Did you spot the clue? The diminutive figure at the foot of the stairs. This is the magnificent Caserta Palace, home to Queen Amidala in the Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace. Just one of many things we did to keep a small boy entertained on holiday. A train ride from Naples, we were equally enthralled by the cascata, a series of cascades, rippling down through the awe-inspiring gardens fronting the palace.
Family holidays always had to balance my insatiable desire to see everything with allowing pool and sociable time for the youngster. He was good at finding a friend and our holiday to Sorrento was memorable in that respect. Always a keen football fan, Juventus was one of the teams he favoured, and his black and white striped Del Piero shirt greatly endeared him to the Italian waiters. He also had a passion for Ferrari, in those Schumacher days, and one of the small boys at our hotel was of the same mind. They formed a great attachment and much fun was had, but the inevitable day came when Liam had to go home. Our son was out of bed at crack of dawn- the only time on that holiday- and downstairs to say his farewells. I watched, with a huge lump in my throat.
Fortunately a distraction was planned for that day. An outing to Amalfi. Initially not much of a treat for James, who felt coach sick for most of the winding journey down the coast. I was in awe of one of the most beautiful journeys I had ever made, whilst ministering to the youngster. My gaze riveted to the coach window, I prayed fervently that he could hold on till our stop. Which he did, only to be bundled onto another coach up to the dizzying heights of Ravello. Nor were the stunning villas Rufolo and Cimbrone much to his taste. What a selfish parent! But the aerial views in that first link show you the wonderful landscape in a way I can’t hope to.
I seem to remember he ate his bodyweight in pizza and chocolate ice cream once we were back at ground level. And there was the amazing Duomo to see, and a wander through the charming streets. I could have lingered by the harbour, but there was a hydrofoil heading back up the coast which finally put a smile on his face. The journey was every bit as bumpy as the coach, but he didn’t mind one bit. A happy family again!
I don’t think I ever saw the Algarve looking greener than it does right now. I know it won’t last, as it starts to hot up this week, but it’s a joyful sight. Normally we’d only have four more weeks of walking before the group splits up and goes its own way. This year there is no group. We long ago dispersed, and have been maintaining contact with amusing anecdotes and photos. They would have chuckled to see us struggling through the undergrowth on this walk.
We left the village of Furnazhinas on a straightforward, if uphill, trail- PR10, Castro Marim. Efforts are made to maintain these trails and renew signs, but not always successfully. There has been so much growth with the damper than usual winter that a machete would have come in handy at one point. The cistus that I love for their beautiful flowers at this time of year are incredibly tenacious, clinging to our clothes as we tried to force a passage. A stream that we needed to cross didn’t help matters but, eventually, we found ourselves on firm ground. And undeniably beautiful.
We were following the bed of the stream for part of our route, and had thought to bring a towel and change of shoes in case of mishap. Not needed in this instance. It’s incredible how greedily this arid terrain can soak up water. A sea of lavender, from deepest purple to pale green, wafts us with fragrance, romping with wild abandon amongst the broom.
As always, oleander follows water, the buds bursting to open. The stream plays hide and seek over a slab of shale, wild sweet peas sprinkled in the long grasses. Tiny white starlets cling on to rocks, drifting helplessly on the water’s surface.
For a while the landscape opens out, and we catch our breath. The land has been left to fend for itself, thriving on the absence of human endeavour. Minute yellow and crimson flowers- more rock roses!- dot the trail, and I take great care not to trample them.
Rock roses, tiny and grand. Undoubtedly stars of nature. As are the crimson poppies at the water’s edge. And a wisp of softest, beguiling blue.
Just enough water, but not too much. Softening the surroundings. Nourishing the plants. Delighting the eyes. But not soaking our feet.
Lemon flowers of every description still carpet the bare patches, in this land where cistus rules. Almost at the end of the trail, I pause to admire the lichen. And then we’re back in the sleepy village. Not even a coffee stop in this one. We have to look elsewhere for cake and distractions.
And so we’re home. Another glorious day in our hills, which I’m privileged to share with you. I’m off up there this morning. Spring time is precious.
Just time to share a walk or two before I go. Thank you for your company and the kind contributions you make.
Jude knows which paths to lead me down. I love rhododendrons!
Here we are, rolling into May, and a happy Bank Holiday for many of you. Here in the Algarve it’s Dia de Trabalhores (Labour Day) today and Mother’s Day tomorrow. The restaurants are allowed to stay open into the evening for the first time in ages and the borders reopen too. Cause for celebration? I’m having 3 bites at the cherry with this random selection from Faro (and my patio). Six Words for Debbie, a smidgeon of Pink for Jude and a Last on the card, for Brian. Happy weekend, everybody!
Moving the clock forward a couple of years and we were back in Italy, this time in the sunny south. The presence of Vesuvius across the Bay of Naples was a powerful magnet, but we never did make it to the summit. You can try to cram too much into a holiday. I remember it being hot as Hades in Pompeii, so we opted for a cooler day to take the train to Ercolano. Although it was 22 years ago, I can still recall the awe we felt in the presence of this survivor of the volcanic eruption of AD79. Fragile as it was, so much was still intact. The beautiful frescoes and mosaic tiled bath houses of this former seaside resort had survived being buried in ash.
The day was hotting up by the time we’d finished our visit, but the ascent of the volcano was just 12km away. Too tempting, we caught the bus for the panoramic ride up the mountain, only to find that we still had an hour and a half of rough uphill walking ahead of us. There wasn’t time to reach the summit and return for the last bus down again. So near and yet so far! We were running out of holiday and I never managed to look into that caldera. I think the experience would be very different today.
I started this series as a way to take part in Becky’s Bright Squares, but I’ve been swept along on the tide of memory. I’m hoping that you’ll be happy to carry on with me. Meanwhile, many thanks to our lovely hostess.
Do you ever wish you were an artist? What must it be like to look at a scene like this and know that you can replicate your version of heaven, with just a smidgeon of cloud here, a patch of blue there? I hovered behind him, watching the bay take shape in front of my eyes. He was oblivious. Just One Person from around the World.
Perhaps you’d like to sit a while and watch the ferry dock? For us, Ascona was but a brief stop off on our trip to Lake Maggiore, but you can linger as long as you like. Have a cappuchino- why wouldn’t you? I don’t have Becky’s knack for squaring videos, but she made me cry with hers this morning. Streisand often gets me that way. “Misty water-coloured memories…”
Yet another bright memory, but my last from the lovely Italian Lakes. Next time I’ll take you south to the Amalfi Coast.
Where next? A year later found us with this stunning vista of Lake Como. Not my image- my husband was chief cameraman. I simply gawped! And kept a lookout in case a certain Mr. Clooney happened to saunter by, in this playground for millionaires. Bellagio was all I could have hoped for. Our hotel, on the lake front, had the look of former gentility, with frescoes on the dining room ceiling and an air of grandeur. We were tucked neatly away in a large cupboard at the back, and tiptoed down the stairs to breakfast. But the view across the water was sublime.
My memories of Como are not so clear as those of Garda, and I’ve had to rootle under the bed for the box of postcards that constituted my diary at that time. I would say that it was more of a holiday for grown ups, with beautiful gardens and villas everywhere you looked. Entertaining a 7 year old was less easy, but he was pretty good at finding himself friends, including an older couple with whom he regularly played cards. His blow-up rubber boat was a great success in the freezing hotel pool, despite, or because of, its slow puncture. A memorable coach trip to Lake Lugano in Switzerland provided stunning scenery for us and, for him, a giant chess set on the endless shoreline.
Impossible to forget, though, the vision of Isola Bella. We ferried across Como to join a coach for Stresa, on Lake Maggiore. A motorboat carried us out across the water to the Borromean Islands, to the wedding cake confection that is Isola Bella. Everything is anticlimax once you have witnessed these coral grottoes, whimsical statues and the manicured lawns where white peacocks parade. It feels like treading in someone else’s dream.
Almost beyond your wildest dreams, and then onwards, swept towards Isola dei Pescatori, the more modest Fisherman’s island. In the distance, Isola Madre, the mother island. Many holidays rolled into one is how I remember Lake Como, with every possible variation in the weather. Water dripping from our noses in the capital, Como, and searing heat on the islands. A feast of a holiday!
Becky is taking a little sojourn of her own. Do join her with a BrightSquare!
Our love affair with the Italian Lakes started here in Bardolino. The small town sparkled on an evening. After an early supper in our hotel we would venture out to absorb the atmosphere. The passegiata, an easy habit to adopt, the water murmuring and glistening at our feet. The following year we returned to Torbole at the head of the lake, for more adventures. And then, emboldened and needing more, Lake Como.
We spent two holidays on Lake Garda. The first, based in Bardolino, enticed us to return. Not something we would normally do, but when something is such a perfect fit, why not? Our hotel, 5 minutes from the lake, was comfortable and easy. Small boys were very welcome, and when the tureen of spaghetti, in a simple but delicioza tomato sauce, passed around and around the dining room, not just the small one was delighted.
There was a favourite cafe, overlooking the ferry departure point, where once we watched a storm roll across the waters. Torrential rain poured, and it poured. The water joined with the flood waters of the lake and rose, higher and higher. The waiters diligently swept the waters away, and we sat, helpless, with our feet up on adjacent seats as it rose, and rose. And then, slowly abated, as if it had never been.
Small boy loved the hydrofoils, and was on first name terms with all of them. It didn’t even put him off when we got caught in a storm, out on the lake, and the hydrofoil leaped and danced through the waves like a dolphin as the water raged over us.
Another, much calmer day, we took the ferry to Sirmione. Ice cream by the harbour, compensation for the lack of hydrofoil. High on the battlements, we watched the boats come and go.
Becky has many bright memories of her own. Share them with her on her special day. Happy birthday, darlin!
We walked with a certain spring in our step last Monday. Although it was a walk we’d done before, it was our first walk outside of our own small patch of the Algarve, and we were almost giddy with freedom. Starting at Fonte Felipe, in the hills above Sáo Romáo, a well marked trail led to many delights. Most exciting of these, wild orchids!
It’s rocky terrain and, even after a damper than usual winter, many of the river beds are dry. It’s amazing what can thrive in these conditions. Bright blue iris unfurl in the sunlight and the fields are studded with buttons of yellow and fragrant lavender. In a patch of green, a poppy sizzles.
The woodland shade nurtures the lively blue of the wild agapanthus. The trail twists and turns, and we breath in the scents of the flowers as we brush past them. Solid slabs of rock have been hewn from the landscape to create boundaries.
Progress is slow as we examine and exclaim at each new sighting. Jewel brights light the deep green shade. The last time we were here it was early Autumn and the paths were strewn with acorns. Spring has brought abundance to these hills. And then we have our first glimpse! Orchids are shy, and nestle beneath companion trees for protection from prying eyes. But finding one almost invariably leads to another.
We linger till we have spotted every last one. I am reluctant to move on, for I know that the orchids will have evaded capture. I can never produce a crisp image of these tiny things, try as I might. But the images are imprinted upon my brain. A treat to be stored for the future. I hurry to catch up my companions, smiling happily at the wonder of my surrounds.
Small white cistus dot the landscape, amid a spiky yellow shrub, not unlike broom. We have to watch our footing as the trail starts to descend, loose rocks being something of a hazard. But this isn’t a walk to rush, for there are surprises around every corner.
We could not decide what this beauty might be, but it stood, alone and proud, as we began our descent. The cork oaks stood sentinel over their beautiful charges, as they have for many long years, and all was right with our world.
I hope there are enough Bright Squares here to satisfy Becky. It’s a bit of a deviation from my bright memories in the Italian Lakes, but I’ll be back there later this week. Meanwhile there are walks to share.
Feel free to join in at any time. I’m walking with you once a fortnight, but walks are always gratefully accepted. It doesn’t have to be a Monday. That’s washday, isn’t it?
What nicer way to start than with a garden tour from Jude?