We left Isle of Anglesey, driving from Amlwch along the east coast to Beaumaris where Tony used to visit many years ago to service marine engines in that Marina. Then over the Menai Bridge towards Snowdonia. We stopped a few times en route to admire the scenery, green and pleasant in the summer sunshine. The mountains of Snowdonia provided a majestic backdrop; caught in the summer haze they resembled huge mammoths standing along the horizon, their grey backs almost blending into the hazy blue sky.
We drove along the Vale of Conway, stopping to visit the Swallow Falls. They charged us £1.50 each to view the falls – and very pretty they were too. However, when we reached the bottom of the gorge we were hugely entertained by four fit young men swimming in the pools at the bottom of the waterfall, jumping and diving. They were climbing up the wet, slippery walls beside the fall and sliding down again carried down by the rush of water. I don’t think the sad attendant at the top had any idea were were being treated to such a spectacle.
We arrived at the pretty little town of Betws-y-Coed (sounds like Bettersea Coyd). The area was a base for walkers, cyclists, canoeists and horse riders and the town was heaving on that warm sunny evening. There were lots of people enjoying the cool waters of the river – paddling and swimming in the deeper pools whilst others lay in the sun along the grassy banks. There was a narrow stone bridge spanning the river towards the town centre and a crowd had gathered to watch some youths jumping from the bridge into the water. There was a stern sign warning folk not to jump at risk of prosecution – but the sign was in Welsh, mostly.
The following day we cycled a circuit of 25K along country roads and tracks, some very steep. The scenery was just beautiful, leafy country lanes, green fields, lakes and rivers with the green backdrop of the Welsh hills. The foxgloves and heather by the paths were vying with each other to win the “colour me purple” contest. Outside the towns we saw few cars but plenty of walkers, horse riders and cyclists.
Tony’s family used to come to Anglesey for holidays when he was a boy. Since that time, the main road from Menai Bridge had gained motorway proportions and the traffic sped unhindered towards the west coast to Holyhead. Our destination was Rhos-goch, five miles south of the North Anglesey Heritage Coast. We soon left the A55 and turned north towards Amlwch (pronounced – Am luk, the final consonant is made in the back of the throat, as if you were clearing phlegm).
The minor roads can’t have changed much since Tony was here as a boy. They undulated over hills and through small villages and were often lined with flint walls, disguised with vegetation, ready for the unwary motorist to pull in too closely to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass.
Our campsite was on a small farm with spaces for five vans, two pitches were already occupied. The weather was hot and dry and we were able to drive into the adjacent field and park the camper away from the other campers, overlooking the valley. There were sheep and cows in the surrounding fields and, in the near distance a wind farm with twenty or so turbines, just one or two lazily turning in the light breeze. There was a pub twenty yards up the road and by the time we had settled, checked the facilities (an outhouse containing one toilet and one shower -spotlessly clean) it was beer o’clock. We had a pint and a passable meal, although “seasonal greens” turned out to be frozen peas.
The following morning dawned with blue skies and the promise of an even hotter day. Had the weather been inclement our campsite would not have been so idyllic, but our newly mown field provided the softest of green carpets and our awning sufficient shade against the hot sun. We set off on our bikes towards Amlwch where it was “market” day – half a dozen stalls selling household items, second hand clothes, plus butcher and greengrocer. A far cry from the French markets we so recently visited. The town had a tiny natural harbour with just a couple of fishing boats. We cycled along the coast to Bull Bay where we enjoyed stunning views of the coast as we ate lunch on the terrace of a hotel. After lunch we cycled on, completing the circuit back to the campsite. Cycling was not arduous even though we were more used to cycling on the level terrain. The narrow roads rolled gently up and down over the hills, providing lovely downhill runs before rising up again, causing us to ride more and more slowly until, phew, we reached the top ready for a coast down again. We saw very few cars on the roads.
We had been away for over five weeks and were looking forward to seeing the family again. We set off from Le Crotoy and drove the 65K to the Eurotunnel Terminal. We really appreciated the unmanned but simple checking in process, as compared with our Sicilian ferry at Genova. Here the software recognised our registration number, offered us a choice of travel times at no extra cost and we were soon on our way to England.
Catharine and Violet
We called in on Kate and Neil, little Violet was now three months old and had nearly doubled her birth weight. We left Folkestone the following morning and arrived at West Wittering early in the afternoon. End of blog!
We were sorry to leave San Remo but it was time to head home. We drove west towards France along the Cote d’Azure, passing Menton, Monte Carlo and Antibes before turning north towards Lyon. That evening we found a good campsite just outside Lyon in a wooded park area. We sat in the evening sunshine enjoying a drink before dinner.
Bread and croissants were ordered from Reception for breakfast and then we were on the road again. The tolls on the autoroute seemed expensive but the miles flew by and fuel consumption was much better than if we were driving on smaller windy roads. Our route was to take us through Dijon, Troyes and then on to Reims – unfortunately our satnav had other ideas and we found ourselves hurtling towards Paris. Quelle horror! We have more than once been reduced to gibbering wrecks by the Paris Periphique. As soon as a good alternative presented itself we left the Paris-bound autoroute and drove sedately along the D671 from Dijon to Troyes. It turned out to be a beautiful drive through champagne country (no, we didn’t). We rejoined the motorway at Troyes to continue our journey at a more sprightly pace. We passed through St. Quentin and Amiens and on to the coast.
We were heading towards Le Crotoy, a small fishing town on the Channel coast just up from Dieppe. This friendly little town, in common with so many French towns, had a municipal campsite for camper vans – no tents or caravans. There were about 60 vans on the site that evening, each paying an overnight parking fee of €5. It was a short walk along the quay to the town centre where there were fresh fish stalls and a variety of shops and restaurants. We ate oysters, followed by sole and skate with chips and salad, washed down with a bottle of the palest rose wine. We spotted several of our fellow campers enjoying a meal in the restaurant and guessed that the people of Le Crotoy were well rewarded for their generosity in allowing camper vans to stop in their town overnight.
Campsite at Le Crotoy
We had found a beautiful campsite at San Remo, a seaside town very close to the French border; our pitch overlooked the sea
Campsite at San Remo
The weather was warm (20 degrees) and sunny with just a few clouds topping the highest hills surrounding the town. San Remo town was about 4k away from the campsite along a wide cycle path that must have been a coastal railway at some time. The path travelled on for 25k. Saturday was market day and we enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the stalls, mostly selling the usual market rubbish but there was a covered marked selling fresh produce – fruit and vegetables, fresh fish, meat and cheeses as well as olives, bread , pasta and so on. We stopped for a beer at a sunny cafe in one of the lovely squares and then went on to the port for lunch at a fish restaurant close to where the fishing boats unloaded.
San Remo Fish Market
San Remo Market
We planned to stay in San Remo for a few days before heading north towards home.
We were very sad to have to say goodbye to our dear friends who had looked after us so well in Tivoli – Jacqui and Sergio, their daughter, Tamara and her husband, Roberto and their son, Valerio – and the dog Flora.
We headed west to the coast, stopping at the Laika factory near Florence, where we got a warm welcome from their Sales Manager and were shown the production line. We spent the night near Luca and then headed along the coast, past Genoa and down to San Remo in Liguria.
A restaurant had been booked at a popular fish restaurant on the east coast for Sunday lunch. We drove from Tivoli towards Pescara on the Adriatic coast. The drive took more than two hours each way, the scenery was spectacular as we climbed up to the mountains. We travelled through a series of tunnels, one of them was 12 km long. There were eight of us in two cars – Jacqui and Sergio, Sergio’s brother, Bruno and Teresa and their neighbours, Guilio and Irma. We stopped off to at Teramo in the mountains to visit the shrine of St Gabriele.
We reached the Adriatic Coast in good time for lunch at Alba Adria. The restaurant was soon packed with large family groups, enjoying a huge array of delicious fish dishes, both hot and cold.
The Largest Fig Tree In Europe
We wanted to take back some olive oil, so Jacqui and Sergio contacted friends of theirs, Pepe and Adele, who had a large olive grove and had oil to spare. On our way to their house, in a village near Rieta which was the exact centre of Italy, we visited the Abbazia di Santa Maria di Farfar.
Pepe and Adele had invited us to supper. Close to their house was the largest olive tree in Europe, which was thousands of years old. We tried to go and see it but there was a man blocking the entrance asking us to pay €2.50 each for the pleasure of viewing it. We declined to pay but managed to take a photo of the top of the tree from the road.
We had a delicious supper with Pepe and Adele, mostly made from his own produce, finishing with their own chestnuts roasted on the open fire. We came away with 5 litres of Pepe’s olive oil.
Lunch of Porchetta
We drove to the Lakes, where the Pope had his summer palace at Castel Gandolfo. Pope Emeritus Benedict, who had recently stood down, was living in the summer palace, waiting for his new residence to be completed at the Vatican.
We stopped for lunch at a lakeside restaurant – pork and bread, olives and a mature sheep’s cheese. Porchetta is a famous delicacy from the area and is often sold from stalls along the roadside.
We drove down the Appian Way, an ancient Roman road that runs from the Colosseum in Rome to Brindisi in the heel of Italy.
We visited the catacombs at Fosse Ardeatine where we visited a beautiful memorial to 334 men shot by the Nazis in 1944 in retribution for an attack on the Germans by partisans. There were 334 tombs, carefully kept with fresh flowers on the graves.
Tomb of Domenico Ricci
“You Are My Sunshine”
“Let It Be”
“When I’m 64″
“Those Were The Days”
Jacqui gave weekly English lessons to local pensioners at the Tivoli Old People’s Centre. Tony and Marion went along to meet the “students”, some of the pensioners were younger Jacqui was – but you would never have guessed it when you watched Jacqui leading her classin a medley of Beatles’ songs. They also did a fine rendition of “You Are My Sunshine”.