Sunday, 16th April, 2017
Happy new week. A nice, sunny morning although not over warm. I sat in the garden to read my newspaper although it is rather awkward mixing sun with an iPad screen. Pauline was in the kitchen preparing a leg of lamb with a herb crust to be slow-cooked and then to be eaten this afternoon. All around, families are out walking in the sunshine with kids on scooters and Dads in shorts. Time to stay at home and dream of Europe.
Bologna is too far to drive this afternoon but will be on our route this summer and I was looking for a nice hotel when I came up with this photo. It seems criminal that anywhere can be allowed to look this beautiful. We are hoping to stay in Genoa, Lucca, Bologna on the way out and Modena, Parma, Piacenza on the way back.
The intention is to drive to Italy via the South of France route stopping at Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin and then to return up the route we have used 30 or more times – the E35 past Milan and round Lakes Como, Lugano and Maggiore into Switzerland to Bellinzona and Lucerne on the way back calling at Mulhouse in Alsace. The planning is, of course, half the fun although I am struggling to make decisions about hotels this year which is why I keep going on about it.
Monday, 17th April, 2017
It’s 12C/54F here but feels chilly in the breeze. I received a text messager from my skinny, little sister – Lizzie Dripping – this morning suggesting that I resist driving through Europe this summer and take a Shearings coach tour to the Italian Lakes instead. She has clearly spent too much of her career working with old people.! Actually, we don’t really understand why the Italian Lakes are so prized. As destinations in themselves, they are fairly tawdry and fraying around the edges. To a previous generation who were unaccustomed to easy, European travel, they may have represented ‘refined abroad’ but we are stayed in hotels around the lakes en route to other destinations and not been over enamoured. We certainly haven’t enjoyed Swiss hotels at all.
Liz sent me this picture of a nesting duck in Chiswick House grounds. I received it while I was out shopping – for a 1.5 Tog Quilt. Our house is so hot, we are struggling to sleep. We went to our nearby Dunelm to buy a new Quilt. Just be chance as we were getting out of the car in their carpark, a beautiful, big, fat, brown rabbit casually loped by and browsed the grass and leaves. It seemed totally unconcerned by us as I frantically searched for my mobile phone to take a photo. By the time I found it, the rabbit, sensing that I am a roast rabbit fan, had begun to look for safety. This is the only reason that my photo is less composed that that from Liz.
Tuesday, 18th April, 2017
Gorgeous day of sunshine and blue sky. Spent the morning outside doing a full valet of the car. Went to the gym at 1.00 pm for a couple of hours. Worked out in an idle moment that we do about 50 Km each week which is reasonable. Wonder how much we did when we were working?
General Election in UK called even though it is not in the gift of the Prime Minister to call. It will become a re-run of the Brexit Referendum and a measure of how opinion has moved in the past few months. Many of us who would vote for an inanimate brick if it promised to vote against Brexit settlements, welcome this opportunity to make our voices heard. We will be looking for a grand electoral pact between Labour / Lib.Dems. / Greens / Scots. Nats. to force a re-think.The Tories could well have miscalculated and it will be our job to ensure they have! The election is dated June 8th. The best tweet of the day said, June will see the end of May!
Wednesday, 19th April, 2017
A day which looks much nicer than it feels. Blue sky and sunshine over a temperature which was 4C/39F at 7.00 am and has only reached 11C/52F at mid-afternoon. We went out early to Worthing sea front to collect an order from M&S and then Pauline went on to the hairdressers. I sloped off to Café Nero for an hour’s people watching and coffee.
Last time we did this, I went to Costa Coffee but was very dissatisfied with it. The Wi-Fi was strong but the coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed. The Café Nero was even worse. The coffee was poor and the furniture was Spartan and uncleansed but the Wi-Fi was poor also. I will stay in Waitrose coffee shop next time.
The pound sterling appreciated this morning against the news of a General Election. It moved to £1.00 = €1.19 for the first time since the Brexit calamity. I took the chance to buy an extra £1000.00 of Euros from my Forex company. As I did so, I checked my transaction history and was surprised to find that I bought £3000.00 of euros in 2012 at a rate of £1.00 = €117.50. It just shows how these rates don’t move very far although not so many years ago, we were buying at £1.00 = €1.42 which would be nice to see now.
Thursday, 20th April, 2017
Cold start to a beautiful day. Blue sky, strong sun moving from 2C/36F to 15C/59F over the day. It was shopping day which meant visiting Asda, Sainsburys and Tescos as well as Argos and Wickes within the span of 2 hrs. As we drove home, we came across a couple of blue-lighted police cars and a large group of men standing on a traffic roundabout which featured a car on its roof. Later, we heard that an elderly motorist had hit the curb and flipped over on to the roundabout with the road being closed for over an hour.
After unpacking and relaxing with a cup of coffee as we digested the Labour Leader’s election presentation, we set off for the Health Club. The gym has been completely refurbished with new equipment after closure for a fortnight. It is really good. We did almost 2 hrs of exercise including swimming in the outdoor pool and it was almost 3hrs door to door as we arrived home.
Friday, 21st April, 2017
The day starterd off grey but mild and went on to become bright, sunny and warm at 16C/61F. We went down to the beach to buy fish. The hut was crowded with customers which is always a good sign. Local Turbot, lovely, large, wild Sea Bass and locally caught Dover Sole (which seems a contradiction in terms) will feature on our plates over the next few days. The beach is just delightfully relaxing. Tourists could be seen wandering around with pots of Winkles and huge, fat gulls hung around hopefully.
We were supposed to be going to the Health Club but I was aching so much after yesterday that I ducked it at the last minute. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times I go to the gym, my recovery period doesn’t seem to be improving. It’s annoying!
Saturday, 22nd April, 2017
Lovely, warm and sunny day that reached 15C/59F. After Breakfast, I decided to be decisive and book all the hotels on our European drive out and back. We will go:
Coquelles, Reims, Dijon, Lyon, Turin, Genoa, Lucca, Bologna, Bellinzona, Mulhouse, Reims, Coquelles
over the month of July. I have used IHG hotels because their quality is reliable and I am a member but, where necessary, I have sourced additional hotels through Booking.com with whom I am also a member. Booking.com give me reductions on prices because of my membership and regular usage. IGH hotels give me points and I had enough to book 3 of the nights with breakfast free of charge which saved me over £300.00/€360.00.
Because we are going out down the Southern route – A6, A7, A43 – we will be visiting and exploring places we have never been to before like Genoa and Lucca. We will take our time and stay in each place for a number of nights so that we can explore neighbouring areas. For example, we will use Lucca as a base to explore Tuscany and, in doing so, explore places for long-term-let next year or even purchase.
We don’t want the large house that we had in Greece but a small apartment which we could use as a base for a few years would be interesting. Pauline describes it as an extended hotel room where we can cook and store our belongings. It is nice to have those options in our retirement. Actually, in the late 1970s and early 1980s when we were first travelling to Greece, we would both have preferred Italy but it was so expensive then. To buy or build a house would have been prohibitive. Not so now. In spite of the £/€ rate, prices are much more accessible in Italy now.