Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Viggo's Blog - My Woman Suffers From Rock Star Delusions!

Hi fans, Viggo here.

See this cap? It's Daniël's.
Who the heck is Daniël, you may wonder? Well, he is the boyfriend of the darling daughter of my woman. So far so good. I like his caps, they smell good, as does he.
Said Daniël has done a terrible thing! He's convinced my woman, who is approaching her dotage as far as I'm concerned, that she can still be a rock star.
I've tried everything to dissuade her. I bite her when she but looks at that red bass she has bought last week. I go and sit on her, so she can't play. I cry. I wail. I howl. I ram my nails into her legs. Nothing works!

Yesterday they wrote a song together. I ask you! He's done the guitar, she's written the lyrics and she sings them, and today they've spent hours trying to find an appropriate drum- and bass-line for the monstrosity.
I pity our neighbour (mind you, that woman shouts so loud into her phone that the entire hood can follow her fights with her Mum...not nice at all).

What can a cat do to get his woman to behave in a manner suitable to his status? I don't know... I think I may be getting a tad depressed now.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Viggo's Blog: Viggo Is Not Amused!

Hi fans, Viggo here.

I'll have you know that I am mightily pissed off with my woman.
Not only has she taken herself off to Northern Italy without me, but she has returned without bringing me any of that speck she writes to you about AND she has gained another two kilos on the way.
I will have to take measures.
This morning I made my feelings on the matter quite plain by coming into her bed soaking wet (the weather here in The Wetlands resembles nothing less than a permanent rainstorm) and telling her exactly what I think about her. At 5 am.
Serves her right, the old hag.
Not a morsel of sheep's cheese. NO CARPACCIO...

Take that picture down! That's undignified! Don't take photos of me when I'm enjoying a drink, woman!!!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Val di Sole - How Soon Can I Move There? (Road Trip Part 2)

The crossing into Italy at Nauders is uneventful. Not a border guard in sight. Only sky, a few food/souvenir shops and plenty of cyclists. When you drive to Italy, prepare yourself for bicycle racers sweating their way up or hurtling their way down the mountain passes! Most of them seem to have a death wish, or at least that's how it looked to me.

We had no stomach for a terribly far ride, so looked on the map and decided to stop at twin lakes near S. Valentino (1470 m). The campsite we chose was on the bank of the second, somewhat smaller lake, the Haidersee (or Lago della Muta in Italian) and yet again it was a nice, quiet, clean spot with wonderful bathrooms and a tennis court (the 6 tennis enthusiasts in our company of 7 were chuffed I can tell you!).
S. Valentino turned out to be a nice cross between Austrian efficiency and Italian joy for life. Its people are bilingual, which comes in handy when your Italian is limited to 'pronto',  'pizza Napolitano' and 'chiao, bello!'.

But another great thing about S. Valentino is that only 500 meters from the campsite it has a cable car going up the mountain; up up up you go to 3100 something meters. From there you can choose between going even further up (on foot) to a little lake and eternal snow, or down via varied paths, ranging from a fast 1 hour downhill one to leisurely 5 hours ones snaking down the mountain through flower dotted meadows filled with sweet brown cows and through leafy woods.

Needless to say we took the long way down, checking in at a dairy-cum-eatery around noon halfway down, where the entire family worked their lederhosen off to keep everyone in huge beers and platters of homemade cheese and speck (bacon).

The views are breathtaking, but at the same time it is absolutely doable, even for such a handicapped walker like myself (my frame has issues I will spare you the details about).
We met plenty of other hikers; entire families with young kids, but old folk as well, and (as usual) plenty of mountain bikers who had trails especially for themselves.
The last leg of the hike was along the lake, which looked ever so inviting by that time, but is not suited for swimming due to the many rocks and the icy cold water.

We left S. Valentino after two days. Our aim was the Val di Sole simply because someone had told us that the three passes we needed to cross to get there were rated as the most beautiful passes of Italy (according to Top Gear the Passo dello Stelvio 2757 m. is  the best scenic mountain pass of Europe). family and friends assured me they were. I was totally freaked out by the narrowness, the sheer hundreds of meters drops without any railings and the fact that other  cars could not pass our Volkswagen Transporter, but had to anyway (necessitating them to reverse to a point where they could - madness). Those eight hours driving (we took the Passo di Gavia 2621 m. as well) were not my favorite part of this road trip!
But I braved the road a couple of times when we stopped and I took the photos. I hope you'll appreciate them!

Just when my holiday mood had sunk to an all-time low, we entered the most gorgeous valley I have ever seen, with small villages dotted on both sides as far as the eye could see. The mountain range we crossed is called the Cevedale and from our campsite  (aptly called Cevedale) in Ossana (pop. 863) we saw both this range and the Presanella, both capped with snow.

For hikers, this must be Paradise. For me, struggling stumbling wanna-be hiker, it was stunning. But I was very happy to simply enjoy a leisurely walk from Ossana to the next village along Pellizzano, where there was a biological farmers market, and back along the fast river Noce, waving at the rafters along the way.

Those villages stole my heart. In fact, the entire valley stole my heart. Every village has its own Municipale, its own school and its own post office and a wonderful bakery, butcher and cheese shop cum wine shop. What else does a person need to grow old gracefully?
No discos, no nightclubs, no high-rises, a few restaurants. Almost every house its own vegetable and herb garden. Cows. A few horses. A bleating goat here and there.

I'm going to be saving up! This is where I want to spend my last years, after I've retired from my school when I'm 70 or so. The villager's English was atrocious to nonexistent, so I'll have a golden future there.

My route:
180 Nauders (Austria) to SS40 S. Valentino (Italy)
SS40 S. Valentino to Spondigna
SS38 to Bórmio
SS300 to Ponte di Legno
SS42 to Ossana - last campsite

All photos ©RenéeKoopman

Val di Sole - How Soon Can I Move There? (Road Trip Part 1)

Last May I treated myself to a holiday in Rome. For some unfathomed reason Italy had always escaped and resisted my travel bug...But Rome has changed that for good.
So it was with great anticipation that we let our noses lead us through Bavaria and Austria to the border crossing at Nauders.
But first things first.
Now, you should understand something about me: I am not a natural car traveller. Me being behind the wheel, okay, I can handle that. But someone else...mwah. Let's say I tend to get a little nervous. Especially when speeds exceed 120 kms (and in Germany on the Autobahn they usually do! - except when there is a Stau)
But the landscape provided plenty of diversion. Germany is absolutely very pleasant to look at. Even when your son is doing 190.
Being used to French and Greek campsites (read: either huge, crowded, relatively clean and expensive or small, not expensive, uncrowded and relatively dirty) the ones we stayed at in Germany and Austria were a revelation. 

Our first one was the Sportcamping Schwarzwald near Calw. You leave the autobahn at Pforzheim and instant relaxation is your due. If you are not fussy about there being absolutely nothing in the village, this is a wonderful spot to unwind. There is a huge, beautiful pool next door, and on the campsite itself an unpretentious cafe served us the best salad I've had in ages. The population was either grey and quiet or very sporty and quiet. We met a fellow Dutch family who were cycling to Northern Italy with two kids under 6 in front on their bicycles and their tent on the back. Jeez, respect!

The second campsite was Camping Elbsee, near Aitrach direction of Kempten  in Bavaria.
As the name tells you, it is situated on the banks of a lake, the Elbsee, an ancient moorsee dating from the time Germany was covered by ice. Nowadays it is protected nature, and is surrounded by farmland. On an early morning walk around this lake (2 hours) we met deer, foxes, and overhead saw numerous birds of prey. Do bring your mosquito repellant though, all that water and bogland  and the many domesticated cows around breed a lot of creepy crawlies with wings and sharp stingers.

It is a lovely campsite, with clean, luxury bathrooms and a lot of funny art all around the site. It also boasts a great restaurant right at the lakeside.

The last campsite I will point out to you in this first part of my travels is the one outside Nauders, Austria.
We landed there by mistake; another site we wanted to stay at was fully booked, so we drove on towards the Italian border and saw a gas station cum campsite 500 meters before the border crossing. It looked very basic, but beggars cannot be choosers, right? To our amazement the shower rooms were great, clean and with as much free hot water as we desired. As the weather had taken a turn for the worse, this was lovely.
Baking our sausages in the drizzle somehow has no appeal to us, so we walked back to Nauders, a very pleasant downhill walk towards a 12th century castle-cum-restaurant. The only creatures we met during this one hour walk were a couple of cyclists (every present in this part of Europe!), some shy cows and a cuddly Berner Senner dog who did his best to pretent to guard his farm, but who flopped down on my feet to be petted.

Ah...what goes down must be trotted back up as well...One and a half hours hiking back in the drizzle gave us a very wholesome feeling; all that great food we ate surely had been well digested!

In Part 2 I'll tell you about our journey into Italy.

My route:
 Hellevoetsluis - A67 Venlo
61 to Koblenz
E44 to join the E35/3 to Frankfurt
E35/5 to Pforzheim
463 to Calw - 1st campsite
295 to Stuttgart
E52/8 to Ulm
E43/7 to Kempten
but after Memmingen the 11 to Aitrach - Elbsee - 2nd campsite
7 to Füssen
179 to Nassereith
189 to Imst
A12/E60 to Landeck
180 to Nauders (1394 m) - 3rd campsite

All photos ©RenéeKoopman