Home Sweet Home

Where has the time gone, my last blog post was October 2022 and now we are in March 2023!

So, just a short update. From the photo above, you can see we finally moved into our own house, just over five months after arriving in France. back in June 2022. A hectic time and moving in at the end of November meant it was best to unpack the Christmas decorations first! That helped take the pain away of yet more French admin, setting up utility accounts etc…. As I type this, we have just had our health cards come through (Carte Vitale). All that is left on the French admin list is to change our driving licences and then start the application for the residency visa.

But back to Loubillé, where we now live. Unlike our house in Spain, we have quite a few houses around us and we are a less than a mile away from the the centre of the village. Our nearest town is Chef-Boutonne, a ten minute drive and where the supermarkets, vets, banks etc are located. We have beautiful countryside everywhere, even in the winter months, so lots of lovely walks for Charlie.

We have started French language lessons but Loubillé life has been some what ‘on hold’ as sadly my mum has been very poorly and I’ve had to travel back to the UK a few times. I’m very pleased to say that she is now recovering very well.

At the moment, we are waiting on a start date from our builder to get some works done on our home. Mainly cosmetic as the house is in good order. But we do need more insulation as it is a cold house despite the huge wood burner. Plus we are getting a quote for a  heat pump, ‘pompe à chaleur’.

We have a large south facing garden that needs tidying and then we will wait a year to see what plants appear. I have so many ideas for a typical French garden! I already know we have many roses, honeysuckle, lavender and peonies plus right now a few daffodils. Also, plans for a kitchen garden at the side of the house. Steve is waiting to play with his ride on lawnmower!

A few jobs started in the garden including clearing tons of ivy!

Slowly we are getting a social life, meeting some lovely people. Everyone is so helpful. And with spring almost here, I cannot wait to be out and about discovering the area we now call home. And writing more interesting blogs, I promise!!

Au revoir et à bientôt!

Monsieur La Quintinie celebrations

Every year, on the first weekend of October, the town of Chabanais celebrates La Quintinie.

Why? Well, here’s the history bit in brief!

Jean-Baptisite de La Quintinie was born in 1626 here in Chabanais, Charente. Initially, he went to Paris as a lawyer at the Parliament, as he was known for his exceptional writing skills. The president of the general accounting office requested that La Quintinie teach his son whilst on a trip to Italy. During the trip La Quintinie was impressed with the Italian gardens and became fascinated with horticulture. On their return from Italy, La Quintinie decided to give up his legal career and started studying and practicing in the gardens at an hotel. He visited England twice and King James II offered him a job managing his gardens, but La Quintinie declined preferring to be in France.

La Quintinie’s excellent reputation as a soil expert and gardener saw him work for many dignitaries. Then in 1661, Louis XIV gave him a job in the vegetable garden at Versailles. In 1670 the King created the role of ‘director of the royal fruit and vegetable gardens’ for La Quintinie who went on to design the ‘potager du roi’, the King’s vegetable garden between 1678 and 1683. This was a nine-hectare area. The objective being to provide fresh produce for the royal court and also becoming a horticultural experimental garden to cultivate out of season fruits and vegetables. When La Quintinie died in 1688 at Versailles, Louis XIV said to his wife ‘madame, we have suffered a great loss that we can never repair’.

So here in Chabanais they are very proud of this history. Many exhibitors participate selling their local produce of fruits, vegetables plants and flowers over the weekend, plus their arts and crafts, wine, cheese, honey, nougat, fresh bread and freshly prepared crepes. Indoors, there is a selection of handmade jewellery, soft toys and more.

The theme for the celebrations this year is ‘l’eau au jardin’ and unfortunately Saturday saw continual heavy rain all day, so quite apt! However, Sunday was better and the market nice and busy.

The event was organised in association with the Friends of Quintinie who also ran gardening workshops on the two days.

I just love the charm of these local events. I was so tempted to buy a plant or two, but we are still about seven weeks away to moving into our house in Loubillé.

A Tale of Two Rivers

As the sun sets on the river Thames, we now find ourselves on a new dawn on the river Vienne. We’ve arrived in Chabanais!

And now let us go back ten days when we still didn’t have our French visas, therefore we couldn’t book a definite day to travel and Charlie, our lovely dog was too ill to have his travel Pet Health certificate issued. The sale of our apartment was due to complete on 20th June which would mean we would soon be homeless.

We set off for our long awaited visa appointment on 8th June, armed with reams of paper, enough to wallpaper our lounge! So much photocopying that our old printer almost died of exhaustion, so our neighbour took it off our hands. Our second printer was already packed! Our 10.30am visa appointment seemed to be shared with at least 50 other people, still it was a day out!

Meanwhile, back at our our apartment, the hot water pump had packed up and finding a plumber that could replace it within a few days was a challenge. While Steve organised a plumber and two new front tyres for our car, I was back and forth to the vets to to get blood and poo tests done for Charlie. His symptoms pointed to a nasty parasite, so the vet started treatment while still waiting on the results. Thank goodness Charlie got better and his certificate was issued on Tuesday 14th. The very day the removal company and the plumber descended on our home.

Later that day, we received the e mail from the visa centre saying our passports were back from the French Embassy and ready for collection. But no actual confirmation of the visas being approved. Even on the French Embassy website, there was no confirmation. We had to wait anxiously until 8.30am Wednesday 15th when I collected them and nervously opened the envelopes and looked inside the passports and we’d been approved! Bienvenue en France! Couldn’t quite believe it and I admit I shed a tear. When I arrived home, Steve dashed off to get a new front tyre fitted and yes, if you’re keeping up, I got a puncture in one of the brand new tyres on Tuesday night!

We were now booked on Eurotunnel 07.50 Thursday 16th with a nice 5am start! After such an exhausting week, with not much sleep, we decided to take up our friends Lucie and Tom’s kind offer to stay overnight at their place in France.

But there was still time for a little more stress on our way to Folkestone with an accident closing the M25 resulting in us missing the train, along with many other passengers. But the staff met us with a smile, no fuss and booked us on a later train. The friendliness, facilities and efficiency at the terminal were a very welcome surprise. Charlie was happy as he had longer to play on the agility course set up in the dog area! We drank a bucket of coffee!

Were these signs for us not to go? ….. were they heck, nothing was going to stop our “aventure français”.

We arrived early evening in pretty Chitenay, (pronounced as you may think!) in Loir-et-Cher.

We were given a lovely French welcome and met Lucie and Tom’s young children for the first time, so did Charlie and he finally relaxed enough to receive a lot of fuss and cuddles from them! Lucie and Tom moved to their beautiful house in March. It will be their long term family renovation project, along with the gardens and woods. An idyllic location for their children to grow up in.

And potentially, only a few hours from where we may find our new home? Next morning, fresh croissants and coffee for breakfast and dear Lucie sent us on our way feeling refreshed for the first time in weeks.

Finally, I now feel we can get really excited as we are here. Our little rental house is right in the village centre and 2 minutes walk from the river, the local café and local shops.

Now the house hunting begins!

What next ….. new location to be ‘chilled at sunset’?

Finally, I’m writing a blog post, well just a short catch up really, as the gap has been much longer than intended!

I can’t believe its 19 months since we arrived back in England from Spain. In fact, I think we’re all wondering how the last two years or so have vanished so quickly when we’ve been locked up, quarantined, socially distanced, masked, you name it, we’ve all been through it, haven’t we?

Back in October 2020, our plan was to return from Spain, decorate our apartment ready to sell and move on. But like the best laid plans things took longer than expected. Two buyers later and our sale is completing next month. Life also got busy, back to ‘normal’ spending time with family and friends. I became a volunteer at the vaccine centre in Chertsey Hall and felt a part of a real community sprit. It was very hectic and I have sanitized hundreds of chairs and had some great laughs!

We also joined the `’Big German Shepherd Club’ walks on many Sunday mornings.

Then, there was my lovely part-time job at Mercedes-Benz World at Brooklands which ended up lasting a year but I have made some truly special friends there.

We imagined moving to the English countryside for a while but our hearts weren’t quite there. Our budget was being pushed more and more with the ever increasing property prices, also there are lifestyle choices to consider, especially at our age! After many months of Steve showing me beautiful country houses online, we took a short trip to South West France and viewed some properties. Decision finalized, France would be our next adventure! Right now I’m thinking, goodness another language to try and learn!

Moving to the EU after Brexit certainly throws up challenges, a lot of research, visa issues, shipping belongings etc etc…. Now we cross our fingers that our visa appointment, early June, (after two month wait) will result in a huge ‘Oui’! Then, we will be on our way, first stop Chabanais, Charente where we have booked a rental property and storage for three months.

So, I must get back to packing and say goodbye for now or ‘au revoir pour l’instant?

Charlie … chilled at last!

I am so chuffed that I finally get my own blog post, although I did think and hope it was a new type of treat or toy? So, here I am, Charlie, a German shepherd of two years and five months. Some of you will have met me or at least know about me. I’m quite a complicated chap and there were times when my owners worried if I was going to make it and stay living with them? But here I am!

We all met when I was 3 months old and I lived with my two sisters (I was one of eleven pups). Carole and Steve certainly gave me loads of cuddles when we met and then imagine, they came back the next day to see me again! This time, though, I left with them. I can still remember the garden gate slowly opening and them leading me outside. Whoa! I was so scared. But he scooped me up and I lay on the seat in the car and was stroked until I fell asleep.

I entered their house and they let me wander around so I could sniff (and wee!) and take in my new surroundings. There was also a huge dog bed with a duvet waiting for me but sleep was the last thing on my mind. They seemed to have bought so many things for me! I wasn’t that co-ordinated and I can remember when I decided to try my new bed, I climbed up and promptly fell out! A few months later, I also fell in the swimming pool, put me off water for life!

My safe place became a shelf or step, see I am a strange chap!

The first few weeks were intriguing discovering a new home meeting a new vet, my first walk outside and getting to know my new owners. One day, she sat on the floor with me, teaching me to look at her when she said ‘Charlie’ and rewarding me with a tasty treat. No problem for me. Ah! that was now going to be my name! Charlie ….. Yeah! I liked that name.

He would also sit on the floor a lot with me, trying to get me to play with a ball or rope toy. Nope, couldn’t get the hang of that. Although, I did get to love chasing sticks he’d throw outside for me and today this is still my favourite game.


The bigger I got … the bigger the stick!

Every evening we all went walking along the promenade at Garrucha. Lots of people, bikes, skateboards, pushchairs etc. I was getting along OK being introduced to so much stuff. So many people stopped and wanted to stroke me and quite a few laughed at my huge ears! 

I really loved the garden at the house, firstly it had no fences so I could take off and chase the farmer on his tractor! Secondly, the plants tasted delicious, especially the figs, although I don’t recommend such a detox diet for a young growing pup! I was meant to be putting weight on.

But then overnight I became frightened of everything? All the training and socializing they had been doing with me went pear shaped. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to be stroked and my toilet habits left a lot to be desired! I drove my owners crazy and quite frankly they drove me crazy trying to stop me doing my own thing and became an uncontrollable rebel. How were we going to live together, as deep down inside I didn’t really want to leave but it wasn’t looking promising?

I had made friends with the neighbours dog, Woody, a podenco (Spanish hunting dog) and occasionally we would make a break for freedom and be gone for an hour or so. However, one day when we were out, it felt like a really long time, in fact it was hours. I realised Woody and I had lost our scent to get home and this wasn’t a good game any more. It was very hot and both tired. Somehow, I got us walking in the right direction and then, out of nowhere I heard a car – my car- and Steve had found us! We leapt into the back feeling shattered and stressed. Goodness, I drank several bowls of water when I got home and I could tell I was in the really bad books. The rebel in me wasn’t helping secure a future with my owners?

And that ‘op guarantees no future Charlies!

Then, one day, we all went to meet Paqui, who runs the training school (Adiestramiento Canino Zadhir). She specialises in German Shepherds and trains police dogs. I just sat behind the fridge while they all chatted. Now, what was going to happen to me? I decided to make Paqui wait 6 weeks before I would let her stroke me, let alone give me a treat. Twice a week, we all went to training classes and it was so stressful and so tiring having to obey commands ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘wait’ ‘down, ‘here’ etc. On and on and on it went but I did smile inside, as my owners were also being trained! At the end of each class, I would be let off my lead along with the other dogs. We were all young playful puppies except my nerves kicked in and none of them played with me. They were chasing each other but I wasn’t ‘invited’. What was that about, my world was going backwards.

Well, I better not keep talking about my bad habits, let us fast forward over a year and after many, many more ups and downs and never-ending training classes plus a house move, another trauma (and story!), I have finally become quite a nice pet, even if I do say so myself! I now love playing games, being brushed and lap up affection and being stroked! I’m still anxious with people and children terrify me so I bark a lot. Paqui says as one fear is conquered, I’ll invent another one! But hey, she entered me into her local dog competition the training school organised and I did quite well!

And there’s more, I’m happy to tell you, I have a girlfriend, a beautiful, lovely German Shepherd, Aura. We met at training classes just over a year ago.


Charlie (left and Aura (right)

It turned out she was a complicated gal! She barked a lot at other dogs and barked and went crazy at the birds. But she adores people. Aura’s owners, Rhona and Ian really like me and goodness, they always give me so many treats. I’m even allowed on their sofa! And get this, Aura lives only a ten-minute walk away. Aura and I have fun and help each other when we are together! We also go to the beach together and Aura loves the sea but I still have a fear of water. But I take my frisbee and run and run.

So, you could say “once upon a time there was a dog called Charlie ………. and they all lived ‘chilled’ ever after” Paws crossed!

If I was having a coffee right now ……


If I was having a coffee right now, I would be sat on the shady terrace of our apartment , which is currently ‘home’. I’d be scrolling through photos and videos, I took a few nights ago in Vera at the Moors and Christians parade. But, I’m under strict instructions from Steve, not to write another blog on Spanish fiestas, parades, carnivals etc! Sipping on my coffee, I would be stressed about the fact that I haven’t written a blog post for 3 months. Or maybe I’d be preoccupied again with Brexit which is making it impossible to plan anything and be wondering what the impact will be on living in Spain for us?  Life has been busy and very sociable and I do still have my list of ‘must visit’ places in this lovely area of Spain, which I can then share on my blog.


But there is also a place I would like to re visit, Nijar, which sits between Sierra de Alhamilla and the Mediterranean coast. To be more precise , Cactus Nijar which is a commercial nursery on the outskirts of town. The founder and owner Toni Brugger moved from Austria and set up the nursery and garden almost 20 years ago. I was first taken there by friends when there was small music and art event one hot balmy evening. What a setting, and of course my photos cannot do it justice. Nijar is not far from the film studios where the ‘spaghetti westerns’ were made. and you could easily imagine Clint Eastwood riding amongst the cacti!

The garden’s many varieties of trees include olive and palm with strategically placed sculptures throughout the garden and highlighting the different types of cactus plants. It is an inspiration however large or small your garden or terrace may be?

Of course cactus plants just thrive in our climate here, as I well know from our last garden. In fact I’ve grown (excuse the pun) to think they can be quite stunning and beautiful and more importantly, fairly low maintenance.

PS… for those of you who don’t get bored of seeing photos of Spanish fiestas, parades and carnivals……!! Vera Moors and Christians parade……

Now if Steve was sitting having a coffee right now ……

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If I was sat here having a coffee right now …… Carole would have made it!

‘Thank you Darling’ …… what would I be thinking about? Well if I were still a smoker, I would be thinking about the sheer pleasure of finishing said coffee and then lighting up. The coffee taste still fresh in my mouth, as I flip the lid of the fag packet and slowly remove a ciggy. The excited anticipation of the first drag and feeling the nicotine ‘hit’ as my brain shouts its approval and writes ‘pleasure’ in my eyes. But, sadly, that little pleasure is no more. I’ve tried to get high on cacti but it just doesn’t do it for me. So what would I be thinking about? Maybe the book that I’ve been writing for so long, that now, when I decide to write, I have to re-read  the first few chapters to remind me what its about! One day soon it will be finished and I will unleash it to the public scrutiny. It will be trashed and I will be ridiculed and I will know that I should have spent my coffee breaks more productively. So what am I to think about as the aroma of the beans and my taste buds combine to provoke an idea? Life. Life is a subject of incalculable facets. A subject of such magnitude that I think I’ll go and watch the Michael Macintyre ‘Waitrose’ sketch on YouTube.

“Lovely coffee Darling and good luck with the blog …… no fiestas etc”


A Change of Sunset


Happy New Year …… and we have moved!

Yes, we decided to shake it all up and start a different chapter to our adventure in Spain. Of course we are still ‘chilled at sunset’ but a new location not so far away from Antas. We are back amongst people, bars and Spanish restaurants, plus a spa and a gym and all within walking distance. Still close to all our lovely friends and with stunning views, open spaces and can now add a sea view to the mix. In fact we are now just an 8 minute drive to the Mediterranean coast at Garrucha. Sounds good eh?

We will be at least six months here at Valle del Este, Campo de Golf. Renting for us, right now, is a good option and not being financially tied to Spain. Brexit is such a shambles but cannot be totally ignored, so we will sit back and see what pans out …… definitely do not feel like discussing Brexit in our blog!

Meanwhile, the immediate plan in our garden apartment is to relax more, finally get my easel set up and paint at home as well as at my weekly class. Steve will finally finish writing his book! And we want to travel more in Spain and visit family and friends more often back in the UK.

I still can’t believe it is three and a half years ago we arrived in Spain, a dream we finally made come true. We planned as much as we thought possible, after reading endless information, soaking up episodes of ‘Place in the Sun’ and taking Spanish language lessons before we arrived! Once actually living here day-to-day the dream and reality were so often different and I don’t mean in a bad or negative way at all but just different.

Firstly, making new friends, we found our new life soon became very sociable! But they also became our lifeline for advice in our first year. Everyone helped each other especially when being so rural in the campo. Just back in November, we had storms and small flash floods and with non-stop WhatsApp chats, we all checked who had flooded where and if help was needed? I admit, I did have one of those ‘I’m a Celebrity, get me out of here’ moments when one day we had no internet, intermittent electricity and no water indoors (plenty outside!). But then that lovely Spanish sunshine returned and the stormy days were quickly forgotten and all was back to normal.

‘Normal? now that is a word to give some thought to? We have had so many ‘firsts’ since starting our adventure here which are now considered our ‘normal’!

Speaking Spanish, sadly still poorly, almost everyday including texting in Spanish to couriers, builders and Spanish friends.

Pruned (and respected) the many different, often giant cacti we had in our garden without them attacking either of us!

We owned a swimming pool, learnt how to maintain, tough job, I know but someone had to do it!

Saw snakes (not poisonous) up close and personal on our patios and in the courtyard.

I still have a Spanish hairdresser who doesn’t speak much English, so those first few visits caused me the same anxious feelings I get when going to the dentist!

I’d peg out the washing and wonder at the fab views of rolling hills and seeing rabbits and partridges wandering in our garden …… OK, there were also a few ‘nasties’ crawling as well!

I started taking art classes and even hanged some of my finished pieces in our home.

We were recommended Felix, the four foot tall and wide, one eyed local Spanish gardener (bless him!) who arrived at dusk, a few months after we moved in, waving a saw and he soon pruned every tree and more!

We picked our olives and took them to the olive press in exchange for extra virgin oil, delicious and such fun!

It was so normal to go outside and pick a lemon from our tree to accompany our fish dishes …… Oh! OK, …… gin and tonics!

We had lived here 10 months, when we were invited for the weekend to Granada with our Spanish friends. That was a very intense Spanish lesson but we learnt so much about the Spanish lifestyle, really great. After a few wines, I really thought I could be fluent in Spanish but ……

Fiestas became an important fixture on our calendar and we still always try and visit a new one each year as well as being loyal to our dear Antas fiesta.

Honestly, so much has happened since we arrived here, too much to mention but our blog is a lovely diary of the highlights!

Having lived in a Spanish cortijo, it was wonderful in so many ways but they do need never ending TLC almost everyday of the week. The renovations improved our cortijo and were a true labour of love but often the work needed redoing every year due to the nature of the build and climate. We asked ourselves, did we really want to continue spending our savings and time working hard on the cortijo for a few more years? The answer was ‘no’. Nobody sees themselves getting older …… who bloomin’ wants to? But if something happened to us in our home, the emergency services would never have come out to us, it would have been quicker to drive to the medial centre, if you could! I guess, when Steve fell off his ladder and only injured his ankle, it made us look at the reality of where we lived a bit more. It is a tough balance, our dream house with so much space, potential, lots of land, swimming pool and surrounded by countryside with such privacy versus total practicality.

But we moved a month ago and it is so different here and impossible to compare, it really feels like a new exciting and happy chapter!

What are you planning in 2019 ?


Summer fades to Autumn


Just can’t believe my last post was over 2 months ago – sorry! Where did the wonderful summer go? A cruise, trip to England, watching the World Cup, partying at a few fiestas and days on the beach of course.

Then, on the really scorching hot afternoons here, it was a case of sofa, a good movie and ice cream. That got me thinking of my favourite movies – not easy! I often see on other blogs – top 10 lists but Steve and I listed 40 plus movies straight off. Somehow, I have got my list down to top 20….sort of…. It would change yet again if I was asked tomorrow!


  • Officer and a Gentleman
  • Pretty Woman
  • Rain Man
  • Forest Gump
  • When Harry met Sally
  • Sleepless in Seattle
  • Groundhog Day
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • Oceans Eleven
  • As Good as it Gets
  • Terms of Endearment
  • Apollo 13
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Gravity
  • Top Gun
  • Grease
  • The Italian Job (original)
  • ET
  • Jaws

Steve loves all movies, so his list is not in a time warp like mine! What are your favourite films?

Anyway, we said ‘adios’ to August and welcomed a little September rain. (Now that’s something I didn’t think I would say when living in Spain.)


But the rains brought a lovely freshness and it is still around 24 degrees but with no humidity. Autumn is here and the garden  has come alive with so much flowering.

Why do weeds grow faster than plants? But hey, we will even have the start of a ‘lawn’ in the coming weeks!  It really is more like Spring.

Soon, we are allowed to take Charlie for long walks on the beach followed by hot fresh coffee. Yes, it will also be ‘adios’ to my lovely iced coffees!

The farmer who owns most of the land around our house is also busy. After removing dead orange trees from 3 fields back in May, we are now all ‘ploughed’ ready for the farmer to plant the much promised olive and almond trees. Wow, the smell from the blossom in a few months time will be gorgeous!

In a few weeks the pellet burner will be firing up the central heating and we will be all snuggled up. Dare I say, making plans for Christmas????!!!





Then and now…some of my favourite photos


It’s July and as the searing sun beats down on Antas, the scenery looks more and more parched and desert like. (We’re about 80 kilometres from Tabernas Desert.)  So, I started looking back at photos I took a few weeks ago which led me to reminisce on how our garden has evolved in the last three years but is still very, very much a work in progress and always will be and  I have never experienced such fast growing weeds as here in Spain!!










We started on the garden around our refurbished courtyard back in November 2015.



And the courtyard went from this…

…to this, our modern surprise inside our cortijo. The perfect chill out or party (fly free) outdoor room!





Chilled on fun deck!


We decided to celebrate our birthdays (I forget which one now!) and our silver wedding anniversary with a special holiday. Chilling on fun deck and cruising out of Barcelona, taking in the South of France, Italy and Montenegro and finally back to Barcelona.

We arrived mid-afternoon on the Friday and had our first mini taste of Barcelona. We checked in at the hotel and headed straight to La Sagrada Familia, just 10 minutes’ walk away.

Wow, the Gaudi masterpiece is just stunning, beautiful, amazing captivating …… Our tour included going up one of the towers – the passion tower – looking out over Barcelona city!

Now, my challenge is how many of the hundred plus photos to feature on this post as none of them really do justice to this spectacular structure due to be finished 2026! (Visit http://www.sagradafamilia.org for all the history – fascinating.)

We will definitely go back to Barcelona and visit all the sites!

After a morning stroll around the city we boarded the ship Saturday lunchtime and set sail for Villefranche Sur Mer which is nestled between Nice and Saint Jean Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur.

Still a fishing village with so much charm and French chic but bustling with locals and tourists. We decided to spend most of our time there after catching the bus into Nice for a few hours.

Nice was hectic as the Monaco Grand Prix was on…..poor Steve, so close and yet so far…..another year?

Monday we docked in Livorno, west coast of Tuscany, Italy. A cruise gives you a real flavour for places but it is impossible to visit all the sites in a day. So, we decided to visit Lucca and Pisa with Tuscanybus.com which was an excellent service and tour. Lucca is known for the well preserved Renaissance wall surrounding the city plus Lucca is the birth place of the opera composer Puccini.

Such a pretty place and we sampled our first Italian ice cream!

After chilling in Lucca for a few hours, we moved on to Pisa which as expected was super busy with tourists, but still amazing to visit. The leaning tower of Pisa, 185 feet of white marble! But the bell tower is not the only attraction in the Field of Miracles – Campo dei Miracoli. There is the Cathedral, Baptistery and ll Duomo (Italian for The Dome).

The following day, we arrived in Civitavecchia Port and took the train to Rome S. Pietro just 40 minutes away. Well, as the English playwright John Heywood said…Rome wasn’t built in a day… and for sure even on the best ‘hop on, hop off’ bus tour, it is a challenge to visit all the awesome sites in a day! But before we took the bus, we walked only 15 minutes from the station to the Vatican City, the smallest city in the world (110 acres) and where the Swiss guards still serve as the military force.

St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica are stunning and vast and again, impossible to really capture in a photo. Especially, in a sea of Japanese tourists with either umbrellas or selfie sticks!

We had a 10 hour exhausting but fun day. Apart from the café, where we stopped and had 2 coffees, 2 small pastries and 1 small bottle of water. I jokingly commented that the bill will be huge as there was a cash machine by the door…28 euros later!! Still, we had plenty of cents to throw in the Trevi fountain in order to get that perfect photo.

We strolled around the area and took a peek at the Pantheon, a former Roman temple. But Steve wasn’t allowed in as he was wearing a vest t shirt, so did I, but my shoulders were good to bare….ha! ha! Back on the tour bus, through the streets and more tourist points of interest until we reached the Colosseum – another wow to finally see in real life. Also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre and the largest ever built.

Back on the bus, final photo opportunity was the Altare della Patria, a huge monument built to honor Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy.

Phew, just minutes away from the station we chilled in a lovely Italian café with fresh pizza and ice cold Peroni beer.

My step counter had almost exploded….our poor feet!!

Good morning to Wednesday, as we docked at Salerno, a port city in Campania and about 1 hours’ drive from the Amalfi coast. We went ashore for coffee and a strolled around and just wanted to relax after Rome. Didn’t fancy a boat trip for the day when we were cruising anyway!

After a day at sea, we started sailing into Venice at Friday lunchtime, a place we have both really wanted to visit for many years. Every passenger was out on deck with their cameras. Breath-taking as we sailed by Piazza San Marco, Saint Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, and the excitement just kept building. (Also couldn’t believe there were four other cruise ships dominating the cruise port skyline when we docked!).

We were half an hour walk from where our dear friends Dee and Rob were staying – we were all going to share the Venice experience!

Plus we met with Italian friends Angelo and Marco who immediately advised us the best way to see Venice was to ‘walk Venice’……the step counter was ready again! They also took us to the Venetian Ghetto area which a lot of tourists miss. (The ghetto was an area where Jews used to be compelled to live by the government.) We sat outside eating Venetian style tapas (cicchetti) and drinking good Italian wine, just bliss soaking up the atmosphere with the boats passing by. We walked back to the ship and Venice at night looked magical! Venice didn’t disappoint.

Next day, we all met up and started the step counter, crossed a few canals, caught a water taxi to Saint Mark’s Square and took a boat trip to Murano, famous for its long tradition of glass making.

A factory visit, a showroom visit, glass pendants for Dee and I, lunch and back to the real hustle and bustle!



Somehow, we walked by Doge’s Palace, through Saint Mark’s Square, by Saint Mark’s Basilica, the clock tower, took photos of the Bridge of Sighs without losing anyone! Stopped at a café for a well-earned drink, and then finished walking over the Rialto Bridge and meandering through many narrow streets, over so many tiny bridges back to the hotel.

Farewell Venice, it didn’t disappoint, did I already say that? We will go back there, for sure.



Sunday morning we docked in Porto Corsini. With a large marina and then beaches and pine forests, pretty. We took the local ferry and bus into Ravenna and strolled around the market etc. The ship sailed early afternoon and we enjoyed cruising across to Montenegro.

Kotor Bay is the deepest natural fjord-bay in the Med and the sail in scenery was stunning.

We visited the walled medieval old town of Kotor, winding streets and squares and Romanesque churches, shops and cafes. It was a bit touristy, but great fun and was a lovely port to end our fantastic cruise!

We had a final two days cruising an chilling back to Barcelona and home to Antas.