Wednesday, 29 July 2015

European Road Trip Part 2

European Road Trip 2015

Missed one?.

After sleeping for an epic 12 hours, Mike and I set of early at we had to arrive in Genoa, Italy, where our next hotel was booked but we had decided we would go to Nice and Monaco along the way.

Dijon to Nice was almost 6 hours long. We made our way through a lot of new CDs; Bruno Mars, Walk the Moon, Nina Nesbitt, Jason Derulo and my infamous "mix tape" CDs featured heavily. 

Some of my favourite moments of the trip were when Mike and I were singing our hearts out and dancing in traffic queues - Lord knows what others thought of our jigging car and frequent air grabbing.

We arrived on the Nice coast in a 32 degree heat, it was gorgeous! We had a stroll along the sea front, taking obligatory selfies and sipping on ice cold colas. We had a wander through a market in the centre of town and saw a lovely paddling pool for local kids, many fountains and sculptures. I was feeling very continental.

Nice, France

In Europe, dinner time is 7-9pm, so we decided to head to Monaco for dinner. We were feeling very excited of the thought of dining in such a prolific city; home of the Monaco Grand Prix and play ground of the rich and famous... except we didn't get out of the car! Monaco is a winding maze of thin roads and expensive cars, after more than half an hour trying to find a parking spot we decided to leave the beautiful and albeit confusing city for the 2 1/2hour drive to Genoa.

We hit traffic jams, a lot of traffic jams! The drive took closer to four hours and we'd consumed a diet of cereal bars and French fries crisps, so as we approached Genoa we planned on room service in bed - oh so very indulgent!

10 Minutes away from our hotel, loyally following our Sat Nav Sabrina, we somehow ended up in the industrial port, meeting security guards who couldn't speak English. We  finally made it our hotel but Genoa wasn't lending itself to us. The town was a dirty, run down town and to be honest I didn't feel very safe. Luckily Mike is 6ft and big built, which puts any dodgy people off approaching us.

We got to our hotel and it looked like a lovely place, clean and modern, but our room was run down and had evidently flooded from the bathroom to the communal hall way via the disabled shower. We were so tired we ordered pizzas with room service (the food was nice but the staff were stroppy and rude) and went to bed.

My morning shower of course flooded our room, they'd not leveled the disabled wash room towards the plug and when we told reception, they simply shrugged and said that's what happened in disabled bathrooms. Funny how the other 6 hotels we stayed in didn't flood!

I wouldn't recommend Genoa at all, we'd booked it on a whim and our guide to Italy said of the town; "When you get tired of the dirt and rats in Genoa move on" - my advice, avoid it entirely!

Happily leaving Genoa, I was especially excited as we were heading to Pisa, home of the leaning tower. 

Travelling tip; if you're driving into Pisa, be very careful! There is a restricted driving area which includes where the Tower is situated. Make sure you check this restriction as you'll be sent a fine for excess of €100. We parked 5 mins from town and if you are disabled, make sure you show parking attendants you UK Blue Parking badge you'll get a reduced parking fee.

Doing a European road trip in the first instance was a tick off my bucket list, seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa was another. When you first see the monument you cannot believe firstly how tall and wide it is, and secondly how it can lean to such a degree without toppling.

Mike and I in Pisa

Amongst a sea of tourist, doing exactly the same, Mike and I posed as though we were holding up the tower. Although you know what everyone else is doing it, it still looks incredibly odd and ridiculous but very funny.

If you are disabled in Italy, you do not pay or queue to get into their major tourist attractions. Mike and I joked that because Italy is such an old country and has many cobble streets, free entry to attractions is the Italian apology to us and those pushing our wheelchairs.

Obviously I couldn't manage walking into and up the Leaning Tower, despite desperately wanting to. I told Mike to leave me at the bottom, and climb the tower, for the sake of our photo collection but he was too much of a Gentleman. 

However the Pisa Cathedral was beautiful inside, constructed in 1064 it was a breath taking mixture of old and new, the staff almost didn't let me in as my shoulders were uncovered - so beware, take a cardigan or wear something long sleeved!

Outside Pisa Cathedral
Inside Pisa Catherdral

The Pisa Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) includes the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral, Baptistery and the Piazza dei Miracoli but the area is world renowned for its medieval art and architecture - it is truly a lovely place and apart from the Tower the attractions are made wheelchair accessible with ramped entrances and levels within the buildings.

We spent the rest of the day wandering through Piazzi Cairoli where there are lots of bars and most importantly; gelateries! We stopped for a mezze platter lunch of cheeses, salad and fresh meats then a humongous cone of Gelato - our first of many! Before we headed to the madness of Rome!

L x 

Monday, 20 July 2015

European Road Trip - Tributes

When Mike and I were invited to Tuscany, Italy, to attend my good friends Kirsty and Toms wedding, we were incredibly excited! A lifelong dream of mine was to go to Rome. Since the historical city was a mere 3 hours away from the wedding venue, we booked up three days in Rome with plans to hire a car to get to Tuscany. Only after we'd booked flights and hotels did we find out that because Mike hadn't been driving a year yet, no one would hire a car to us - doh!

I made a joke about driving the whole way, which seemed completely ridiculous but then we thought, why the hell not!? It would be a nice holiday, time spent alone with each other after a very difficult and testing year and I could tick a few items of my bucket list*!

(*Note: I'm not dying, a few worried people asked if I was ill, after I posted photos called Bucket List. I'm just very aware that my body is deteriorating a lot quicker than others my age, I'm on the top dose of my current pain killers and the next step up is depending on morphine, so I'm getting the bucket list done now!)

After packing my entire summer wardrobe, European car kits, enough sun cream to sink a ship, our trusty sat nav Sabrina (yes, we name inanimate objects) and a cooler box of water, we set off in Optimus Primera (our 16 year old Nissan Primera car).

We headed to Folkstone to catch the Euro Tunnel to Calais. By the way, if you're disabled, you must let the Euro Tunnel staff know as your car has to be put on first for fire safety reasons, but this also means you beat the long queues - bonus!

After chanting the following to himself "Drive on the right, drive to the right on the side of the road on the wrong side of the car!!" Mike took to the road in Calais, staying to the correct side of the road and even when faced with Italian drivers later on, he did a brilliant job, getting us to every destination without a hitch!

As I've mentioned in my blogs before Mike and I are Geneology geeks. We took the road trip as a chance to pay respects to fallen relatives, who had died in the First World War. We went to Wancourt, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France to visit the British Cemetery, there we visited my Great Uncle Stanley Starling Hudson, who was my Great Grandmothers older brother. Stanley had died aged 21 in 1917. I picked and left poppies on his grave and signed the guestbook.

Stanley Starling Hudson
(My Great Uncle)

Then we headed to the Thiepval Memorial of the Missing, an iconic monument to Historians, Geneologists and families all over the world. It was a stunning location, peaceful and calm and weirdly, no birds were heard at any of the sites we visited.

Lastly we headed to Dernancourt Communal Cemetery in the Region of Picardy.  We visited Mike's first cousin three times removed, Charles Garrick, who also died in 1917 aged a heartbreaking 19 years old. Mike laid his poppies and we headed to Dijon.

Charles Garrick
(Mikes cousin, 3x removed)

Now, I must mention that Mike had been in California for several weeks, up until two days before our trip. We got to our lovely hotel the Kyriad Prestige, in Dijon only for us *both to pretty much pass out at 7pm, forgoing dinner and we didn't wake until 7am on Sunday! (*I was not jet lagged but I can sleep anywhere, any time - I had Narcolepsy for years so I've had extensive sleep training!) I had a feeling that there would be a lot of early nights and very early mornings - sleep would become a luxury!
L x