It's been nearly three weeks since I last updated the Travelblog, we are now in Tuscany at the Villa Casabella and the pace has slowed down, we are blessed to be relaxing in such a beautiful place.
We left Lucerne on Sunday the 13th of May, crossed the Swiss border into Liechtenstein and had a quick stop in Vaduz the capital. I paid three Euros to have my passport stamped, this is the only time my passport has been stamped since leaving London. Vaduz is an interesting little place with lots of stamps in the sidewalk. We then continued into Austria reaching Innsbruck mid afternoon where we visited the large Swarovski crystal shop, there was some very nice but very expensive pieces there, works of art is the best description. After spending some time in Innsbruck we checked into our hotel and then had a horse and carriage ride through a typical mountain village finishing with a beer at a traditional Tyrolean Gasthof that was next to a very ornate church.
Monday was another early start, we travelled into Italy with the first stop at Verona where Eleanor and I had our first Pizza and Vinno Rosso. We visited
Juliet's Balcony the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, I was also able to buy a pair of Sun glasses for 5 Euros, much needed now that the sun was shining brightly.
We left Verona after lunch and continued onto Venice, one of my favourite places so far on the tour. The bus dropped us off at the water taxi rank where we all got into boats and cruised into Venice, we then had some free time to look around St Marks Square before taking a Gondola ride along the narrow canals sipping a rather sweet Spumante. That night we had dinner at the hotel and I was able to get a load of washing done before retiring for the night.
Venice was a two night stop so we didn't need to put our bags out the next morning. We had a full day in Venice on Tuesday (15th May) beginning with another boat ride into St Marks Square with most of the morning to venture around. At around mid day we got another boat to a glass blowing factory and shop before continuing to the small but very pretty island of Burano for a seafood lunch and
sight seeing. The island had lot's of colourful houses and canals.
We left Venice on Wednesday and travelled across the Appennine Hills to Rome, this was one of the longer days on the bus. When we reached Rome we met up with Carmela our local guide in Rome and had a walking tour of the city viewing some well known sites plus some "hidden treasures". That night we had dinner in the heart of Rome - pasta and a Vinno Rosso.
Rome was another two night stop and we began day two with a tour of the Vatican, the high light for me was the Sistine Chapel. Visits to major sites like the Vatican were pre booked so we didn't have to queue up, this was a big plus. We then visited the Colosseum before finishing the day with a typical Italian meal with live musicians to entertain us.
On Friday (18th May) we left Rome for the Bay of Naples first stopping in Pompeii where we had a guided tour through the ruins. Mount Vesuvius could be seen from the ruins, it was the eruption from this volcano that buried the town in AD 79. After
lunch in Pompeii we continued to the Amalfi Coast where we transferred to Mimi buses for a trip to the very scenic town of Positano. We then travelled back to the Grand Moon Valley Hotel Sorrento where we had dinner and spent the night.
The next morning we left for Florence, birthplace of the Renaissance, we first stopped at a hill overlooking the city before some free time to do some shopping and sight seeing in the city. Florence is known for it's leather, the prices varied but the expensive stuff was very nice. I bought a small coin wallet from Peruzzi, this store had some really nice jackets. Whilst in Florence our tour director Andee had his wallet stolen, in Italy you have to be really careful in crowded places due to the prevalence of pick pockets.
Day 12 of the tour dawned and we left Florence for a two night stop in Nice, along the way we visited the leaning tower of Pizza and Monaco where they we setting up for the Grand Prix. The drive was very scenic though unfortunately the weather deteriorated, up until now it had been nice and sunny, in Nice we
had some rain. Though a bit wet we still enjoyed Nice, the water was so blue and we had some very tasty food the high light being lunch overlooking Eze at La Bergerie. I started with a Lobster and Shrimp Bisque, followed by Duck Confit with mashed potato, black olives and red wine sauce, finishing with a dark chocolate desert. Drinks were included, I had Rose and finished with schnapps.
Day 14 (Tuesday 22nd) we left Nice and travelled to Lyon, not much to see here though we did have a stop in Cannes where the film festival was on. We had an hour to look around and were able to see the venue for the festival including the red carpet. We also had a stop in Avignon where we saw the Palace of the Popes and a famous bridge.
The following morning we left for Paris, it had stopped raining now as we travelled through the wine region of Burgundy and the Forest of Fontainbleau, before checking into our hotel we visited the Palace of Versailles, lot's of gold, artwork and manicured gardens here. That night we had dinner near the Arc de Triomphe before taking a
cruise down the Seine viewing Paris by dusk, the bank of the river was full of people enjoying a picnic dinner and wine. This was another high light for me.
Thursday morning dawned and the weather was good, it was day 16 and the last full day of the tour. This was a full day in Paris starting with a tour of the Montmarte district well known as a gathering place for local artists. We then had some free time in Paris for lunch and shopping before visiting the Eiffel Tower, we took the lift to the second level and walked down. That night was our last dinner and we did it in style with dinner and a Cabaret, we had front row seats and I was called up onto the stage to represent our group in a dancing contest, I didn't win even though I gave it a red hot go!
Our last day dawned and we were up early for the trip back to London, the bus was only half full as twenty of the group left the tour in Paris. It was a smooth trip back with good connections with the cross Channel ferry and
we were back in London at about 2.30pm. On the Channel crossing we got a good view of the White Cliffs of Dover from the ferry, it was a sunny day unlike the crossing on the way over from Dover to Calais. The tour ended at the Trafalgar HQ in Waterloo, from their Fran, Doug, Eleanor and I took at taxi (minibus) to Gatwick. The minibus already had an American lady inside, she had been on the bus for 3 hours after a 10 hour flight, the bus driver missed her hotel at Heathrow. Anyway what we didn't realize was that the bus driver wanted to drop her off at the Heathrow Novotel before taking us to our hotels at Gatwick, the trip took over 3 hours not helped by heavy traffic and the driver missing the Heathrow drop off twice. We finally made it to the Premier Inn at Gatwick just in time for dinner and a glass of Boddington Ale, I had fish, chips and mushy peas, Eleanor had a curry.
We were up at 6am the following morning (Saturday 26th May) for our flight to Bologna in Italy. It was a good flight with British Airways,
but we still had a long journey in front of us. Firstly we took the shuttle to Bologna train station, we then got the train to Florence (Firenze) another shuttle to Florence airport to pick up the hire car, then by car to the villa Casabella. Of course we got lost, even getting out of Florence was difficult, we eventually got to the A1 then missed the turn off to Sienna. We found another turn off but it took us into Sienna from a different direction so our map showing directions to the villa was useless. After consulting about three different people, numerous wrong turns we finally reached the villa a bit before 9pm. We needed a guide from the local pizza restaurant to reach the villa as we took a wrong turn to Toiano (the actual little town) on the final stretch.
We've been at the villa four days now and have visited Sienna, Rosia and Sovicille, it's very relaxing here and the villa is lovely. We've been eating a few meals at home plus we've been to the local restaurant twice, the food there is great, I had a wild boar stew that was delicious. The local
cheese, meats and wines are really good, there's a lot of foods here that you don't see in Australia. Last night I cooked roast turkey that was infused with rosemary, it was very tender and juicy.
It's a long update but I haven't had a chance to get my thoughts down until now. Hope you are all well, cheers....Glen.
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