Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our Summer Holiday

I was sorting out some photos when I thought I would do a blog of our summer hols.

It was coming to the end of July when we realised we hadn't made any plans for our summer holiday and decided on the spur of the moment to take the children to the South of France where Domenico and I lived for 2 years and then on to Spain. As accomodation gets rather pricey for four of us we took the plunge and bought a cheap camper van off Ebay in the UK. We were really lucky and dealt with a lovely honest chap from Surrey. As this was the first time we had ever tried campervanning we had no idea what to expect, though we liked the thought of being free to go where ever we wanted.


Domenico flew to London to pick up 'Steve' (the camper) and prepared to travel down France ( a 1st for him without me to navigate!) and DJ and I piled the car full of bedding, clothes and kitchen stuff to meet up with him in Nice. All went well, DJ and I arrived on time and met up with Angelo (Domenico's brother who lives in Nice) and we were all to meet up with Domenico in a restaurant that evening. It was there we got the SOS text- 'Help I've run out of petrol, I'm in the french Alps (God knows what he was doing there as I told him to stick to the autostrada), 30km from Nice, beside a river near such and such town!!' Well I knew it was too good to be true. From what we were told the area where he stopped was treacherous mountain roads, so we were tossing with the idea of just leaving him as he did have a bed and kitchen facilities! In the end we decided to go and save him as we thought he wasn't too far away. Thats when the fun really started. We arrived at the gas station to get some petrol for the camper but when I put the car key in the boot to open it, the key snapped and Domenico had the spare on his key ring. The car was stuck at the petrol pumps blocking everyone as the power steering had locked and which ever position we pushed the car it left no room. In the end the nice chap at the gas station let us use his car to try and track down Domenico in the mountains and retrieve the spare key. It was all to no avail as he had no reception on his phone, and he wasn't where we thought he would be,so we arrived back at 5am in the morning and called a tow truck to take the car away. At 8am in the morning I got a call from Domenico saying he had arrived in Nice, after finding petrol nearby.It was such a relief and we went to retrieve the car from the towing people, who actually kindly let us keep the car there for a few weeks while we travelled in the Camper.

The first couple of days we stayed around Nice and Villfranche, before heading to St Raphael along the most amazing red rocked Esteral coast road with crystal clear waters.

Villefranche



The Esteral Coastline

Sunset Port St Raphael

We quickly learnt that we were better off staying away from the big towns as there was no where to park the Camper and we didn't want to stay in campsites which were just so overcrowded.
It was
really nice being back in France and didn't take too long before my french came back, it was a bit of a cocktail for the first few days though.The french are certainly a lot more respectful than the Italians and were very polite. It was nice to experience great customer service again which is pretty much non existent in Rome.

Liana arrived 5 days later by train and we made a quick detour back to Nice to pick her up. We quickly told her the camper rules, as with such a small space this was important, it didn't help matters that she bought just about everything with her!

We did the next stint on the autostrada until we came to Montpellier then headed cross country to the coast, through the Camargue region where the wild horses roam and then on to Cap D'agde.I remember this resort town from when I went on holiday as a young girl, though now it was not very nice, a bit run down and tacky, so we only stopped off one night.

The next day we headed to Spain by the coast road, it was really stunning though hair raising driving along the cliff roads, my toes and fingers were so sore afterwards with keeping them clenched. It was funny arriving in Spain as we were all mute when we went to get supplies from the supermarket. Even Domenico who knows some Spanish couldn't get the words out, so we were speaking italian and adding an 's' onto the end of each word hoping it would sound right.Little did we know that the grammar is totally different to Italian.

Whilst driving through the spanish villages we came across several 'hole in the wall' Fire roasted chicken joints. The chicken was absolutely irrisistable, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary. The queues outside proved the popularity with the locals.

Fire Roasted Chickens

Barcelona was our next stop, an amazing lively city which really functions well and is so easy to walk around, with so much to see and do. Unfortunately it was not very camper friendly and we only stayed one night as we were broken into.The bloody thieves took off with my laptop (which I had hidden), our soap and beach bag, leaving behind Liana's Ipod and the mobile phones. I was so peeved off as I lost so many photos which I hadn't backed up.We would really like to return in the winter to see more of the city and will definetely fly next time.


The next day we headed to Sitges, this we later found out is Spains main Gay resort, a gorgeous town and beachfront, lots of quaint streets and funky cafes/ restaurants as well as LOTS of gays.DJ and Liana went out one night and DJ couldn't get over how happy everyone was, though after a while he said he started to feel a bit uncomfortable.When we arrived in Sitges we had to sit out the biggest storm which went on throughout the night, I have never experienced gales like it, really frightening, though the next day the waves were awesome.

Sitges Beachfront
Sitges


Liana & DJ and the amazing waves
We spent about a week in Spain before heading back along the French coast stopping in St Tropez for a few days.This place is oozing wealth, and is extremely expensive, so we avoided the main town. The port was full of boats bigger than the buildings, we could just stand and drool. We found a beach area about 2km long just outside, made up of private and public areas,and a lovely camping area just for campervans right on the beach.

This old dear was parading up and down with just a piece of string around her bum, I think she thought she was still 20 not 80 .
Beignets sur la plage
This pooch was loving the sea
Liana & DJ St Tropez
The Port St Tropez
The rest of the hols were spent back near Nice and Monte Carlo and we showed Liana and DJ the areas we lived and where we worked (the same staff are still working there after 20 years).

Nice

End of our holiday,Domenico & I sur la Promenade Des Anglais
About 5000km later we arrived back in Rome after a fabulous adventure and have decided that campervanning is a great way to travel. We are hoping that the next trip will be to Morroco though next time we will put the camper on the ferry over to Spain.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Reflecting

One of the biggest adjustments I have made since moving to Italy is coming to terms with how much my days have slowed down and in some cases come to a complete standstill, with boredom setting in.
I have always been a spontaneous person doing things on impulse, though that just never happens as the opening hours of shops, businesses etc. dictate when I am able to do something.
I was always on the move physically and mentally and I thrived on it. I have been throwing ideas around for starting my own business, things that work overseas, but I just know that trying to do it here would be an impossibility due to the resistance of change. So now I try and fulfill my days helping my husband with the business.

A typical week day for me in New Zealand was:
-7am- Wake up and head to the pool for one hour of training
-9am- Head to work, food prep, making sure all of the catering orders are met by their deadlines, accounts etc…
-4pm-Leave work and go to a 90 minutes Bikram Yoga class (3 times week)
-7pm- Stop off at the supermarket before heading home to make dinner for the kids
-10pm- Crash into bed ready to do it all again the next day.

I was lucky that the kids were at an age to get themselves to and from school, and I that being self employed I could leave work if I had emergencies, appointments etc.
I certainly looked forward to the weekends though.

A typical day in Italy is:
-8am- Wake up, make brekky and take it back to bed
-9am- If I am feeling in the mood, I go to the gym
-11am- Pick up groceries before heading home and spending time at the computer
-1pm- Lunch
-2pm- More computer and getting accounts etc. done for the business
-4pm- Sometimes I have a nap, then more computer
-7pm- Make dinner
-10pm- Bed.
Of course some days I go into Rome for a stroll and to pick my Asian goodies up from the market, and at the weekends we try and take trips out of town.

I have to keep telling myself to remember the days in NZ when I wished I could just stop working for a while and recharge my batteries. Though I don’t think I anticipated coming to a stand still.

I suppose at the end of the day it is all about finding the right balance between work,family and leisure time, I’m sure one day I will find it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back To The Gym

The start of a new week and I eventually got my act together and dragged myself back to the gym.
It has been three months now without exercise and all the bits that I managed to tone up at the beginning of the year have started to wobble again. Sometimes I wonder why I bother, though usually after a couple of weeks I am back on track again.

I am not usually a big fan of gyms, preferring to do my exercise running or training in the pool, but I feel I have been forced to do so as it is too dangerous to run around here with the traffic and I get bored running around the park. We have a local pool too but it is so unorganised and quite gross.
I was really suprised when I walked into the gym today as it had all been renovated, it was already brand spanking new when I started so I don't know what the story is there, they must be making lots of money!
So I did a gentle workout and felt awesome afterwards, a great way to start the day and I really must try and keep it up. Story of my life!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Frascati

It is a year today that we moved into our apartment in Frascati. Why did we choose Frascati you may well ask?
-Well we wanted to be near to Rome, we are only a 20 minute train ride into Termini, 10 minutes
from Ciampino Airport and 30 minutes to Fiumicino
-As it is in the Albano Hills we seem to be above the smog level of Rome
-It is definately cooler in the summer, though the down side of that is it is also colder in the winter
-All conveniences are within walking distance

-Fresh Veg/ Fruit market Monday- Saturday, as well as several butchers, delicatessens, bakeries.
-Handy to the other towns of the Castelli Romani.

Villa Aldobrandini
Cattedrale Di San Pietro
Villa Torlonia from our terraceView over the Castelli Romani from Tuscola


Although we have a fabulous apartment with wonderful views, living in the heart of Frascati does have its down side. The noise is the main thing that gets to me, though I suppose that is a part of Italian living.

- The constant traffic and honking, people who dont talk but shout, especially between the hours of 2am and 5am in the morning. Why they cannot just converse with each other without letting the whole world know is beyond me!
-The street cleaning truck that wakes me every morning FAR TOO EARLY.
-The lack of free car parking, I think we could of bought a new car with the amount of parking fines we have paid over the past year!
-The mass of people and teenagers from all over Rome who all congregate to Frascati on a Saturday evening to hang out. This makes going out a nightmare.

I do really think it is a lovely town despite my moans and groans, but inevitably I would like to move into the countryside, as I am a country girl at heart. The only problem is convincing my husband who loves city life and being around people. I will have to work on that!

Friday, September 15, 2006

A Wee bit of history

I was born and raised in the UK, before emigrating to New Zealand with my family at 18.
After 6 months I headed to the South Of France to live with my future Italian husband who I met before leaving the UK at the ripe young age of 16.
After living and working in France for 2 years we headed back to NZ, as I was expecting my first baby.
Twenty years later, after having had another 2 children and opening several Restaurants/ Deli's in NZ and Australia, we decided to make the move back to Italy and have been here for 18 months now.
There has been a great deal of adjusting to do, coping with beaurocracy and archaeic systems, as well as trying to perfect the language and starting a business, but we are getting there.
We decided to avoid the hospitality industry and have instead been importing Stainless Steel Gas Barbeques which are very much a part of the NZ and Australian culture.The interest so far has been very positive.
I have been amazed also at how well the children (16 and 18 ) have adjusted, the eldest daughter stayed in NZ to work in TV.
So we shall see what the coming year has in store for us..........

Up and Running

Oh boy, it has taken for ever but I think I have finally figured out how to use this site.
After constantly reading everyone elses Blogs I have taken the plunge and started my own.
I have been finding lately that I have had so many thoughts in my head that I need an outlet for them.

As my passion is food, alot will be food related as well as the usual ups and downs of adjusting to my days in Italy.
My favourite food in Italy has to be:

Fresh Buffalo Mozzzarella, Sweet Pacchino Tomatoes, Fresh Basilico