road and the river. We stopped for lunch with a view of Great Gable and Green Gable southwest of us. We continued along the river to Seathwaite (NT toilets) then went northeast along the other side of the valley on another part of the Allerdale Ramble until we rejoined the road at Strands Bridge. We walked along the road back to Seatoller where we popped into the Yew Tree restaurant (mineral water, but also a piece of fruit cake between us). We walked back through Johnny's Wood, rejoining the Allerdale Ramble up to the ford (large stepping stones) then back into Rosthwaite. Back to the minivan and back to the hotel by 4.45. Dinner was pear and hazelnut salad, haddock veronique (rest of the red wine), chocolate mousse. Then we had a short session on the putting green before Paul's talk about tomorrow's walk. Then had a stroll round the grounds with a few of the others.
Monday - After breakfast and picking up packed lunch we all set off at 9.15 and arrived at Pooley Bridge an hour later. We parked in the Dunmallard car park (on the west side of the bridge) and walked over the bridge (has little pedestrian refuges where you can dodge the traffic) then up the high street and turned right through a caravan park and up a bridlepath. We split into two groups, most of us took the high road with Paul and some the low road by themselves. A reasonably steep climb at first (on grass) with good views behind of northern Ullswater. We continued up to "High Street" (the course of a Roman road), crossed it, and continued up to Heughscar then along the hill at Riddingleys Top. We had a short rest while Paul had a look for the other party, then started down across Askham Fell where we met them. We continued down the bridleway to Moor Divock, a bronze age cairn circle, where we stopped for our lunch. We then went back to a cairn cyst, then east to a larger stone circle known as the cockpit, then down southwest on a footpath past Barton Park to Sharrow Bay then through farmland to the lakeside and through a campsite to Pooley Bridge by about 3.30. We went to the Heughscar Restaurant garden for teas and cakes, then back to the minibus and back to Higham Hall just after five. Dinner was stilton and apple soup, lamb bourguignon, Cumberland rum Nicky (pastry with apple, dates, raisins - very good). After dinner Paul took us to the Castle Rigg Circle in the minibus - quite impressive, surrounded on all sides by mountains.
Tuesday - Weather forecast is for heavy rain, then showers. We set off for Derwent Water, parked, then passed the very first piece of land bought by the National Trust (Brandelhow Park) then carried on, after a brief coffee break, past Manesty, Yewdel Knot, High Close, Grange until at Hollows Farm it started to rain quite heavily. We stopped in some outbuildings and put on waterproofs (watched by a tabby cat) then carried on through woods to a dried-up river bed at Broadslack Gill where we stopped for lunch. We then crossed the Derwent on some stones and had a look at the Bowder Stone past Quayfoot quarry (where some of Ken Russell's Mahler film was shot). Then we walked down into Grange and then north up the road and took a path down to, and along the shore of Derwent Water. We worked our way through Manesty Park and Brandelhow Park to Otterbield Bay from where it was a short climb to the minibus. We went on to tea and cake at Lingholm Gardens, then back to Higham Hall, putting our wet stuff in the room provided. Dinner was smoked mackerel, gammon in mustard sauce, petit pot au cake. After a talk about tomorrow there was a sort of jigsaw session using pieces of Ordnance Survey maps.
Wednesday - Retrieved wet boots etc, had breakfast etc., set off at 9.15 as usual, turning off at Braithwaite and going over the Whinlater Pass to Buttermere village where we parked in the NT carpark by the river. Weather dry but misty. We went through the village and over fields to the western shore of Buttermere stopping for a coffee break at 10.45. Maureen noticed a water lobelia but only identified it later. We completed our circuit of the lake by 2.30 and, as the lakeside was getting too crowded for a peaceful lunch, we set off on the afternoon part of the walk. A steepish climb up the left-hand side of a stream through Ghyll Wood, over a high stile, and up again, stopping at a rocky outcrop for our lunch (and to get our breath back) - splendid view over Crummock Water and all of Buttermere, but a chilly wind. We walked along Low Ridge to Rannerdale Knotts (Maureen didn't get quite to the top as it was very steep and she thought she wouldn't get down again). We retraced our steps and dropped down to Squat Beck in High Rannerdale then to the lakeside of Crummock Water. We worked our way up/down/along and back to Buttermere and the carpark (8½ miles in total for the day) then drove round to Lorton, stopping at the Whinlatter Visitor Centre for tea and cake (apricot & ginger, very nice). After a relatively late return, dinner was grapefruit in creme de menthe, roast beef, some sort of sponge. Then we were off again to Keswick in time for a quick stroll down to the lake then back to the Century Theatre for a production of J. B. Priestley's "An Inspector Calls" - very good (I had forgotten the ending). We got back to Higham Hall in the middle of a power cut - were issued with candles to light us to bed.
Thursday - Woken by an emergency generator at 6.15 - still no electricity, and only cold water. Hot breakfasts were being prepared on a small calor gas stove - we had meusli and fruit, but were able to fill our coffee flasks. We drove to the lakeside carpark in Keswick and walked along to Friars Crag (good view of Derwent Water, mist over Cat Bells, rain over Castle Crag and beyond). There was a stone obelisk commemorating John Ruskin - Maureen took issue with the date (MDCCCC should have been MCM). We continued on to Calfclose Bay where there was the luxury of a seat for our coffee break. By the shore is a sculpture, in the form of a boulder split in two (with carvings on the inside faces) dedicated to supporters of the National Trust. Then there was a steep climb up and around Falcon Crag and Brown Knotts to Ashness Bridge. We had put on waterproofs at the coffee break and it now started to rain, light at first then heavier at the bridge. We crossed a stile and went back north on a higher path, stopping for lunch on a rocky outcrop - a good view of Derwent Water with the rain sweeping in waves over Catbells. We continued climbing then stopped at another outcrop as the sun came out - took off our waterproof tops and ate a Mars bar; met some youngsters who had been scrambling up Walla Crag (the sort of thing I would have liked to do when younger). We started our descent over open moorland then some scree (Maureen's not very good on this sort of surface) then through fields and woods to Rakefoot Farm from where it was tarmac back to Keswick. We took our boots and waterproof trousers off in the minivan and walked into town, ending up in the Wild Strawberry tea room. Then it was back to Higham Hall with time to clean boots etc. before dinner - oeufs aurora, chicken in a lime and tarragon sauce, pineapple and ginger meringue (extra portion offered but we were full up), finished the bottle of red. After dinner we had a go at a crossword, listened to records on an old wind-up gramaphone, and had a game of pitch and putt.
Friday - We parked in a carpark, up a single-track road, north of Latrigg then walked north up over White Beck and round the side of Lonscale Fell (part of the Cumbria Way, saw buzzards training their young), past Guide Stone and up to Skiddaw House (youth hostel with no road access). We ate our lunch then went back to the Guide Stone, crossed the head of the valley then it was across fords and along a terrace under Blease fell (slate with fossils) to Blencathra Field Study Centre (like Higham Hall, but cheaper and more basic accomodation). Then we walked across fields towards Latrigg and back to the minivan. We had a short but steep walk to the top of Latrigg (excellent views) then drove down to the Dodd Wood visitor centre on the eastern side of Bassenthwaite Lake for a cup of tea and a Westmorland Dream Cake (like a Bakewell tart with added coconut and nuts). We drove back through Bassenthwaite village. Dinner that night was lentil paté, madeira pork paprika, brandy baskets with strawberries, bottle of Greek Chardonnay. Afterwards we played Pictionary then pitch and putt.
Saturday - Went home down the M6 and M1 motorways with no problems until nearly home - Oasis playing at Knebworth.
This was a walking holiday run by Ramblers Holidays.
Saturday 19th October - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday morning as usual. We left home at 7.15 a.m. and drove to Stansted Airport, parking at a long-stay carpark at 7.50. A courtesy bus took us to the terminal, where there were long queues, and we were checked in by 8.30; a sort of train took us to the gate, and we took off at 9.40 - nice, hot breakfast with real cutlery and fresh milk - and we landed at Florence airport at 12.25 Italian time. The leader, Diane, spotted us, we got our luggage prompt and left quickly (only another couple and a man on his own on this flight). A minbus took us to San Gim., through autumnal countryside - our leader's Italian is worse than ours (is struggling to talk to the driver even though he talks very slowly). We got to our hotel ("Leon Bianco" in Piazza Cisterna) about 2 p.m. and was told there would be a get-together at 4. We had a quick unpack then went out for a late lunch. All the restaurants had closed by 2.30, but we eventually spotted one that said "cucina non-stop" - crespelle alla fiorentina, insalata mista, quarto vino bianco, acqua minerale (£35,000). We got back to the hotel to find the rest of the group waiting in the lounge - had a quick run-through of the week's events then we all went for a walk round the walls, meeting the driver at the end of Via Matteo - he said he would meet us at "Il Pino" tonight. We went back to the hotel then had a walk round the town - I hadn't loaded my camera so missed a shot of the towers lit up by the sun against a dark blue sky. We all met in the lounge at 7.30 and walked down to Il Pino - tortellini strasciati (creamy meat sauce), arosto di maiale ai funghi etc., mandorlato delle torri (like a light panforte), chianti, minerale, café. A clear, moonlit night.
|Me in San Gimignano|
Sunday - After a decent buffet breakfast we went out to buy our lunch (panini imbottiti) in a shop close to the Duomo. We set off at 10.30, down to the Porta San Giovanni (already filling up with day trippers) where we turned right, crossed the main road then down a small country lane and were in the countryside within a few minutes - vines, olives with veg planted as intercrops. We started off on tarmac then it was dirt roads and farm tracks, heading south towards Monteoliveto then east to Santa Lucia. We should have stopped for lunch in the countryside but it wasn't until 1.15 when we stopped and ate our panini sitting on a wall outside the church of Santa Lucia. After lunch we continued east then north down a steep, muddy path and eventually back to Porta San Giovanni at 3.30 - it was packed! After a rest, we went out and had a gelato at the Gelateria Jolly in the corner of the piazza then went for a stroll. We popped into the church of S. Agostino to see the Benozzo Gozzoli frescoes but there was a service in progress so we walked on round the rocca, finding some decent gardens under the walls. Dinner that evening was at "La Stella" (not as good as Il Pino) - gnocchi al ragù, tacchino, cantucci e vinsanto (jug of wine on the table), café at a bar after.
Monday - Had breakfast then went out to buy panini (at a different shop) and bus tickets (to Colle di Val d'Elsa) for today's trip. We met up at the hotel and walked down to the bus stop on the square outside Porta San Giovanni - ten minutes to wait. We got on, remembered to validate our tickets then it took about 20 minutes to Poggibonsi where we waited for a bus bound for Siena that took us to Colle di Val d'Elsa in about 10 minutes (didn't know if we had to validate our tickets again). We split up, arranging to meet in the old town at the top of the hill at 2 p.m. We walked around a bit (past the hotel we stayed in before) then up Viale degli Fossi and Viale G. Matteotti then up some steps on the right to the main drag of the old town. We turned left at first, through the Piazza Santa Caterina, looked at the view, then walked up Via Dietro le Mura to the Torrione then along to the convent and church of San Francesco just for the view. We walked back towards Piazza Santa Caterina and met Diane and some others - decided to start the walk at 1 p.m. We continued up Via del Castello and met some others of the group and told them of the new timing. We had a quick look in the duomo (nice carved pulpit) then carried on the the end of the road and back along the Via delle Romite (several nice cats) to eat our lunch sitting in Piazza Santa Caterina then had a drink in the Bar Arnolfo. We all set off out through Porta Nuova, turning right past a greenhouse complex onto a series of farm tracks, past a farmhouse (noisy dog) to find our path blocked by a large gate. We managed to open it but found the area beyond was fenced off - we were now lost (not for the last time this week). We went back to the road and asked a woman on her balcony. We eventually found a path that was heading in the right direction - it wound down through woods and fields and across a stream to a disused mill. We then climbed up again, retraced our steps several times and went round in circles. The sun was starting to set and Maureen was getting tired when we came to a main road (5.45 p.m.) - Diane rushed across the road to accost a signora - we were back at Santa Lucia. There was nothing else to do but route march down the road, eventually getting back to San Gim. at 6.30 (two hours late) to find the hotel had a power cut. We got to our room with the help of someone's torch, then I had to grope round to the window and open the shutters. We managed to find a change of clothes and, at 6.45, the power came back on and, with it, running water so we could have a shower. We all left after 7.30 for dinner at "Le Vecchie Mura" - risotto ai funghi (M) ditto zafferano (J), coniglio (both), panna cotta (M) torta della nonna (J), vino e minerale, café.
Tuesday - After breakfast we caught the bus to Poggibonsi and on to Siena (the "scenic route" but it was foggy). We checked what time we should meet for the return, then escaped. The sun was out by the time we got to the campo. We went into the pinacoteca and worked our way down from the top (Madonnas and Saints get to look the same after a while). We had a short wander then had lunch at Da Guido's again - rustici (J) pici al'Etrusca (M), ossobucco alle sienese, mezzo bianco & minerale (£82,000 and I nearly left my hat behind). We went into the duomo - there is now an entrance charge but we slipped in with a group of Japanese and didn't pay - where there was a sort of marked trail to follow (Pinturicchio frescoes look like they have been cleaned - sparkling colours). Then we walked back through the campo and visited the fontebranda (large basins with fish swimming in them - see Italian Wikipedia). We walked back up to San Domenico and, after a quick look in the church, met up with everybody and returned via Monteriggioni (just a short wander) - Tarquinato (our driver) told us its history in lovely slow Italian. Dinner that evening was at "La Mandagola" - crespelle a ricotta & spinaci, taglione with bacon and saffron, roast chicken with lemon, beef (v. rare) with rucola, chianti & white colle senese.
Wednesday - After breakfast I popped out to buy some emergency rations (cantucci) in case we get lost again for an extended period. Tarquinato picked us up at 9.15 and drove up to Ulignano. We set off down a dirt road, turned off left along a farm track, skirted round some private property, ignored a wide track and went down a small track through a wood where it petered out. Our leaderene muttered to herself and we retraced our steps and went down the obvious track - steep and muddy - till we came to a road and followed it for a while, turning left past a bar. We came to a track and, after dithering and eventually asking someone, we went down it, quickly finding a confirmatory shrine. We climbed up a road then turned off up a fairly small track (after more hesitancy) and came to some Etruscan tombs (quite interesting, especially a toroidal one (round, with a central wide pillar). We continued up hill, through the Etruscan Porta Diana and entered Volterra through the Porta Fiorentina. We walked up the Via Guarnacci and the Via Giacomo Matteotti (the recommended Osteria dei Poeti looked posh and probably wouldn't welcome muddy boots). We walked up the Piazza dei Priori and told Diana that this is where the driver is picking us up at 5 p.m. (she wasn't convinced). We all split up and Maureen and I went to the Tavernetta for a pizza lunch (autuno (M) nosferatu (garlicky, J), insalata mista, mezzo vernaccia, litro di acqua, café - £43,000). Afterwards we visited the baptistry (some decent pictures), then down to the Porta San Francesco via the church of San Lino (nice frescoes) and the Roman theatre. Wandered about a bit more (the fortezza is still a maximum-security prison) then sat on a bench and ate some cantuccini and grapes. Then we visited the Palazzo dei Priori (modern art gallery on the ground floor, council chamber on the piano nobile. Outside we met Tarquinato and had a little chat in Italian then he showed us back to the minibus through the duomo. Back by 5.45. Dinner was spaghetti with garlic and chillies (M, too hot to finish) farfaline with vegetable sauce (J), scallopina in a white wine sauce, mandorlato, red wine on the table, café.
Thursday - We had a free day as most of the others were getting the bus into Florence. After a late, leisurely breakfast we went into the cathedral and, after our eyes had become accustomed to the gloom looked at the frecoes, then on to San Agostino (frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli behind the altar), then through the town down through the Porta delle Fonti (similar wash-places as the Fontebranda in Siena). We went on round the walls, back to the middle of town for a cappuccino, then down to Via Matteo where there was a market today. We met our driver who asked why we wern't in Florence. For lunch we went to the "Osteria delle Catene" - penne con porri (J)ribolita alle sangimignanese (M), salsicce con fagioli all'uccelletto, mezzo vernaccia, minerale, café (£73,700). We went back to the hotel for a siesta then put our boots on and set off for a walk. We went out of the Porta delle Fonti, stopping to say hello to a tortoiseshell and whit cat (so it followed us for a while). We went downhill on a muddy path that meandered past a farmhouse and eventually circled back to San Gim. We had an ice-cream in the gelateria on Via San Matteo, then we walked up to the Rocca and sat on the only sunny seat available. Dinner that evening, at La Stella again, was gnocchi al pomodoro, vitello arosto, cantuccini & vinsanto. Café at the bar opposite the duomo.
Friday - After breakfast we popped out to buy lunch (focaccia estate). The walk started (at 10.30) by going out the Porta San Giovanni (down the path we had returned up yesterday) stopping at the farmhouse to check the route. We continued down a very squelchy path and climbed up the other side of the valley (good view back of San Gim.) We turned left and carried on along a road for a while (tabby cat who also followed us after a stroke) then down a steep path (probably the wrong one as there was lots of scree), through some woodland until the path ended. After asking some workmen, we retraced our steps back to the road, carrying on till we saw an agroturismo sign to Casalino. We went down this road through vineyards etc. until we eventualy came to some rows of trees and the path went down to a river. We managed to cross it without getting too wet then carried on through a field - our sugestion that, as it was one o'clock, it would be a good place for lunch, was ignored. We carried on up to a main road - Diane said there was a good picnic spot in woods beyond Matteone(?) but everybody was hungry so we went back a hundred yards and had lunch. We restarted just after two and after dithering at a main road we headed in the right direction (I thought that the towers of San Gim. were a pretty good clue) eventually entering via the Porta San Matteo. We went back to the hotel to get rid of our boots then went ourt for a stroll, getting an ice-cream at the gelateria in Piazza Cisterna then sat on the same seat as yesterday up at the Rocca, going back to the hotel when it got chilly. Dinner at the Mandragola was tagliatelle ai funghi, fuselli with a vegetable sauce, coniglio alla vernaccia, maiale ai funghi with artichoke, torta della casa (M) formaggio (J), finished up the red and white wine, café at a bar.
Saturday - Red sky in the morning. Had breakfast and finished packing then went out to buy some cantuccini for our Italian class, and a local newspaper; had a stroll. Torquinato Spinelli arrived just after ten and we drove through Florence, crossing the bridge one down from the Ponte Vecchio, then past Santa Maria Novella and the railway station, getting to the airport just after eleven. Lots of hanging around as we were two hours before our flight. The pilot told us that as Florence has a very short runway they have to get up to maximum power before taking the brakes off. I had wine from the drknks trolley (against orders) and more with the meal. It took an age to retrieve our luggage, ten I paid for our parking at a machine, we caught the courtesy bus, found the car and drve home. Picked up Munchkin then had a Chinese takeaway. Clocks go back tonight.
This was a walking/sightseeing holiday, based in Milan, organised by the Ramblers.
Saturday 24th May - We had taken Munchkin to Mrs Goater's yesterday morning as usual (You could probably have guessed that!). The taxi came at 4.40 a.m., then it was our usual route to Gatwick Airport, where the group leader (John Watson) spotted us; took off eventually at 9.30 and arrived at Milano Linate at 12.10 local time. We found the group that had travelled from Manchester (13 of us altogether) and then it was a short ride to the Hotel Piccolo in Via Piero della Francesca. After a quick unpack we had a meeting with the leader (He speaks French and some Spanish but little Italian (and his pronunciation is dreadful) - What is it with Ramblers? Have they no italophones?). The local railway station (Bullano - Milano Nord) is just up the road and we all bought £1,500 tickets to get us into the middle of Milan (Cadorna station) (though it's only a two kilometre walk). We turned left out of the station towards the Castello Sforzesco where we were let loose for 3 hours to explore by ourselves. We started at the bar next to the station and had panini and water. We looked at the free museums at the Castello Sfozesco (sculpture by Michaelangelo, pictures by Bellini and Crivelli) then we strolled round the Parco Sempione (they seemed to be having a litter festival). We all met up again and caught the train back (just one stop), popping into the local supermarket for provisions, and then into a gelateria on the way to the hotel. Dinner was at the "Moreno e Roberto" trattoria almost next door - it looked very plain and ordinary, but the food was very good (and wine & water were "free") - penne with pomodoro & basilico, cotoletta milanese (M) scallopine ai funghi (J), café.
Sunday - After a buffet breakfast we were all taken down to the station to buy tickets. We got a tram to the Piazza della Scala then walked along the Via Verdi and Via Brera to the Pinacoteca di Brera where we were left to our own devices for two hours - some very nice pictures (Piero della Francesca, Mantegna etc.). We walked back through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle (impressive, but expensive) and found a self-service ("Marché") for lunch. You get given a card and the codes of the chosen food items are marked on it - you take it to the cassa to pay. We had pizza by the slice and insalata mista - we ate it in the part of the restaurant that pretends to be a tram. Then we met the others of the group and popped into the impressive duomo (but dark inside) for a quick look. We walked down Via Manzoni to the Giardini Pubblici and wandered back to meet up with the leader and the rest who were watching a parade of people in medieval dress. Then we went on to the Museo del Teatro della Scala (not bad, but couldn't go into the theatre itself because of a rehearsal) then caught a tram back. Dinner (at the same trattoria) - penne al ragù, bocchoncino di vitello con piselli, insalata (usual wine & water on the table).
Monday - After breakfast we met up at the railway station (group ticket included in price of holiday) and boarded a double-decker (upstairs, but with an annoying bar on the window). Countryside fairly dull until we approaced Lake Como. We arrived just after ten and walked up to the main square by the lakeside where we were left to our own devices for an hour or so. We looked in the duomo, then walked round the old town (most of the museums etc. were either closed or "in restauro"); we bought half a kilo of apricots at a stall, a postcard for my mum, and then had a stand-up cappuccino at a bar. We then walked round to the eastern part of the lakeside and caught the funicular to Brunate. At the top we started walking, first up tarmac, then a mule track to San Maurizio, climbing quite steeply to the "faro" where we sat on some seats and ate our emergency rations. We walked up a bit more, then down again to a bar for coffee, then back down the funicular, swamped by noisy schoolchildren who tried talking to us with mixed success. Had an ice-cream; temple of Volta still closed; met the others for the 5 o'clock stopping train back to Bullona. Some people had complained about the lack of choice, and the ever-present veal (perhaps they didn't know this was Italy) so, for dinner that evening, the leader took us round the block to a Chinese restaurant ("Il Melograno") where we sat at a long table in the garden at the back - spaghetti cinese agrodolce (noodles,J) ravioli alla grigli (wantons, M), anatra con vari diversi (J) pollo con mandorla (M), bannana fritters (all very nice, but not Italian!)
Tuesday - After breakfast we caught the tram to Piazza Viglio and walked to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. We temporarily joined the horrendously long queue for the "Last Supper" while John went to enquire on the probable time till entry - 2 hours! We abandoned the queue and walked past the Museum of Science and Technology and then on to Sant'Ambrogio (nice Romanesque church but rather too dark to see the pictures). The estimated queueing time for the Last Supper was now down to 45 minutes so we rejoined the queue (took us 50). Its condition was worse than I expected, but it was something that you just have to see. The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie itself is well worth a visit (designed by Bramante). We then walked into town and had lunch at Marché again - prosciuto e melone, ravioli al pomodoro, panini, vino bianco, minerale (£24,000). We then walked round the outside of the duomo then went in and got the lift up to the roof - a really nice experience (gargoyles, spires, lovely views), especially on a warm, sunny day. Then we walked through the Galleria to La Scala and down the Via Manzoni to the Giardini Pubblici where we had a short rest (it was getting rather hot) then we visited the Civica Galleria d'Arte Moderna (I liked it more than Maureen did) and walked back through the park to get the tram back to the hotel. Dinner, back at Moreno e Roberto, was lasagne al forno, vitello ai funghi, insalata mista, vino rosso.
Wednesday - After breakfast we all got a No. 33 tram to the Porta Garibaldi station, where we waited half an hour then had to rush to get the train because the platform number didn't appear until just before it left. We arrived in Bergamo at 9.55 and walked up to the funicolare. We had free time until 12.15, and looked at the Duomo, Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Colleoni Chapel (all very good, details on Wikipedia). We met at 12.15 just to make sure nobody was missing then went our own ways for lunch - pasta (uncertain type) bergamasca, insalata mista between three of us. We then had a quick look at the Rocca then visited the Accademia Carrera (good paintings by Bellini, Mantegna & Crivelli). We all caught a train back at about five o'clock. Dinner that evening was at a different pizzeria (Marinos) further up Via della Francesca - penne al pomodoro, slices of veal with sauté potatoes, torta di pera o di ananas, grappa on the house. Café at a nearby bar.
Thursday - The rest of the group had a day in Stressa, but we had been before. After a late breakfast we caught a tram and visited the Museum of Science and Technology (there was no queue for the Last Supper at all!) The gallery devoted to Leonardo da Vinci was very good, with many working models and interesting exhibits. After that Maureen went round the chemistry section and I did the computing section. We spent quite a long time there and didn't even get to the sections on telecommunications etc - but we had had enough. We walked down to the Darsena then to the church of S. Eustorgio (frescoes in restauro) then through a tatty park to the Corso Italia and then on to the Marché for lunch - pizza prosciuto e funghi, insalata mista, the girl wouldn't open a bottle of wine to give us two glasses so just had acqua, torta di miele (£23,000). After lunch we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art in the Palazzo Reale (Maureen liked some of the futurists but not much else). We then visited the Poldi Pezzoli museum in Via Manzoni (a mixed collection including Bellini, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca etc.). It was getting hot and we couldn't be bothered to do much more so we just strolled part way back to the hotel, stopped for a drink in a bar, and got the next tram. Dinner was back at Moreno e Roberto - gnocchi al pomodoro, involtini (J) cotoletta (M) (the non-italophiles had roast chicken), taleggio instead of dessert.
Friday - After breakfast we all caught a No 33 tram to the Stazione Centrale (monumental/Fascist style opposite the Pirelli tower). We got an intercity that was heading for La Spezia, and had to walk miles down the platform to the 2nd class carriages. The train passed through Certosa di Pavia without stopping and we got off at Pavia. We turned left out of the station, then right to the tourist office where we found a map and some depliants, then walked to the church of San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro (not bad) then all walked to the Castello where we had a quick look round the pinacoteca (nice pictures by Bellini, Luini etc.) then walked past the university where Volta was a professor and Petrarch and Leonardo were pupils (not at the same time). We had a short wander than an early lunch at a pizzeria (fettucine salmonata, very good) then met up with John who gave us bus tickets to Certosa and from there back to Milan. The bus was full of kids and I had to persuade one of them to give us seats he said he was keeping for a friend. From the bus stop it was a quarter of an hour walk along a tree-lined road to Certosa (a monastery / ducal palace built by Sforza / Visconti) - we waited at a bar for it to open. The ducal palace is not open to the public but we went into the church (lovely and cool after the heat outside, nice blue ceiling with stars, see Wikipedia for lots of detail of the side chapels etc) then the cloisters with houses that the monks used to live in. After quite some time we all gathered together and walked back to the bus stop (via a gelateria). The bus was very full and we had to sit on the sunny side (holding curtains together to stop them flapping in the breeze). We came into Milan along the side of the Pavese canal and saw rice fields like we had seen from the train. It was 34°C as we walked past the Duomo and got a tram back to the hotel. Dinner at the same place was spaghetti al ragù, scallopine con piselli, salsice e fagioli, formaggio, café.
Saturday - After breakfast Maureen did the packing and I went for a stroll round the block. Bus to the airport then an uneventful return, getting home at 4.20 p.m. - picked up Munchkin and I went to Sainsbury's for a few things.