Australia, Italy, France · 25 Days · 30 Moments · August 2017

Dibs's journi to Italy

24 September 2017

Sunday 24th Sept Farewell Munich and Europe. Out to the airport for short flight to Zurich. Very tight connection which we only just made. Photo is of fields over Switzerland as we were coming in to land. Couldn't sleep on plane, currently sitting in Hong Kong waiting for flight to Wuxi and updating Journi. I think this is probably "over and out" for this particular journey. Thanks for following
Saturday 23rd Sept Surprisingly woke up with NO hangover! Who knew I could drink beer? We checked out early and moved to our hotel in the centre of Munich (everyone else was leaving today and our hotel had been quite a way out of town). Left the bags and went exploring, then ran into 2 of the Aussies staying with their cousins, and then also ran into Jane & Peter and Jane's cousin! Explored the Farmer's markets which were amazing. I could have spent hours there, and then had lunch just by the cathedral at a restaurant where the beer and produce is done by monks. Best meal in Munich! Wandered around for a few more hours then went to rooftop bar at our hotel to watch sunset & dinner. Great view over city and all the church spires. After dinner walk admiring all the shop windows, dessert and coffee near main square. Almost everyone is dressed in traditional Oktoberfest clothes of Lederhosen for the men and gorgeous dirndls for the women, and all the shops embrace the festival too.

23 September 2017

Friday 22nd Sept Finally a sleep-in, then bus tour of city then brief walking tour, but we seemed to go around in circles and I couldn't get my bearings. It's a beautiful city with lots of pedestrian avenues, with the architecture ranging from very austere medieval churches to Roman 'copies' from the 16th century to the elaborate and incredibly detailed Gothic "Rathaus", an appropriate name for the Town Hall. Lunch at the famous Hofbräuhaus where the Oktoberfest fun begins. We continue on to the actual Oktoberfest site after lunch. It's huge! Several beer "tents" which hold up to 13000 people each!! Plus a whole side-show alley with Ferris wheels, rides, etc. Each tent has a different theme and is sponsored by different breweries and all have several bands playing. They brew specifically for the event, and you can't buy small ones, it all comes in one litre steins. The beer stays surprisingly cold (it takes about an hour to drink one!). Such a fun afternoon/night. Lots of singing!

21 September 2017

Thursday 21st Sept This morning a farm visit about 15km SW of Munich. It doesn't take long before you are out of the city amongst picturesque villages. The farm is several generations old and the current farmer is 50 and married to a Californian, so his English is very good. We had a great discussion about the issues facing producers right across Europe. With the elections on Sunday it made for interesting talk. I don't think we should complain about the red tape bureaucracy at home, these guys are literally watched via satellite all year round to make sure they are doing what was planned and reported up to a year before, and if it doesn't match up they can lose their subsidies. Brussels is very much a Big Brother, it's really quite worrying. We had lunch at the farm, bread rolls and liebecase (sp?) meatloaf which tasted pretty much like devon!! In the afternoon we visited Dachau concentration camp just north of Munich - very sobering. Dinner at another beer hall style restaurant

20 September 2017

Wednesday 20th Sept Today a visit to John Deere factory at Mannheim. They are so organised when it comes to tours and we had an English girl as our guide. Really enjoyed it, was similar to tours in US. Lunch at Macca's then a farm visit to a very interesting mixed farm: geese bred specifically for St Martin's Day in Nov, beef, biofuel (methane) from poop and they sell from a farm store with vending machines. Afterwards a long drive to Munich so we stopped at a supermarket and bought a carton of beer for the trip. Dinner at beer hall in Munich.

19 September 2017

Tuesday 19th Sept Into Germany 🇩🇪 Visit at Black Forest open air museum to see old houses, etc and first slice of Black Forest cake. Then up to mountain top restaurant for lunch then down to Heidelberg for castle visit. It is a ruin, but quite lovely. Quick farm visit to a forestry/ b&b style mini-farm. It was raining though, so old guy invited us in for "schnapps". It was not the butterscotch I was expecting, was 48% rocket fuel!!

18 September 2017

Sunday 17th, Monday 18th Sept Strasbourg, France Strasbourg is on the border in the Alsace region and has changed between being French and German numerous times. This is reflected in its architecture and food. Such a lovely city, we arrived and went straight for a river cruise, then lunch and afternoon walking tour. We unanimously decided to not go on the farm visits the next day in order to have a free day and go exploring. Jim's ear still playing up, he spent a couple of hours on Mon waiting to see a doctor. We enjoyed a Segway tour during the afternoon . Oh, and I ate Frogs legs for lunch - tastes like chicken!!

16 September 2017

Saturday 16th Sept Today we headed from Chantilly towards Reims, in the Champagne region. We stopped in the village where Dom Caudron is produced and went through their museum and processing facility before having tastings with lunch. We were a bit disappointed we didn't go to Veuve Cliquot, but the champagne and food were nice. Later we headed east and stopped at a small farm with a bit of dairy, veal and beef production. The farmer decided after uni that he wanted to be a farmer so bought a farm. This is quite unusual in France as usually they are passed from one generation to the next. Afterwards we continued onto Metz and dinner in the hotel. Metz didn't seem to have much in the way of attractions, more just a place along the way to Strasbourg. Quite a big day of travel today.

15 September 2017

Friday 15th Sept page 2 After the horse visit, I decided to stay in Chantilly to visit the castle and have an afternoon off. Jim went to lunch and for a farm visit which he said was good. The castle was beautiful, the home of the Duke of Aumale who amassed a huge collection of art from all over France. My favourite room was the library filled with thousands of books, including several beautiful examples of illuminated manuscripts. I then wandered around the gardens for a bit then ran into Jane & Peter and had lunch with them. Jane and I then went to the dressage display at the Musee de Cheval, the horse museum which is housed in the Grand Stables, the original stables of Chantilly castle, and just as spectacular. There are still horses stabled and worked there everyday amongst all the visitors. A pretty town, streets all decorated with flags. The Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (French Melbourne Cup) is being held here in 2 weeks (usually at Longchamps but it's being renovated)
Friday 15th Sept This morning we went to horse training facility at Chantilly, a bit like visiting Flemington. I wasn't going to go but most of the group bailed and I felt guilty. So glad I went, we ended up having an amazing experience (except Jim who was off finding a Dr for his ear!) Our guide was an older woman who took us across the training fields where quite a few horses were training. Chantilly has 2500 horses training every day!! We were heading to where a female trainer was running through some gallops and as they finished she took us back to her stables. An amazing complex, it began to dawn on me she was like the Gai Waterhouse of France, with only 5 owners represented (and the odd word 'prince' dropped into the conversation!) and 200 horses in training. We talked to her for over half an hour. Later that night I googled her to discover she is considered the greatest female trainer in the world!! Criquette Head is her name, such a privilege to have met her!

14 September 2017

Thursday 14th Sept Raining on and off quite heavily this morning as we head to Rouen. Most of the girls decide to go shopping whilst the men go to the Port. Jane and I went to a Cafe for hot chocolate but something got lost in translation and we were given a massive cup of dark chocolate 'soup'!! It was very funny. I've actually been doing surprisingly well with my French, conversing with and even translating for the bus driver, and being able to order food and speak to shopkeepers. Not bad considering it's been 33 years!! Had a couple of fun hours exploring the shops and the Rouen cathedral (but walked into a funeral!) Rouen is where Joan of Arc is buried. Drove to the coast and had late lunch in a restaurant right over the beach. Blowing a gale and cold!! Visited flax processing plant in the afternoon, its like a miniature cotton gin. Most of the yarn is exported to China. Then quite a long drive to Chantilly for our next overnight stop. Have enjoyed Normandy, very pretty and green.
Wednesday 13th Sept Another early start as we headed back thru Normandy towards a small village famous for its cheese. They use milk specifically from Norman cows (white and brown spotted) that produce richer milk. We went thru the factory/museum which allowed us to view the process from above. 4 different types of cheeses are produced there including Camembert & Neufchâtel. We tasted all four with fresh baguette and cider. Normandy is also famous for its apples which are used to make cider and Calvados. Lunch back at Caen in a buffet-style cafeteria that actually produced amazing food and was super busy. Spent an hour at D-Day museum then went with guide to visit Sword & Juno beaches, 2 of the 5 landing beaches, as well as Pegasus bridge which featured in "Saving Private Ryan". Also visited Canadian cemetery which was very moving. On to Honfleur at mouth of Seine R. Absolutely beautiful ancient town. Strolled around harbour, dinner in our hotel which was very flash. Good day

13 September 2017

Tuesday 12th Sept On the bus early for first day of farm visits. We headed northwest of a Paris into Normandy. A very pretty region with distinctive houses made of timber and plaster in what I always thought was Tudor style. But it rains, a lot! 1st stop was at a small mixed farm with flax, apples for cider and duck farming for foie gras, very neat and tidy farm. Lunch at a country house restaurant then onto a mixed grain/sugarbeet farm with a great presentation by Laura, a female farmer. She is only child and came back to the farm about 4 years ago. Is also a Nuffield scholar and spoke very good English. Decided they needed to diversify so investigated options. Disregarded flowers, vegetables etc and decided on raspberries. Has made huge investment in infrastructure but is only one of two growers in Normandy and seems to be doing ok. Dec will mark her third yr. Still quite close to Paris so she has a captive market. Onto Bayeux for hotel in a Chateau. Group dinner.

12 September 2017

Monday 11th Sept Free day in Paris. Bought ticket at Place de la Bastille for hop-on hop-off bus and spent day doing exactly that on the 4 different routes. Saw Notre Dame, Champs d'Elysee, Arc de Triomphe and got off above Eiffel Tower and walked down and took photos. Missed the stop to change route so walked thru Jardins de Tuileries then headed towards St Germain. Found a lovely little bistro on a side street for a typical French meal then continued touring. Got off at Galleries Lafayette and bought Jim a jacket then went to Sacre Couer and had drink at cafe in Montmartre then caught bus back to hotel. Luce, the artist with Tourette's was still there! As well as the guy who did your portrait. Joined group for very noisy, boozy dinner at Italian restaurant across the road from hotel. Great day.

11 September 2017

Sorry, haven't updated for ages! Sunday left Positano at 6.30am for 3 hr drive to Rome Airport. Torrential downpour & storms just as we arrived closed airport for few hours. Finally got to Paris and hotel at 6pm. Quick change and off to Moulin Rouge to catch up with rest of the crew. We had dinner then the show, which we really enjoyed. The acrobatic acts were really amazing, a bit like Cirque de Soleil. There was one where they raised a tank of water out of the floor with half a dozen massive boa constrictors and this girl dived in and swam with them!! Crazy!

9 September 2017

Sat 9th Sept Caught the ferry to Capri. Chatting to a Polish guy at the wharf and he suggested what to do, so glad we met him. Got a bus from Marina Grande to Anacapri which was 20 mins up steep and very winding roads, much cooler at the top in the Piazza. We then took the chairlift to Monte Solaro, the highest point of the island, hardly any line up, 13 mins trip, bloody steep but a great view. At the top there's a cafe with deck chairs so we had a vino sitting in the sun. Back in Anacapri main area went for a wander down several back streets, lots of craft and shoes. Took open-top taxi to Capri and had lunch at Hotel La Palma and lined up for gelato at an Artisiniale bakery/gelatteria where the waffle cone was hot off the press. Funicular back to the marina where we asked about a trip to the Blue Grotto but the wait was several hours, I think the best way to do it is directly from Positano. Got the ferry back, walked around the point to the smaller beach to dip my toes in the water.
Thursday 7th Sept Woke to overcast skies and it began to drizzle at breakfast which soon turned into rain and thunderstorms. Very much a leisure day - reading and sleeping. Lazy lunch on hotel deck of wine with cheese platters. Thunderstorms all afternoon and evening. It has been a terrible drought for months over all of Italy, so they would have been pleased to see the rain.

8 September 2017

After lunch, I made Jim walk down from Ravello to Atrani. We took the easier route (not that terrible one via Castigliano) but it still took 50 minutes and I only had sandals on - not the best for constant downhill. We only took a wrong turn once, and then back thru Atrani tunnel to Amalfi for gelato. Also picked up one of the famous Amalfi pastries for later. Just missed the ferry so sat Portside and watched the world go by with a prosecco until catching the last ferry home Mare, is Jen following Journi? I thought I invited her
Friday 8th Sept Woke to clear skies and sunshine. Today we caught the ferry to Amalfi, its such a beautiful view of the coastal cliffs from the sea. We had a look around Amalfi, including inside the Duomo, and yes Mare, it is pretty spectacular (still can't believe we didn't do that!). Walked from there through the tunnel to Atrani, for old times sake. All the chairs are out on the beach and there is lots of traffic. Bought our bus tickets at the little shop downstairs and then, whilst we were waiting for the bus there was an almighty boom which felt as if it could have dislodged a landslide! They were setting off fireworks from a barge just off the Atrani headland which went for almost 10 minutes and reverberated around the small cove. We have no idea if this happens everyday (it was right on 12noon) or it was a one off, but the noise was deafening and would have to terrorise the local dogs and damage the plasterwork in the local houses!

7 September 2017

Continued on to Positano. Our hotel is about halfway up, halfway down. We have a view over the ocean but not quite the main beach. We had a very late lunch at about 3.30pm then went down beachside for a look. Found the shop to buy Mare's shoes, had a gelato and a beer, and then walked back up to our hotel. I lost count at 350steps straight up, definitely feeling it at the end. My "Italy legs" are out of training!

6 September 2017

Wednesday 6th Sept Mostly a travel day. We had a driver, Antonio, pick us up at the hotel. There was no way we would have found our own way out of Rome, it was a tangle of side streets, roads and on-ramps before finally hitting the Autostrade where it is common to fang along at 150kmph+ Antonio was very chatty, but had the Italian tendency to talk with his hands, both hands!, whilst driving! It was a little disconcerting! We'd organised a stop at Herculaneum, or Ercolano as they say, along the way for a private tour. This is an ancient town destroyed along with Pompeii in 79AD. Whilst Pompeii was filled with ash, Herculaneum was covered in lava, which has made the archeological work so much harder. It is all still mostly underneath existing houses, with only about 25% uncovered, and not much more likely to be done. Still, there are obvious streets, shops, houses and civic areas that are very well preserved, and hardly anyone there!

5 September 2017

Tuesday 5th Sept Early start this morning then train to Ottoviano and Vatican Museum. So many people already there at 8am! We booked directly with Vatican, about a third of the cost of going thru Viator. Had a good guide who knew her stuff and 20 in group. Looked at courtyards, statue galleries, tapestry gallery, hall of maps, Raphael rooms, Borgia rooms but soooo many people! Sistine chapel so beautiful but really need to be able to lie on floor and have someone explain it all! She continued tour around St Peters and I learnt/saw a bit more than we had last time. Decided to climb the dome and the line was remarkably small, it only took 1 hour from when we joined the end of it, until we were back down the bottom again. The line just to get into St Peters was right across the square, and has been like that every day! Would be about a 2-3 hr wait! Late lunch in a side street near Vatican

4 September 2017

Really great day today. We headed off early for our bike tour. Got there early and no sign of life, but discovered a branch of the Nonna Vincenzo Sicilian bakery just around the corner (remember that M & J?). Had cappuccino and pastry. Bit worried at bike shop. Old mate had just returned from holiday and was a bit grumpy, but met the guide and turns out the tour was just us two! Bikes not the newest and no helmets offered. I was thinking "this may not end well!)Needn't have worried, we rode all around Rome on mostly side streets and alleys but also some of the busy roads, the other drivers are very patient. Visited Campo Di Fiore, Piazza Navone, rode across Ponte Angelo down to St Peters, past the Vatican, back thru Centro past Parliament, Trevi Fountain, Forum, Monti, Colosseum and lots of lovely little hidden gems that we would never have seen otherwise. 16kms or so and almost 5 hours. Late lunch at local Osteria, slow walk home and siesta. Will go out again to see Rome by night.

3 September 2017

Day 2 (cont) Late lunch in Jewish Ghetto at Nonna Betta which was recommended by food Tour people. Had artichokes Jewish style, hmm, whilst tasty on the inside the outer deep fried leaves were what I imagined eating fried cockroach wings might look and taste like! Jim's choice for afternoon was to do the open top bus tour. I think this was just so he could have a nap! We drove around for a couple of hours, did a loop and a half. Honestly, if you only did this you wouldn't see anything! "To your right is Piazza Navone", but it's at least 4 blocks in on winding streets!! Got off near top of Spanish Steps and walked home. Photo of Teatro Marcelo.
The first Sunday of the month is "free" Sunday where several monuments have free entry. Jim's suggestion to visit "that big round rock" seemed like a good idea until we realised that at least half the tourists in Rome also thought so! We caught the train to Colosseo and disembarked to find the line already snaking its way around the entire block! At least 2 hrs wait. So, like many others, we got conned to join a "skip the line" group for 20€. We asked "how many in the group" "only 20"(there was 50!) and the 'tour' wasn't terribly much, but we were able to do our own thing and join a later group for the Forum tour (70 odd in that 'tour'). Got to explore the colosseum levels (but not underground) and see the exhibition. At noon went to Palatine Hill and Forum. Whilst guide was good he just gave v brief overview (not the full ancient history lesson we had J & M). Again, we were at leisure to tour the site at the end of the tour. Found ourselves in Trajan's Forum before finally exiting.
Day 1 Eating Italy Tour With only 10 of us on the tour (4x US, 4 x Aussies and us) it was a good number, everyone very chatty. 1st stop da Enzo, a family trattoria for melon, prosciutto and soft mozzarella with prosecco. 2nd stop in a very old wine cellar of a restaurant - pork stew and red wine. 3rd stop was a cookie (biscotti) shop for 3 samples, then a nocielliera (pork butcher shop) for formaggio (cheese) samples and porchetta. This was delicious, hot roast pork on crusty bread, with a craft beer chaser. Next was suppli and pizza from a small shop on the street. By now I was full, but we then went to a restaurant and sat down for 2 types of homemade pasta: cace et pepe and amatriciana. Last stop was gelato. A great tour, almost 4 hours. Very footsore, very tired, but a good day. It's a shame my travelling companion is unenthused, uninformed and underwhelmed by the beauty and history of Rome!!
Day 1 (cont) We spent the afternoon wandering across the river and then along the Lungotevere to Castel Sant Angelo to get that great first glimpse of St Peters Basilica, a bit of people watching on the Ponte Sant Angelo then back through Piazza Navone to Tiber Island with first gelato of the stay. Campo Di Fiore was as I remembered with the same funny guy selling vegetable peelers (I bought one last time so didn't succumb again) We had a glass of wine at Tiberino on Tiber Island before meeting the group for our "Eating Italy Twilight Trastevere" tour.

2 September 2017

Day 1 Rome Arrived at Hotel Barocco just after 9.30am and very luckily were able to check in early. After a quick shower we set off to explore. We are at Barberini which is only a ten minute walk from the Spanish Steps. We came in at the top and walked down. They have banned eating and drinking on the steps so not many people are sitting there, especially compared to 4 years ago. From there we walked down Via Condotti to Via del Corso, the Main Street joining Piazza del Popolo in the north to the Victor Emanuel Monument (wedding cake) to the south. We detoured off at one point and just as I said "I think the Pantheon should be around here" suddenly there it was around the next bend. I am as astounded at its incredible architectural beauty now as I was when first seeing it 4 years ago. We then went to Piazza Navone and admired the fountain of the 4 Rivers. Lunch was at a restaurant down a side street, not too bad or touristy but quite pricey, we probably needed to walk another block

1 September 2017

And....we're off!! ✈️

31 August 2017

We're on our way! Moree to Sydney leg done. Testing the Journi app