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Recently we were invited to yet another birthday celebration, by our friends Anna and Santo.  Santo is originally from Sicily and misses his birthplace greatly.  How I would like to visit Sicily one day.

These festivities were for their daughter little Isabel who was 5 years old.

(Just 55 years younger than poor old Kay and Elsie !!! but my time will come when I am 60 in a couple of years time – where does the time go !!!)

Isabel is a little “sweet heart” and very comical !!!

Here I think I will let the photos do the talking ….

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Happy Birthday Isabel and may you have many, many more happy ones !!!

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Thank you for inviting us to share this special day with you and your lovely family. Dear friends, my dream is that one day you will be able to meet my family too.

 Auguri !!!

I hope you like the photos.

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A few days after Elsie’s party a couple more good friends arrived from Cardiff, Nicki and Callum, who had volunteered to help out for a week in the “Tre Cancelle” olive groves.  This was their second visit to Itri. 

Sadly this year once again we had no olives.  It is not just us, though, it is the same in many of the olive groves in Itri, because there were strong winds back in early May when the trees are in bloom and the flowers failed to set. 

We have recently got some workers in to help with some pruning in the lower section of the grove, and they had left behind piles of branches and twigs that littered the ground. 

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The job in hand was then to chomp out and separate the chunky branches from the smaller twiggy ones, called “frasche”, using pneumatically powered secateurs.

Then all the small branches have to be gathered up and burned.

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The burn ferociously because of the amount of oil in the sap.

We all got stuck in and worked our cotton socks off for several days and managed to clear several of the terraces.  In fact it became a quite a challenge as to how many terraces we could conquer.   Callum is only 14 but he worked so hard. Nicki you should be so proud of him.

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However, it wasn’t all work and no play that week.

We all went out for a special birthday meal at the “Casareccia” in Campodimele and were joined once again by our American friends from Ohio, Florisa and Patrizia.

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Once again Maria served up copious amounts of wonderful handmade delicacies.

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Callum is a keen young cook and whilst staying at Tre Cancelle he made a fabulous chocolate cake.

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You can come and stay again Callum !!!

On their last evening we took Callum, Nicki and Kay to the Bellavista.

Here Callum had a one to one lesson in art of pizza making, by the expert himself – Massimo !!!

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It’s not as easy as it looks !!!  It is all about stretching the dough.

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Callum made a special pizza for his mum ……

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10640987_10204396131097029_3836549291719371199_nNicki, Anna and Kay

Thank you Kay, Callum and Nicki

for all your support and hard work during that busy week. 

We couldn’t have done it without you !!!

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In November, to celebrate Elsie’s milestone birthday, Elsie, Kay and another friend Brenda decided to take a few days holiday in Sicily, a place Elsie had always longed to visit.  They rented a small apartment in the centre of Palermo and experienced first hand Sicilian life in this hectic city. On Elsie’s birthday Kay organised a sight seeing trip in a traditional horse drawn carriage, followed by a special meal.

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They also managed to fit in a day trip to the seaside resort of Cefalù.

lthough it was November the weather was beautifully warm and Brenda was able to have a paddle in the sea.

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Meanwhile back in Itri I was busy preparing a surprise birthday party for Elsie at the Bellavista restaurant with some live music by our friends Santo and Anna.

Elsie was really shocked as she entered the room as assembled were many of our friends from Itri and some other American friends from Minturno.

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Florisa and I had baked a special cake.

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The next day was to be my friend Florisa’s birthday, so after midnight we celebrated hers too.

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Thanks to everyone for making it such a memorable joyous occasion.

Photos by Kay McRobbie

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La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta stands in Piazza Marconi, in the centre of the historic old town.

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The Church was decorated in preparation for the up and coming celebrations of the Feast Day of San Marco (1st October), Atina’s patron saint.

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Some of us chose to attend Mass at the Cathedral.

Me, Louise, lighting a candle for my mother in the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, Atina.

P1290682aAfter Mass Monsignor Domenico very kindly agreed to give us a guided tour of the Cattedrale.

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The church was founded in the 11th century on the site of an ancient Roman temple dedicated to the god Saturn.  At this time the church was dedicated to St John The Baptist, you can see a statue of St John on the exterior facade of the church, located in a niche flanked by the bell towers.

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The remains of the martyr San Marco were deposited there.  In 1280 the church was enlarged  In 1349 the town of Atina and the church were destroyed in a devastating earthquake.  In 1405 a bell tower with four bells was erected. By the 16th century it had three chapels dedicated to SS Rosario, St John the Baptist and St Joseph and later more were added to SS Crocifisso and the Madonna of Loreto.

In 1743 the remains of the martyr San Fortunato were deposited there and in 1725 it was decided to totally renovate and expand the the structure including the construction of the dome,  the renovation works took approximately 20 years.  1746 the new church was reconsecrated and dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and given her name, In 1798 the church was further adorned with the noble facade with two bell towers and in the first half of the 19th century the artist Teodoro Mancini of Atina painted the interior of the dome and the vault of the central nave. In 1873 the building was struck once again by an earthquake which caused the need for major reparations and further enhancements to the structure were included and then on the 3 May 1878 it was deemed to grant the church the higher status of a cathedral.

Since then the Cathedral has withstood the further serious earthquakes of 1915 and 1984.

The church we see today is decorated in an ornate Baroque style.  Monsignor Domenico Simeone showed us the beautiful altar intricately inlaid with multi-coloured pieces of marble in the Napolitan style, similar to work in the Abbey of Montecassino.

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The main Altar of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta.

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The painting of the Assumption above the main altar

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The beautifully carved wooden Choir Stalls

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The Statue of Atina’s main patron saint, San Marco, and the Altar of the Cattedrale

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The Pulpit and the Confessional

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The Baptismal Font –

Many of our Atina ancestors may well have been baptised here.

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Some of the beautiful side Altars and Chapels

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Painting of the Last Supper

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I would just like to add that it was here in this chapel in October 2005 that my parents, Tina and Hugh, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by renewing their vows.  It was a very touching experience and a very special occasion.

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Sadly they have  since both passed away.  How I miss them so.

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Returning to the Cathedral – The ornate gilded dome and ceiling.

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Looking towards the rear of the church and the organ.

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A Fresco of St John the Baptist.

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Ornate Baroque Plasterwork and Gold Leaf.

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The organ which was built in 1737 by the Catarinozzi family.

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An ornate sarcophagus.

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During WWII and the heavy bombing of Atina by the Allies in 1943, the Cathedral was seriously damaged, the dome was destroyed and several works of art were also lost. In addition, sadly some paintings by the artist Luigi Velpi were stolen from the Cathedral in recent years.

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A big thank you to Monsignor Domenico Simeone who gave us a wonderful tour of the beautiful Cathedral, in perfect English.

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

 

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Some while ago I started a new group on Facebook, an English speaking Group for people who share my passion for beautiful Atina and the Val di Comino and who have family roots firmly planted in this beautiful little town in Frosinone, Italy.  The group is called: “WE LOVE ATINA !!!” We now have reached a total of over 400 members.

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Brigida Varley and I organised a “Get Together” of “We Love Atina” members in Bella Atina over the weekend of the 26th / 27th / 28th September 2014.

On the Friday afternoon Paul and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Mark and Jan Waldron and Mark’s cousin Peter in Ponte Melfa, in Atina Inferiore.

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On the Friday evening we met up at the bar near the Arco and the new fountain for drinks, so we could begin to get to know each other, and what a lovely bunch of people they were.

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley,  Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise

Paula Demarco, Delfa Macari, Trevor and Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard and her father Enrico Battaglia, and me Louise

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Trevor & Brigida Varley, Wark Waldron

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Gina Pollard, Mary Gilmour and Enrico Battaglia

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Brigida Varley, Mark and Jan Waldron, Gina Pollard

After some discussion we decided that we would go back down to Ponte Melfa to the Villa Fortuna, a hotel and restaurant run by a friendly couple – Marcello and Christiana.  On Friday night they do a Fish and Chip Supper which went down a treat.

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The Hotel Villa Fortuna’s Website

 

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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During the summer months the population of Itri swells with holiday visitors and as families that emigrated abroad return to their beloved home town.  Many come to attend Itri’s July festival which is held in honour of its patron, “La Madonna della Cività”.

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The festival always culminates in a splendid firework display which emanates from the magnificent castle that dominates the old medieval quarter.

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During July and August Itri holds a whole host of events and this year we ventured to see the “Festa Medievale” which was also held up in the old historic part of town.  We arrived early, however the streets were already jammed with cars heading for the festival, and parking spaces were at a premium.  So we decided to park in the lower part of town and continue by making our way on foot.

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The old town is a warren of narrow cobble stone streets, archways, gates and stairways.  It is full of interesting nooks and crannies, there is something of interest around every corner.

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Detail of the Bell Tower of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore

 

In the main square traditional games had been set up to entertain the children.

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By the castle there was a display of falconry with live birds of prey – Such exquisite creatures.

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As we wandered through the narrow alleyways amongst the jostling crowd we came across local folk dressed in Medieval costumes, acting as feudal lords, courtiers, swordsmen, archers, flag throwers and street musicians.

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There were also stalls selling traditional gastronomic delights and arts and crafts …..

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and an exhibition of gruesome implements of torture.

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The authentic atmosphere of Itri’s historic old town was just perfect for such an event and I think an enjoyable evening was had by all.

 

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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Ferragosto” falls on the 15th August and is to celebrate the feast of the Assumption.  It is roughly equivalent to the British August Bank Holiday, and when the whole of Italy grinds to a halt.  In more affluent times many Italians would take the whole of the month of August as their holiday, still many shops and business post up notices “Chiuso Per Ferie”, meaning closed for the holidays. However in these days, with the present problems and the “crisi” in Italy many families can only afford to take a week or so as holidays, some only a day or two around Ferragosto

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Augustus Pontifex Maximus

It’s name is derived from the Latin phrase “Feriae Augusti” as  its origins date right back to pre-Christian times when the emperor Octavian Augustus declared the period to be a a day of rest back in 18 BC.  Other Roman summer festivals included the “Vinalia Rustica” or the “Consualia” which celebrated the harvest and the successful end of the agricultural season.

Italians spend Ferragosto celebrating with family and friends and always a large meal is somehow included. This year we were very kindly invited to join our friends Pauline and Filippo, who also live in the countryside around Itri.  This is the view from their house.

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It seemed that most of their family were also invited. 

These lovely ladies are in their late 80’s !!!

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Of course there is always an animated conversion.

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Preparing the Barbecue

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Of course, it goes without saying, that there were copious amounts of delicious food …..

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By the end of it we were fit for bursting !!!

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Then it was somebody’s great idea to start again and to go and make some more !!!

“Mamma Mia !!!”

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“Pizze Fritte”

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“Mangia !!!”

Thank you to Pauline and Filippo and all the family for including us in their Ferragosto celebrations.

Happy Holidays !!!

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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Augustus in 18 BC.

 

August 15 was a Pagan holiday.

It was an absolute delight to have my cousins Cathy and Jeff come and stay with us during the month of June. They had left Australia to visit family in the UK and spend to some time in Wales, a place Cathy loves dearly, where her parents were both born.  Then prior to coming to us they had spent a couple of weeks on a farm in Umbria visiting old friends and helping to look after their flock of sheep.  When they arrived here at Tre Cancelle they came with a wonderful Peccorino cheese which was utterly delicious.

It had been 16  long years since we had seen Cathy.  These photos were taken on her last visit with her mother. Sadly Aunty Betty is now is in her 90’s and in a nursing home.

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Aunty Betty and Cathy on their last visit

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Cathy doing her Boadicea impression !!!

However it seemed like no time had passed at all as we all got on so well.  Their visit coincided with that of our most frequent visitors, namely Kay and Elsie who are  always good fun to be around.

My Aunty Betty and Uncle John had decided to emigrate to Australia in the 1960’s at the time when there was a scheme which encouraged the British to relocate to Australia.  They were enticed by promises of employment and housing, a more relaxed lifestyle and a better climate.  For the assisted passage adults had to pay just £10 each and children traveled for free.  Such families became known as the “ten pound poms”.   

I can remember that they came to stay with us at Woodside before the set off on their new adventure.

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Andrew, me Louise and Cathy

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Cathy, Andrew and me Louise

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Me Louise, Cathy, Andrew

What an incredible experience it must have been for my cousins travelling around the world by ship. 

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The family eventually settled in Melbourne and there they made a good life for themselves.

So, back to the present …………..

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Cathy

Cathy is a superb cook and was keen to get into the kitchen. 

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She produced the most wonderful vegetable lasagne that I have ever tasted.  “Delizioso !!!” “Squisito !!!”  “Brava!!!

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Indeed we enjoyed some wonderful meals together out on the terrace “al fresco“.

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Jeff is a very talented artist and he took me and Elsie up to the Bellavista, where there is a marvellous view of Itri and its ancient castle, to do some sketching – it was really enjoyable.

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This is Jeff’s finished sketch.  Just Beautiful !!!

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 This is another that he did of the view from our terrace.

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Cathy and Jeff, Kay and Elsie kindly helped us around the place, weeding and watering the veggie patch, even helping to bath some of the dogs.

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One day we drove down to the nearby coastline and we showed them some of the wonderous delights that  Sperlonga offers.  This is one of my favourite places and I always make sure I have my camera at the ready.

Looking down to the Grotto of Tiberius

and the Roman excavations and Museum.

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Sperlonga’s beautiful sandy Levante Beach

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We came across a newly wedded couple who were having their photos taken in the romantic setting of the old town.

Che principessa !!!

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One evening we all went out to our preferred little restaurant that is tucked away in Campodimele – The “Casareccia”. 

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Elsie and cousin “Caterina”

 

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Me, Paul and Kay

Maria’s dishes never fail to satisfy us.

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Jeff

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Bella “Caterina”

So Cathy and Jeff, please don’t leave it another 16 years before we get to see you again. 

We really hope it will be much sooner than that !!!

All photos by me

© Louise Shapcott (NonnaLou)

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 A Guest Blog by Kay McRobbie and Elsie Phillips

 

Over a year ago (in 2013) Elsie and I had discussed what 2014 was going to be like for the 2 of us ………. it was going to be a Biggy !!!

Our birthdays !!!  Mine in July and Elsie’s in October………we had, somehow, managed to reach the ripe old age of 60 !!!

 

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We decided then and there we would like to do something

before we reached that milestone age.

THE ROAD TRIP was born !!!

I started planning as soon as we knew how long we could be away from work/home etc. 3 weeks was all we could allow, so we got maps out and each decided what we really wanted to see. We knew straight away that the 2nd week of our trip would be spent re-charging our batteries at a place that both Elsie and I love, “Tre Cancelle”. Elsie worked out the route for us as I prepared the car, my trusty Clio. Sorting out the kit you have to have when you drive abroad, all insurances etc etc. To anyone reading this, Halfords do a check list which helps a lot. I hadn’t done anything like this before but Elsie had, back in the 70’s. Elsie neglected to tell me she had done a similar route back then and it had taken 3 MONTHS !!! We did it in 3 WEEKS !!!

Monday 26th May, 8am…ish – BARRY, SOUTH WALES TO CAEN, FRANCE

Left Barry to go to Penarth to pick Elsie up. From Elsie’s we go through the outskirts of Cardiff on to Newport Road up to St Mellons, to Kirsten’s house to say “ta-ra”. We drove to Portsmouth to get the 3pm ferry to Caen, France. After many hours on the ferry, which included an on board quiz, which Elsie and I won!!! we arrived at the F1 hotel, which was very basic but clean, the only thing we didn’t like was the fact we had to pad down the corridor in our PJ’s to the shower and toilet. Free wi-fi though – so we were able to plan our next day, which ended up not being as relaxing as we’d first thought.

Tuesday 27th May – TOULOUSE, FRANCE

We had arranged to meet my son Martyn in Toulouse for dinner. I think it was an 8 hour drive almost non stop. Elsie did take over the driving for a short distance, but she was better at sorting the route out so we changed back to me driving and Elsie telling me which road to take.  We arrived here later than planned at about 7pm…ish. Martyn had been delayed in a meeting anyway, so it was OK. So it had been a hectic 8 hour drive with not much sight-seeing, only as we drove past. Martyn came in a taxi to pick us up to take us into the town centre, where we had a beautiful dinner (very expensive) and we had a long walk around Toulouse centre, Martyn knows his way around as he comes here almost every week with work. Again we stayed in a F1 hotel.

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Wednesday 28th May -CARCASSONNE to FREJUS

We had booked a hotel in Frejus, not F1 but it was another cheap one.We only had a 2hr…ish drive to Carcassonne so that was good, although I was beginning to feel extra tired. We had a lazy walk around and had lunch and then Elsie wanted to go into the castle, which I ducked out of and stayed in the car to try and sleep. Then another long drive to Frejus, we got lost trying to find the hotel, my fear of going round roundabouts the wrong way was soon conquered !!!  I did get used to going round the same ones more than once !!!

Thursday 29th May – MONACO to SOVANA, ITALY

Fairly early start that day, I was so excited!  I knew one of my many dreams was going to come true this day, and it did BIG TIME!!  It was everything I had dreamed about and more!  Even seeing road signs with St Tropez and Nice made me tingle!  I was like a big kid!  When we got into Monte Carlo…..OMG!!!   To be able to drive the Grand Prix circuit, the grandstands were still up as the race had taken place the previous weekend. So I was Nigel Mansel, Damon Hill, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.

 

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We sat in a roadside cafe, people watching, my fave pastime!  We had a cup of tea and a piece of cake – 22 euros!!!  But I didn’t care!  The stuff dreams are made of !!!

We saw the memorial gardens where it was all about Princess Grace, there were footprints cast in the pavement of famous people.

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We had booked into a bit more of an up-market hotel in Sovana – well just outside.  So by now we were just over the border into Italy! We arrived here early evening, settled into the hotel and on advise we walked down the road to a restaurant, quite a smallish place with a conservatory across the front. There was a couple with a child and another couple sat eating. We sat in the conservatory too. We discovered that there was one man running the whole show, he was barman, chef and waiter. Very jolly. Then we thought he had put a CD on, but as it turned out it was him singing!!  He did a good job of doing a Pavarotti !!!

Friday 30th May – LIVORNO, Italy

Early start again as we were supposed to be meeting friends in Livorno for lunch. It was very hot and we were up in the mountains. If we went through one tunnel through the mountains we went through ……. well I really cant remember how many, but it was a lot!   The scenery was amazing everywhere we went!  Due to some mix up with data on my phone we didn’t get the messages we were supposed to, so ended up not seeing our friends, so therefore we didn’t know exactly where we would be sleeping that night.  But it all became clear thanks to Elsie working out a route and judging how long it would take!  So a very long drive later, approx 12 HOURS, we arrived a night early to our “Secondi Casa” TRE CANCELLE!  We sat down to dinner at about 11pm.

BUT WE HAD DONE IT !!!

We had driven to Italy, where Elsie could sleep in and not have me shaking her to get the show on the road !!!

A week of rest and relaxation.

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Having fun in the pool !!!
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We had a fabulous, relaxing week at Tre Cancelle, where Louise’s Australian cousins turned up and made our week more relaxing and it was very enjoyable to meet other guests staying too, who were very friendly couple from south of England.
Louise, Paul Annette, Steve, Elsie, Jeff and Cathy
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Ready for the drive back home.
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My trusty Clio.
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All systems go !!!
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Saturday 7th June  – SIENA, Italy
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We set off on our travels early…ish, with the intention of getting to our hotel in Siena at a reasonable time. Elsie had had a week off from looking at and reading maps so as we got higher up the road we took a slight wrong turn!!!  But Wow!  Are we pleased we did – Tuscany is so beautiful, the countryside, everything is just fab! I would defo love to go back there.
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We still did get to Siena quite early, so we were able to have a good old wander round. There was a sports themed event going on, so lots to see. A very pleasant meal we had too. The hotel was very nice and our room did have an en suite!
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Sunday June 8th and Monday 9th June – VENICE, Italy

Early start, this was going to be one of those days for me!  Eyes wide, mouth open days in wonder of the most amazing places that I had only dreamed about / read about /seen on TV!  Another place to cross off the bucket list – The wonder of VENICE !!!  I wasn’t disappointed. The hotel was just outside Venice and they did a shuttle bus to the waters edge.  We had only booked one night’s stay here but when we arrived at the hotel we asked if we could stay the next night too and we did.  So next morning we got the 9.30 shuttle bus and arrived in the centre of Venice about 20 minutes later. WOW !!!

 

18h.

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St Marks Square took my breath away, the fancy restaurants and shops all around the edge, come lunch time an orchestra appeared and serenaded the diners.It was all I had expected and more!
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18g.
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We jumped on and off the river boat buses.  We saw places I had only seen in pictures etc.
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Tuesday 10th June – KEMPTEN, Germany.

One whole day in Venice wasn’t really long enough, but we had to think quick as to when we would eventually get the ferry home and where from ……. :(  It was going to be a problem getting the ferry on a Friday or Saturday, so it had to be on the Thursday and it looked like Dunkirk was the place to head for.  So Elsie concentrated on the route and I drove.  We drove through tunnels, over mountains and saw some amazing houses and castles.

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I can’t remember what order but we drove through Innsbrook, we didn’t go into Switzerland, up to Germany where we treated ourselves to a really nice hotel in Kempten.  The room was fab and posh, very modern although it didn’t look like it from the outside.  This is where I’ve pinched some of the ideas for my garden at home, silver balls, solar lights etc.  We had a lovely meal in the hotel, in fact we didn’t go out of the hotel at all.

 

Wednesday 11th June – DUNKIRK

Early start so as to get to Dunkirk that night for early ferry on Thursday morning :( .    We hadn’t booked the ferry so we decided we would just turn up and hope for the best.  Anyway again we drove through some amazing countryside but this is the problem we had, because we were on such a tight schedule, that’s all we did was drive through places.  We did stop to take pics of the cuckoo clock houses but not for long.

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We drove through Belgium but we did a longish stop in Luxembourg because we knew that everything here was mega cheap!  Diesel for the car was something like 70p a gallon!!!  We had timed it right to fill up the car!   Then we arrived in Dunkirk, OMG!  It was deserted and very grotty!  It took us ages to find where we were staying, and it was a bit of a shock!  It could only be described as “student accommodation”!  A room in a shared house!  Still it served a purpose.  We went for a walk to try and find something to eat, bearing in mind this was about 10pm !!!  We found a back street pub that very kindly made us a sandwich. we were the only customers in the pub!!!  We were straight on the wi-fi to book a ferry when we got back to our room.  We decided to get the ferry from  Calais to Dover at 10am…ish because we really didn’t like Dunkirk.

Thursday 12th June – CALAIS to CARDIFF

Well this was it!  The end was nigh!  A very early start to join the queue for the ferry at Calais, we sat watching men trying to climb into the back of lorries and when police started arriving they all tried escaping but some didn’t quite make it!

Then the hour long trip on the ferry.

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Next the very long drive to Cardiff, South Wales,  arriving at Elsie’s about 4pm.

Finally me taking myself home to Barry.

 

I enjoyed the trip very much, I’d never done anything like it before

and I would do it again,

but I think Elsie would disagree.

We are still great friends though – so that says something in itself  !!!

 

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Kay celebrating her 60th Birthday in July

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Some birthday flowers for “Aunty Kay” from Emma and Aneurin.

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