Avignon to home

Up quite early, having had an excellent nights sleep, packed our little overnight cases, and went for breakfast. The hotel owner was waiting for us, with lovely fresh bread and croissants, so with our tea, and yogurts, we demolished the lot.

Geoff packed the car, and then we were off, a very long drive today, 1015 km, so no time for extra coffee breaks!

We stopped three times in all, and managed to get back to Pilar de Horadada by 7pm, with us both sharing the driving time soon went by.

As we normally stop at the Chinese why change things, and who should we meet up with was Sharon and Paul, so we caught up with all the gossip, enjoyed our dinner, then home to bed. A fantastic trip, here’s to the next one.

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The Drive Home, day 1, La Spieza to Avignon

As with our last visit to this hotel in La Spiezia, parking was an issue that had to be addressed; so I was outside at the parking ticket machine at 0800 hrs to ensure we had paid and so avoid a ticket.

A nice breakfast set us up for the day and having paid the bill left but not until we had visited a supermarket to buy some wine.  Unfortunately, at the supermarket and looking at the wines available we weren’t too sure what to buy.  Originally we were going to buy a couple of dozen bottles for the Bodega, but not having tried any of these on display, we walked out with only 4 bottles, what a disaster!!!!!

We were on the road by 10.00am, hit the Autostrada and headed for France.  Christine had booked an overnight hotel for us in Avignon so

Map of the walled Old Town of Avinnon

Map of the walled Old Town of Avinnon

 

thought we could get there in time to have a wander around this lovely wall city.  Having had a good breakfast we only needed to stop for a “cuppa” and a bun and treating ourselves to a nice French meal in the evening.  Booking a

The Entrance to our Hotel, at the back of the building

The Entrance to our Hotel, at the back of the building

Hotel on the web can by a little like putting a wet finger in the air unless you go for an expensive hotel, we didn’t, we went for a typical French family run hotel.  Tom Tom took us straight to the door and our chins dropped, oh God where have we booked into.  The building was on the street, adjacent to the main train line and just before a tunnel, we debated wether to go in or go on but as we had paid, we decided to go in.  To

Our Bedroom

Our Bedroom

get in we had to drive down the side of the building, under an arch which opened into a car park, the car park was beside a small garden with tables and chairs outside and the main entrance to the hotel.  Now this put a new light into the proceedings and with a little trepidation, walked in only to be greeted by shortage jolly man who couldn’t have been more helpful.  He showed us to our room, which fortunately was on the ground floor; Christine was still suffering with her ankles!  It was a very comfortable room, two small doubles, tables and chairs and a bottle of the local Cote du Rhone wine as a present.  The shower room was a little cramped but one is not using this all the time.  By now we were comfortable with our booking so quickly sorted ourselves out and we headed into the walled city which was about 5 minutes walking, a very convenient hotel for the old town.

By now we had decided that this would be our last night , we would do the full drive back home tomorrow so tonight we would push the boat out,

The Main Square in the old Town of Avignon

The Main Square in the old Town of Avignon

again!!!!!

Firstly we wandered around the square looking at the various restaurants, weighing up all the options then before it was dark walked to the old Pop’s Palace, after all having been to the Vatican, we had to see where the pop’s lived.

The Front of the Pops Palace in Avignon

The Front of the Pops Palace in Avignon

The Pops lived in Avignon from 1309 till 1377, this came about because in 1305 Pope Clement V was elected and being French, declined to move to Italy. and in 1309 moved his  total Papal Enclave from Rome to Avignon.  A total of 7 Popes reigned in Avignon; all were French until Pope Gregory XI moved the whole court back to Rome., officially ending the Avignon Papacy.

We now know why the “Chateau Neuf Du Pape” wine bottles always have a bishop’s mitre designed on their bottles.  It all

Christine outside the front door of the Palace

Christine outside the front door of the Palace

started because one of the Pop’s, John Paul XXII, built a castle in the area the wine produced in the immediate area, became known as Chateau Neuf du Pape, one of our favourites.

The other famous landmark is the  remains of the “Pont Saint-Benezet” or better know as “Le Pont D’Avignon” which was built

An Ornate Building opposite he Pops Palace

An Ornate Building opposite he Pops Palace

between 1177 and 1185  and used to cross the Rhone, and we all know the famous song, Sur Le Pont D’Avignon!!!!   Today there is only part of the bridge structure left, but parts are open to visitors.

After mooching around the old town, we stopped for a couple of aperitifs before deciding on which restaurant we would visit.

The Big Fire in the Restaurant

The Big Fire in the Restaurant

At the top of the square was a hotel and their menu looked delightful and the restaurant looked very inviting with a big log, well gas powered, fire, exposed beams and nice stone walls, very old.

We ordered for Christine, Calf’s Head, not really knowing what was coming and I had snails for starters.  The Calf’s head turned out to be sort of small steaks, a sort of brawn I think, still it was all eaten by Christine so couldn’t be that bad!!!!  For mains Christine went for Duck Breast and had

Inside the Restaurant

Inside the Restaurant

Rack of lamb, we both followed with Local cheeses, excellent but uncomfortably full.  All this was washed down with both local white and red local Cote du Rhone Wines.

A leisurely stroll back through the town to our hotel and away with the fairies after what was a memorable French meal of the highest quality.

Excellent local Cote du Rhone Red Wine

Excellent local Cote du Rhone Red Wine

Excellent local Cote du Rhone White Wine

Excellent local Cote du Rhone White Wine

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Rome to La Spiezia via Sienna

Sadly today we are leaving Rome, we have seen some fantastic sites, my favourite was the Trevi Fountain, it was just so magical, especially as it has just been renovated. Geoff’s favourite was the Colosseum because of it’s sheer size and the fact it only took eight years to build. I came here with the mind and body of an eighteen year old, sadly my body has gone into old age, with all my aches and pains. Rome is certainly a beautiful places, but we have found it very expensive.

We start our journey home now, and on Martin’s recommendations we travelled to Sienna,

View from the Campanile del Mangia

View from the Campanile del Mangia

it is on route so no problem. We arrived at 13.00hrs, just in time for some lunch, we hadn’t done our homework, so had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for, so when we arrived and looked up, we saw a walled city, oh dear more climbing!
Surrounded by olive groves and vineyards of Chianti, Siena is one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany. Set on three hills, the historic city has been declared by UNESCO a world heritage site, and is drawn together by winding alleyways and steep steps. Famed for the “Palio” the annual historic horse races that take place in July and August, it is home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, which ensures a vibrant Italian student atmosphere.
Streets of Old Siena

Streets of Old Siena

We parked the car, came out of the car park, and immediately steps and more steps, my knee is very swollen still, along with my legs etc., so I struggled a bit, but it was worth the climb.
We walked around but sadly I was not able to go far, but what we saw we enjoyed,
Sienna Cathedral

Sienna Cathedral

perhaps one day we will go back. We did stop for some
Interior of the Siena Cathedral

Interior of the Siena Cathedral

lunch in one of th local cafes, which was good, and then we made our way back to the car.
Back in the car we headed for La Spezia, where we had stayed on a previous occasion, we managed to park outside, and Geoff sorted the parking ticket.
We then showered and went for dinner in the Hotel Restaurant, which was lovely as usual, although a bit noisy, as they had a coach party in.

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Day 4 in Rome

After taking a leisurely breakfast we decided today was going to be more relaxing, my legs, ankles, knees are very swollen, and hurting me, I also have some sort of rash on one of my legs!
image
We caught the hop on and off bus, and went to the Basilica de Santa Maria Maggiore, one of Rome’s four patriarchal basilicas, this monumental 5th century church stands on the summit of the Esquiline Hill, on the spot where snow is said to have miraculously fallen in the summer of AD358.

Beautiful ceiling dome

Beautiful ceiling dome

Much altered over the centuries, it’s something of an architectural hybrid with a 14th century Romanesque belfry, an 18th-century baroque facade, a largely baroque interior, and a series of glorious 5th-century mosaics.
Altar with gold candlesticks and cherubs

Altar with gold candlesticks and cherubs


The baldacchino over the high altar is heavy with gilt cherubs. The bell tower rises 75 meters high and is the tallest in Rome. The ceiling is covered in gold, and looks very
Ceiling made from gold!

Ceiling made from gold!

impressive. In the crypt is a statue of Pius 1X the pope of the Immaculate Conception.
Statue of Pope Pius 1X

Statue of Pope Pius 1X

This place just oozes money, so much gold around, and fabulous statues, it truly is an amazing place.

We crossed the road, and went for a cup of tea, coffee, and two cakes, they were very nice, but not 20 euros worth!

Monument of Vittorio Emanuele 11

Monument of Vittorio Emanuele 11

Back on the bus, we went to the Monument of Vittorio Emanuele 11.
This monument is one of the biggest monuments in Italy. It is also identified as the altar of the fatherland. It is one of the crucial components of the landmarks in Rome.
The monument can be found in the city centre, very close to the famous Roman Forum and the Colosseum and is said to be the most famous and representative monument of Roman history. Each of the two walls of the Monument has a chariot drawn by four stallions. imageThe two chariots are made of bronze, the same as the statue of King Vittorio Emanuele 11, which is found in the central point of this amazing complex. This splendid white building is possibly the best you will see in Rome.

Royal Foram with Coloseum in background

Royal Foram with Coloseum in background


We walked to the back of the building, where we could see the Roman Foram, where people used to meet up, courts would be held, and discussions could be held on future works to be carried out, also in the background you can see the Roman Palaces, and in the far distance is he colosseum.
Roman Foram

Roman Foram


The circus maximums, was close by where they used to hold chariot races.
Circus Maximus with Royal Palaces behind

Circus Maximus with Royal Palaces behind


As we were walking we noticed a statue with a she-wolf on with romonus and Remus suckling.
Romulus and Remus with a she-wolf that suckled them!

Romulus and Remus with a she-wolf that suckled them!


Sadly I can do no more, I am shattered, so with heavy legs, we get back on the bus and head back to the Hotel for a rest.
Having laid down for a couple of hours, we decided to go to the Spqnish Steps, which
Spanish steps

Spanish steps

are in Piazza di Spagna, not far from the Hotel.
With its irregular butterfly design, the beautiful “Scalina Spagna” or Spanish Steps are just one of those must see places when in Rome and a great example of Roman Baroque Style. It’s a great place to just sit down and enjoy the at,osohereand views of the Eternal City. The steps are a wid irregula gathering plac consisted of 138 steps placed in a mix of curves, straight flights, vistas and terraces. They connect the lower pIazza di Spagna with the upper Piazza Trinita d I Monti with its beautiful twin
Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

tower church dominating the skyline.
The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 by a design of the rather little known architect Francesco de Sanctis and were financed by French diplomat Etienne Gueffier’s.
The Spanish steps unique design and elegance has made it a popular place for artists s, painters, and poets, although sadly last night they were closed for restoration.
We met up with friends for an evening meal, in a lovely friendly restaurant, where we enjoyed our last night in Rome.
Piazza di Spagna

Piazza di Spagna

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Rome Day 3

After the jubilation of yesterday, it is time for some serious sight seeing.  We are also meeting Trevor, Louise and her two girls and joining them with the private guide they had booked.

After breakfast we walked down to buy a 48 hour ticket on the “hop on, hop off” bus, and then we were off.

Our route took us back up our street, passing our hotel, through the well preserved city walls built between 271 AD and 275 AD by the Emperor Aurelian to keep out the Barbarian tribes out who were fighting their way south.  We then headed back into the city, passing our hotel again, (pity there wasn’t a stop outside!) and into the Plaza Bernini, a beautiful area with a magnificent fountain as its center piece. Our next port of call was outside Rome’s modern train station, we had been here before, ha ha! But more importantly, the other end of this large area are the remains of the Diocletian public baths, back in the day, they could cater for up to 3,000 people bathing at once.  We next stopped at the Brasilica Santa Maria Maggiore, this we will visit tomorrow.  Our next stop was the Colosseum and the surrounding area but as we had visited this on Saturday, didn’t feel we needed to repeat the experience.  We then headed out towards the Vatican City and St. Peters Basilica where we had arranged to meet Trevor and Family, passing along the way the great white building with

Monument to Vitorio Emanuele 11

Monument to Vitorio Emanuele 11

the white marble facia, a Monument to Vittorio Emanuelle 11, containing the tomb to the unknown soldier and known locally as the typewriter or the wedding cake;  Apparently hated by most locals, though a very imposing building none the less.

This year is a Jubilee year at the Vatican and therefore our bus by-passed  St. Peter’s square and dropped us off at the  ”Ponta Saint Angelo”  Bridge which leads to the entrance to “Castel Saint Angelo”, an imposing round, well fortified castle used by some popes to hide in during early troubles.  Around this castle and straight into the Via de Concilliazone, the road leading straight up to Piazza San Pietro, St. Peters Brasilica.  We were early so stopped for a coffee etc.

We finally made contact with Trevor who was in another Pizza Restaurant So hurried to join them for a quick Pizza before tackling the Vatican Mueseum, Cistern Chapel and St. Peters Brasicila.

A little later than planned, we met up with our guide “Marina” and after going through airport type security, entered the Vatican.  Firstly we were informed we were in a sovereign state, not Italy, and that the official language is Latin; they also have there own postal system with their own stamps.

Plan of the Vatican's Area

Plan of the Vatican’s Area

When we left the hotel it was raining so I brought my new brolly with me but security wouldn’t let me enter the Vatican with it and told me to leave it with Security for later collection.  Unfortunatly we will be exiting the museum the other end and without a lot of extra walking, we would not be coming back, so my new umbrella had to be left, the second in 3 days!!

Anyway back to the Vatican Museum, we walked through some amazing galleries, each imageone displaying grouped artefacts, not all jumbled together.  We walked through a gallery of amazing statutes, some in excellent condition and others not so good.  What probably took our breath away was  how detailed many were but more amazing was the tender age of some of the sculptures, talk about old heads on young bodies, quite striking.  Another long gallery had walls covered in frescos of each region of the Italy.  As you walked through, on the right hand wall were all the regions on the Adriatic and on the left hand

The Giant Bronze Pine Cone set into one of the Vatican's Many Arches

The Giant Bronze Pine Cone set into one of the Vatican’s Many Arches

side were all the regions on the Mediterranean, they were all in the correct order but more importantly they were painted about 700 years ago yet the accuracy was astonishing.  Another gallery was all tapestries, these were again many hundred years old and had been woven with gold and silver thread amongst other threads to bring them to life.  These Tapestries were woven in Flanders from paintings done by a number of famous painters of the time.

An Internal Space for entertaining large numbers of visitors

An Internal Space for entertaining large numbers of visitors

We then entered the private rooms of Popes gone by.  Again the walls and ceilings were all frescos depicting various stories from the Old Testament as well as many of the atrocities committed upon the Christians at the birth of Christianity as well as several battles that took place.  Of These 4

Portrait of Raphiel

Portrait of Raphiel

rooms we went through, one was completed by Raphael in person but the other three were painted

One of the many Frescos

One of the many Frescos

by his students after he had died, none the less they were very good.

As I said earlier, much of the museum was closed so we now moved into the Cistern Chapel.  The Chapel was built in its current form by Pope Sixtus IV between 1477 and 1480 and all the frescos around all the walls were painted by a team of many well  known artists of their day and they were all completed in 1482.  The ceiling was not painted until Pope Julius II got Michelangelo to create his masterpiece.  It took 4 years to complete, (1508 to 1512) and all this work was done by Michelangelo lying on his back.

imageTrevor booked this tour for himself and Louise who also brought her two little girls Georgie aged. 11, and Heidi Aged 9.  This has been a very long tour for little ones especially for Heidi as she has a bad ankle and is walking around on crutches.  I think they were magnificent, they didn’t complain once when clearly towards the end they were very tired and probably bored, well done girls.

Bearing this in mind, our next part of the tour was the Brasisila of St.

Michelangelo's Sculpture of The body of Jesus in Mary's arms.  (created by Michelangelo when he was only 23.)

Michelangelo’s Sculpture of The body of Jesus in Mary’s arms. (created by Michelangelo when he was only 23.)

Peters, a most imposing building with a wonderful piazza in front surrounded by 284 Columns.  Inside is vast and you could spend a whole day inside to do it properly, but now, for us, a quick feel of the grandure and a couple of significant items to look at.

The enormous great alter with its canopy held up on 4 great columns sits above the remains of Saint Peter himself, (though they are about 30 meters deep.). There are about 100 Popes entombed in this place a couple of kings and Christina, Queen of Sweeden in 1689 having relinquished her throne to devote her life to God.   Also buried are the last three Scottish Stuart’s,  who all claimed the English crown but were defeated in what is know as the Jacobite Rebellions.  There is also a Monument to them.

imageBy now even Christine and I were flagging, it had been a very long day and we were exhausted, so after agreeing to return to their rented apartment a couple oh hours later we boarded aou bus and back to the hotel.

After a rest and showers we jumped into a cab and headed off to the Trevi Fountain, where they were staying.  Met Trevor who took us into he flat where a few glasses of wine went down very nicely before the six of us went round the corner for dinner.  After an all right meal we stopped of for Ice Creams before returning to the flat for night caps.

The Pope's Swiss Guards

The Pope’s Swiss Guards

After saying our God byes we felt up to walking back to our hotel and into bed, exhausted.

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6 Nations, Round 2

Good morning, Valantines day and our anniversary, 11 years, who would have believed that after our track records!!!!!  Anyway leisurely breakfast, though Christine did give me a card but unfortunately I didn’t respond, however, I did mention this fact yesterday, explaining I had decided to buy here in Italy though I didn’t find an outlet that sold cards, oops!!!!!

After breakfast we collected our match tickets but went back to the room

A few England Fans Enjoying a few beers in Piazza del Popolo

A few England Fans Enjoying a few beers in Piazza del Popolo

to catch up on a few things, including our log.

Work completed we jumped into a taxi and went to the Piazza del Popolo

The Peroni Beer "tent"

The Peroni Beer “tent”

where many Rugby fans stop for drinks, so did we.  After a while and a few beers we started the walk to the Olympic Stadium, built for the Olympic Games in 1960.  Tom Tom suggested this would take around 20 minutes, he/she was wrong, the walk went on for ever but arrived outside a nice looking restaurant in front of the stadium complex around 1 1/2 hrs before kick off so went in for drink and some assorted Bruschetta, very nice but had to get on so having eaten and drunk, paid the bill and we left.  At this point we had about 40 minutes to kick off, sufficient time to get to our seats collecting a beer on the way.

The logistics, common sense and organisation doesn’t fit comfortably here in Italy; we arrived at our seats just as George Ford kicked off, and

George Ford Scores the Opening Try for England

George Ford Scores the Opening Try for England

this was without any beers.

The game was a game of two halves as they say; the first half England did not play well but the Italians did and at half time the scores were: Italy 9 England 11 but, had Italy not missed two penalties, they would have been in the lead; at this point England was living on borrowed time.

Jonathan Joseph Scores his Second Try for England

Jonathan Joseph Scores his Second Try for England

The second half was different, Eddie Jones must have put a rocket up the team during the interval as they came out fighting and went on to score tries and dominate the game.  The final score Italy 9 England 40 but I must say that had we been playing a good team such as France, Wales or Ireland, things may gave been different.  Still with a break next weekend, perhaps, just perhaps, Eddie Jones

Head Coach Eddie Jones talks with Dylan Hartley Captain after the win against Italy.  9 - 40 to England

Head Coach Eddie Jones talks with Dylan Hartley Captain after the win against Italy. 9 – 40 to England

will work his magic.

Goodness knows what happened here, a bomb???

Goodness knows what happened here, a bomb???

We walked back from the ground to Piazza del  Popolo  a different way, shorter we think, and passing a block of flats that had one corner blown out, how was that??  We  jumped into a taxi and back to the hotel where we showered

James Haskell and Chris Robshaw applaud the crowed after the match

James Haskell and Chris Robshaw applaud the crowed after the match

and changed before setting out for our anniversary dinner.

Just down the road from our hotel was a restaurant specialising in fish, so naturally that’s where we had to go.  We had a

Our Anniversary Feast

Our Anniversary Feast

magnificent mixed fish grill, Lobster, Salmon,  Sea Bass, Prawns, Langustines and others washed down with a couple of bottles of Frascati, wonderful, though it would probably been cheaper to fly

Leaving the Olympic Park after a resounding win

Leaving the Olympic Park after a resounding win

to Thailand!!!!! Oh well I made amends for forgetting to buy Christine a card!!!!

Back to the hotel for another good nights sleep before we hit the Vatican tomorrow with Trevor and his new family.

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