Friday, 18 January 2013

European Road Trip Day 5 - Venice (Sunday 3rd June)

Today after a quick play in the garden, we set off for Venice, about 45 minutes away from Sarah and Mitch's.
We drove across the bridge onto Venice (I liked the picture on the satnav!), and parked in an underground car park near Piazza Roma. We were there by about 9.30am.
The weather forecast was for rain showers, but I was so happy because it was partly hazy, partly blue skies all day! It felt good to be in Venice, and just soaking everything up!
We wandered around all the main sites and bridges, with no major plan.
I like all the 'love lock's attached to the wooden Accademia Bridge.
Not far from the Accademia, we popped briefly into this hall where Scott and I had been to a Vivaldi concert, when we were here a few years ago. I love the area around here, and have very happy memories of sitting on a bench with Scott, in hot sunshine, watching some local kids play football. It was good to be back!
We enjoyed wandering along the narrow streets...
...and finding the next little bridge with a gondola slipping by.
St. Mark's Square. Hard believe I was once the only person standing in this square! (It was late at night in the middle of an extremely heavy rain storm!)
Another of my favourites - the pink Venetian glass lamps.
We then went up the Campanile (8 Euros each) to see the views over Venice. Harry looks overjoyed, waiting to go up!
Harry looking out to San Giorgio Maggiore. Scott and I had gone up the church tower, and looked back over to Venice when we came before.
We didn't spend ages up the Campanile, because as you can probably tell from the photo below, Harry needed the toilet... (which we eventually found, and cost us 1.50 Euros each!)
The bridge of Sighs.
For lunch we got pizza and pressed sandwiches, and ate them in a little square.
Then the most important bit - choosing what flavours to have in a 3 scoop gelato.
We ate them on the steps by a quiet bit of canal.
We then headed to the busiest part of Venice - the area around the Rialto Bridge, on the Grand Canal. We listened to some musicians for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, and a tie for Scott, then sat by the canal for a while, and soaked in the sights and bustle and sunshine - loved it!!
(Kind of half hoping one of them would fall in!)
Lucy's photo in a mirrored window...
We then wandered slowly through the quieter streets back towards the car, letting Harry and Tom lead the way. It was just so nice to be taking in the special atmosphere - sometimes coming to a dead end against a canal, coming across wonderful little scenes - a solitary gondola quietly going down a picturesque bit of canal, the unique little bridges, flowers on buildings, hilariously narrow alley ways, even the day-to-day real life scruffy parts of Venice too. I was glad that the kids were all really enjoying it - and 'got it'.
Before we went back to the car, we just had a lay down in the sun in a little park area - reluctant to leave Venice, but too exhausted to do any more!
Driving back, near Vicenza.
We got back to Sarah's by about 3.30pm. The kids all went and played, Scott had a rest, and Sarah and I filled in more gaps in our lives - how we met our husbands etc, and chatted 'craft stuff'. Sarah had cooked for us again, and the kids didn't go to bed late, then we talked around the dining table till about 9pm. At about 9.30pm, Scott and I were in our room - I was downloading some photos, and Scott was reading in bed, when I felt some shaking, and a moment later there was a longer, stronger shaking - an earthquake! It lasted for a few seconds, but I was a bit worried - about the kids, and if there would be more, and stronger ones. There had been a few earthquakes in Italy the week before we came on holiday - and that had certainly been on my mind, especially when we had been going up the Campanile in Venice. I had said a prayer, asking for safety. Anyway, I went to bed a bit worried, but quickly fell asleep, and had a good night's sleep.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

European Road Trip Day 4 - Castle Neuschwanstein, Austria and Italy (Saturday 2nd June 2012)

Had a good night's sleep, got the car packed up and had set off by 8.40am. We went to the carparks at the bottom of Castle Neuschwanstein, bought tickets, then walked up a winding mountain path through forest, up to the castle.
After feeling disappointed with the view of the castle yesterday, when we got up the hill today and saw it from the other side, it looked as cool as heck!! The mountains surrounding it, and the views all around were impressive too. We hung around outside for a while, standing on the slightly scary over-hanging viewing platform.
It was a long way down!
We then went in the courtyard, and waited for our guided tour to begin.
View from the courtyard - we went and stood on that bridge in the background later on!
We couldn't take photos inside the palace rooms, but the guided tour was really good! It didn't last too long (and actually lots of the rooms in the castle have never been done up, and aren't used).We learnt about the king who had it built (Ludwig II), and all about his sad story - his love of building castle, and of swans, and his death at a young age not long after the castle was built in 1886. It's a pretty modern castle and was even built with central heating (and swans everywhere!) Harry bought a soft toy swan in the gift shop.
After that we walked along a path, which had a great view of another nearby castle - Schloss Hohenschwangau, and took us to a ravine with the bridge over.
Standing on the scary bridge.
It was quite high up!
We then walked back down the mountain a different way, and set off for Italy (via Austria again - 3rd time this holiday!) Yummy lunch in the car!
In Austria, just over the German border, we hit a traffic jam, and moved 7 miles in over 1.5 hours. (Half of the road was being excavated.) We seriously could not complain about the view or the weather though!
Early on in the traffic jam, when we were on a bridge, we happened to see a helicopter rescue going on, with people on the outside of the helicopter, winching someone up into it.
We finally got moving at about 1.30pm, and still had 4.5 hours of driving ahead of us to our Italian destination. 
The Austrian Alps were beautiful. Snow capped mountains, meadows with more of my little huts, cows with cowbells...
We also drove past Innsbruck, and saw the ski jump used in various Olympics.
About 20 miles south of Innsbruck, we went through the Brenner Pass, on the border with Italy. Some good bridges! Lucy gave us the statistics that so far we had been on holiday for 75 hours, 36 minutes, and we spent 3 hours, 25 minutes in Austria today.
It was funny to notice the almost immediate changes in the style of buildings once we were in Italy.
We ended driving for 6 hours straight, and it was fine - didn't really seem that long. The kids were good. Here's Harry with his swan from Neuschwanstein, and his journal.
I'd also seen the idea on Pinterest to dry out blobs of watercolour paint onto sheets of paper, and then the kids could use them to paint with like a mini palette, with the use of a water-filled paint brush. Here's Harry painting a volcano.
Definitely Italian looking! Snapped this out the window (like all of the journey pictures), but I really like it. (You can click on any picture to see it enlarged.)
Our destination in Italy was the house of an old Secondary School friend - Sarah. Her American husband works for the military, and they live near Vicenza. We had lost touch for ages, but then found each other again through Facebook. Sarah and I met up in Nottingham more recently - both our sets of parents still live a few streets apart, in the houses which Sarah and I grew up in.
Sarah had prepared a lovely meal for us, and we had a relaxed evening chatting. It was just great seeing her again, and getting to know Mitch a bit, and their children.
Sarah and Mitch have two lovely kids - Zoe (6) and Jake (8). Our kids all got on well, and went off and played together. Their house is pretty big, and they live mainly upstairs - all marble floors and balconies. Harry and Tom slept in Jake's room, Lucy and Jack slept in the downstairs living room (though Zoe really wanted Lucy to sleep in with her!), and Scott and I had a lovely guest bedroom.