Boats, cars, street life, lunch – click on the picture to view the slideshow.
Friday 7th June 2013
I woke to a crash in the kitchen this morning, I didn’t rush out of bed but let Beastie sort out whatever mess he had got himself into. It seems that some chocolate biscuits in the cupboard had proved irresistible to the ants and they had invaded in the night. The crash was Beastie trying to get stuff out of the cupboard to attend to them, and a glass coffee jug was the victim.
So my tea in bed was late…very poor.
It was another glorious day but this morning we had some housekeeping to do. Some serious hoovering (in corners and everything), cleaning the rug and then we ended up washing the covers on the settee because I tried to clean off some spots and it was worse when I had finished than before I started. I am not a natural housekeeper, but then Mr Beastie is always happy enough to remind me that he never married me for my housekeeping abilities – he can be a sweetie!
After this we went out for a new bin as Beastie decided that he just could not cope any longer with the current bin, because he has to take the lid off before he can throw anything in it! To be fair it is just so lovely for that to be the biggest worry in his life, so I happily sanctioned the purchasing of said new bin! Hmmph, the trouble with Mr Beastie is that if you give him an inch he’ll take a mile, so he also complained that the seats on the terasse were a bit hard on his delicate bottom. Some cushions for the chairs on the terrasse were purchased too then. Today clearly, was not a day lived in the fast lane!
We had lunch in the apartment and made a very nice salad again, with lardons, salami, goats cheese, eggs and tomatoes. We washed it down with half a bottle of rosé, which is a very pleasant way of giving a lift to an ordinary day.
After lunch we thought we would spend some time by the pool, which was lovely and Beastie had a swim. He tried to lure me in too, but I wasn’t convinced so I sat on the side with just my feet in. He says I must have a proper dip tomorrow.
All this hard swimming was thirsty work so a beer at Charlie’s Bar was called for – having an English pub full of scousers on your door step makes it hard not to! Dinner at home shortly with an evening stroll will finish off the day nicely.
What a wonderful day! We woke to full sunshine, blue sky and the perfect temperature. Beastie’s need for speed had got the better of him and he had decided that today we would recreate our Mini Road Trip – but on bicycles! He fetched some croissants and sold me the idea over breakfast. We set off up the road to hire our trusty steeds which turned out easy enough and we got two bicycles with baskets and comfy saddles for E30 for the day. The plan was to ride to St Tropez, take a boat across the Gulf of St Tropez to Ste Maxime and then make our way back along the coast road, looking in at Port Grimaud and Marines de Gassin along the way.
The ride to St Tropez was easy enough and took about 20 minutes. The cycle path is very easy to follow and although you do run alongside the road, at no point do you have to deal with traffic – and it’s flat. We chained up our bikes to some railings at the side of the old port but not before Beastie insisted on having his photograph taken with his flash new wheels in St Tropez.
Beastie then took the opportunity to catch up on some watch shops that had previously been closed and was excited to discover that the shop will have an Alpina model that he is interested in, in stock by the time we return in July. We bought our ferry tickets to Ste Maxime and took our bicycles on the boat, something that I think they might only allow when they are not full, as they do take up a lot of space. As we sailed across we looked at the bay and realised that the second part of our trip was a great deal longer then the first, but we had ages to do it in. The Bateaux Vert are very speedy little vessels and in no time we were on the other side looking back.
We arrived at Ste Maxime with just enough time before lunch for Beastie to make a nuisance of himself in another watch shop, where the man in the shop was almost as interested in Beastie’s Chopard as Beastie was in the Breitling he was trying on. We escaped the shop with a heavy Breitling catalogue to cart around the rest of our journey and found a lovely little restaurant we had never visited before called Le Maison Bleu. I had the Plat du Jour which was a white fish steak in butter sauce with rice and ratatouille, Beastie had fried ravioli and lardon salad. A pichet of rosé to wash it down and a cafe gourmand to follow made it a very special meal, and a proper lunchtime treat. Then off we went again in the direction of St Tropez, on a path that we had not noticed before which ran along the beach, lined with small cafes and restaurants.
Eventually we arrived at Port Grimaud and made our way to the beach end where it is quieter, and there are less folk to run into. Both Beastie and I were a bit unsure of ourselves riding in confined places around people and it would have been very easy for either of us to run some old biddy over! It was time for another rest and we had an ice-cream in a small cafe and looked admiringly at the Lamborghini that was parked up there. The irony of Italian cars, such as Ferrari and Lamborghini, is that you could not drive them in Italy on any road that wasn’t a toll road. It seemed to us that the further south you went the worse the non toll roads got. Motorways for example had a 50 km limit in some places because the surface was so bad and I’m not talking UK pothole bad, I mean seriously falling apart and wrecked bad. In fact thinking back on our Italian trip, our scariest moment was hitting a huge pothole at 130km/h! My God did it make a bang and how we didn’t tear the wheel off I will never know – and this by the way was on a motorway!
A little more exploring in Port Grimaud and then on to Marines de Gassin where we had a stop by the beach just to see what was going on and a look in a few shops. We were quite tired by now so we thought it was time to take the bikes back, get something for our supper and go back home for a cuppa.
As I said at the start of this blog, what a wonderful day Beastie’s mini road trip turned out to be. The ferry crossing from St Tropez meant that it was a circular ride, just like our Italian road trip and this made it so much more fun than just cycling to St Tropez and then back again. He can plan another bike ride for our next holiday here in July!
Today will have a simple ending, Beastie will lose himself in Florence following the adventures of Robert Langdon, while I immerse myself in Ken Follett’s Winter of The World. All this excitement will be sustained with a glass or two of rosé and a pizza!
The last week has been very hectic touring Italy but it really has been a fun and leisurely drive. In total this holiday will have seen us do between 3500 and 4000 miles which on paper sounds horrific and for many not their idea of a holiday at all.
However, break it down and it makes sense. 1000 miles in one hit overnight and we are in Port Cogolin. A lazy 4 days in our apartment before we tour Italy. Then a half day drive to Brescia for one night. Next a drive to San Marino through some stunning countryside arriving around 2.15. Next Rome and a two night stop but with an extended and very pleasant lunch stop at Assisi on the drive down. Then Siena with a break in Montefiascone and a one night stop here. Modena for one night and then back to Port Cogolin but arriving late at 8 in the evening so we could spend the afternoon in the glorious Portofino. Now we have 4 days here before we do the 1000 miles home leaving late Saturday evening and arriving home Sunday afternoon. In truth the format has worked incredibly well.
Today then, in keeping with the format, has been a lazy day. A lie in and a read in bed began the day before we decided to head for the beach.
We went to Gigaro beach which is a 15 minute drive away dropping down to the beach from La Croix Valmer. Here we had another read again and Mr Beastie is starting to enjoy Dan Browne’s Inferno, in truth in spite of it being by Dan Browne, whom he is not a big fan of but enjoyable he says because it is set in Florence. Meanwhile I am having great fun reading the Montalbano novel that Beastie finished a few days ago.
Bored with lying on the beach reading, Mr Beastie decided he would take a picture of his watch for his watch blog feature “Wearing today”. He roped me into helping with this and we collected some driftwood to compose a photo of his watch on the beach. Why can’t he just make do with a bucket and spade like any other boy?
Still at the beach we bought some cheese and salami and a baguette and Mr Beastie proudly made lunch from this. Bless.
We never spend the whole day on the beach so we popped into St Tropez, taking the coast road towards L’Escalet beach and on past the famous beaches of Pampelonne before hitting the old fishing port of St Tropez. Every time we take this road and remember we have been driving it for over ten years now, we have the same conversation with Beastie saying, “This is where topless sunbathing began…”
St Tropez was quiet so we parked bang in the centre at Place des Lices and I mooched about comparing the ostentatious jewellery with what I saw yesterday in Portofino. It’s a close call really – hard to say which I can’t afford the most.
Beastie meanwhile amused himself by taking a few photos for his ever growing fashion blog Friday Cool, which is another
one of our Tumblr blogs that keeps him entertained.
Afternoon tea called back at the apartment, followed by a beer and a catch up on the Internet at Charlie’s Bar. We ended the day with a salad for dinner, lettuce topped with smoked lardons, some left over cheese and the remainder of the salami we had for lunch, surrounded by a necklace of eggs and tomatoes. It was rather tasty actually, and we washed it down with a local rosé wine and some cheese and crackers.
A very pleasant lazy day.
We were a bit later than we would have liked getting up this morning, and when I woke I realised there was something wrong with my eye. I thought I had been bitten by a mosquito last evening when we were having our drinks outside in the hotel grounds and I had anticipated some reaction and so I had put some antihistamine cream on my eye before bed, and I am already taking tablets as well. It was a good job I did as my eye had swollen to magnificent proportions this morning and I looked a sorry sight. Here I am valiantly trying to hide my swollen eye.
Breakfast in the Hotel Castello was superb, everything you could wish for. To be fair all our breakfasts have been good, but this one was really special, and to top it all they gave us a box of biscuits as a present when we left. This really was a smashing hotel.
So late out of bed and with a breakfast too lovely to be rushed, we started our journey later than the Routemaster had hoped and then I made it worse by joining the motorway and heading in the wrong direction. 17km before the next exit and a chance to turn around … Yep that was a grim half hour 😦
But once we had got over that, the journey to Portofino was very easy, on the motorway all the way until the last 10 km. So we came off at Ravello – Portofino isnt mentioned on any signpost on the motorway – and then WOW!!! What can I say, just when we thought Siena was the best place in Italy, we find this secret gem. The drive to Portofino was stunning, utterly beautiful, it was chocolate box Italy at every turn, with the sea as a backdrop.
Then we reached Portofino and easily managed to park in a very discreet underground car park. The town itself is really very small but with lots of cafes and some very expensive shops skirting the tiny port.
We saw a gobsmacking display of jewels which I thought couldn’t be real, because, well just because. But we asked and yes, they were real, windows full of diamonds and sapphires, not little trinkets but whopping great collars and pendants, the price of just one was E36,000 (we asked). Proper Liz Taylor stuff, and then later in another jewellery shop we saw a ruby heart,which was an inch across and surrounded by diamonds. These items had no prices displayed, and really that said it all.
Beastie was also in watch Heaven as he found more watch shops to drool in, in this tiny jewel of a port than he could find in the whole of Rome. Officine Panerai had its own shop and there was another rammed full of Rolexes and Tudor watches. Beastie made an interesting observation on the Rolexes. He is not a massive Rolex fan but here they had a great collection of tasteful Rolexes from a green faced and bezelled Submariner to a very attractive Millgaus and he glibly said there were at least three Rolexes he would happily have on his wrist (I do love this boy and his dreams). In St Tropez the Rolex watches are just covered in diamonds and are really OTT, so Portofino’s discreet class is also reflected in its selection of watches!
We paused in a cafe on the quayside and had lunch, a tuna and mozzarella salad with a glass of white for Mr Beastie and a real treat for me – a ham and egg omellette! No holiday is complete for me if I don’t get an omelette on it! It was a lovely light lunch and so enjoyable to eat in such a wonderful setting.
After lunch we strolled round the port and climbed up the Castello Brown, the old home of the British Consul in Genoa in 1867. He used to see it from his boat, the Black Tulip, when he was out sailing, and decided he would buy it and do it up. He paid 7,000 lira for it and filled it with bits and bobs from all over the place, but it was done tastefully and remains a charming place to visit, with views to die for over the little town. This is a panorama photo which I grabbed on the iPhone and it was taken from a turret on The Castello that overlooks the port and is without doubt the finest viewing point that you can find. This view was just incredible.
Back down in the port we rested with a drink in a cafe bar before deciding it was time to leave for Port Cogolin.Time was getting on as it was after 4 now and we still had a long way to go, so we cracked on, and were back in Port Cogolin by 8pm. I had planned for a late supper so it didn’t take long to prepare, whilst Beastie unpacked the car. It seems very strange to be back here again, but to us it’s like coming home. It was beautiful weather with sun all day and it was still shining when we got back, so we sat on our terrasse and had a cup of tea before dinner with all the unpacking done and the dirties washed. Very organised. A lovely day to bring to an end our very own Italian Job.