Well, here we are on the homeward straight and we’ve just crossed over into France – so bonjour tout le monde! Mind you, the final week of the route up and out of Italy has had its fair share of interesting bits. Two immediate points a) the realisation that we were leaving Southern Italy in temperatures 20 degrees cooler than when we arrived and b) given the cooler temperatures, the realisation that you don’t need to stop so much as you don’t feel quite as tired as quickly (and thus the need for more excuses to have the same amount of coffee and beer stops). The final days in Italy though have included visits to Rome, the Amalfi Coast, Siena, Lucca and Portofino, so certainly not shabby and plenty of beautiful places to savour. However, in no particular order, a quick recap whilst the brain cells permit on some of the key highlights this stage: meeting Jesus, being a grandma, Tiger 800 update, Tim’s parents’ wedding, curvy roads and diesel, Guinness book of records attempt at quickest time of removing a bike jacket, Gladiators and Ad Fab movie…. It’s all been happening!
Now before you start putting in bids for my beautiful Tiger 800 and Honda 250, this is not a meeting in the ‘judgement day’ sense as a result of a particularly poor bend (mind you I did have one where I ran out of road a little, but it was more fun than scary!!), but instead a face to face with a mahoosive statue of Jesus that is perched on the the top of Mount San Biagio above Maratea. Measuring 22 metres high and with an arm span of 19 metres across, this enormous sculpture of Christ the Redeemer was installed in 1965 and is second in size only to that of Corcovado in Rio. Definitely worth a closer look we thought and we were not disappointed – not least because it has a particularly winding road with a number of ‘interesting’ hairpins on it (now you see why Tim was so keen) but the elevated sections were definitely not for the faint hearted…
Mind you the funniest bit of the visit was meeting 3 Italian New Yorkers whilst we were getting the bikes from the hotel car park before we set off who had also decided to visit the Redeemer. They were so funny – arguing amongst themselves as to how they should get there – by car or by foot. We saw them go past at least 3 times as they kept changing their minds as to which mode would be best! Priceless.
However, the best and most anticipated meetings yet to take place will be those on our return with our granddaughters – Tim’s two and my first. Hard to believe that little Emily can already be one and we’ve been keenly watching the progress of little Willow who’s now 8 weeks old and is changing so quickly. Now, a new addition is the latest beautiful bundle, Rosie, who is just one week old. We’re so excited by it all we could burst and can’t wait to get back for belated cuddles!
Tiger 800 update
Following on from the saga of the intermittent fault with Tom that we mentioned in the last blog, the very brilliant Phil did a bit of research and forwarded me a couple of links to Tiger forums where a similar issues seemed to have been experienced. They referred to a stepper motor plunger sticking issue and there was a ‘fix’ which involved a bit of contact spray and then blipping the throttle each time the engine management system went into shutdown to free up the stepper motor and reset it so that it ticks over properly. Apparently it often suffers from getting gunked up with dust etc and this can cause them not to work properly. There was certainly a great deal of dust in the air filter which they changed at the service in Palermo, but they clearly hadn’t heard of this issue (and to be fair, neither had the guys in Catania or in Exeter) so hadn’t done anything to clear it up. It’s interesting to note that the 2015 models don’t have the stepper motor…. Now, it might not actually be the problem but, touch wood, we’re 1700 km or so on since leaving Sicily and so far so good with Tom going beautifully once again. Phil, you’re a star.
An Italian wedding
Both Italy and Sicily held a great deal of interest and fascination for us – hence why they feature as such a big part of this trip – but for Tim this was also driven by recollections of his parents’ fond memories of both places too. During the war, Tim’s dad – Norman – had landed with the allied forces in Sicily after being pushed out of Africa. We managed to visit Pachino where the landings took place but more than this, I think that Norman managed to see quite a bit of the Island in later years and was mentioned to Tim many times what a lovely place it is – he was certainly right. Soon after, Norman was moved up in to the Lazio region and took command in a place called Chianciano Terme after the Germans had been moved on further north. We knew that he and Tim’s mother, Joy, had married there in 1944 – we had the marriage certificate which clearly identified the town as the place of the wedding – and so we decided to try and find the church. Tim’s sister Jane did a bit more investigation too and identified that they had stayed at the Hotel Capitoli when they returned to the area to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary back in 1984. We decided to look for that too. Well, to cut a long story short, it turns out that the current manager of the hotel, Daniela, clearly remembered the 40th wedding anniversary visit and the story of the wedding during the war. Next thing, out comes her mother Jone, who was 14 at the time of the wedding, who remembered it very clearly as it was quite an occasion. Her father had started the hotel in the 1930s and we were shown a lovely photo of the hotel as it was then and how it would have been when the marriage took place. It was then called the Hotel Garibaldi and the connection still exists and it is now the Hotel Capitol Garibaldi. Then we discovered some more very interesting facts:
the wedding actually tool place in the hotel – in the dining room. We ended up having lunch with Daniela, her mother, her son and her sister as they all remembered Norman and Joy fondly and were keen to continue to connection through Tim.
Jone was clear to point out that, prior to the wedding, Norman was actually living in the hotel as it had been established as the allied command post and he was commanding officer. Clearly why it was such an obvious choice for the wedding.
Of all the hotels we could have stayed in on this trip (it’s a reasonable sized town with lots of hotels) we chose one only two doors away from the hotel of the moment – we didn’t know about the Capitoli hotel until the morning we went to look for it.
A photo of the happy couple, best man and two other army officers is clearly taken outside the main entrance to the hotel – easily identified by the owner’s mother
They still have a letter that Tim’s parents wrote to the hotel to thank the family for looking after them on their 40th Anniversary return visit.
A super, but quite exhausting day but and one that re-established a connection that we are very keen to continue.
Another lovely experience in Chianciano Terme was a visit to the Spa. We got a late night ticket as that was all that was left but a very lovely way to end a busy day – not to mention the mud bath experience, but that’s another story…
Hazards of motorbike riding
1) Bendy roads + water + diesel = all sorts of issues
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but this really does my fruit. In a car, it matters not (usually) if there is diesel on the road when it’s wet. You just go over it and you’ve got 4 tyres to help keep you where you want to be. Not so on a bike. Of all the days to rain, it chose the day that we were experiencing the very lovely roads along the Amalfi Coast. Now, those of you familiar with said coast will know that they are very bendy indeed and this is part of their charm. However, when rain hits diesel it means just one thing. Slip sliding away might have been a hit for Simon and Garfunkle but I am not a fan. Suffice to say, that both of us did a bit of slip sliding and it’s not to be recommended. Although you don’t actually want to be speeding along as the scenery is far too nice to miss, it is a bit of a beggar when you are going slower than you’d like to because you are so focussed on looking for diesel on the road – No, No, No and once again, No. On one occasion we could even see the truck in the distance that was leaving his slippery trail. Lucky for him that he turned off before he got the wrath of Shaw I can tell you. There were other roads of a similarly bendy nature over the following days – more of the Amalfi coast and also the very lovely Italian Riveira – but thankfully they were only ever damp rather than wet so we managed to get away with it. One of the best ones was the road high up above Monaco and then the descent into Nice (see how I just dropped those names in??) We were both cruising along some lovely curvy (dry) roads when, who should we see but Jennifer Saunders in the back seat of a very lovely old car rigged up to a trailer ready for some filming. Having googled it since, it seems that there’s an Ad Fab film on the go where the South of France is a main destination (figures!) So there you are, hot of the press so just remember that you heard it here first.
2) Insects in the wrong places
Exhibit a: itchy head syndrome
Tim often is concerned that he has something wriggling in his helmet – having hair I don’t really notice it – and occasionally has had to stop to have a good scratch. Vents on helmets are a good thing for keeping the head cool but it does also mean that little critters can get in and have a good wriggle around. Maybe he should consider a hair net? (I’m not about to suggest it though)
Exhibit b: Wasp alert
Only once so far has this happened but there was definitely a wasp trying to get into the wrong side of the visor which resulted in a quick pit stop to wrench the helmet off. I knew it wasn’t the best place to stop – even though it was quite safe – so the ensuing horn blowing by some stupid individual to alert me to my inopportune parking received short shrift and a couple of words along the lines of tupid swat, before delicately replacing said helmet and carrying on.
Exhibit c: Biting/stinging critter
Having stopped briefly for a well earned coffee, we put the gear back on and set off. After a good 5 minutes or so I had a very unpleasant biting/stinging sensation on the arm and, again, had to pull up sharpish to get the jacket off. You’ve never seen me move so fast! Tim did see something fly out and it was well sore for a while but I’m not sure to this day whether it was a wasp or a horsefly. Not nice but must have been hilarious to see an impromptu speedy striptease (well not much teasing involved actually, more flapping around) at the side of the road.
When in Rome…
Couldn’t not mention our forray into Rome – a place I have wanted to visit for many, many years. We took the sensible option of getting a hotel on the coast and taking the train in. A very good move as it was a short walk to the train station in Lido di Ostia and then just 1 euro 50 each for the train and tube – as many trips as you wanted within an hour. Bargain. We only had to use 3 separate tickets all day so got there and back and around Rome for 4 euros 50 each. We had received some very sound advice from those who had visited before us about what to focus in on as we only had the one day, so we decided on a trip to the piazza outside St Peter’s Basilica so that we could at least see where the Pope did his weekly address and get the gist of the size of the Vatican City and cop a look at the very interestingly dressed guards.
Then we hot footed it to the Coliseum – holy moley all that we expected and more. Epic. Had a guided tour which was useful if still very difficult to understand the English speaking Italian guide. Can’t wait to watch Gladiator again when we get home! Then a quick look at the Pantheon – beautiful – and inbetween times lots of walking and picking up other lovely sights along the way such as the Victory building and the tomb of the fallen soldier, remains of the Roman forum and countless other amazing archaeological remains – all quite breathtaking in terms of scale and of quality. Amazing and to be recommended.
Not content with just the delights of Rome, we’ve also managed to have a quick look at Siena (gorgeous), skirted around Sam Giminagno (also gorgeous) and then paid a return visit for me to one of my favourite places, Lucca. Staying just outside the old city , we were in prime position to do our own passeggiata along the city walls – this had been the first place I had seen it in action many years back – and then explore the lovely little streets, piazzas and stunning buildings. It’s often not a good idea to go back to a place that stands out in your memory in case it’s not as good as the first time, but Lucca delivered and it was especially lovely to do the passeggiata together.
Now we’ve arrived in France and we’ve just had a lovely day off in Nice – Italy was sooo last week darlings.