Turin , Balzano to Venice then on to Slovenia and Croatia.
  • Day20

    How steep was it?

    June 3 in Croatia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Hello from Porec , Croatia.

    On Thursday, June 2nd we left Trieste very early hoping to catch a ferry south down the coast to Muggia. After a 1/2 hour in line someone told us that the ferry had been cancelled as it was a bank holiday. Mike asked but no one seemed to know what the holiday was about. Now, call me silly, but we expect extra ferries on holidays in BC - but evidently not in Italy. Change of plans - we had to cycle out of Trieste - through ++ industrial areas including by the Illy coffee plant - which is based there. Unfortunately, Mike caught a wheel in one of the tram tracks in town and fell hard. He is now sporting some serious road rash. Those rail tracks are very dangerous as some of our friends have previously found out.
    After Trieste - which sits at the northern point of the Adriatic - the coast drops south and you are in the peninsula of Istria - which juts out into the Adriatic. The history of the area includes Roman, Venetian , Austro-Hungarian and, finally, of course, being a part of the Yugoslav Federation. Slovenia has a very diverse geography with large mountain ranges and alpine terrain but we were only traveling close to the coast on this trip although there is a lot to see in other parts. Approaching the Slovenian border we rode past salt flats and fish farms located in a wide estuary but then started started to climb. The coastline is steep and rocky in these parts. We readied our paperwork to enter Slovenia but it turned out to be only a signpost on the bike trail. “Welcome to Slovenia” . ( photo enclosed)
    Turns out that Slovenia is very cycle friendly. Lots of well marked, paved routes following old rail lines. ( the Parenzana Trail) . Our friend Laura sent us a travel article about biking in this area and ,evidently, Istria ( Slovenia and Croatia) are where all the cool kids are cycling these days. Who would have thought Mike would be on the leading edge of a trend! Slovenia has only a small slice of access to the ocean and there is a massive port at Koper with container ships, ship building industries and many large leisure yachts. Fortunately, we mostly skirted around it.
    Overall, we had a good day of cycling in Slovenia - although the fun was interrupted by a couple of hair-raising road crossings. We enjoyed a lunch of spinach pastries with our toes dipping in the sea. We biked on to Portoroz and rewarded ourselves with a refreshing dip in the ocean. Lovely azur blue water and relatively warm sea water - even slightly warmer than the water in August around Hornby Island. We managed to get dinner at a small, family-run restaurant called Pri Mari which has won a number of awards. We drank the local white wine - Malvesia ……..quoting Helen: “a bit heavy on the petrol notes but very quaffable”. Our cheerful waitress advised a cold sea food platter followed by a baked sea bass with veg. The proprietress - who is featured in all of the photos on the wall - deftly deboned our sea bass and served up a delicious fish meal. The only weird part about our stay in Slovenia was an poorly appointed hotel which was interconnected by walkways to 4 other equally odd hotels. We kept getting turned around and Helen and I started to hum Hotel California - you can never leave……. In addition, we noticed as we left Italy and entered the Balkans that the cheerful, Italian hospitality has passed and we have encountered a number of surly, bureaucratic types and also loads of smoking. We had to beg for extra towels from a very stern looking hotel manager and finally resorted to snitching some from the cleaner’s cart. On checking out we were charged 6euros simply for using the housecoat.
    Yesterday was our last day of cycling and we had to work for that last 60 kms. The temp was 25 degrees when we left Portoroz and we quickly started one of three tough climbs in the blistering heat. How steep was it? Well, even my e-bike on its lowest gear and highest power setting came to a standstill. Mike was feeling a bit wobbly from his spill so the Logan sisters took a couple of turns pedalling the regular bike which gave Mike a chance to try out the e-bike. I don’t think he has converted yet but in the 30 degree ++ heat, he appreciated the break on the hills. We crossed into Croatia with a bit more formality ( stamps in passports) than Slovenia but nothing too tough. We had pre-registered our visit on-line before leaving Canada.
    We completed our 834 km trek in the town of Porec yesterday afternoon. We were knackered, very hot and ready to give the bikes back and give our derrieres a rest. We enjoyed a leisurely drink and lovely dinner last night in the old town. This is a very touristy spot with lots of people from all over Europe, Mike says that this used to be where all of the rich oligarchs had their places. We have seen some lovely yachts.
    Today we rest and swim in the ocean again. We’ve met some fellow travellers along the way and tonight we will join a British couple who live near where Mike grew up. You can imagine how the stories are flying.
    Tomorrow is Sunday and we catch a very early ferry back to Venice where we say farewell to Helen who is off to the Florence area for a few days with friends. Mike and I have an extra day in Venice which was planned before the COVID testing requirements were changed. We’ll spend a quiet day with perhaps a train trip to a local village if we feel inclined. I think we’ll avoid another trip into Venice.
    It’s been a great trip made all the more fun after being home for 2 years. All the things we worried about didn’t happen, although we did have contingency plans in place.

    From Helen: “ I want everybody to know that I will always remember the wonderful roses, honeysuckle and floral scents along the way that can’t be captured in the photos.”

    From Mike: “ Biking Europe with the Logan sisters is , as always, a glorious and humbling experience.”

    Signing off from Croatia. Thanks for traveling with us. Hope to see some of you very soon.

    Love Heather/ Mom/ Grandma ( and also from Mike and Helen)

    “ Life is made for good friends and great adventures” (Anonymous)
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    Traveler

    Thank you for all your wonderful updates along the way. I read every entry with Maria. We also appreciated all the captioned photos very much. Wish we could have smelled all the lovely flowers along the route.

    6/4/22Reply
    Traveler

    Someday Jon, we’ll do a bike trip together. X

    6/4/22Reply

    Great trip and safe journey back home [Marg K]

    6/4/22Reply
    Traveler

    Thanks Marg. Looking forward to more fun in the fall with the Kavanagh gang. Chat soon.

    6/4/22Reply
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  • Day17

    Jackets on, jackets off

    May 31 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    Hello from Trieste,
    On Sunday we left the Venice area and took a morning ferry ride to get to the outer eastern reaches of the Venetian Lagoon where we resumed our cycling. It was magical to see the Venice skyline in the morning light with all of the working boats buzzing around the Grande Canal.. We were expecting an easy day of riding as we left Venice but the day turned out to be grey and cold and our ride took us along muddy, marshy flat lands. Not very scenic and the wind threatened to blow us back to Venice. We donned jackets and soldiered on spending the night in a large beach, resort area reminiscent of the Algarve.When we finally saw the beaches on the Adriatic Sea near the resort they were quite beautiful and there were all sorts of holiday camping sites, large beach hotels , little bars and tacky shops dotting the coast. Our hotel was a bit depressing since it was almost empty and the many staff were hovering close by ready to swipe your plate away the second you finished. I’m guessing that come the heat of summer the sea shore and hotels will be full again.
    On Monday we cycled through the seaside town of Caorle which was a very pretty town with requisite old church and leaning tower, cafes and more tacky tourist shops. I could imagine it would be very nice in the summer sun, Unfortunately, the clouds and rain followed us on our journey that day. But, we were glad for the relief from the heat. Jackets stayed on.
    We are now in the northeastern area of Italy called Friuli-Venezia. Like the South Tyrol region, this is an autonomous region with a very complex history. Three languages are spoken-Italian, German and Slovene - a slavic language. From an historic point of view, this region was a critical area for the Romans and there is evidence of Roman settlements in almost ever place we’ve been. Helen is loving that part.
    On Monday night we stayed in a beautiful town - Portogruaro. We were fortunate to find a restaurant with an excellent wine list and a very knowledgeable young waiter who guided us to a White wine made from the Friulano or Sauvignon Vert, which is grown widely here . It was very dry and aromatic ( sorry Sharon, not one that you would like). Then we had a Cabernet Franc which was delicious and certainly rivalled the best we’ve had from the Okanagan. No one tried the Prosecco which is from this region and “on tap” in the bars it’s so popular.
    Our cycling for the past two days has been perfect as the grey weather passed (jackets off) but the extreme heat isn’t back yet. We’ve enjoyed lovely rides through farmland and small scenic towns with friendly , waving locals and good coffee at every stop. On one lunch stop, we couldn’t find a shop for provisions but found a truck selling meats and cheese. The man happily prepared us three plates for lunch and some drinks. We are fortunate that everywhere we travel people still love Canadians and recognize Mike’s maple leaf emblazoned shirt.
    On Tuesday night we arrived in Aquileia and had lots of time to check out the Basilica and the museum. Aquileia was a very large Roman settlement of 100,000 and a major trading city way back when……. The church is the first Christian church built in Roman territory (about 300 AD ). after some law passed that banned the persecution of Christians and allowed them to build churches in Roman territory. The show piece of the church is the mosaic tile floor which is intact and tells many stories like Jonah and the whale. There were so many Roman ruin bits and bobs around this, now, small town that even in our hotel there had been excavations done and there was a protective glass cover over an area where we parked our bikes. (Picture included) There was another large field in town of - what looked like - piles of stones all from excavations. Kind of like a roman ruins junk yard. I don’t do too many museums, but the archeological museum in Aquileia was well worth a quick visit with Helen. She was pretty excited by everything so I had to keep her company.
    Today we had a perfect ride into Trieste - the capital of this region. We stopped on the way at a small town called Visogliano where our friends Barb and Les lived once for a brief time. Les, Mike wants you to know that he does not have an e-bike and that little detour required biking up a big hill which was not his favorite part of the ride today. We also saw the International Physics Institute that we assume you worked at, Les.
    We’ve seen lots of real castles along the way and today we stopped at a “fake “ castle called Miramar built for some Austro-Hungarian royal Prince who came to a bad ending in Mexico. Helen likes to make sure we know which castles are real and were used to defend something important, and which castles are the fake ones, or just “party palaces.” - as she likes to call them. This region was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire so this was a great resort area for the royalty and rich people from the Hapsburg Empire.
    Biking into Trieste was lovely as there is a very long beach, park area and boardwalk that goes on for miles. Lots of people were out lazing around on the rocks in various states of undress.
    This is Europe so…. Well let’s just say that Roman ruins weren’t the only ancient things we saw today.
    Trieste looks like Vienna with all the neo-classical styled buildings. (Hopefully I got that correct). The main square is open to the Adriatic Sea and we dipped our feet in to cool off. Trieste is a gateway city between western and eastern Europe and it has been the setting for many spy novels because of its proximity to the former Eastern Bloc countries. Tonight we head out in search of more sea food although we read that the Austrian influence makes this a great spot for pork dinners. We saw many miles of mussel farms in the ocean as we biked along. No bad decision I guess.
    Tomorrow we bike into Slovenia and where we’ll lots more ups and downs as we are well out of the flat plains and into the rocky Adriatic shoreline. The heat is rising again so we’ll start very early…. If I can rally the troops. ( sound the bugle)
    That’s all the news for now. Hope everyone at home and in other places are all well .
    Thanks for your notes.
    More from Croatia, Love Heather/ Mom/ Grandmaxx
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    Prosecco on tap how bad can that be. Love the blog and wish I was there. [Marg K]

    6/1/22Reply

    We’re having a wonderful time sharing your beautiful holiday. [Ron Stevens]

    6/1/22Reply

    You guys are the cutest [K]

    6/1/22Reply
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  • Day14

    A Typical Venetian Experience

    May 28 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Hello from outside of Venice. On Friday we left the Abano area near Padua. It is an area that has been an important thermal centre for more than 2000 years. I can’t explain the geothermal dynamics ( it is close to some ancient volcanoes) but we did enjoy the warm waters at our resort and left very refreshed. Friday’s ride took us, first, into central Padua - another beautiful city which has one of the world’s oldest universities, arcaded streets and many canals and bridges.
    We spent much of our ride tracing the Brenta River seeing all kinds of agriculture along the way. The ride was flat but complicated because of the increasing number of canals, locks and rivers as we approached Venice. The Venetian Lagoon is a large, enclosed bay off of the Adriatic Sea. Venice the city sits a ways off of the mainland of Italy and consists of 118 small islands. But our hotel was on the mainland in an area called Mestre - where many of the tourists stay. It is less expensive but the logistics of getting to and from Venice - proper are considerable. The people we know who have stayed in Venice rather than outside have never regretted it. But we are at the mercy of our biking company and they parked us way out in the burbs.
    Last night we headed by bus and tram into the city in search of cicchetti - or small venetian tapas. Everywhere that we went was packed but we managed to get some cicchetti and wine and joined the crowds hanging about the walls of the canals. It was a bit too busy to try too many spots but we enjoyed the idea of it. We then went on to have a very ho hum dinner at one of the restaurants. Helen tried the cuttlefish , per our instructions from Laura, but , unfortunately, it looked like a black, inky mess and was rather tasteless. We’ve eaten very well on this trip and we were not surprised that when you hit the major tourist areas you’ll get bog standard stuff. I did at least encounter a very good Soave white!
    Having struggled with getting transportation into Venice from our lodgings, we were even more challenged to get back last night and ended up on the wrong bus far from our hotel. We did a cross-country route march back because none of us had Uber on our phones. Note to self.
    Today we launched back into the city with the rest of the 30,000 people that visit Venice daily. I know this city is on everyone’s bucket list , and certainly at the risk of sounding ungrateful for the opportunity to travel, Venice is beautiful but overwhelming with the masses of people who come here. You are constantly in a line up or jostling for position on a boat. Within an hour MIke had lost his money and some bus tickets to a crafty pick-pocket. Fortunately, nothing major like credit cards or passport. We had all been to Venice before and tried to out-run the crowds by heading to the lagoon island of Burano. It was very picturesque and slightly less busy. The pretty coloured houses in the pictures were painted to guide the fishermen home in the lagoon fogs. Tonight we had a very low-key evening with dinner at the local Italian version of St. Hubert’s chicken. There was so much roast chicken that we’ll be taking some for lunch tomorrow. The crowds were thick watching the European Cup.
    Tomorrow we’re back on our bikes for a second week as we head back into Venice and then immediately cross the lagoon on a ferry. WE’ll bike towards the east along the outer islands to a place called Caorle.
    The weather will be a bit cooler for a few days which will be a welcome change.
    Night, night all,

    Heather/Mom/ Grandma
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    What!? Grandma is actually in Venice?? These are awesome pictures! [Malcolm]

    5/29/22Reply
    Traveler

    Thanks Malcolm! There are lots of boats in Venice.

    5/30/22Reply

    Lovely to get your update, Heather! So sorry about the inky risotto and cuttlefish! xo [Laura]

    5/29/22Reply
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  • Day12

    Hitting the high points

    May 26 in Italy ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

    Helen here, doing a guest contribution to Heather’s blog. We are having a relaxed afternoon after two busy days of cycling.

    After enjoying the sights of Verona on Tuesday, we were up early on Wednesday for our longest cycling stretch of the trip- from Verona to Vicenza. In keeping with our aim of getting as much cycling done as possible before the highest heat, we were on the road shortly after 7:30. But in the end there was no avoiding the sun as it was 7 hours later that we arrived at the hotel in a smokin’ hot 29 degrees with humidity. Not only was the ride our longest at 80 k but featured the most climbing, a fair few stretches of unpaved track which are always slowerr and some challenging urban navigation deftly handled by our “guido” Heather.

    The scenery en route was a mix of light industry and sleepy farmland peppered with historic churches and villas. The highlight was the town of Soave - really a castle which extends its fortifications around the town.

    Our bags had not arrived at the hotel before us (they are getting later each day as further from base) So we went in search of our traditional arrival beer - a longish search as Vicenza seemed to be having a siesta. We were pretty whacked on return to hotel. A welcome shower, some laundry and a rest and we were ready to explore the lovely town of Vicenza.

    As this is the home of the famous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, I enlightened the ever patient Mike and Heather about the various Palladian gems that we passed. At his town hall on the main square,the Basillica, we stopped for an aperitif at a nearby bar to enjoy the building armed with refreshments in hand. Mike and Heather will be awarded advance standing for year 1 of architecture training after this with Mike planning his major paper “ The Influence of Palladiun Architecture on the Evolution of Man Caves”. ……..

    We strolled around the small but always charming old town of Vicenza then at H2’s recommendation looked up a favourite local eatery. Favourite indeed, and we almost gave up because of lack of outdoor tables. But as we contemplated the choice we struck up a conversation with two local ladies, one of whom spoke fluent French, (transpires she is a French teacher) and decided to join forces and bagged the last large table.
    Our two new friends gave us advice on the menu and we all had a local codfish and polenta dish. Delicious!

    With a shorter ride today to a spot just outside Padua we started a little later today. We had a much simpler ride almost all on dedicated bike paths through the countryside. An early highlight (for me anyhow) was passing another Palladian masterpiece, the Villa Rotunda, on the way out of Vicenza.

    As we only had a 53 k ride today we reached our hotel - part of an out of town spa/ golf resort - by lunchtime well before our bags. As I write this, we finally have our bags, have just enjoyed a swim and are having a beverage poolside. We are too far from Padua to go in easily for dinner so will see that town tomorrow.
    Tomorrow we reach Venice for 2 nights. Ciao for now!!
    Helen
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    Looks like everyone is having a good time despite the heat. I hope our Bordeaux trip goes as well. [Marg K]

    5/26/22Reply

    Each place looks so interesting. I'd want to drop off for a month in each of them and do a deep dive. For folks travelling with panniers and "delivered" luggage, you are extremely well turned out in all the pictures. Mike's wardrobe is easily identified by its repeat performances, but the girls.....wow, classy. Mary taught you well. Is there an evening gown tucked away somewhere too? Great blog Helen. Such enjoyable reading for all your vicarious fellow travellers. [Margaret]

    5/26/22Reply
    Traveler

    Stephanie and I stayed in Padua years ago. Loved the main pedestrian street.

    5/26/22Reply
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  • Day10

    Lake Garda, Verona and Vicenza

    May 24 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Buongiorno from Vicenza.

    Our biking routine is to get an early start for two reasons. First, it has been very hot so far on this trip with Europe experiencing another heat wave and the best cycling weather is the first few hours of the morning. By about 10 the heat starts to rise steadily. In addition, we are staying at hotels that host many cyclists and there is a bit of a traffic jam around the coffee machine about 8. Our approach is to quickly knock back a couple of macchiato (expresso with milk) to get the caffeine levels up, grab a small bite and race out. There seem to be lots of people biking this route with a number of companies. At one hotel, I counted 30 bikes locked up. So it’s a popular journey.
    On Monday, we left Trento and the mountains started to recede as we cycled south and we had a lovely smooth ride, until a sharp rise over the pass towards the east. We were rewarded with stunning views as we crested the ridge over Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy and a big holiday resort area. The rest of the ride was downhill and we were enjoying an Aperol Spritz and sandwich by noon. Even had time for a gelato before catching the slow ferry from the resort town of Rive del Garda. For 4 hours we watched colourful towns, huge palazzos, resorts and castles go by on our ferry ride across the lake. It looks like the entire area caters to everything from families (camp grounds and amusement parks) to the very wealthy.- huge resorts. We were scoping out some places for my brother Mac and his wife Steph as they like to “do it up.” They would be spoiled for choice around Lake Garda. Our hotel was at the south end of the lake at Piescheria where we enjoyed polenta, fish, and gnocchi for dinner along with wines grown in the Lake Garda Region. We stumbled across a super restaurant that was tucked into the walls of the old city. Picture enclosed.
    Yesterday we cycled a quick 35 km to Verona in time to do a walk around. I believe that I was pregnant with Jonathan the only other time I was in Verona and Jon is 40 now so I remember almost nothing . It’s a pretty busy place - like a second tier Italian destination after the big three - Rome, Venice and Florence. It was much busier that any other place we ‘ve been so far but even then the crowds were moderate and we had not problems getting a drink, lunch.
    Verona has a large Roman amphitheatre built before the Rome coliseum and it is in better shape although not as large. Same sort of blood sports took place in it originally but it is now a functioning open-air theatre and I was super disappointed that nothing was playing that we could attend. What a fabulous venue for a concert.
    The piazzas and small streets of Verona are beautiful and , according to Helen, the best preserved of any medieval town. The “main” castle - Castelvecchio - ” was build by the ruling family dynasty Scalger to protect themselves against all types of internal and external trouble-makers. It has all the good stuff like moats, towers and very fancy “crenellations” - word of the day that Helen taught me. Crenellations are those spiky things sticking up on a castle or fortress that protect the defenders from attacks. Helen was keen to see it more because it houses a museum and this was restored by a famous Italian architect . It was actually pretty amazing to see how functional the restorations were while looking seamless within the castle. The Domo or cathedral in Verona is also a real beauty, as they are. An Italian lady standing beside me cried out “ Bella, bella” and I replied with equal enthusiasm “ yes, bella, very beautiful”. She turned to me and said rather smugly “ Tutti Italia bella, bella “……can’t argue with that. For anyone who loves art, there is a Titian painting hanging in one of the small offshoot chapels.
    Most popular stop in Verona is at Juliet’s house which is believed to be—— or marketed to be—— the house of the Capuleti family - of the unhappy lover from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet story. I bought a ticket to see inside, after much ribbing from Helen and Mike. But I was on a mission and left a note for Juliet to ask that true love comes to all the lovely ladies in my life who are looking for love. You know who you are…..Juliet will have to do the rest.

    Today tested our biking metal. We rode 80 hot kms up and down . We did a long climb that was like riding to the top of Mount Doug. There was lots of traffic all day and when off road we were on bumpy tracks. We are in a busier, more industrial part of the country. The route tries to keep us away from heavy traffic but there were some real challenges. We did find shade in the school yard of what appeared to be a middle school and the kids came flooding out at lunchtime while we were sitting on a bench eating our bread and cheese. We all agreed that teenagers look, act and sound the same the world over - like dolphins!! Unfortunately, we got into Vicenza too late to see much of the city centre and the hotel isn’t in the nicest part of town. Rather less than salubrious. We hope to find some place nicer for dinner.

    In answer to the 3 questions we’ve been asked:

    1. How do we know where we are going? We have an excellent app called Ride with GPS that is light-years ahead of anything we have used before. Real time tracking of our route and cues when we’re off course. Only problem is that it occasionally looses the satellite - yesterday at a critical traffic circle - and the translation absolutely massacres the names of streets so it’s a crap shoot where to turn, at times. I’m still a map girl because it’s nice to get the big picture, but the app has been very good in the cities.

    2. How do you do your laundry?. Well, we rinse stuff out at night and if you look at the bike pics carefully you’ll see things hanging off the back. Sometimes this system fails and today Helen left a pair of socks somewhere between Verona and Vicenza. Fortunately, we passed a town with a market in progress and Helen now has enough socks for the next 10 years.

    3. Why aren’t you people losing weight? … Well no one really asked that that but I know you were thinking it. I refer you to earlier blogs and food pictures Did Stanley Tucci actually eat any of that food? In fairness, it’s not just a biking holiday.

    The scenery has changed and we are now cycling through olive groves, corn fields and lots of vineyards still. The mountains are gone but there are still lots of hills. We went through Soave - heart of some of the white wines that we drink at home. For the wine lovers, we were not up to having a bottle of Amarone last night even though we were in the right area. It’s a bit heavy. But we did enjoy the local Valpolicella which is actually the name of the wine district and not a particular wine So our wine was a blend of the local grapes and very fresh and tasty. There is wine on tap at the local bars and we often see the men sitting outside sipping wine at 10 in the morning. They are better men than me but then, they don’t have to cycle in a straight line.
    Tomorrow we head to Padua and then onto Venice.

    More to follow from Venice, thanks for all of your notes.
    Bye for now,
    Love Heather/ Mom/ Grandma xx
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    Sigh!! So beautiful. You make biking sound fun. [The Anti-cyclist sib]

    5/25/22Reply

    Fabulous photos! Thanks for sharing. Happy trails. [David Lawson]

    5/25/22Reply

    Great pics and stories of your Italian adventures. Sounds like your mapping totally outdoes our maps from the Dordogne where, on finishing, we realized we had gone in a circle. No GPS mapping, (D&R) [Diane & Ron]

    5/26/22Reply
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  • Day7

    Rest, Ride, Rinse, Eat and Repeat

    May 21 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Bueno Sera from Trento! On Friday, May 20th, we were driven north from the lovely town of Bolzano to the top of the Brenner Pass at the border with Austria. Our Italian driver, and bike provider, Matteo, delivered us, our bikes and associated gear like locks, panniers and gave us a complete weather briefing. There are some pretty standard weather patterns in these parts in May that include the wind picking up at noon and rain at about 2. He’s been bang on. The Brenner Pass is one of the lowest passes in the region and a major economic link between northern European countries and the south. The highway is a constant stream of transport trucks.
    There are a total of 20 Regions in Italy - 15 normal and 5 autonomous . The Region we’ve been in for the past 4 days, Trentino-Alto Adige , is autonomous and keeps its own language, culture and most importantly lots of the taxes. It has a complicated modern history having been Austrian for a very long time but it was given to Italy as "spoils of war" after WWI. Mussolini tried hard to “Italianize” the Region but, lucky for us, he was unsuccessful and we enjoyed a truly Tyrolean few days. The main language, at least in the northern areas, is German which suited us just fine. Between us we have pretty good French, passable German and really lousy Italian. So for a few days at least we could communicate. The young people who wait the tables are inevitably Europhiles and speak good English which they are keen to use.
    Day 1 riding was mostly downhill and we were treated to spectacular views of the Dolomites, small alpine villages, and farms . We stayed overnight in Bressano - where we enjoyed an outdoor light festival in the old part of town. Older buildings had lights and images projected on them with accompanying music. We had Tyrolean food with Helen and Mike selecting a delicious goulash and dumplings - which they said rivalled anything that they had in Austria - while I enthusiastically ordered a pork hock which I barely made a dent in. (Where is my Alberta brother-in-law when I need him?) We continue to try local wine varietals and in Bressano we had Kerner - a white wine made from a frost resistant grape. I don’t have all the words for wine tasting but the wine was slightly effervescent, almost like a vino verde and very minerally. [ I’m not being a wine snob, just trying to give the wine lovers something interesting to read]
    Day 2 saw us ride back to Bolzano on the way south. We mostly followed the river Adige on paved, well signed paths. In Bolzano Mike spend a frustrating few hours dealing with Shaw. Our email accounts are being repeatedly frozen. I think Mike would like to reach across the Atlantic and strangle Shaw. I took the path of least resistance and opened a new gmail account which I’ll use for the trip. Helen and I rode a cable car up into the mountains and walked around one of the Alpine villages. The dolomites are quite dramatic with their sharp peaks. I didn’t watch much of Game of Thrones but I understand they were featured prominently.
    The weather has been blistering hot. Highs of 33 degrees for the past few days so this morning - cycling day 3 - we left at the crack of 8 and knocked out a quick 40km before coffee. As our Chinese family would say, “ we poured on oil”. It was wise because by the time we arrived in Trento 27 km later the heat and humidity were high again. I’m not too sure what Helen wants to see here today but we’re currently sitting out the afternoon rain. Trento is one of the wealthiest cities in Italy , known as the “silicone valley” of Italy. We have come out of the steepest parts of the pass and the landscape has opened up into wider valleys. Today we were cycling through fruit groves and past many asparagus fields. Also, lots and lots of vineyards. Today is Sunday so at 10 the church bells in the villages started peeling, calling the faithful. The pervading scent in the air is floral - except by the farms of course - with lots of wisteria, lilacs, early jasmine blooming and that yellow flower that hangs in bunches like grapes (Karen, you’ve told me the name but I can’t recall). Unfortunately the blossoms have been accompanied by ++ +pollen and Mike’s using his Ventolin so he can keep breathing. We may have to do a run to the pharmacy for eye drops if this keeps up.
    Overall, this is a really great area. If you pluck up the courage to travel again, this is a spot worth considering - biking or not. Beautiful vista, lots of excellent infrastructure, interesting towns with lots of history, walking trails and great food and drink. And I dont think Rick Steeves has covered it so there are few North Americans!
    The bikes are operating well. Not too clunky. My only complaint is that the handle bar area is very cluttered on my bike so I can’t reach my bell and have spent three days yelling “ding ding”. Our legs are holding up ( thanks Kristie) but as we anticipated the heat is hard to handle and we didn’t get any chance to train for that as it was so cold and wet right up until we left.
    Tomorrow we have to cycle 55 km and be on the north end of Lake Garda by 2 at the latest from where we catch a “milk run” ferry to the furthest point south on the lake. Unfortunately, tomorrow is calling for rain and thunder etc. May call for a team meeting over wine!
    That’s the news for now. Hope this sends over the dodgy wifi.
    Thanks for all of your notes. Fun to hear back.
    Love Heather (Mom/Grandma) xx
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    Great to hear what you’re up to. Keep hydrated! Hope you make the ferry tomorrow [Fi]

    5/22/22Reply

    It's amazing how you find your way through the countryside [Ron Stevens]

    5/22/22Reply
    Traveler

    It's Just "Add Oil" in translation. So keep going! 加油

    5/22/22Reply
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  • Day5

    TurinDay for Petrol Heads and Foodies

    May 19 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    Good afternoon from the Southern Tyrol town of Bolzano. On Wednesday, we spent another full day in Turin. We walked along the Po River which winds through the city heads east and eventually spills out into the Adriatic near Venice. We visited the National Automobile Museum which features an extensive collection cars from the first Fiat prototype with 4 hp, developed in the late 1800s, through to a recently designed hydrogen-fuel concept car. Turin was the original home to the economically important Italian automobile industry including the largest and earliest company, Fiat. We went to visit the massive Fiat plant which closed in 1982 and now houses an equally massive indoor mall. Fiats are now made at other plants in Italy by a large, multinational firm called Stellantis that includes many recognizable brands like Chrysler, Peugeot, Citroen. Our goal was to see the “test track” that circles the top of the former factory. Cars came off the line and were taken to the roof by a long winding ramp. Unfortunately the test track was closed. So no pictures.
    The Piedmont Region sits at the foot of the Alps. We’ve only seen brief glimpses of the mountains due to cloud cover but when they reveal themselves, they are a beautiful backdrop to the city which hosted the Olympics in 2006. Rice is grown in the region and so rissotto is very popular. We had some for dinner on Tuesday. The nebbiolo grape grows here and is turned into world famous Barolo wines. Interestingly, anchovies and fish like tuna are very popular here. The anchovy love affair dates back to the ancient trade routes into France. To avoid paying salt taxes, the salt barrels were filled with relatively cheap fish like anchovies and then extracted . So lots of anchovies on the menu. Not everyone’s first choice, but great if you like salt.
    We had a light lunch at an Italian market called Eataly. Helen tried the anchovies with green garlic and parsley sauce. Mike thought he was ordering pasta with vegetables but instead got pasta made from vegetables. Eataly has a large wine shop filled with wines from all over Italy. Given the heat, we chose not to stop for a tasting as we were already flagging but it was fun to look at so many varietals that we never see in Canada.
    Last night we celebrated Helen’s recent retirement by treating her to a Michelin star restaurant called Scannabue. We had a fabulous tasting menu of regional dishes including veal in a variety of forms, cod and potatoes, agnolotti which are small pasta pockets stuffed with a delicious mix of rabbit, pork and veal, and finally a decadent chocolate/ hazelnut dessert. Right out of a Stanley Tucci episode and we acted suitable impressed with each dish. We did not order a Barolo, Mac, although I had a glass of Nebbiolo ( a less expensive version than Barolo) before dinner. ( Nancy, Mike had a negroni and we thought of you)
    Today was a travel day. We left Turin early and trained our way through Milan, Verona and then we left the relatively flat terrain of the Po river valley and climbed towards the Alps to the city of Bolzano. It’s a real gem with an old town where no cars are allowed, beautiful buildings, views towards the snow capped mountains and an unusual number of excellent she stores. After enjoying a cold drink and bratwurst we took a visit to the museum dedicated to Otzi - the iceman. Or as our guide translated to English - gelato man! Fascinating story of his discovery in the 1990s not too far from here and all that has been learned about life 5300 years ago. Our biking starts tomorrow after we are transported 80 kms or so to the Brenner Pass at the border with Austria. It’s going to be another scorcher. Looking forward to getting on the bikes. We return to Bolzano in 2 days on our way south and will have a chance to see this town a bit more.
    Until then, Love Heather/Mom/Grandma
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    Michelin-star restaurant, negronis, on to the bikes … oh my, it all sounds fabulous! [Laura Robin]

    5/19/22Reply

    Looks like great fun. Happy retirement Helen, see you in Bordeaux where we can celebrate some more. [Marg K]

    5/20/22Reply
    Traveler

    that is pretty wild. A tad exposed for the driver and passengers.

    5/21/22Reply
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  • Day3

    20,000 steps around Turin

    May 17 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    Last night Mike and I arrived in Turin and RV’d with Helen on the rooftop bar of the Turin Palace hotel - a bit late due to as missed connection in Frankfurt but happy nonetheless. After a celebratory drink we had a long, much needed sleep and then tackled a full day of sight seeing today. We started the day at our lovely Palace Turin Hotel by making only a small dent in the enormous hotel breakfast buffet that would have kept the Parry grandsons busy for hours. We then met up with Angelo, our local guide, for a walking tour of some of the main sites in the city centre. We covered a lot of ground and saw Roman ruins (crumbling), medieval towers ( long slits for the archers to fire arrows), renaissance palaces (very geometrical), baroque churches ( much more decorative and interesting) , rococo design ( there is NEVER too much gold leaf in rococo), neo-classical ( a new take on greek columns with the addition of domes) and finally structures built during the fascist regime ( dreary and ugly). Helen coached us through all the architecture and pointed out many of the subtle differences.
    Today we also learned much more about modern Italy which only came into existence, as we know it, in the 1860s. Turin was the capital city for 4 short years. But as Angelo said with a shrug.”At least we were the first”. The royal family (House of Savoy) was already in Turin but more about them later.
    Our guide Angelo was good fun and took us to taste some local beverages. I took one for the team and had a Bicerin - which is a drink made with a layer of rich chocolate, next strong coffee, and finally cream. I was given strict instructions that it was not to be stirred up like a milk shake but I was to gently bring the chocolate up through the layers, It was very rich - think cafe mocha. Mike and Helen wisely elected to try a series of ancient Caponas - the original vermouth made from local wine and herbs. Carpona was an herbalist - something like a pharmacist in those times - and he mixed muscat with absinthe. The King loved it and the rest is history,. Apertivos are a big thing here and meant to “ open the stomach” before a meal.
    We spent the afternoon roaming around the royal palace learning a bit about the House of Savoy that seemed to be mostly of French descendants, if I understood correctly. . I think it’s ironic that countries like Italy, France, Russia, China all venerate - or at least heavily market their former dynasties after having firmly kicked them to the curb. In the case of Italy, the House of Savoy reigned in modern Italy until after WWII, when there was a referendum —-because the royal family had backed Mussolini——that removed them and, in fact, banished them altogether. There have been some modern sputterings about resurrecting the monarchy that have gone nowhere.
    After our palace visit we visited the Domo or cathedral that houses the Shroud of Turin, believed to be the burial cloth of Christ. You can only see a replicate. As part of that same royal chapel we visited the crypt of the former Italian Kings. This was a highlight for Helen as a very famous architect Guarino Guarini designed a dramatic tower. (Picture enclosed) Another interesting stop was the landmark tower - seen in the picture on my blog title page. The Mole Antonelliana was conceived as a synagogue but the architect went a bit rogue, was fired by the Jewish community and finally built the thing to 550 ft making it the tallest “unreinforced” structure in Europe, Meaning no steel. Unfortunately, there were a series of weather events that toppled the top of the tower and it has now been reinforced with steel so that it won ‘t topple again., I don’t know ….architects versus engineers??
    My general sense of Turin is that it is very chic. Men in suede loafers and suits, women in nice clothes. Young people looking very hip. Lovely shops along the many miles of arcades. The arcades shelter walkers from heat and cold, whatever the season. Tonight we ate at a local taverna and sampled a few of the “must tries” for the Piedmont Region. Arneis white wine (picture included for you Andi) veal carpaccio, risotto. Tomorrow we will venture south to visit some of Turin’s industrial roots. That’s all for now. Buona notte. Heather (Mom/Grandma)
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    Wonderful tour of Turin, Heather, and my feet hardly hurt at all! [Laura Robin]

    5/18/22Reply

    Good job reporting, Heather. Particularly enjoyed the political social commentary. Having a little difficulty imagining Mike in suede loafers, but certainly looking forward to it!….(no socks, Mike). B. and K. [B. and K.]

    5/19/22Reply

    Chocolate?... I'll take one for the team also please. :-) [Carmen]

    5/18/22Reply

    Looks delicious! [Deb H]

    5/22/22Reply
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  • Day1

    Once more into the Breach

    May 15 in Canada ⋅ 🌧 11 °C

    And we're off! After cooling our travel heels for a few years Mike and I have decided to brave the dangers and uncertainties and head to Europe. We debated the risks, rewards, costs - both monetary and opportunity - and made a decision to launch. Our plans are to meet my sister Helen in Italy tomorrow and spend 2 weeks on a self-guided biking trip that includes parts of northern Italy to Venice and then around the Adriatic coast to Croatia. We'll be bookending the trip with 3 days in Turin at the start and a few extra nights in the Venice area at the end. I need the few days at the front end to shake off jet lag, because unlike some of our hardier biking friends, I can't go from the airport right onto a bike seat - at least not safely. We're looking forward to a few days in Turin which is a beautiful city with all the great things that Italy has on offer but , for some reason, far fewer tourists than most major centres. Maybe because it is billed as the industrial north of Italy. The Eurovision song contest was just in Turin and so the city should be on a high as we arrive. It was very nice that Ukraine won the show. [ we listened to their song submission and I feel that, perhaps, just maybe, first place was awarded in an effort to express support.]

    This will be our 7th biking holiday in Europe. I almost didn't survive our first trip to the Dordogne but that's another story that our friends Ron and Diane can tell. We learn a little bit each time we go and I think we're fairly prepared this time with things like extra external batteries, phone holders, GPS tracking apps, bike repair things, COVID testing kits. The company that we are using - Girolibero - will provide the bikes, hotel reservations, online routes and they will transport our luggage each day. That's my favourite part because by having our luggage moved, it allows me to travel with more than one extra shirt /underwear and toothbrush. Not that I've packed a steamer trunk with matching hats and gloves - although Helen and I did discuss this in order to channel my Mother who always looked amazingly pulled together in all of her European trip pictures. Mike, of course, being far more austere and Presbyterian has probably packed using the 1 extra shirt /underwear/ toothbrush approach which will mean our hotel rooms will resemble a laundromat most nights.
    We are excited to link up with Helen tomorrow in Turin. She is already in place and checking out the rooftop bar as we speak. She reports a wonderful warm evening. I know our west coast friends will be envious of us leaving this record- setting, damp, cold weather for warmer climes.

    This is our 4th bike trip with Helen. We will miss our dear friend and biking buddy Laura who couldn't make the trip this time which will leave the job of choosing restaurants and making food recommendations to Helen and I. I think the cuisine will vary quite a bit as we travel. Northern, European fare for a few days, then Austrian and finally Mediterranean. Bring it on! Having recently watched Stanley Tucci on TV we are really looking forward to the food and beverages.

    As always, we split the trip chores up. Mike will be our "roadie" handling mechanical stuff. He will also be our technical support since Helen couldn't convince her architecture firm to let the IT department come on holidays with us. Helen will take on the tour guiding, as she always does. With her background in history and architecture she guides us through the various sights in what we lovingly refer to as “architorture” tours. By the time we get home we will have had our fill of Etruscan, Roman, Medieval ruins. She's already getting quite excited about some amphitheatres near Verona, I believe. Well, it is Italy, so you have to do the Caesar shuffle, as Rick Steeves calls it.
    I will be the navigator for two reasons. First, I'm a control freak and second, I did a stint as a reconnaissance officer in my early military years so I have a reasonable sense of direction. We left that job to Helen on one day of our Danube trip and we ended up in the middle of a corn field where there was supposed to be a train station. Really we did! She can defend herself in a later blog.

    This is a test blog. If you're reading it, it means it didn't go into your junk folder. I use the platform Find Penquins. If you want to send a note back to us you can reply on the blog. You can open my folder on the blog site by clicking or entering the link which doesn't need a password or account, I believe.
    findpenguins.com/heatherandmike

    That's all for now. I'm sending this note from the Vancouver Airport which no one needs a picture of - hence no photos attached. We are resting comfortably in the Priority Pass lounge sipping a beverage until it's time to be welcomed into the arms of Lufthansa Airlines for our 9 hour flight to Frankfurt and then on to Turin. We like to fly Lufthansa as it combines German efficiency, less cranky hostesses than Air Canada and much better wines.

    As Shakespeare said, "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more."
    More to follow from Turin. Until then,
    Hugs,
    Heather (Mom/Grandma)x
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    Sounds like a great trip in progress. Have fun and good luck [Karen and Burns]

    5/15/22Reply
    Traveler

    Likewise. Looking forward to your blogs and pictures - and Helen's commentary

    5/15/22Reply

    Thanks for including us (albeit vicariously) on your latest adventure...it sounds pretty great! Travel safely and look forward to more posts and pix! Gayle & Ian ( Mattick's Wood where it remains rainy, cool, wet ) [Gayle Graham]

    5/15/22Reply
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