Coastal Slovenia.

​We left our friends Breda and Borut at the spa to enjoy another couple of days there, as we decided to explore more of this wonderful country. They have been amazing hosts and so helpful in telling us about their lovely country. 

Our night time stop was actually a car park of a small hunting lodge style cafe, up in the mountains called Kamniska Bistrica, where there’s a small lake where a spring is.

 It’s just a glorious spot, so peaceful, great if you like mountains, hiking etc. 

We had wanted to explore Skofia Loka which is a lovely medieval style town north west of Ljubljana. From there we were planning on heading towards the Julian Alps area of Slovenia and Lake Bled, but the time we arrived at Skofia it was raining. But we didn’t let it put us off, and still managed a quick look around and a coffee in a cafe there. 

With our history with travelling in rain with Mr Ben not being that great, we stopped at an aire overnight before reviewing our plans and the weather forecast. The fact we don’t book anything in advance helps, so we changed direction and headed for the coastline of Slovenia instead of the alps as the forecast was better that way, so made our way to Koper. 

We stopped for a couple of nights at Bistra, which is home to the Technical Museum, which kept us amused for a whole day from 11am – 5pm! Great value at only 4.50€ entry, with loads to see.

On the way down to Koper we detoured to Lipica, home of the famous Lippizaner horses,  where Bruce tried to organise a trail ride on one of the horse for me, but they were fully booked for a week, with a show to prepare for at the weekend, so it wasn’t possible. A lovely idea tho!

The coastline of this lovely country is only about 47km long, and the main feature towns are Koper,  Piran and Izola which sits between the two.  Big in industry and shipping they can appear a little ugly on the first glance,  but we spent 3 nights there and enjoyed cycling around the great cycle lane system that runs around the area. Very popular as well with cruise ships, like this one that we saw last night. 

There’s not much in the way of beaches, but there’s a huge amount of bathing with organised seafront with steps, sunbathing areas, and open sea water lidos. I imagine in the heat of the summer it would be heaving. As it was the weather picked up and there were lots of people sunbathing and swimming.

We also discovered these little guys again, which we thought were coypoo, but I think it’s a relative of it. 

Reintroduced to the waterways they are very cheeky, sort of a cross between an otter, beaver and with a rats tail. But very cure and fond of courgette skins, and left over bread!

Just 20km or so north of Koper is Trieste, overy the Italian border, which made a day trip for us on the scooter – another very industrial port, with grand buildings in the main centre. 

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Counting chickens!

OK,  so we shouldn’t count our chickens before they hatch, everything appeared to be going well with Mr Ben, until Bruce noticed that the engine was running fast,and I noticed problems with our fridge freezer one night when I couldn’t sleep. The  very quick version is that Bruce discovered that a relay box which sends a signal to the fridge to look for different sources of power had melted! This was one that we had replaced as we’d had problems last year in Dusseldorf ! He also thought that we might need a new alternator. 

So when we left Mantova, we had driven to Treviso, on our way to Slovenia,  planning on stopping there for at least one night, and exploring the town. But we realised that the better thing to do would be to get to Ljubljana to our friends, so we could at least have a translator to try and get this sorted. We made our way east, and found a beautiful country in Slovenia. Very lush, neat countryside, with houses bedecked with window boxes full of colours. 

On arrival at Breda and Boruts house in the city the men sat down to discuss options, and the next day they took Mr Ben and sorted out the issues,  which lucky for us did not include a new alternator, just the relay box. 

So we gained a few extra days in the city,  which is one I highly recommend that you visit. Very pretty rivers, with wonderful architecture.  They have a series of cycle paths that make getting around so very easy, so we did all our exploring on our bikes.

We went up to the castle which overlooks the city, explored an open kitchen food market one evening, spent time around the many local markets and spent hours cycling around just exploring the beautiful open spaces within the city.

Breda and Borut were perfect hosts,  and made us feel so very welcome. We also met their family that we have heard so much about, and spent a lovely evening at daughter Spela’s house for a bbq, where Bruce sang a few songs to entertain everyone, making Breda cry with his special song for her of ‘My Way’ – something she had mentioned previously,  and he had pulled a favour from Jim and Deb for the backing track as he didn’t have it.

Borut also took us out for a drive around the area, through many amazingly pretty villages,  where I could have picked many houses to live in  (ignoring the fact that the winters 
here are so cold!!).

On leaving Ljubljana we have headed east with Breda and Borut in their motorhome, to a thermal spa which you can stay at in your mother home,  called Maja Nedelja, near the town of Ljutomer. 

Passing through almost Tuscan style countryside filled with apple orchards, hops,and pumpkin patches – which were only grown for their seeds as they had left the pumpkins out to dry before cutting the seeds out and leaving the rest. Seems such a waste!

Our Autumn 2016 Tour.

I’ve already got through most of this post and lost it on my Samsung tablet, so I fear this one won’t be as good as the first version! 
This tour comes after a hot and long Spanish summer, so we’re looking forward to getting away and the thought of trying to pack enough clothes to last until late October was very strange as we’ve been in shorts and vest tops at home, so to have to consider puffy coats, boots and jeans isn’t easy.

Our  mission this trip is to get to see our friends Breda and  Borut in their home town of Ljubliana in Slovenia. We’ve come across the southern part of France, and into northern Italy for the first part, and will see where it takes us after that. We made very good progress getting from home to Homps on the canal du Midi in one day. Then we stopped just north east of Avignon at a charming little village called Mirabel aux Baronnies,  very medieval and understated on the tourist front which was lovely.

 This was recommended by Borut as they have stopped there before, so I shall enjoy showing him our photos. 

From there we made our way east towards Italy, stopping at a small place called Chorges before crossing the Italian border. The road we crossed on was heading us in the direction of Alba, home of the white truffle, and was one of the prettiest routes we have taken, winding our way through glorious  countryside and over the mountains. Although one of the parts included a section of hairpin bends it was worth it, even with the massive trucks coming up in the other direction. 

We stopped at a 10€ sosta (aire) Nieve in Italy which is about 6km out of Alba, and scooted to the town, which  was  a lovely afternoon amble around the old town and a coffee in a square. We managed to get a few samples from the shops specialising in the local white truffle as well! 

From there we had a few hours around Asti, home of the Spumante wine which is so yummy!  We treated ourselves to a rare lunch out, 10€ for a menu which they let us share.  Bread and grissini breadsticks, then a huge plate pasta with peas and ham in a creamy sauce, green beans, and ham and mozzarella balls. This was followed by dessert, which I ordered profiteroles,  only to be served tiramisu!  RESULT!  Only  my favourite!  I have eaten many over the the years, but this was so light it just melted in my mouth beautifully. 


We moved on, heading east again to a small town called Varzi, on a free riverside sosta, and enjoyed their medieval village and the following morning when they had their market, so we wandered round enjoying the locals at their best. I always think a  market day is the best day to see a town come alive.
Guastalla was the next stop, again on a free sosta,but this one had a difference  – free water for the locals , which was a choice of either natural, chilled or gassed. From the time we arrived there was a constant stream of locals arriving to fill up their water bottles – from 6am in the morning til late at night. Sadly this also meant mosquitoes were much in evidence! !

So, I hear you ask, where are you now? We’re in Mantova, where we have visited before briefly,but thought we’d like to come back and do it in a little more depth.  The Palazzo Ducale is a beautiful palace and to our joy,  free on the first Sunday of each month, so we got up early to take advantage and save 24€! -Culture can be expensive! !

Big Fish, Little Fish!

​Well, what can I say? Again in true for I am so late in posting this, as this happened back in June! However never too late,  as it’s been  hectic summer – so think back to June after our tour and that’ll put you in the mood!

Let’s start at the beginning. … we got home on Wednesday and then of course we had to have yet another pre- fishing planning meeting at Susie’s Chinese restaurant in Pego to sort out the last minute details. Having travelled so much in the van it’s actually really hard for me to think about self catering, as there’s just so much to take for such a short time, 3 nights in the apartment, then on the 4th night we were in a hotel in Teruel, so we had to take what we needed but not too much that we’d have to bring it all back with us. So the catering department had to work out quantities including lunches, sandwiches etc for the trip up, and most importantly the booze allowance!

We picked Jim and Deb up on Saturday morning, having dropped off Mutley to stay with his girlfriends Hoba and Lexi, who were being looked after by Nanny Sandra and Aunty Diane while we were away. Nanny Sandra and Aunty Diane came over especially to look after the dogs and have a bit of sun, which is great for everyone concerned. 

So, with a car full of people, food and wine we left, only to get to the motorway and be told there was a problem heading north, so we were advised to take the N332 to avoid it, which resulted in queues anyway! But eventually we got past it and made our way to Chiprana which is inland and on the massive river Ebro.

Our apartment was a 3 bed one, which we had pushed the boat out and booked all of it, to avoid having someone else sharing with us – I think we were more concerned that they would drink our booze stash and eat Debs cheese triangles which seem to be the feature of our fishing trips! But to be honest for only 20€per room per night we all thought it was worth the extra. 

It was a basic apartment, and only about a 2 minute walk from the river,so perfectly situated.We called Paul Booth, the fishing guide we had booked, from Ebro Crazy Cats, and he came round to give us the low down on timings for the following day. 

Normally he fishes from 8am until 6pm, but Bruce has never been an early riser, so they decided to start at 9am on Sunday and 8.30am on the Monday. We quizzed him on virtually everything we could think of, which proved very useful when writing his birthday card, as Bruce wrote one of his famous ditties for him. The evening then dissolved into a haze of vino, and burgers with nibbles before we gave in and went to bed. 
On Sunday morning we met Paul, and were taken in his boat to a small beach around the curve of the river. The location was great, and he’d already set everything up for the boys, 4 rods for catfish, and 2 for carp. 

He provides all the equipment and baits the river, and worked really hard to give the boys the fishing trip of their dreams. So we all settled down and once the boys had sorted out what to do we waited.

The first fish bit about 2.5 hours later….. and sadly escaped, much to Bruces dismay, but there was absolutely no need to worry, as once they started there was no stopping them. They caught 10 fish the first day, and I think both lost one. Bruce was very pleased with his biggest carp that day of 25lbs, but his catfish personal best tipped the scales at 91lb!

The look on his face was awesome,and something I loved seeing. All the time he been perfectly happy catching anything, but this trip he really wanted to catch something huge, so every time they caught anything we just took as many photos and videos as I could to capture the moment for him.

I have to say I’d never realised just how slippery and slimey a catfish was! I didn’t actually hold one until day 2, I think Paul was keen to involve us, which was fab,but also I think so we got covered in nasty slime!! it was really funny! 

Jim also got some fabulous fishies, with a Carp of 35lb and a catfish of 61lb.I didn’t think that sitting around watching fishing rods could be so interesting, but the mixture of the company, loads of sandwiches, loads of fish, and a beautiful setting with glorious sunshine meant that the day just flew by.

We stank out the apartment that evening with garlic – garlic bread, and camembert spiked with rosemary and raw garlic. Add in some vino, and videos from the days fishies and 2 very very happy husbands with massive grins and what more could you want? 

The next day was a different location and Paul had said it would be harder, so we weren’t expecting as many fish, but the first bite came about an hour or so after starting, and they caught 13 fish, with I think 5 more that decided they wouldn’t play and escaped from the hook.Day two saw Bruce beat his personal best on the carp with a 35lb one, and then he landed a 103lb catfish! It was HUGE!
For everyone watching, the effort that it took to land the big fish was incredible. He was extremely pumped with the fight it had put up and then having to pick it up to weigh it, and also to pose for the photos where the heaviest part of the fish is the head, and combat the slime!

 I tried to capture this in the photos and videos, but I think the grins on their faces says it all!I have to take my hat off to Paul Booth, as he worked very hard to give the boys the very best experience, and was happy to pass on any hints and tips from his vast experience. I would highly recommend him as a guide, and I think Bruces brother Neil is already planning on a trip with him!We ate out that evening in Caspe, in the hotel there, as the only other place we saw in Trip Advisor was closed. But we had a nice menu and walked around. I think the fishing was the highlight, I would say that Chiprana and Caspe didn’t have much too offer at all, so anyone who wants to go, take everything you need with you, especially if self catering as there’s very few shops to stock up.

From there we went to Teruel and stayed in a small boutique hotel and wandered around the city exploring the buildings marked on our tourist map by the receptionist. Eating out in the evening proved somewhat difficult as we’d picked a restaurant with a nice menu only to find out they don’t offer it in the evening. This was after we’d pointed out what drinks from that menu to the waitress. … slight issue…. and she got the drinks order wrong, so by that point we were fuming, so paid for the round and left. After finding yet another place that had forgotten to take their day menu in, we then found a lovely pizzeria and had a fabulous pizza to end off the trip.

On the way home we stopped off at Albaraccin, which is about 30 minutes away but well worth the trip. Luckily we left early as it was great to walk around in the morning sunshine without the scorching heat of the day.

 

We have been here before but wanted to show Jim and Deb, as it’s like being in a fairy tale Pied Piper medieval town. We grabbed some breakfast before dipping a toe in the small river.