Research darling, research!

Swanning around ancient European countries requires a savvy strategy if we are to justify enduring the 24+ hour airline food and movie fest sans sleep marathon don’t you think? Not to mention ensuring a glamorous entrance at our ancient cliff clinging quaintly cobbled village upon arrival. Now if you think getting stuck behind a pig parade is fun, consider trashing your best Louboutin heels par for the course or are still wondering why heavy baggage hefting isn’t yet an Olympian sport, stop reading now. For the rest of us…we need tactics. Big ones. And Google. Just a small amount of research can prevent a big amount of pain. Trust me, been there!

Research darling, research!

You’ve a list of places you’d love to visit while on that fab holiday and you’ve Googled highlights to add to your must see list. Now, seven further items worth the research:

1: Is the hamlet/village/township/city built upon level terrain, clinging cliffside or an ancient fortification perched atop a bloody great mountain?
Two weeks spent toting a heavy suitcase full of endless wardrobe possibilities up and down Italian cliff clinging villages and I was quickly packing excess into boxes homeward bound.

Solution: Pack light! Wanna know how? See: Packing like a sophisticate

2: Is it historic and thus likely paved with cobble stones?
The death knell for those gorgeous heels!

Solution: Thank god ballet flats are considered de rigueur in Europe!

3: Can it be easily accessed if one hasn’t a car?
Damn! Strike those gorgeous little villas in the Tuscan mountains, the lavender fields of Provence and anything else remotely remote off the list.

Solution: Day tours make great substitutes! I took one which started at a winery. Five tastings later and our party had morphed into one hilarious fun fest. For more on that crazy day and a little taste of the Luberon: Wine o’clock somewhere yeah?

4: Are there multiple platform swaps if traveling by train?
Most European trains have steps. The platforms have steps, few  of the smaller train stations have escalators and if there’s a lift, it’s usually broken. Platforms are mostly accessed via subterranean pathways. This means steps my friend. Steps!

Solution: Pack light! Allow plenty of time between connections (Oh! And here’s a story about a time I sat on a set of train steps with a bunch of perfect strangers eating pizza washed down with cheap red wine: You eez on zer wrong train Signora

5: How far is my chosen accommodation from the train/bu20131215-210108s/airport?

Just one baby jumping, phallus whacking,orange throwing, pig celebrating festival street closure and next thing your taxi driver is salivating as both meter and your flight climb heavenward right before your very eyes. (Spain, Greece, Italy, France)

Solution: Research festival and market activity scheduled at the time of your visit. Put Spain on future agenda – baby jumping is a must!

6: How close is the accommodation to the action?
The outskirts may be cheaper but a quick stroll directly through quaint streets into the hamlet heart and soul means a deeper, more culturally enriching experience.

Solution: Negate public transportation costs by choosing digs close to the hub of activity.

7: And if the hotel/villa/apartment isn’t on ground floor, does the building have a lift?
My traveling buddy’s hubby started divorce proceedings in a stairwell somewhere between the 9th and 14th floor of a particularly arduous curvy flight of timber stairs; though it must be said BOTH their bags weighed the equivalent of two dead bodies. The beauty of the actual apartment and a stiff G&T managed to stifle a potential screaming match. Just.

Solution: Need I say? Pack light!

 Logistics sorted? Prepped for a penis whacking? Anxious to avoid a divorce hearing? Keen to pack mega efficiently to make the most of that well earned holiday? You can do it!!


Renovations v vacations

I’m ‘Glamping’! In my spare bedroom. Been holed away in there four weeks now, the previous three in my own surrounded by a house full of furniture slowly making it’s way out the ‘Gumtree’ door as well as ladders, paint pots, rubble and grit. Bit like my teeth – gritted.

It’s an exhaustive business this ‘re-imagining’ gig, thanks to an Interior Decorator with an imagination that enthralls, thrills, strikes fear in my heart and exhausts my brain in equal measure. While I need a story board, a project plan and a timeline, James prefers to decorate ‘organically’. What does that even mean? I’ll let you know if I survive. But let’s talk about opinions…



Aching balls and butter pats…

Walked this far, might as well continue

Balls of my feet are aching. A walk from Villefranche-Sur-Mer around the Bd Princess Grace de Monaco, down to Lympia and on to Port Riquier Le Port of Nice will do that. One of those ‘walked this far might as well continue’ moments followed closely by ‘how the feck do I get home’ angst.

Situation needed serious contemplation, and obligatory fortification. Sidestepped into a petite bistro, ordered a vin Rouge and what I assumed would be a cheese platter equivalent to the desperately small cube of cheddar, slither of blue vein, dot of goat’s cheese guaranteed to remain attached to roof of mouth ’till Tuesday, a grape and three small biscuits; the nature of which my beloved homeland is inclined to serve for a mere $20.

Nope…€8 offered up half a side of Roquefort, four dollops of non stick goat offering and two huge gherkins piled atop a salad accompanied by five slabs of Baguette. Holy taste buds batman! What really intrigue20130830-203711.jpgd was the two butter pats in the mix; usually only proffered after one has begged, cajoled and thrown a small but noisy tantrum for the French just don’t get it. Mon dieu! Voulez vous le beurre??? Oui I bloody well want butter! But this time I didn’t, gave that fight up a while ago – I’m an undercover local now remember?
In the interests of upholding my ‘eat everything in site before the budget limps away sobbing soon’ mantra I fulfilled the duty, all the while chortling at the memory of Rossy ordering a four cheese Pizza (when Jen, Ross and I were last in France) and receiving a 5cm deep pile of melted cheese under which a tiny crust tried in vain to uphold its duty.

Rossy’s gallant effort was well rewarded with applaud from we girls and the crusty old codgers nearby. Mine with discovering Bus 81 went right past my abode, the stop just ten meters away and all for €1.20. Merci dieu!!




20130830-203925.jpgArrived home and discovered this gorgeous woman (and her inherited side kick) atop the Citadel. What can I say?


Now that’s my kind of camping!

‘Camping’ and ‘Jane’ simply don’t go in the same sentence as many will attest, thus when BJ declared that a camping trip would be just the ticket for his birthday treat, the response was a frosty stare and stony silence. Fully expecting such a reaction and having done his research, the dear man had actually found the perfect compromise…Glamping!

Plug my hair drier in? A cosy bed with fluffy pillows? A real loo? And shower too? And are you absolutely sure the tent won’t blow away at the first gust of wind? A yes to all and I’m in!

Ketchups Bank Glamping does indeed provide the perfect compromise, my essentials PLUS the beauty that comes with wilderness…spectacular views across taupe velvet rolling hills, Rosellas and King Parrots jostling for seeds, a petite Wallaby with joey peeking from her pouch mooching in nearby grass, Bilbys and Bettongs scuttling too and fro, the sparkling scales of Silver Perch rising from the dam’s surface to snatch fish pellets in the dappled sun. BBQ for the steaks, a roaring campfire, marshmallows for toasting, a mellow merlot and a good book…ah bliss! Glamorous Camping indeed!

Long days exploring the walks, a nearby winery and basking in the warm sun concluded with us snuggling our freshly showered selves into fluffy bathrobes in a big warm, cosy bed slap dab in the middle of our solid Eco Tent to watch DVDs, hot chocolate in hand. Later, marveling at the silence, the brilliant stars above and fresh mountain air, we drifted into heavenly sleep…only to be sharply woken by gale force winds whipping themselves into a frenzy around us. But then we smiled in sleepy confidence…it’s gonna take much, much more than that to blow this here tent away!

Gracious hosts, lovely weekend, heartily recommended.






Umbria…Castello di Petroia

I’ve always wanted to sleep in a Castle…preferably right up there in a turret…how about you? Well I got to do exactly that in a hauntingly beautiful genuine medieval castle in Umbria, Italy.

The Castello di Petroia, dating back to the Middle Ages, around 1163 to be more precise, is right up there on my ‘magical experiences’ list. And that’s why it rates in my continuing  ‘fabulous accommodation finds’ theme.

20120401-214708.jpgMy Rapunzel moment was not without it’s challenges I must add. A flight of steps up to the front door, bathroom down a flight, bedroom up two flights, rooftop vista yet another. Not for the faint hearted yet affording the most magnificent 360 degree view across a tapestry of rich green undulating valleys.

Walls a meter thick, barely space for my big feather four poster bed, moonlight to guide my way I was completely entranced and all thoughts of being haunted by the turret’s ancestry were replaced with the luxury of pleasant dreams…until a Wood Pecker tapped on my window to wake me. I’m glad he did. Watching the sun rise across the misty valleys was absolutely breathtaking. It felt good to be alive!

Oh! If the thought of the turret is just too daunting, there are similar evocatively atmospheric rooms in the main castle, and just a single flight of stairs.








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