Colin’s little girl Mo…my favourite dog ever. I’m so very sad that’s she’s gone and miss her greatly.
Lake, Castle, Home…Happy Cat!
Feeling a little better we began to slowly make our way again, going a little bit south to Orbetello.
It’s kind of an island, but has three different ‘causeways’ connecting it to the mainland. We drove to the northeast corner and the small town of Porto Santo Stefano, which seemed to be a fairly prosperous place.
It had a lovely boardwalk and lots of cafes/restaurants, in addition to being both a fishing port and marina – also had some rather nice yachts.
We stayed for one beverage, then as we went to get back in the campervan the local coast guard fellow came up and told me that parking there was not allowed. I explained that we were leaving right then and he was ok with that – he didn’t know we’d already been there for almost an hour.
We then headed basically east as I wanted to see Lago di Bolsena – it was one of the places I had thought I’d go to at the beginning of my very first bike trip back in 2017, but sadly never made it to.
It was a lovely drive and I was glad to have seen it – we had lunch in the campervan on the shore of the lake. Colin’s still not feeling 100% so meals are a bit sparse – at least his are.
Overnight camping was not allowed so after lunch we continued north a bit to the town of Torre Alfina. It has a nice large car-park and a very well-preserved castle from the 1600’s.
We went for a walk and got a gelato cone – a bit sweet for me – then continued on up to the castle.
It seems to be a bit of an ‘artsy’ town as there are wall murals, strange statues and artwork all over.
There was a couple having a photo-shoot at the top of the castle so I had to wait a bit before I could get a shot of the views from where I wanted.
They were pretty nice, especially when I told them I was from Canada, and I took a quick photo or two and then we left.
The drive down to Ostia the next day wasn’t too bad, and we got around Rome without much slowing down. We parked in the same car-park right across from the Sea that we’d used before – there seem to be quite a few campervans that are permanent residents.
I walked to the nearest pharmacy and got a couple of things for Colin’s cold, although he does seem to be doing better.
Up early the final morning and off to the airport. No problem at all getting checked in – they didn’t even ask for a covid vaccine certificate or negative test.
Three flights later – and I’m home! The cat is happy…
Castellina in Chianti, Asciano, Papiano, Grosseto
It poured rain all night long and was still coming down the next morning. There was a large sportiv on and as we tried to follow two other campervans out we were stopped by a traffic marshall. After waiting several minutes and no riders appearing we took off the short distance to the upper parking area and dealt with our black water.
Heading along south we were dodging the sportiv riders the whole way until well past Erba. The racers the day before had such better weather and conditions – I felt a bit sorry for the sportiv riders, but they were a bit of a pain clogging up the road.
We didn’t go all the way to Papiano, but stopped instead at a lovely town in Toscana – Castellina in Chianti. There was an aire just at the edge of the town centre so we joined several other campervans for the evening.
The next morning as we were finishing our tea a policeman pulled up and started checking all of the campervans. It turns out that ‘any parking area with blue lines’ means we should be paying to stay. We hadn’t seen the ticket machine which was way down at one end but the fellow was very nice and waited while Colin went and got a ticket.
We took a walk all along the main street of the town – I can imagine that in the summer it’s a fairly crowded place. They’ve made an effort to make it attractive and friendly – lots of nice little shops and cafes, with of course, the usual excellent italian coffee.
At one old door there was a basket with some very large rabbits in it, along with a donation box for their care – Colin made a deposit.
We decided to go grocery shopping in the larger nearby town of Poggibonsi, then continue our journey from there.
We got diverted off the route we wanted and ended up having to turn back when we came to a walled entrance to one of the little towns and the gateway was too narrow for us to pass. Several locals waited patiently while we did a u-turn – luckily there was a nice wide driveway right there so it wasn’t a problem.
We stopped again at Asciano for the night – we’ve now been there several times as it’s on the Strade Bianche route and we like the area. The next day was a nice short trip to Papiano to finish cleaning out the house. The first thing we did was throw a load of laundry in, and as soon as the water was hot enough each had a nice shower. It’s amazing how good a shower can make you feel when you haven’t had one in so long!
It was really nice to see Antonio and a few of the other locals down at the bar – unfortunately there’s also mr. creepy. We stopped at the yard with the turtles – the babies are going sleepy for the winter but the fellow showed us one of the big ones that was still about. One of it’s feet had been injured and it looked like it had lost several toes but otherwise was ok.
We arranged with Antonio to get one of the local guys to help us move all of the stuff from the cellar to the campervan – he’ll come by tomorrow afternoon.
We took the opportunity of being in the area to get haircuts from our favourite hairdresser. He’s opened his own place in the village of Pila so it was a bit of a drive but we’re both very happy with the results. Note: a couple of the photos are from the previous year – they’re not actually still requiring masks in Italy.
We got a couple more loads of laundry done, and the helper arrived with his girlfriend and a small trailer in tow around 5:30. Two loads later the cellar was fairly empty and the ‘garage’ in the campervan was stuffed full – I’m actually amazed that everything squished in.
We’ve been feeding chairman meow, and he now has a friend as well. We left some extra food with Rita as she takes care of them in Angelo’s absence – he’s now working in Rome.
The bell in the tower is working again, although it doesn’t seem quite as melodious as it used to be.
Leaving in the morning was again sad, but even if the house does sell we’ll still come back to Papiano now and then to say hi to some of the people – others…not.
We took ‘the scenic route’ to Grosseto on the west coast, passing through some very beautiful countryside along the way and including the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino. There are some very nice wines produced in the area, and also lots of olive oil.
Grosseto is on a large plain and it’s a very short drive to the sea – the beaches are lovely and wide and the sand is very fine. It’s not crowded now but in summer I bet it’s packed. There are large restaurants all along but most of them seem to be closed already.
Colin and I have both had colds although he’s more affected by his than I am by mine. It’s very unusual for either of us to be sick so we’re just taking it easy parked in the large parking area. I’ve been taking the dogs for nice long walks while Colin rests and hopefully feels better soon.
Il Lombardia From Ghisallo – One of my Favourite Races, and Two of my Favourites Retiring
The next morning we had a nice chat with the Belgians before they re-located. I saw that they’d moved to a flat area just below the museum and church – there’s a fairly steep bluff and you look right down on it from above. Their new bus is too large to go right in but there was just enough space for them along the side near the entrance.
We thought it looked perfect so drove on down – the gate barrier blocked the way, but right then a motorcyclist arrived and the arm raised so we carried on in. After parking I took Mo for a little walk and the Belgians told me they got permission from the folks at the museum to park where they did and maybe I should check with them too. I walked up and was told that we had to leave for the day but if we came back before they closed at 5:30 we could spend the next two nights there – awesome!
We had a lovely cappuccino at the cafe next to the museum, then spent much of the day a bit south at the town of Canzo.
Back at the museum just before closing they gave me a key-fob for the gate and as soon as we were in I hiked up to return it to them – it was their last one so we couldn’t keep it. They didn’t want to see any passports, nor did they want any money – perfect spot and free to boot!
Race day morning was beautiful – clear sunny sky but not too hot. We had another delicious cappuccino then walked around the town a bit.
Slowly but surely fans were arriving, and I even saw some folks having their wedding photos taken amidst all of the cycling fans on the bluff above us.
We met and had a chat with a couple of Americans who had rented bikes in Bellagio and weren’t aware that there was a big race happening – we encouraged them to stay and watch it rather than continue on their ride.
Mo and I took a walk down to find ‘Dutch corner’ but didn’t make it past ‘Pantani corner’.
The folks there insisted that I have some wine – did I say no? – as well as a delicious beef rib and some lovely cheese. Mo got a rib bone and I almost lost a finger trying to get it away from her when we had to leave.
We made it back in plenty of time, and saw that the Americans had taken our advice and settled in to watch the race not far up from us.
One of the Israel Premier Tech support cars had pulled in and I had a little talk with the soigneur – it’s very sad that the team is likely going to be relegated at the end of the year but he said they’ll keep on racing. Michael Woods is in the race so of course I hope to see him. The soigneur promised me a bidon if he has any left after the racers are past.
I’m not usually a huge fan of kids, but I do like to see them get so excited at races like this – these two especially were so cute:
The race arrived led by Team UAE and last year’s winner Tadej Pogacar, in front of a group that included Tour de France winner Jonas Vingegaard, as well as Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverdere – both of whom are retiring and that makes me very sad.
After the race passed I was fortunate a couple of times – the Israel Premier Tech guy remembered me and gave me a bidon, and I also scored one from Quickstep as our Belgian friends are associated with them.
As the crowd dispersed in the usual lightening-quick fashion we returned to the campervan to watch the end of the race on GCN – Pogacar won again in a sprint with one other rider. An excellent final race of the season for us.
On to Italy…and Finally a Race!
The last couple of weeks in Mansle were great – we had several more nice meals out, including a couple of lunches at the ‘Nuthouse’ as well as one at the Marmite, that surprisingly I’d never been to before.
We also had two nice visits with Tony and Joyce.
Colin went out for a couple of bike rides, but I didn’t as my bike was left back in Spain so I stayed at the house with the dogs. Mo was happy to be with me but, as usual, Henry did a lot of barking and looking for Colin.
There was more than one storm with pounding rain accompanied by thunder and lightening, but the dry fields needed the rain so it wasn’t too bad. We visited a printing place across the street and she’s going to make a sign to put on the road below the house in Spain so folks can find us more easily.
We left for Italy on a Sunday, making it to Lachamp-Raphael on the first day. As usual it was extremely windy, but at least I wasn’t in my tent this time.
The second day we went thru Embrun, then Briancon – the lake at Embrun is very low.
Crossing to Italy we passed Sestriere on our way to Pinerolo – I’ve never been thru that way before so I did enjoy the drive. One of the big alpine ski races happens there very year and I’ve always wanted to see the area.
We spent the next day in nearby Cavour, checking in at the fruit farm, which is in the middle of the apple harvest – hundreds of crates are stacked in the garage and I’m sure the ladies are busy making jams, etc.
It was market day in the town and we had a very nice cappuccino in the main square, then returned later for dinner at La Posta – just as good as the first time we were here a couple of years ago. This time I opted for an apple and celery salad for a starter, then a barley and rabbit stew for my main – just delicious.
Back at the fruit farm they have a new dog – a mid-size black female that seems a bit shy, but friendly. They still have the large golden lab as well as tiny Maya and her little one Spreet – they remember me!
We’re always a bit sad to leave the area, but didn’t have too far to drive to our next place just the far side of Torino. We’ve chosen the largest climb of the Gran Piemonte as our watching place and found a nice large flat area right near the top and just around the bend from the village of Rivodora – as usual we ‘lucked out’ finding a spot.
Finally a race!
The first racers arrived right on time at 3:00…
…with the last group passing about five minutes later. Included in one of the final small groups was Cavendish – I sure hope he signs with a great team for next year.
We watched the end of the race on GCN on my ipad, then headed north to the Ghisallo, fighting traffic around Milano and arriving in the dark. The restaurant parking lot that we’d used the last time was blocked-off so we spent the night in the parking area of the cycling museum and church. The Belgian couple we’ve met in previous years were already there so we figured it would be ok.
Slow days over Easter and another step forward
We received the contract for the house by email from the lawyer late one evening. We had a couple of simple questions that we emailed back to them but by then everything was shut down for the five-day Easter weekend.
Not able to do any business we had a couple of very slow days, taking only one day-trip back north to Chirivel. Once again we commented on the beauty of the area, and doing the loop in a different direction we came back via Oria.
Sitting outside one afternoon at the campground we got a bit of a shock – we had the canopy out as it was nice and sunny and were surprised by a large thump above us and seeing some spray.
I jumped up and stepped away to get a view of the canopy and could see what looked like bird poo spread out all over. Colin got the hose out and sprayed it off – it was gross. I was very glad for the canopy as I’d been sitting right below where the worst of the poo was and might have gotten it right in the face!
A short while later when inside the campervan Colin noticed that some of the brown shit had come thru the open vent above his bed and was sprinkled on his duvet – since we had just done a bunch of laundry the duvet cover was hanging on the line drying so the poo/goo was right on the duvet itself.
It actually didn’t smell bad so we’re not really sure what it was – maybe mud and bits of grass or leaves/needles. We couldn’t figure out where it came from – we hadn’t noticed any large birds, although it was very windy and could perhaps have come from one of the large trees nearby. It’s a mystery.
Another day we drove up near the new house and while Colin sat with the dogs outside the restaurant and had a coffee I finally – for the first time this year! – got on my bike. I rode up the nearest rambla and pedaled leisurely along below the house and north almost to the sanctuary.
It was a very nice ride, although I did have to pay good attention to the ‘road’ surface, which is a combination of dirt, gravel and sand, and having many washout grooves from all of the recent rain.
I think being able to explore the ramblas will almost make up for not being able to ride the canal paths in and around Worcester anymore.
The ride north was all gently uphill, and hardly noticeable – you could only really tell there was a gradient at all because going back south to the restaurant I hardly had to peddle – I might even have been able to coast the whole way if I’d wanted to.
After the long-long Easter weekend we got to do some more business. A quick visit to George at the estate agent office answered most of our questions regarding the contract. He printed it for us and we signed it. We then popped into the bank, which we were lucky to get into as it was market day and the street was packed with stalls.
Our representative was with other customers so we made an appointment for an hour later. When we saw him at noon he did a transfer for us of 10% of the house purchase – our bank cards hadn’t arrived yet and we also don’t have an NIF number so we couldn’t do it ourselves. We gave him the papers showing where the large transfer of cash from the UK came from to back-up the anti-money laundering file on the account.
After the bank we returned to where we’d parked the camper van – about a km back along the road out of town because of all the extra parked cars for the market. Next stop was to drop off the papers at the lawyers – a one-pager from the bank showing the 10% had been done, as well as the signed contract. Another step forward!
Lido de Camaiore for Tirreno-Adriatico ITT
Leaving the aire before 8:00 we headed north towards Lido de Camaiore, stopping along the way for a fabulous cappuccino at a highway rest stop.
We got to Camaiore in good time and drove along the Lido, passing several of the team buses in the best parking areas.
Most of the parking areas were taped off for the teams and other race officials but we came to a perfect place near the Hotel Joseph.
There were some other campervans there already so we figured it was a good place to stop.
After a bite to eat we went for a walk back towards the start of tomorrow’s ITT – it was a bit of a ways and there were no cafes open or anything. We did enjoy the excercise and fresh air, however.
There are several teams staying at the Hotel Joseph, and the mechanics, etc. are all in process of washing the time trial bikes and everything.
There are all sorts of sculptures and art pieces along the Lido – some of them are quite nice and some of them a bit puzzling.
Also, because we’re so close to Carrara there’s lots of marble – some of the sidewalks are actually made of it!
After a very early night and a good quiet sleep we were up early again. Wanting a cappuccino we walked north this time along the Lido, eventually asking a policeman where a cafe might be found.
Following his directions we shortly were seated outside a very nice, and increasingly busy cafe at one end of a large plaza.
Across from the plaza were more sculptures, and a lovely long pier that was very well made with stainless steel handrails – quite impressive.
There was a fellow playing the harp partway down – I think I even recognized the song he was playing which was something Italian and classical that I don’t know the name of.
The beach here looks excellent – very wide and flat with fine white sand.
For a few hours in the late morning most of the riders were doing re-con of the course, then the police motos and photo motos took their turns.
The first racer left around 2:00 – it’s a straight north ride for almost 7 km, then a hairpin turn and back south to the finish, so each rider passes us twice, once in each direction. I got the Cav…
…a heli – what?? They’re alway sneaking into my shots…
…someone coming from the beach who didn’t care at all about the race…
As some of the riders finished they slowly rode back to their hotels – sometimes on the race road and sometime on the sidewalk. At one point I looked up and coming towards me was Richie Porte! I waved and smiled (not having time to take a photo) and he smiled back and said ‘Hi’! – almost the highlight of my day. I also got Ganna…
A very fine day of race watching, followed by another very early night.
Back to the Pap
Since returning to Papiano we’ve had a pretty quiet time. We went on a bike ride a few days after getting here, but it’s the last one we’ll do together as Colin’s road bike – with the skinny tires – doesn’t do well at all on the terrible roads.
I’ve gone on several solo rides to some of my favourite places – Olmeto, Spina, Compignano, Mercatello, etc. The weather’s been generally nice and sunny, but at times the wind has been rather fierce.
I’ve also gone a little further up the road to the east and into the hills that way – as far as the small town of Castelleone that I haven’t been to before.
There was a festa at the bar a few days after we arrived and it was very well attended. We couldn’t believe how much food there was – 4 or 5 courses, including pasta al ragu, and more than one meat dish. It was so nice to see everyone again, and we had some good conversation with John and Janet, as well as Afka (the Dutch lady).
Last Friday we finally took a short drive to Spello where we had lunch.
It’s a lovely little town with very scenic lanes, lots of artisanal shops, and many restaurants to choose from.
It looks like it might be a bit touristy at another time of year but wasn’t too bad at the end of October.
There is still work being done on both the bell tower and the ‘apartment’ building below us. They’ve begun removing the scaffolding from the bell tower but it isn’t likely to be in use again until near Christmas. The apartment will take a lot longer – the government is spending almost 1 million euros to fix the damage from the 2016 earthquake, and they’ve completely gutted it.
I’ve been practising making pies – not dessert ones, but meat ones. Colin had seen a recipe in a magazine when we were still in France and the first one I tried was steak and mushroom. It turned out pretty well, so I moved on to chicken pie – I roasted a whole chicken first, then peeled the meat off and made the pie – another success. The last experiment was salmon and leek – I’m rather pleased with the results!
There was another festa at the bar this past Sunday – Monday was a holiday here so no problem to have a slightly late evening. This one was more low-key, with pork buns rather than a sit-down dinner, but again nice to mingle with the locals.
I’ve spent hours in the last few days trying to sort out paperwork, etc for my journey home. Air Canada sent some info on Friday and since then I’ve been very busy. First I had to schedule a ‘molecular covid test’, which I had this morning. It was the one involving a very long swab poked way up the nose, although I must say it wasn’t quite as bad as the one I had in France in the summer.
Then I had to fill out a very long thing online for entry to Canada and it failed time after time. I finally gave up today and downloaded an app that actually worked. Hopefully they’ll let me pass with no problem – I would hate to be stuck in Toronto for 14 days!
We had our neighbour Angelo over for lunch today – he’s a very nice person and we had a lovely visit. Chairman Meow is his cat…
Fantastic Finale to La Vuelta – ITT into Santiago
As usual on a race day cars and campervans went up and down looking for spots to park. Also as usual many amateur riders took their crack at the course. And fans walked and rode up and down as well.
Since it was the ITT many of the racers did a re-con ride, either alone or with others of their team.
Around noon a few vehicles pulled into the parking area of a building just up the road from us and proceeded to setup a large canopy. They then put up some very large speakers – uh oh. Not long after that the music started – just blasting away the peace and quiet we had enjoyed until then.
After a couple of hours I couldn’t stand it anymore so took a stroll up to have a word with them. I asked when they were going to stop and and was told it would go on all day! I cried out ‘no!’ and they just looked at me like I was crazy. I finally begged them to at least turn the speaker around so it was facing them and not us, and to please turn it down a bit. They did turn the speaker around, but the lowered volume only lasted a minute or two.
The start today is much later than usual, so that the last rider would arrive in Santiago di Compostella near sunset.
I did take a walk to the corner just below us – it’s a very sharp corner with quite a steep gradient.
There are, of course, quite a few people gathered, including not one, but two bagpipe players, a bongo drummer and a guy with a horn – literally a horn. In addition there’s the lady in the jester’s costume that had walked past us earlier with the cute baby.
The caravan – small as it is in the Vuelta – arrived at 3:48. We did score a couple of hats – I gave one to the little fellow next to us – as well as several key rings and a bag of olives.
The first rider came by us at almost 5:20, followed by points winner Fabio Jakobsen (I’ve been spelling his name incorrectly previously). Even though he will win the green jersey he’s in second to last place overall, thus the second to start the ITT which goes in reverse order.
The folks up the road with the blaring music do look like they’re enjoying themselves, but we just couldn’t take any more so relocated down to the corner where the atmosphere was so much more fun for us.
One of the bagpipers was now dressed – we think – as a wolf, although wookie also came to mind.
The other bagpiper and the guy with the horn were in skeleton outfits.
There was also a superman.
As we were taking photos of the riders and the cars, folks in some of the cars and on the motos were also taking pics of us.
Even though it’s the final stage and as long as they all stay on their bikes the overall results are not likely to change much, no-one seems to be slacking in their efforts.
In the end Jack Haig hung in for third overall…
…Mas for second, and getting a very well deserved win – both the stage and the overall, Primos Roglic.
We waited for a short while before deciding what to do about leaving – we asked our neighbours in the other campervan if they were leaving or staying the night and their opinion was the very same as ours…if the folks with the horrible loud music were staying, then we were leaving – if they left, then we were going to stay.
Luckily for all of us the party people started to take down their equipment and in very quick time were out of there – blessed peace!!
From Viegu back to Santa Eulalia de Oscos, and on to Quintans – More Vuelta!
Shortly after the race passed our nice little spot in Viegu we got going north towards the coast, stopping at an aire not far from the town of Ribadesella. That’s the town that’s made headlines recently for it’s tongue-in-cheek response to criticism from tourists that had complained about the noise from roosters and church bells, etc.
We stopped in Gijon to re-stock on food, then continued straight west on the motorway until just before Ribadeo where we turned south along the route for the next day’s stage.
We followed the route to the town of A Fonsagrada, where we stopped so Colin could get some salve for his insect bites. I haven’t been bitten at all, but they seem to really go for him!
Backtracking to the village of Santa Eulalia de Oscos we once again took advantage of the aire. The race goes by on the road below, although it doesn’t actually go thru the village.
After a lovely glass of rioja we had a nice early night – there are only two other vans this time, as opposed to being almost full two weeks ago.
Early the next morning we followed the route several miles on and picked a nice wide spot to park and watch from.
There was a very large breakaway that arrived at 1:49…
…with the peloton, led by Jumbo Visma – with current overall leader Primoz Roglic – only two minutes behind (love his blue shoes!)…
…and team Ineos and Bernal not far back.
We once again saw our ‘friend’ the photographer who stopped right at our spot to take some photos.
We’ve met him several times now, including the Tour of Burgos three years ago and the world’s in Harrogate two years ago. He liked the book I was reading that I’d set near my chair and commented on it.
Several minutes later, as usual, were the sprinters and others, including Jacobsen and several of his protective Quickstep team members.
After taking down the flags we had a somewhat leisurely drive back past Santiago and a bit south to the town of Padron – it’s the starting point for Sunday’s final stage that is an Individual Time Trial. We know we’re not going to watch from Padron, but it has an aire that was pretty easy to find.
We actually didn’t really care for the site – it’s right across from a canal, and also right on one of the many Camino routes. In fact there’s a marker showing that it’s at km 26,770 of the trail – not sure where they started counting from – China, maybe? Or, perhaps, as Colin reminded me, they use the comma and the decimal backwards here, and it more likely means 26.77 km to go to Santiago – maybe?? Hahaha.
The problem with the site is that it’s surrounded on two sides by large apartment blocks, and since it was Friday night there was a lot of activity, including drunken shouting and verbal altercations from some of the suites.
Leaving as early as possible the next morning we headed out on the route, looking for a spot somewhere on the one large climb of the finale on Sunday. We passed a spot that Colin liked but I wanted to press on and see what was ahead – we ended up going another 15 km or so before turning around and parking in the first spot.
We were eventually joined by another campervan, and many more cruised up and down the road looking for places.