Our first taste of Eurocamp, Italian Style! – part ii

Hopefully, you have read part i before jumping straight in to part ii, if you haven’t and you would like to remind yourself about how we got to where the following begins then please click here.

As you are reading on I am assuming that you have read part i and so I will begin.  With the organised trip to Venice a no-show and our hearts set on going to Venice on Wednesday we asked at the information desk for options.  We were told that there was a bus that stopped outside the campsite that took you to Ponte Sabbioni from where you could get a ferry.  That option filled us with dread.  A long bus journey with three young children before an equally long ferry journey before we stepped foot on Venice, wasn’t our idea of fun.  We had also read some stories of people who hadn’t been that attentive to the various timetables and found themselves stranded in Venice or Ponte Sabbioni because there are only so many ways back, indeed the return bus from Ponte Sabbioni stopped in the early evening and we didn’t want to be held hostage to public transport timetables.  Therefore, we decided to cut as much of the public transport aspect out of the journey that we could.  Thus,we would only need to concentrate on one timetable and so we fired up Waze and headed south in the Ford Focus to Ponte Sabbioni.

We blindly trusted Waze through back roads and across country all the way to Ponte Sabbioni.  There, we parked at the first car park we saw, which was a very reasonable €7 for the entire day; cheaper than 5 return bus tickets!  We joined the queue for ferry tickets and before long we were aboard and heading across the lagoon to Venice.  Lucinda and I took a city break in Venice back in 2005, long before the Baguettes made an appearance.  Nevertheless, Venice probably hasn’t changed that much for a couple of hundred years, and certainly hasn’t changed since Lucinda and I visited.

We got off the Ferry and decided that the first task was to try to find somewhere to have lunch, to put some fuel in our bellies in readiness for exploring the alleyways and campi (little squares, the name piazza is reserved for St Mark’s Square – campi means ‘fields’) of the island.  Moving away from Piazza San Marco and its ludicrous prices we found a small pizzeria away from the hustle and bustle.  Suitably sated we began the exploration of the city.  The Baguettes are too young to fully appreciate the history of Venice and so we decided that we would not join the tourist queues for the tours of the Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica or its Campanile and simply view them from the piazza.

Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.  The little island welcomes over 20 million visitors per year and thus outnumber the 60,000 or so residents on a daily basis.  With this in mind we were very conscious that it could be very easy to lose a Baguette in the overcrowded alleys, and so we took a water-based felt tip pen and wrote my mobile number on their arms.  Slightly paranoid, maybe but better safe than sorry.

Venice was an adventure for them all.  They saw Piazza San Marco and the aforementioned, Doge’s Palace, St Mark’s Basilica and its Campanile and the Bridge of Sighs.  We then walked through the alleyways via the Pandora shop (Lucinda wanted a Venice related charm for her charm bracelet) and the Hard Rock Café (Lucinda wanted a Hard Rock Café badge for her collection – the Hard Rock Café was not there when last we visited).  We showed them shops full of Venetian masks and Murano glass as we weaved towards Ponte di Rialto (The Rialto Bridge) one of four bridges (and the most famous) that span the Grand Canal.  Unfortunately, the bridge is currently obscured by scaffolding and so they did not see it in all its splendour.

The Baguettes really enjoyed exploring Venice.  Éowyn and Amélie spent some of their remaining Euros to buy a Venetian fan and Éowyn also bought herself a pen with pictures of the major landmarks of Venice.  One thing that we didn’t take into account, which was evident as soon as we disembarked and we felt foolish for not considering it before we landed was the fact that Venice is criss-crossed with canals, it is kind of what it is famous for (although Birmingham has more miles of canals that Venice), and to cross those canals there a a myriad of bridges.  Now, many of these bridges are decades if not centuries old and as such were not designed for accessibility.  Therefore, taking the pushchair for Ezra was perhaps a bit of a luxury and we should have made his 3 year old legs walk the 15 or so kilometres that we walked that day.  Still, was good exercise for yours truly, lifting the pushchair up a flight of stairs, across a bridge and down a flight of stairs every 100 metres or so.  I have no idea what wheelchair users do.

We planned to visit Murano and Burano on the return journey, but time was pressing on and the baguettes were getting tired.  Thus we made do with a flying visit to Murano.  Murano is an island (or more strictly a series of islands linked together by bridges) about a mile north of Venice.  It is world-famous for glass and the glass art and jewellery and so we browsed the various glass shops but all we bought was an ice cream and a Murano glass Christmas tree decoration before boarding the ferry back to Ponte Sabbioni and home.

After our excursions in Venice we decided to have a relaxing day by the pool on Thursday.  It would have been a nice relaxing day except it was somewhat marred by an incident that happened at dinner.  Throughout Wednesday and Thursday both Éowyn and Amélie loved playing with the fans that they had bought with their money in Venice.  Taking our evening meal and our favourite restaurant the fans came too!  Before our meal arrived Éowyn decided to go, with Lucinda and Ezra, to the toilet and against my advice she took her fan.  As they left the toilet there was a mum with her young daughter heading towards the toilet.  As Éowyn returned to the table she realised that she had not picked her fan up after washing her hands, so Lucinda and Éowyn headed back to the toilet.  The mum and the girl left the toilet and Éowyn and Lucinda went in.  The fan was not there.  Éowyn was distraught.  So Lucinda headed over to the table with Éowyn, apologised for disturbing their meal, and asked if they had seen the fan or indeed picked it up while they were there – the evidence did kind of point to that.  Before Lucinda had even finished the sentence the father replied ‘Nein‘ and both turned from engaging eye contact with Lucinda.

Lucinda returned to our table and as we sat consoling Éowyn and contemplating what we should do, and indeed feeling impotent but not wishing to start an Anglo-German incident we noticed that they had quickly paid their bill were leaving the restaurant.  We are certain they picked it up, possibly in all innocence but they did have the perfect opportunity to do the right thing and return it to an obviously upset 7-year-old.

Éowyn learned a hard lesson that day and we spoke to her about her feelings saying that she could either hope that the little girls loves the fan and it is her favourite toy and she treasures it for ever; or she could hope that the fan breaks and it upsets the little girl and her parents have to buy her a new one; or indeed anything in between but however she feels is fine.  She was still upset despite contemplating on this emotions so Lucinda and I became 7 year olds ourselves and helped Éowyn make up a rhyme about a mum, with a stinky bum that gave a fan to her daughter, when she really shouldn’t oughta!  This cheered her up.

The next morning, Éowyn said that she had thought about her fan and hoped that the girl really looks after it and loves it but she was still upset that she had lost it.  She is more magnanimous than I.  After breakfast we decided to explore a little more of the area and drove to the nearest town to the resort:  Porto Santa Margherita.  Porto Santa Margherita appears to be geared around tourism and there are many hotels along the sea front.  One of the striking things that you will notice about our photos is that there are not hoards of tourists in the background.  It seemed very much that we were the only ones on holiday and in Porto Santa Margherita that was even more pronounced.  It appeared that the holiday season hadn’t even started, it felt like an English seaside town in November (except for the 25ºC weather and clear blue skies).  There was only so much that we could do to entertain ourselves in such a quiet town so we headed back to Pra’Delle Torri.

After lunch we headed back to the pool and only moved away for ice creams.  Anyone with young children will know that they sometimes do not appreciate how quickly an ice cream or lolly can melt while they are eating it and before you know it they are covered in ice cream or there is a pool of ice cream on floor between their feet.  Amélie had decided that she didn’t want a ice-cream but wanted a lolly instead.  However, she wa taking her time and savouring it, oblivious to the drips collecting at her feet.  Then she made the mistake and looked down at the floor.  Then the screaming started for enjoying her lolly drips were some ants attracted to the sugar.  I tried to calm her down but before I could stop her, she had climbed on the table screaming and sobbing because of the ants.  The joys of parenthood!

Conscious that our time was rapidly coming to an end we decided that the final Saturday in Veneto should be spent in Caorle.  Saturday in Caorle is market day so it sounded like a perfect combination.  We eased ourselves into the day and headed to Caorle.  We noticed that there was a park and ride car park on the outskirts of the town with free parking and a free bus ride into the town.  We took advantage, although it appears that we were the only one.  The car park was empty and there was no bus, nevertheless we parked and decided to walk into town.  It wasn’t too far and the highlight of the walk was to wait for a swing bridge over one of the canals to swing back after letting one of the fishing boats back into dock.

We arrived at the market for about 11am (we were on holiday!) but like San Donà di Piave before we were too late.  The market was packing up but there were still a few stalls open and time to grab a couple of bargains, including riding on the tailcoats of a nice German lady who was haggling in English for the same item as we wanted.  We let her do the hard work and then said make that two!  There was also time for Daddy to buy Éowyn (and Amélie who had broke hers, and Ezra who didn’t want to feel left out) a new fan – for a fraction of the price that Éowyn and Amélie paid in Venice!

Caorle did not let us down and we discovered probably the best gelateria in the world.  You make your own gelato.  Yes, as you walk in you can choose you choice of cone (or tub), then add your favourite flavoured gelato (as many as you want) and then add as many toppings as you can balance on top.  The gelato is charged by weight and was very reasonable – although the peanut m&ms were probably a mistake.

After the ice cream we took a stroll along the prom (prom, prom) where the sea is held back by big rocks as many shore around the world.  However the rocks that face the prom have been individually carved by local artists with a nautical theme – see the pictures on Flickr.  We walked the full length of the prom passed the Church of the Blessed Virgin of the Angel to the beach.  As we passed the church a newly married couple walked into the world as man and wife to the whoops and cheers of random strangers (including ourselves) who were playing by the shore.

Sunday, was our last full day in Italy and we woke to heavy rain.  This lasted all morning and so we began the arduous task of packing ready for home.  We then had lunch using the remainder of our food and by the time that was down the rain had stopped and so we headed to the pool.  The afternoon was sunny and warm and so we stayed  by the pool for a good four hours before heading back to change for our last dinner in Italy.

Before heading to our favourite on site restaurant we had one thing left to do that we had promised the girls that we would do before the end of the holiday: we headed to the bike hire shop and hired a two-man (person) pedal car.  Lucinda and I were the power while Amélie and Ezra sat in the front seat and Éowyn balanced between Lucinda and I.  We only hired them for 30 minutes which was ample for exploring the park, including a whole area that we hadn’t seen before which included two restaurants and mini golf course!  Ezra didn’t like it at first and kept asking us to stop.  So we encouraged him to say ‘Ciao’ to everyone.  This was a great distraction and before long he was laughing and really enjoying the reaction he was getting from everyone.  As we passed the Nutella crepe girls he shouted ‘Ciao, sweetie’, I’m not sure he whether he was being smooth or (because they also sold sweeties) that he was in fact saying goodbye to the sweeties.  I’d like to think it was the former.

Monday morning we packed up and left the site early for one last arrividerci to our favourite town, Caorle, and an ice cream at favourite gelateria before returning to Treviso airport and home.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Italy and at Pra’Delle Torri in particular.  Our first foreign caravan holiday was a great success and are already looking to see where we should go for the next Bagnall foreign trip.  Obviously, you will have to tune in to see where that will be.

I will now leave you with a few more photos from our holiday and please look through the 600+ pictures on Flickr.

Peace and Love



When I’m 102!

Well aren’t you blessed?  Two updates within the arbitrary fortnight deadline that I set myself.  However before you get excited there will not be the 27 or so photos this time, you win some, and you lose some.

Éowyn has just finished her half-term break and pre-school beckons.  Unfortunately, I was at work for the majority of it so the onus for entertaining was entirely in Lucinda’s hands.  This was made more difficult with the meteorological spring ending in a similar vein to the previous three months (cold – indeed the coldest spring since 1962 and the fifth coldest on record, according the Met-Office or the coldest since 1891 according the Central English Temperature Series) there was not the opportunity to go out and enjoy the weather.  Nevertheless, Lucinda managed an admirable job entertaining them (as always) heading to friends’ houses to relieve the boredom of being stuck in the same house.

I may work long hours but nearly every night it is I that read the girls their bedtime stories (assuming they haven’t lost them as a punishment).  They have free range over which stories they chose and often go through phases of what is their particular favourite: any of the Julia Donaldson stories, Mr Men, Disney, ‘Traditional Fairy Stories’ or one from their big book of Princess stories.  However, Roald Dahl now finds himself added to that illustrious list.  It began a couple of months ago with me introducing Éowyn to the Candy Man by Sammy David Jnr.  That lead to reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which both girls love and once we had read the book I let them watch the Tim Burton film version.  As you may or may not know there was a follow up to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory called Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.  In my opinion, it is not as good as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (sequels rarely are – Empire Strikes Back the obvious exception).  Nevertheless I began to read it to them (we have since given up and begun to read the BFG!).

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator begins as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ends with Charlie and his entire family in the aforementioned Great Glass Elevator along with Willy Wonka heading back to the Chocolate Factory.  Now, the method of entry of the Great Glass Elevator into the Chocolate Factory involves gaining height in order to fall to the Earth with enough force to smash a hole in the roof of the factory.  (We will ignore the science behind terminal velocity, deceleration on the human body or the tensile strength of glass and just suspend our disbelief).  As all good adventure novels begin something goes wrong and Willy Wonka is distracted at the vital moment and instead of hurtling to Earth, the Great Glass Elevator and its occupants enter orbit (again ignore the science, it is a children’s book!).

As I read, Éowyn asked what ‘in orbit’ meant.  I explained it is when you go into space and circle the Earth. ‘Daddy, I would like to go into space.‘  I explained that so would I.  She then asked as to whether we could go into space.  I explained that when I was a boy we were told that we would be able to take holidays on the moon but unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet and only astronauts or very rich people can go into space at the moment, however when she was Daddy’s age then hopefully there would be affordable trips into space.

That would be great, I would be your age and you would be 102 and we could go into space together.’  She has got her sums a bit wrong but idea is wonderful and very sweet that she would want to take her daddy, so I replied that I would like that and then I made my mistake.  There are times as a parent when you say something and as soon as you say it, you realise that you shouldn’t have said it, but now it is too late and you have a long drawn out discussion ahead of you.  I made one of those mistakes.  I replied that I would like that and that I would be very happy just to live to 102.

Éowyn picked up on this immediately and began to cry.  I asked her what the matter was and she replied ‘You’re not going to die are you?  I don’t want you to die.‘  When do I go with this?  I said that everyone dies and that 102 is very old and that she would be very old (well 67) if Daddy lived to be 102.  ‘But Daddy I would miss you and wouldn’t be able to see you ever again‘  Fighting the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes I reassured her that I wasn’t going to die any time soon (well I’m not planning on it) and that I would always be there for her.  She hugged me tight and sobbed into my shoulder, while Amélie looked on oblivious.  It is nice to know that I am still her hero, for the time being and I will have to remind her of this if she turns into a stroppy teenager wishing her parents would just leave her alone!  Better still remind her of the story in 2075 when I turn 102!

It is not like Éowyn to be so loving and emotional.  She is usually the stoic one, headstrong and determined.  Amélie on the other hand is the more loving.  While Éowyn certainly went through the terrible twos (although not as bad as some children), you would not know that Amélie has reached that stage.  Her only slight rebellion is the refusal to eat meals (but she doesn’t have the iron-will of Éowyn and folds usually by the next meal) and the fact that she will ‘swipe’ things (indeed, you may remember that when she was younger we nicknamed her Swiper after the Fox in the Dora the Explorer cartoon).  My nail-clippers disappeared for about two weeks, Lucinda’s tweezers for the same length of time both found in Amélie-type hiding places around the house.  However, we may have to forgive Amélie because it might be someone or something else, a house pest of frightening proportions.

An ornament had disappeared and found on the floor in the middle of the landing.  Sensing the unmistakeable signs of Swiper I said to Amélie ‘Did you take this?‘  Looking me in the eye, she sincerely replied ‘Daddy, it wasn’t me.  It was the Big Bad Wolf!‘ I think she needs to work on her lies either that or I should be slightly concerned about the house pests in this part of town.

Amélie is certainly growing up, she is potty trained during the day and now is in the process of occasionally waking up at night to use the potty, which is a huge step of a 2 year old.  In addition, her cognitive powers are certainly increasing.  If she refuses to do something or wants to do something and you ask her why she wants what she wants she will reply with the conjoiner ‘’cause‘ to buy herself some thinking time.  However, when I type ’cause it doesn’t quite do justice to the word that Amélie uses.  A close approximation to the word that Amélie uses is ‘caaaaauuuuu-uuuuuusssssssseeee’, which lasts about 2 seconds and more accurately could be described as a whine that varies in pitch, starting low, ascending with a descending dip before ascending sharply.  Have you got that?  For older (UK) readers somewhat similar to the way that Richard Briers’ character would say the word ‘Ann‘ in Ever Decreasing Circles.

Although Éowyn and Amélie are very different in temperament, both seem very forward for their respective ages.  I find it fascinating sometimes where they pick things up from and have to be careful exactly what you say, either to them or around them.  Éowyn for instance was eating her lunch and said, ‘Daddy, this is delectable!‘  Now I personally do not think that I have ever used that word (I even had to check that I had typed it correctly as I wrote this) and neither has Lucinda.  Therefore, although I am not sure where she has picked that up but kudos to her that not only did she use it but knew in what context to use it.

With the summer comes a return for me of a Monday to Friday working week.  I now get weekends off, like normal people, but the trouble is there seems to be an awful amount of people around.  However, I do now manage to go to events and this weekend saw one of the first of the summer:  Ashford on the map.  Held on the playing fields of Brooklands College in Ashford it is the ninth annual fun day.  It seems that they had booked the weather for it had turned particularly summery with bright sunshine, although there was still a chill in the air; it was probably the warmest day of the year.  There were about 100 stalls, pony rides, fairground rides, face painting and all the usual things that you would expect at such an event, including a display by the Spelthorne gymnastics club that Éowyn was a member of, and indeed the display has inspired her to go back.  Watch this space to see if she is still interested next week.

This was the first time that we have visited it and it was excellent.  The girls thoroughly enjoyed it, especially Éowyn who, in addition to getting her face painted, won a prize on ‘hook a duck’ and happily threw herself down the 10 metre high inflatable slide.  Unfortunately her parents caused the only problem.  We didn’t expect it to be so big or have so much to entertain the girls so we only paid for 2 hours of parking at the local car park thereby enforcing an artificial deadline on our fun or at least the girls’ fun.

Amélie fell asleep on the return home; it had worn her out so much.  Therefore, with Amélie asleep, Ezra snoozing between feeds and Éowyn happily amusing herself I mowed the lawns.  What a perfect picture of modern suburbia.

In other news, Ezra is still behaving himself and growing at a rapid rate of knots (am I allowed that mixed metaphor?);  Éowyn’s current favourite song is Think by Aretha Franklin and Amélie has begun to craft stories, and not only to shift blame from her direction. While the next big change in the Bagnall world, selling our house, is a slow process with no news to update you with yet.  Rest assured though you will be the first to know.

Therefore, before the length of this update (and it has to be close to taking the record for the longest update of the site) causes you to pandiculate I will bid you adieu and leave you with a few more photos.

Peace and Love