Motorhome holiday in Italy…

A motorhome holiday in Italy was Adam’s parents holiday they would most like to experience as part of their 60th wedding anniversary celebrations.  We have visited Italy many times in our VW camper van so relished the idea of returning and sharing some of our favourite places in Italy with them.

So off we went with a vague plan for a motorhome holiday in Italy.

After picking up the motorhome (from Hertz in Lyon) and filling it with all of our plates, bedding, provisions and our two man tent for us to sleep in we set off south for a day in Provence.

A wander into the nearest town to search for local wine and a morning coffee brought us to a beautiful tranquil squareA day in provence peacefuland made us linger a little longer than planned as the beautiful light, colours and stylish, Provence locals distracted and intrigued our group of people watchers. A day in provence styleWine rack stocked with Provence Rosé next stop Italy.

We drove via Piemonte and one of favourite places for motorhome stops in Italy, a basic campsite in an olive grove just outside of the lovely hill town of Olivetta San Michele (which has a fabulous food shop with home made savoury pastries!)motorhome holiday italy piemonte

Finally the motorhome holiday in Italy started fully.  Along the coast though and into Tuscany for a few days of amazing home-made pasta and of course some lovely Chianti wines.motorhome holiday in italy pasta

During our stay in Chianti, on a walk to the local town of Marcialla we found a fantastic delicatessen selling wines produced on the surrounding hills.  You could buy the wine to take home or, for the same price, chilled to enjoy on their terrace with a view.  We couldn’t resist!motorhome holiday italy chianti

On this motorhome holiday in Italy, as always, we had so many amazing food experiences, too many to mention here.  One in particular was in Umbria; a wonderful foodie find with the local food shop in Civatella del Lago.foodie motorhome holiday Italy

During our ten days in Italy we managed to get as far south as one of our favourite places, Paestum, and treated Adam’s parents to Mozzeralla direct from the buffala farm and a beer by the Greek ruinsten day motorhome holiday Italy Pastum

We were half way through holiday time and so time to head north and towards home.

Herculaneum was far too busy and hot for us to wander around this time unfortunately but it was fascinating to stay above and see the ancient and modern cities together.Motorhome holiday Italy Herculaneum

Stopping at Solfatara campsite just outside of Naples was a steamy and smelly as alwaysitaly motorhome holiday Solfatara

and a little more challenging getting in to and out of the campsite in our motorhome versus our VW campervanIMG_4606

One final stop in Italy, parking the motorhome down a tiny street in Courmayeur and finding a great local restaurant (one we hadn’t found on any of our ski trips in winter), a great find with amazing views.IMG_2157

Ten days was not really enough in Italy in the motorhome but we managed to share some of our favourite places and find a few new ones that we will be sure to revisit on our next motorhome holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gower holiday, close to nature

Memorable Gower holiday close to nature

Our recent Gower holiday was made all the more memorable with our days spent close to nature.

Before the hours of daylight got too short and the days a little too chilly to sit for hours, by the crashing waves, watching the end of a fishing rod we planned a short holiday for a few days of fishing on the Gower peninsula.

We started each day of adventure and exploration before the sun rose above the horizon and meandered back late each evening.  Every day memorable in its own way and each with new discoveries about Gower.

We had fished off breathtaking Rhossili Bay beach before and know you can reach the small headland at Burry Holms and some great, quiet fishing spots but only at low tide. High tide was 7.30am that day so to get over to the headland and back safely before then meant an early start…Peaceful Rhossili bay beach to Worms Head Gower

The 5am alarm was certainly a memorable part of our holiday; jolting us out of a deep sleep in this peaceful place on Gower.  We thought about snoozing but knew that getting up in time to see the sunrise over Rhossili Bay would be more memorable than a lazy morning.

We were far from disappointed; even stepping out of the cottage in the lane, where few street lights pollute the sky, the stars were bright in the still black and clear sky.

After a walk through the dunes in the twilight we were rewarded with a truly beautiful and memorable sunrise over the Gower coast and along deserted Rhossili Bay.Stars at sunrise Rhossili beach Burry Holms Gower

As we sat, mesmerised, on the rocky outcrop at Burry Holms we both gasped as we spotted an otter peak out from the rocks below then sprint across the sand.  The returning tide was just starting to wash our foot prints away on the beach where the otter dived into the waves lapping on the sand.  We were both so excited to be so close to nature and to share such a memorable experience.Fishing at sunrise Rhossili Gower

Finally with bait in the water we were joined by other natives and were close to nature again when a couple of seals popped their heads above the waves just in front of us.  The seals were certainly more interested in our fishing rods and bait than any fish and for the next few hours followed us to each new fishing mark.

The morning was one of the most beautiful and memorable on our Gower holiday even despite the lack of fish.

We explored the paths to Worms Head in the afternoon.  A crisp clear day meant the view from the coast walk of Rhossili Bay beach towards Burry Holms was spectacular and certainly will be memorable.Beautiful deserted Rhossili Bay Beach Gower

Another twilight walk along the long winding path from Rhossili village to the National coast watch hut, looking out to the causeway to Worms Head, we explored the various beautiful bays along this stunning part of the Gower coast.Walking Gower coast path

Each day different paths, different rocky outcrops, different vistas, always a wonderful sunrise.  Each day also the same attention from the seals which equally amused and frustrated but made each day unique and overall a very memorable holiday on The Gower peninsula.Gower seals enjoy fishing

We gave up fishing and instead enjoyed a few pints of locally brewed Gower Gold ale, delicious and dangerously quaffable.  In the pub we got a few handy tips for fishing spots and bait from the locals that Adam put in his memory banks for next time.

Yet again Gower amazed us; a small corner of Wales where the stunning coastline helped us to experience a very memorable Gower holiday and enjoy, as we always do, being close to nature.Memorable Gower holiday close to nature Gower seals

 

 

Life at a difference pace in Lumbarda, Croatia

Though it doesn’t come naturally and didn’t feel right we felt we should try life at a different pace, a slower pace for just a while and Lumbarda in Croatia was the place to try it. We both notice how we tend to live and travel at a fast pace and we recognise we can skim over and past places rather than taking the time to get under the skin of a place, to get to know it better.

We are hungry for adventure and new discoveries yet at the same time wanted a place that would force a more relaxed pace of life and to have adventure and discovery on a smaller and different scale to normal.

Living in flip flops but attached to our laptops our requirement was; a place where we could connect easily to balance work with wonderful views, sea to swim, places to walk or jog, enjoy great food and wine and generally enjoy getting to know the place and perhaps ourselves a little better.  A tall order but we were confident that Lumbarda, on Korcula island in Croatia, could fit the bill.

Lumbered Harbour Croatia

Sonja at Camp Vela Postrana greeted us with tired looking eyes but a big smile, the summer had been busy and very hot and she admitted she was happy but exhausted. She was pleased we had returned In September, her favourite month when everything was all a little quieter, the sea was warmer and she said with enthusiasm brightening her eyes ‘you’ll see the sea and the sky are different colours, it’s beautiful!’

At the camp site we had wifi and views to the mountains on the Peljasac peninsula, it is staggering distance to places to eat and drink and a short meander to the sea in pretty much every direction.

For several days we woke to blue skies and had a run up through the vineyards or along the coastline to the next bay. One of us would pick up breakfast at the bakers on the home straight; we found that you have to get to the tiny shop before 10am or she sells out. Once we figured out the required routine we enjoyed some wonderful fresh bread and local pastries like Burek Sir (a little like the Greek cheese pie Tyrikopita) and, after a few visits, even a welcoming smile from the shy lady.

In the summer we had seen tiny pips of grapes emerging in the vineyards and now large bunches of red and white grapes weighed down every branch. One morning we were overtaken by a tractor and several scooters laden with empty crates as families busily began to harvest the white grapes. Having waited and watched patiently all summer it seemed the whole town was out lending a hand and joining in the jovial chatter as crate after crate emerged from the leafy rows covering the hillside.

Walking through Vineyards Croatia

As we walked back down lane on our way home we were surprised when one of the men called to us and beckoned us over. The smile creasing his rugged and weathered face showed he was pleased with their harvest as he passed us each a bunch of grapes straight from the vine. We enjoyed our little piece of the harvest as we strolled down the lane; tiny, juicy and delicious you could taste the flavor of very local and unique Grk white wine that these grapes will create.

The following day on our jog we saw the harvest was complete and the vineyards were quiet again. We skipped breakfast planning to enjoy a lunch of local cheese, Prsut (Croatian Proscuittio) and Grk wine at the Posip winery as we had last visit however the terrace, normally set up for hungry and intrigued tourists to taste their wonderful local produce, was completely taken over by crates of grapes and shiny grape crushing equipment. The man who had passed us the grapes the day before didn’t mind breaking off his work to pour us a glass of everything they make including some wonderful fig liquor.

Lumbarda sunset croatia

Croatians can come across as quite austere and, at first at least, don’t seem friendly because they don’t seem to smile very often or be very chatty. Perhaps this impression can be explained more by shyness and the difficulty of trying to make conversation in several European languages depending on who decides to take a seat at your table. Germans, Italians and English seem to be the most numerous visitors and you very rarely hear anyone trying to speak even a little Croatian. More often than not once you break the ice with a few, probably very badly pronounced, words of Croatian and a smile of your own they warm up and normally happy to teach you a few more words so that you can surprise the next person you meet.

Croatian cypress avenue church KorculaSo after chatting for a while with the men at Posip winery, using English, a little terrible Croatian and basic German, we bought several bottles of Grk white wine (which may or may not make it all the way back to the UK before we enjoy them) and we left with a warm glow inside and out.

We found it surprisingly easy to settle in to a routine and leisurely pace of life in Lumbarda…most days we wandered along the coastal promenade for a swim drying off in the afternoon sun.

We explored to the very tip of the island and spent an afternoon lazing in the quiet bay by the light house where an unmarked memorial cross made an unusual foreground to the coastal view…

Lighthouse lumbarda

We walked and, much to our own amazement, on another day jogged the 8 mile round trip into Korcula old town and back.

Korcula old town Croatia

We were warmly welcomed back to restaurants we had visited before and discovered new places where the food, the views and the welcome were equally amenable.

We enjoyed live music in the bar by the harbour that attracted more locals than tourists and spent quiet evenings, just the two of us, by our camper van, never boring of the inky black night sky. We listened to the murmur of the village across the field knowing that most of the chat and laughter was that of locals not the very few tourists who were lucky enough to choose September in Lumbarda.

Our little Mediterranean oasis had not disappointed and before we knew it a week had disappeared!

Enjoying our harvest of fruit and time…

After our travels in Europe, we promised ourselves a little time to simply sit (reasonably) still and enjoy our house and garden, enjoying our harvest of fruit and time I suppose.  Since we enjoyed most of the last year with the house as a building site, living a tent in the garden, and of course the last couple of months living in our camper van this time within four walls would be quite novel.

As you may gather from our previous blogs we do not find sitting still particularly easy; we are most relaxed making, doing or seeing something however we are always open to new experiences so we thought we’d give it a go.

It’s been great to take time to reflect and look back, thinking about where we were this time last year with all possible mod cons in our cosy tent in a corner of the garden…

building site camping

watching the house transform from 60’s bungalow to building site (this is the view from our tent in August last year) as we enjoyed the harvest of plums each morning from our trees hanging directly above the door of our tent…

Building site view last year

and eventually to the contemporary home that we had envisaged when we first set out on this adventure (the view from where the tents were now)…

renovated house view oxfordshire 2015

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying this time and space spending a whole afternoon in the garden picking plums and the evening eating or stewing our bountiful harvest of fruit…

Picking Green gages for cheese plate

Our garden was previously part of a priory orchard and therefore we are privileged to have several plum and apple trees as well as an ancient pear tree – sadly no longer producing fruit but a striking looking gentleman who looks like he is protecting the younger fruit trees with his gnarly old arms…

Dendritic Ancient pear tree

It took time but we got a great fruit harvest; Victoria, Mirabelle, Damsons, Greengages and wonderful yellow and pink ones (bottom left), delicately sweet with a wonderful soft texture, that we don’t know the name of (answers on a postcard please!) …

fruit harvest

We then spent a day bottling last year’s Damson Gin (and drinking a little of in our very own Gin / wine tasting), stewing (and eating) many of the plums we had harvested.  With our creative juices flowing as freely as the plum juices we then spent several hours cooking our favourite, delicious curries to enjoy that evening.  We walked off our bountiful feasts over the the following days with peaceful walks across the fields and around our stunning and mesmerising local town of Oxford.

Damson gin and curry

Admittedly we haven’t quite managed to simply still still but, from our point of view, these few days have been a very decadent but much needed and healthy (emotionally and physically) use of our fruit and time.

The little wine oasis of Lumbarda, Croatia

Our rule of not going back to the same place twice has been broken again and with great results.

We stumbled across Lumbarda on the island of Korcula in Croatia, accessed via the stunning peninsula of Peljasac last year and because of our brief but wonderful experience there, we recommended it to friends for their holiday this year.

A small town with a strong sense of community and evident pride in their locality and all it produces from traditional music and dance to wonderful white wines, from fresh fish and tasty cheeses to melt in the mouth meat stews, Lumbarda and the neighboring medieval town of Korcula did not disappoint on our second visit.

The approach via the Peljasac peninsula is easy from the mainland, we travelled south passing through a curious strip of Bosnian coast, unavoidable but most welcome, with a great lunch of spit roast lamb and Cevapici at a little road side grill.

Road side grill in Bosnia

Lunch in Bosnia

Back in Croatia and onto Peljasac we avoided the tourist trap/mussel farms at Ston that we had unfortunately trapped us in on our last visit and found extremely disappointing (though admitted later that that the amazing fort there would probably make a great mooching day).  We tried to find the winery making and selling our favourite Peljasac red wine (a 15.6% Dingac with amazing fig, nutmeg and date aromas) but after driving up and down a few narrow tracks, a weathered local told us that they do not sell direct to the public anymore and so the next supermarket had to suffice.

Fertile plains near coast in Croatia

We were amazed again at the landscape of Peljasac, so vast, hilly and verdant with vineyards and olive groves in every direction yet still leaving room for wild, untouched valleys (where signed frequently warn you may see wild boar crossing!) and saving the best, most spectacular views, till the end as you drop down into Orebic.

Wild boar crossing

Orebic, our destination for the ferry to Korcula, a funny balance of lilo carrying, sun-worshipping tourists, enthusiastic windsurfers and busy locals.   Anthony Boy camping was the last option after we had investigated all others but actually turned out to be the best spot, great views of Korcula across the bay, right by the sea and lots of space for everyone. A lesson to us not to be put off places by their name!

Korcula from Orebic

We were excited and apprehensive about returning to Lumbarda but we needn’t have been at all, Sanja at Mela Postrano camping, remembered us and welcomed us again to their sunny field, peppered with olive trees and the very occasional motorhome drifting through. One star camping just as we like it, a bit like wild camping but with toilets.

Midnight drinks by the van in Lumbarda

The next few days we became so relaxed and rejuvenated by the place and the weather, we actually managed to get up and run each morning. This enabled us to see more of the locality than we saw last time. The lighthouse looking out to Mljet island, the next bay along with a nice Botnia Targa 44 motor cruiser and of course the lovely beaches, quite special before anyone arrived.

In the evenings, a national holiday meant we were treated to several charming local events, that despite being tailored for the tourists, were clearly taken very seriously and enjoyed most by the local community.  Delivered with immense pride and organisation: traditional dancing, by what seemed like the whole town, on one evening, traditional music on another, the summer Friday fisherman’s market and live music at the Beach bar on Saturday. The local band played a contemporary mix of passionate Croatian songs and some we knew, our hearts and legs finally felt like dancing.

Traditional dancers at Lumbarda

In the heart of Lumbarda is a an expanse of vineyards that produce a wonderful white wine called Grk. It’s served everywhere in Lumbarda and nowhere else, seemingly extremely restricted to the locality (the restaurants in Korcula just 4 miles away cannot sell it and none of the supermarkets sold it).  For me it is a little like Chenin Blanc, vanilla, rosemary and a little hint of oak, it really is very special. We drank it with a Lumbarda pizza with goats cheese and anchovies, all an unlikely but amazing combination and another lunchtime in a winery looking out across the vineyards to the sea and mainland mountains beyond, we enjoyed it with Prsut (Dalmatian smoked ham) and Dalmatian smoked goats cheese.

Beautiful sunset at Lumbarda

Lumbarda will always be one of our places, the clear blue water, the variety of vistas to absorb you, the food and wine, the people and the easiness of being there. I’m sure we will break our rule again.