Posts tagged photography

Les Montagnes

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Entering France from Italy we were struck by the difference in roads and traffic.  The roads in France are well maintained, the traffic behaves itself and there is almost no overtaking on the bends!!  We wanted to spend some more time in the mountains away from the coast and discovered an incredible area in the Haute Alpes of Provence.  At first the scenery was mediterranean, with tumbling vegetation dropping down into river gorges.  Soon it began to turn more mountainous, with great purple lumps of rock towering above us, occasionally dotted with autumnal coloured trees.  The alpine blue rivers clash dramatically with the purple rockbeds.  We spent the night in a sweet little riverside town, St Saveur-sur-Tinee at the local picnic area.

The next day we drove into the Parc National du Mercantour. Once again dogs are prohibited (even on leads) so Odie was resigned to yapping his head off in the car.  The route we chose to Barcelonnette took us through what they claim is Europe’s highest pass, the Col de la Bonette at 1824m.  I cannot confirm the accuracy of this (I would have thought Grossglockner was higher) but the beauty of the area is in no such doubt.  Snow-sprinkled mountains surrounded us as eagles soared above and the road meandered off into infinity over a series of hair pin bends.  We continued down the other side into Barcelonnette, a French skiing area where we stopped for the night amongst fallen oak leaves.

Trulli Magnificent

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A view of the trulli rooftops

After a welcome break in our nomadic lifestyle we uprooted once again and pottered down the Adriatic coast to Alberobello, Puglia. This town is famous for trulli – the round, dry walled, white washed houses that dot the landscape. Some say that they were built as an early form of tax evasion. Being made without mortar they could be dismantled every time a royal tax inspection was carried out.

We stopped in a lovely olive plantation, now an area di sosta (camperstop), in the heart of Alberobello. Little did we know that we were adjacent to the Trulli neighbourhood. In our search for groceries, we bypassed this area and looped all round the town only seeing a few Trulli as we marched ever onwards. However, we weren’t disappointed as the town is beautiful in its own right and we were lucky enough to be about during the Italian passegiata, or evening stroll. The next morning we stumbled over the Trulli neighbourhood. There are two main Trulli areas, one full of shops selling trulli tacky touritst tat, and another where people still live in these hobbity homes.


Little trulli houses converted into shops

A short hop took us to Locorotondo, a hilltop town in Puglia with a beautiful historical centre. The old town has narrow lanes that all lead to the church. Most buildings are cream or white and this colour contrasts beautifully with the red geranium-filled window boxes. After a rejuvenating gelati we continued on to Lecce, right in the heel of the Italian boot.

Death by Olive

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A seahorse fountain in the square

We are always interested in trying new foods and Ascoli Piceno had something unique on offer – olives stuffed with veal and then deep fried. A cardiologist’s worst nightmare but a delight for tourists’ tummies! This town in the Le Marche region of Italy has plenty of interesting sights, beautiful squares and pretty architecture. Its tourist appeal is readily evident with the numerous American and English voices that can be heard echoing off the Roman monuments.

A quick descent out of the mountainous region of Monti Sibillini National Park lead us to the Adriatic sea. Beautiful blue skies and abundant sunshine, combined with a powder blue sea should result in hordes of sun worshippers … or this is what we thought. The only sight that met us on the beach in Porto d’Ascoli were endless rows of sun loungers and parasols. It looked like a holiday ghost town. If only the English knew about this September paradise. I’m sure many would love a cheap holiday in the Italian ‘off’ season.  We eventually located a wild camping spot right next to the sea, and were rewarded with a pretty sunrise the following morning.

The rising sun looked like a nuclear bomb

Away with the Faeries

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Fussen is most famous for its castles but there is a lot more to it than fairytale architecture. The town is full of quaint shops and has much to offer the visiting tourist. There is a beautiful alpine blue river running through the town, with its own beach if you dare brave the freezing water! A fabulous cycle network leads you to Lake Forgensee where there are various watersports on offer. You can also cycle to both Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein castles.

We decided to scout out the parking situation for the castles. Arriving at 12pm we discovered hordes of tourists milling around and realised we needed to arrive as close to the opening time (8am) as possible, to avoid queuing for hours for a ticket. There is a beautiful lake near the castles which is virtually tourist free. Swimming is permitted at a designated spot where you can hire deck chairs and make the most of the crystal clear lake waters. Having no swimming costumes with us we opted to cycle up the mountain. What started off as a reasonable road soon turned into a perilous path with near vertical drops and numerous rockfalls. Our ride very quickly became a bicycle-carrying hike to the Mariebrucke. This bridge gives a great view of the fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle.

The following day we booked ourselves on the castle tour. There are tours in German and English, or audio tours for the rest. We managed to get onto the first English tour which thankfully had substantially less than the standard 50 people per group. The tour lasts only 30 minutes and felt rather rushed but is nevertheless well worth taking. King Ludwig II was clearly away with the faeries. The castle is built more for artistic value than architectural sense, but is in some ways all the better for it.

Up to now we have missed out on many of the local festivals as we seem to leave the towns a few days before they take place. When we found out that there was a reggae festival happening in Fussen we jumped at the chance to attend, especially when we read that they were a South African band and we could get a little taste of home. However we are not convinced that they are actually from South Africa as the mike was passed to David at one point and he sung ‘Ishe Komborera Africa’ to a very puzzled looking lead singer.

Our new home

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At long last we have picked up our campervan! It didn’t take me long to break it, just over an hour, actually. There’s a little area in the dashboard for stashing things like wallets and phones. I put my mobile phone into it and, to my horror, heard an unsettling “clonk” as it fell down behind the dashboard. Minutes later it started to ring – a work call of all things.

So, our first night staying at a campsite was spent dismantling the dashboard to get at my phone. I had already planned to switch the van’s cheap radio with the swish memory-stick compatible one from my car so took advantage of the opportunity to do that – if you can call having the front of your car in bits an opportunity 😉

Tomorrow I’m expecting to pick up a wide angle lens (Sigma 10-20mm) lens for my D90 and will take some photos of “Karmenn” (that’s what we’re calling the van). So far we’re very happy with her, bar the minor inconvenience of a little phone gobbling she is in many ways far more luxurious than the cramped cottage we stayed in yesterday. At least we don’t have to stand on tippy toes to do the washing up …

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