July - October 2016
  • Day81


    October 2, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    Nice ride to Florence even though I did see two motorcycle accidents within 15 minutes of each other. One on a roundabout and one on the Autostrada. Both looked serious and served as a reminder to be careful.

    Stayed in one of the smallest hotel rooms of the whole trip. The bathroom was so small you could use the toilet and have a shower at the same time!!!!!

    Really beautiful city just full of history - not enough time to see it, maybe a return visit. Found a great little restaurant not far from my hotel and had spaghetti with a wild boar sauce - had it 3 times in a row, who says I'm not a creature of habit.
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  • Day77

    Marina di Massa - Tuscany

    September 28, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    So, when I think of Tuscany I think of vineyards, hilltop villages, castles, Leaning Tower of Pizza as well as great food and wine. Well, it also has a coastline and beaches. It might be the Mediterranean, but I have to say good old Aussie beaches beat it hands down. I'm not saying the costal villages and cities aren't fabulous, just the beaches are really pretty ordinary - mostly pebbley or with dark dirty looking sand (and old rich prole that should no bether than be wearing bikinis or budgr smugglers).. Having said that, the road hugging the coastline from Genoa to Massa is fantastic with small towns hanging precariously off cliffs overlooking the sea. It was a slow ride but the scenery was breathtaking.

    I stayed in a hotel at Massa - it was late off season so they upgraded me to a balcony superior room...very nice. The room had the most sophisticated shower I've ever seen...7 nozzles (4 strong horizontal for a body massage, 2 head high jets (no idea what for..ear cleaners?) and 1 large ceiling rain shower. I usually turn on the shower to get the hot water running (often takes a while in these old buildings) then undress and hop in. This was a room sized shower so turn the water I had to get in - I thought I was turning o the hand held shower, but instead I got soaked from the ceiling rain shower - unexpected but was okay, clothes I was wearing needed a wash anyway.

    Next stop - Frienze (Florence)
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  • Day76


    September 27, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Mostly staying of the autostrada (except for about 30 kms) and motorways meant it took almost three times as long to get here, but also meant really nice country side, mountains and villages to ride through. I did see the terrible sight of two fellow riders (separate incidents about 25 minutes apart) lying on the road after having been hit by a car. The first at a roundabout, the ambulance had just arrived, and he looked in a bad way. The second crash involved a car merging onto the autostrada that side swiped a motorbike at probably over 100kmh. Happened maybe only a couple of minutes before I got there, no ambulance yet, and doesn't bear thinking about the outcome. I rode gingerly for a while.

    Stayed for 3 nights to have enough time to wander properly around this very old port city of some 600,000 people (of which I would guess 400,000 ride a scooter. There are just scooters everywhere, they out number cars at least 3 to 1. I rode pretty much as you would drive a car (it's still pretty nerve racking in such a busy city) but the locals took lane splitting to new hights. They make liberal use of the other side of the road, footpaths as well traditional lane splitting. It's actually amazing to watch. All the scooters and bikes, at traffic lights, filter to the front then it's their version of a motogp race start as they all hurdle into the first corner. Some of those 125 and 200 cc motors must have a very short life span. There's no where enough parking do they are just everywhere, including in the stree, and I mwan in the lanes. Ohh, and I think I found a car (if that is what it is) even smaller than the one in Turin (see the bottom middle pic).

    Another thing I've discovered is that Italians love mobile phones, you'll see them texting as they ride. They don't bother with expensive helmet headsets for talking, they simply dial and then slop the mobile phone between their helmet and their head and then ride off talking whilst gestulating with both hands off the handle bars.

    I did a lot of walk (determined to drop some of that weight from my stay in Asti/Turin but it's going to take more than 3 days....). Lots to see and I spent an afternoon at the Genoa aquarium but it was really sad to see dolphins and sea lions in very small indoor aquariums.

    Next it's down the Ligurian coast-line to Marina di Massa.
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  • Day74

    Turin - more cugini !!!

    September 25, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Three days visiting and staying with some more cousins. Again I couldn't ask for more and probably should of insisted on less. I ate like there was no tomorrow (you csnt say the word "no" while your mouth is full of food). Ate at home the first night then with the two dsughters' families for dinner on the following nights. I had to put in some pics.

    Turin is a pretty spectacular city and I spent 3 days being driven around sight-seeing (only stopping to eat). There is an amazing Basilica, on a mountain behind Turin, called "Superga" (last pic below). Frederick (who is at least 25 years older than me) beat up the 160 odd winding stairs to the top for a great view of the city and the surrounding area. Also went an saw a hunting lodge (Stupinigi) that had been built by the Royal House of Savoy about 200 years ago. The Royals sure knew how to live.

    Ladtly a pic of a vehicle thst I'm not sure how to describe. A motorbike with four wheels? It only has room for the driver, smallest car I've ever seen.

    Time to leave and try and loose the 3 4 kilos I put on in the last 5 days.

    Off to the port city of Genoa.
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  • Day70

    Asti - staying with cugini

    September 21, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Thats staying with "cousins". There, "now you learnt some Italian".

    Pio and Idelma had no idea I was going to turn up on their door-step. My sister had given them call in the week prior to make sure they were home (they have a place in the mountains they spend a quite a bit of time at). They have quite a large house with a bell at the front gate. I rang the bell and when Pio appeared at the top of the steps I asked him if he knew who I was (we had only ever met once 10 years ago when Anne and I stayed a couple of nights). He looked a bit taken back (I'm dressed in my bike gear and haven't had a shave for a while) and I could see he was trying to make up his mind on what to do - two choices. 1. just turn around go back inside and pretend the bell had never rung (and maybe call the police - Pio and Idelma are at least in their late 70's), or 2. Ask who I was. Before he got any more concerned I let him know,. It took maybe 15 or 20 seconds to register, but then he just ran back inside telling Idelma the "Australian is here", leaving me still outside the gate. I'm still not sure they knew what I wsx doing there, just kept saying "motociclo" and shaking their heads.

    These really are friendly and sprightly people. I stayed for 2 nights and in that time they wouldn't let me do a thing. No helping in the kitchen, no cleaning up the table, did my washing - the lot. Pio drove me around sightseeing both days including to Ottiglio, the town where my mum comes from. Asti city is beautiful and the country-side (and wines) are a match for anything you will find in Tuscany. There were still grapes on the vine waiting to be harvested. Pio, like all Italians, is an interesting driver. Apart from the car (Fiat Punto - what else) he also rides a scooter. I'm not sure my heart could stand the stress of watching him on the scooter in traffic.

    Again, it's a pity I wasn't partaking in wine drinking as I was offered about 2 dozen times over the couse of 2 days. The last time they had any tea in the house was 10 years ago so we had to make a dash to the local shops. Pio is a retired restaurant owner so the meals were something special.

    Pio is an avid hunter and in many parts of Europe you will see hunters walking around country roads with rifles and shotguns slung over their shoulders - including Pio. He hunts 2 or 3 times a week, depending on the season, with the speciality being wild bore. He took me to the area's "club house" where after a weekends shoot 10 or 25 huntets will gather to cook eat and drink. This place has its own cold room butchery and and commercial stoves etc.

    It was a great stay for a couple days and without me really being part of it, it was organised that I go and stay with some other cousins, in Turin, for 3 nights. My journy was being planned for me but these people are relatives and too nice to refuse. Anyway I was getting used to being looked after hand and foot.

    Next stop Turin.
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  • Day69


    September 20, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    A 3 hour trip ( no autostrada for me) for the 200 odd kms to Alessandria. Once you leave the Aosta Valley, and head into the province of Piedmont, the country side really does start to flatten out. Piedmont literally means at the foot (pied) of the mountain (mont). Look at that, a free linguistics lesson ✏. Not too much to say about the road except that there are a lot of rice fields in this part of Italy. I stopped off in Casale Monferrato which is the area Dad was born and sent a pic to my mom and sister while I was there.

    Alessandria, again, is a typical Italian regional city with great architecture. Fun to walk around for the afternoon after booking into a very nice, for the price, hotel with safe and secure underground parking for the bike. Europeans, including Italians, are generous and very friendly people but there is a percentage of the population that would steal the skin off 5 day old milk. But then again you can say that about every country!!!!!!! Why are there two sinks in the hotel bathroom? The second one is so low to the ground it's very hard to use!!!!

    I did say I was going to fast for at least 24 hours before eatng solidly for the 5/6 days of staying with relatives. The hot chocolate and pannini was too much of a temptation.

    Right, next stop will be 5 days of talking, eating, sleeping, eating, sightseeing, eating, and then to finish off...more eating.

    Asti here I come (ohh, and my relatives don't even know I'm in the country let alone that I'm going to visit and stay for a while. They will be (pleasantly?) surprised 😲
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  • Day68

    Aosta Italy

    September 19, 2016 in Italy ⋅ 🌙 15 °C

    I've really been looking forward to getting to Italy to visit my parents' birth place, catch up with relatives that I've only ever met once before (previous trip with Anne) and the ability to speak the local language - well a bastardised English version anyway. I won't see the relatives and mum and dad's old stomping grounds until I get to Asti in Piedmont, but can't wait to have a conversation, without having to resort to mime, even if it is with a total stranger.

    Aosta really took me by surprise. I stayed in a cheap (because it isn't ski season yet) hotel about 15 minutes walk from the centre and the "old town". It's a lot bigger than I thought and it's bilingual French/Italian. Most of the town signage is in both languages and streets often have straight out French names. There is even a lift from the town that takes you to close-by ski slopes. The old town was just fabulous with, lucky me, lots of (American) tourists visiting. I got to speak Italian (even when people wanted to talk in English!!!). I'm sure they wondered why a simple request for a hot chocolate turned into a 1/2 hour conversation about what a great day it was. Aosta has beautiful buildings (some back to the middle ages), the obligatory huge piazza & large Cathedral and the best gelato I'd eaten in 10 years (eg. last time I was in Italy). The streets weren't too busy so it was a safer introduction to some of the craziest drivers and riders in Europe.

    I also love Italy's ability to meld old and new together in a very practical way. There are 3 photos below of 1.an APM (that's an automatic pizza machine for the uninitiated) 2. a condom vending machine and 3. the local Aosta Cathedral. The two vending machines were almost next to each other on the same building wall which, in turn, was a very close walk to the Cathedral. It was explained to me that this was the practical dating solution for young un-married catholics. With 1 you both got a a cheap meal. With 2 you both got the dessert that you both wanted but couldn't ask for at home, and with 3 you got the immediate forgiveness needed to have an other date next weekend!!!!!

    Next stop Alessandria. I need to fast for at least one day before I go stay with relatives - boy do Italians like to feed you 🐷
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  • Day68

    Road from Bern to Aosta

    September 19, 2016 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    This blog is just about the road from Bern to Aosta in noryhern Italy. The route I took goes close along the shore of Lake Geneva and the Great Saint Bernard road that includes the pass over the mountain range separating Switzerland and Italy. It also includes the 8 km long Saint Benard tunnel, part of which is through the mountain range and part of which hangs off the side of the mountain. The pass itself is just under 2,500 meters high. This means a couple of things. 1. Fantastic views and 2. Bloody cold. Had to stop to put on winter gloves and just about every bit of clothing I had until I looked like the Mitchilin man. The road is mostly good and very very windy!!!

    This is hard to admit, but I was glad when the road straightened out - I needed a rest!!!!
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  • Day65

    Switzerland for a couple of days

    September 16, 2016 in Switzerland ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Made it to the capital of Switzerland. The ride out of Treisenberg was great. The old proverb of "what goes up must come down" suited the ride perfectly. The road down the other side was fantastic smooth tar with really well banked corners..just fun. Had to traverse a couple of ranges and the weather was looking a bit ominous but held off. Beautiful country side but with a fair bit of slow traffic including the obligatory milk trucks! The problem with a lot of these roads is that there is nowhere to pull over for pic taking.

    Bern is a mix of old and new like a lot of Europe. I thought Lietchenstein was expensive......just add 10% for Switzerland. Spent a couple of days wandering around the city ang got the shortest hair and beard cut of my life. I went into an African barber shop that advertised cuts for both "black and white". Well by the surprised look on all the faces in the shop when I took a seat, I'd say it had been a while since anyone took the sign at face value. There was a bit of whispeting and pointing and then some big smiles (ftom all of us) before I was invited to take a seat. Anyway great hair cut (a number 1 - took about 3 1/2 minutes) but still cost me £30.

    Next stop Italy and a chance to meet some relatives.
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  • Day64

    Liechtenstein - Triesenberg

    September 15, 2016 in Liechtenstein ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    I've had 2 weeks off from blogging - did you miss me ❓

    Made my way into Liechtenstein, I'd booked into a little mountain village just outside of Vaduz which is the capital. I was hoping for a cute little relaxing village, and from the pics you can see thats what I got. The country side just gets more and more scenic, and the roads more and more windy (as in curves) - just keeps getting better.

    One thing I will say, the schnitzell in Austria, Liechtenstein (and Switzerland) are a lot tastier/better than those at home. Only downside to this little country, damn it's expensive, even in the slower summer season.

    Fact: Liechtenstein is only one of 2 countries that is double land-locked.

    Cheers for now
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