Portofino is a good one and half hours drive from Loano which is why we chose to stay in Loano. We spent the day walking around the tiny little fishing harbour, admiring the super yachts that were anchored close by. It’s a favoured weekend trip by people who own yachts due to its accessibility. The cobbled square is adorned with boutiques (not one price tag in sight) and restaurants, where the rich and famous have stopped by to visit in the past and continue to do so. Some of the restaurants have photos displayed of the actors, singers and royalty that have dined at their tables. The architecture is typical of the Italian Riviera with lots of colourful pastel buildings and small windy streets. Portofino lies south-east of Genoa and is a favoured spot for the rich and famous to anchor their yachts and dine at one of the many restaurants there.
Parking is a little bit of an issue in Portofino but my husband managed to find a parking space in a multi storey parking lot. Be warned it was a very tight squeeze and expensive! We were pleased to have found a space so close to the hub of the little village. We walked through the square and made the ascend to Castello Brown. As a family we decided to walk to the very top of the path and enjoy the view from the top. There is a little cafe at the top for refreshments, if my memory serves me well. The path is easy to walk but was quite steep at times. Once we’d finished taking our photos and had enjoyed the view it was time to make the descend towards the square again.
My husband and I decided we’d like to visit the exhibition in Castello Brown. It was full of photographs, of famous people like Grace Kelly, John Wayne and Laurel and Hardy. There was a small entry fee of five euros per person but we considered it worth while. It is open for weddings, conventions and also holds art exhibitions. From the beautiful garden you have a fantastic view over the harbour which is ideal for taking stunning photographs of the harbour from above. Castello Brown is architecturally beautiful and the weddings they hold there must be breathtaking.
Unfortunately dogs are not allowed in the castle and Lotta waited outside for half an hour with my two sons. After a quick visit we walked back down to the square where we decided to enjoy an ice-cream each and a drink. We got a little bit of a shock when the bill came and paid as much as if we would have eaten out in the evening, just for a few ice-creams and drinks!
It’s advisable to wear sensible shoes when visiting Portofino because of the cobble stoned streets. I also don’t remember there being very many grassy spots for dogs to relieve themselves. We had a lovely relaxed visit albeit quite short. I can fully recommend it and would definitely return. Have you ever been to Portofino or the Italian Riviera? Did you take your dog with you? I’d love to hear your experiences and your impressions from this beautiful little fishing village.
Here is a link to another beautiful travel blog I found with so many destinations:
When we were planning our trip to Italy, I really wanted to visit some of the famous and beautiful, touristy towns of the Italian Riviera. We chose to stay in Loano because it was in between two of the towns/countries I wanted to visit. I had always wanted to visit Monaco with its extravagant style and all the millionaire yachts and Portofino was to be on the list too. I first heard of Portifino when Wayne Rooney married there and I fell in love with the photos I had seen. First I will take you on a fascinating journey to Monaco.
The journey there was very easy, although the satellite navigation system didn’t seem to work too well near Monaco. Once we drove off the motorway the ascending road became narrower and very curvy. There are several viewing places to stop and take in the breathtaking scenery. Once we had driven up to the top of the road to Monaco, we passed border control, where several men in uniform stood by the side of the road. I was amazed at how small Monaco was, considering the amount of money it has. I had imagined it to be bigger. We parked in a multi storey car park and walked into the centre of Monaco. It was quite breathtaking, this small sovereign country set in a bay with cliffs as its backdrop. Unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and we decided to purchase a couple of umbrellas on the way to Monaco castle, to see the changing of the guards.
Being so compact, Monaco is very easy to navigate and we had no problems finding the places we wanted to visit. My mother in law said the changing of the guard at The Prince’s Palace was a must see. To get to the palace we walked up a long, steep narrow pathway right to the top. It was such a fantastic view of Monaco, it was well worth the walk up to the top. Lotta loved the ascent with plenty of new smells and a few places to stop and relieve herself. She wasn’t however very pleased to see all the people also waiting to watch the changing of the guard. We waited patiently in the ‘Place de Palais’ with anticipation admiring the view of the yachts below and the stationary canons that once guarded the palace. At five minutes to twelve the action started. If you have seen the changing guard of Buckingham palace, this is of no comparison, but never the less a must see if you are visiting the country.
The palace village is very quaint with its own narrow pedestrianized streets and touristy shops and cafes. The architecture is beautiful with vibrant colours, I particularly liked the mirrored windows of some of the palace buildings in the courtyard. Lotta seemed to enjoy the spectacular views from the top as well. From here we walked through the quaint little streets and made our way down to the main city. We walked through the harbour to see the spectacular yachts on show. I knew the yachts were big but some of them were so ridiculously huge, they had another smaller yacht inside them! I was in awe of what I saw but at the same time quite sickened to see such absurd riches when we have so much poverty and hunger in the world.
Next on the agenda was the famous ‘Casino Monte Carlo’ that once featured in the 1995 James Bond movie ‘Golden Eye’ with Pierce Brosnan. We made our way through the harbour up to the Casino, walking through the tunnel where the formula 1 drivers have a chance to over take and up the steep windy hill to the casino. Walking the track you can fully appreciate the skill of the formula 1 drivers who have to navigate their way through a pretty treacherous track. Once there you are greeted with the most expensive and extravagant cars imaginable from Porsches to Mercedes to Lamborghinis, you can see them all parked in and around the casino. In the centre is a huge mirror centered in a park with a grassy area. Here you can find a hotel and restaurants and cafes but be sure to take enough money with you or your credit card!
We had a fantastic day out, luckily we chose a day where it was a little bit cooler otherwise I think it would have been too hot for Lotta. Dogs are very welcome in Monaco although some of the gardens, dogs are prohibited. Would I go back? At the time I said no but I may be tempted back again someday and visit the casino and some of the museums. If I won the lottery I would definitely visit with my yacht!
We had another road trip in the summer, down to Italy near the French border. My youngest son had continually mentioned that he’d quite like to go to Italy again for our summer holiday. During their younger years, we always had had an Italian holiday. We used to drive down towards Venice and stay in Bibione, Jessolo or around those areas. It was lovely whilst they were young and they would sit playing in the sun on the beach but after eight years, I grew tired of the same old, same old. That’s when we decided to give Croatia a try.
So this year when my husband asked where we should go on holiday, both my youngest son and I immediately suggested Italy. My husband wasn’t too keen at first until I came up with the idea of driving through Switzerland to the Italian Riviera. I had always wanted to go and see Monaco and Portofino. We were a little late booking our summer holiday as usual, so I was really pleased when I stumbled upon a hotel that also accepted dogs. The location was perfect, in between Monaco and Portofino enabling us to visit both places during our stay in Italy. There was one slight problem, they only accepted dogs up to 15kg, Lotta weighs 21kg. We were devastated, as we thought we’d found the perfect place to stay with our family. The hotel has three swimming pools, one of which is a heated indoor pool in the spa area. It had a fitness room for my eldest son and my husband (who’d have thought), a games room, table tennis and of course evening entertainment. Well, we weren’t going to let that put us off, so my husband sent an email of Lotta sitting on my lap when she first arrived at our house. This photo had worked before and it did the trick again, they made an exception. Funny that they should have a dalmatian as their mascot on their website!
The day came when we were due to leave. I, unusually for me, was quite organised (or so I thought) and had managed to wash everything we wanted to take with us and had packed it the night before. Little did I know, until it was much too late, that I had in actual fact forgotten the towels!!! Who needs towels when on holiday swimming everyday!! Anyway, we were all full of anticipation and eager to get on the road. It was a very plain sailing drive down to Italy with one shock of the toll price of Switzerland’s motorways, you have to pay for a whole year, which is maybe ok if you own the car but not if your car is about to be changed for a new company car (then 40 Euros are a lot of money). The added advantage of this, is that there are very few cars on the roads and the scenery is just breathtaking. Lotta travels in the boot of the car in her travel box which she actually prefers to the back seat with the boys. If I remember correctly we only stopped twice on our eight-hour journey.
So we arrived at our destination ‘Ai Pozzi Village’ in Loano. Our first impressions were very positive after driving through the Palm tree adorned entrance of the hotel. After parking the car we tumbled out and bounced up to reception and were greeted by an Italian who said he spoke a little German. We had to laugh at this because he spoke fluent German with very few, if any, mistakes. He rambled on about the services we could pay for and that parking wasn’t actually included as we’d booked through booking.com. This we found a little irritating as all you want to do on holiday, is get in your hotel room and as quickly as possible and jump in the pool. A very positive thing to note is that dogs are allowed in a designated area by the pool. One of our concerns was that we would have to take it in turns looking after Lotta in the hotel room, so it was great that she was allowed to sunbathe with us on the terraced area. We did however, have to take it in turns to eat, as dogs are forbidden in the restaurant. We booked just breakfast, which was a buffet that we all enjoyed in the morning. There was a huge variety of food, something for everyone.
The hotel room was a snug fit with bunk beds and a double bed for the adults. For four adults there wasn’t enough wardrobe space and was lacking a chest of drawers (would possibly be ok for a family with smaller children). The balcony was huge but had a partitioning see through wall. On offer was a mini-bar which proved useful on occasions and meant I could store Lotta’s food safely. The room was air-conditioned as you would expect from Italian hotels. The bathroom was a really good size and had a walk in shower with a rain drop fitted shower head and a flexible shower head. We had a hotel room on the fifth floor which meant using the lift to get to our hotel room. Lotta quickly got over her fear of lifts, thank goodness!
The hotel is only a fifteen minute walk away from the town centre and the train station. To get to the town centre you have to cross the railway line which sometimes meant we had to wait at the crossing until the train had passed. The hotel also has its own private beach which has the added cost of paying for the sun loungers. Dogs are unfortunately not allowed on this beach which I think is a little crazy as the hotel is advertised as being dog friendly (we were aware of this, as it clearly states on their website). There are however assigned dog beaches and the cheapest one we found was in the town itself at the cost of eleven Euros for four people plus dog. Again this was ok for smaller dogs but was a little on small size for bigger dogs. There are so called free beaches which are as the name would suggest without charge but as you may have guessed dogs are not prohibited on these beaches. I will do a separate blog post on the dog beaches in the area and describe in detail the prices and what there is to offer.
Eating out is always a pleasant experience with Lotta who has become really good at lying under the table until we have finished. In one of the restaurants the waitress came out with some tasty ham for the dogs. I think this was Lotta’s favourite one. The town offers a wide range of restaurants from pizzerias to more sophisticated sea food restaurants. We found the best value for money restaurants near the square in the town centre. After a while we couldn’t see anymore pizza and pasta and decided to try out a Tex-Mex restaurant. In past experiences this hasn’t been the best choice of restaurants in Italy. I had seen a sign for ‘The Ranch’ advertising Tex-Mex food and we decided to try it out. We were not disappointed with the menu full of Tex-Mex and steaks, a little on the more pricey side but a refreshing change from your average Italien touristy cuisine. It’s well worth visiting if you’re in the area. It’s situated jut outside Loano (in Pietra Ligure).
I loved the old fashioned architecture and the shutters on the windows, it has a very romantic flair to the area. Loano town itself is full of little back passages and tiny alley ways. At night it is lit up with fancy lights, they look like Christmas lights although they probably are an all year round feature. The promenade is lovely to walk down with a one-way restricted street and adorned with private beaches and restaurants a plenty. Dogs are very welcome here and there are many of them. We had a lovely ten days here and the time just flew past. We had two big day trips one to Monaco and one to Portofino which I will also include in a following blog.
The journey home was horrendous with a five hour traffic jam on one of the ring roads to get onto the motorway. We found out later that a lorry had lost its load of fluid soap and it had taken them all day to clear it up. We were very late in booking this holiday, so were lucky to get anything at all. If we had booked earlier we would have booked one of the apartments they have on the complex which would have been more comfortable for our family with two teenage boys. Would we go back to this hotel? Probably not. For our family and the size of dog it wasn’t ideal but families with smaller dogs I can definitely recommend it. The only thing it is missing is an exercise area for the dogs!
Guess where we are headed next year for our summer holidays?
If you follow my blog you will have seen from a recent weekly photo challenge that I had a very spontaneous camping trip with Lotta and my boys. I wanted to get my kids away from their addictive screens and experience camping first hand. When I mentioned it to them I was expecting a huge stand off but they took it in their stride and were actually quite willing to come along for the ride.
On the Thursday before, we went to see the musical ‘Cats’ which was playing in Munich at the ‘Deutsches Theatre’, it was fantastic! We sat up in the ‘gods’ and had lots of space and a wonderful view of the stage, it was also in English much to our surprise. By Friday I thought maybe I should buy a new tent as the one we had was a very simple dome tent with room for three. It would have been very cosy with two very tall boys and a dog but not impossible. I thought it would be wise to make the camping trip as comfortable as possible. We bought the tent online and it was due to arrive on Monday, my husband paid a little extra to ensure it would arrive in the morning. Plan B would have been to buy a tent from a local shop, not as nice, but as I said that was plan B. So tent bought I went online to reserve a space for our tent on a campsite.
The campsite I had in mind is a very small family run site which allows dogs and advertises as having a dog beach not too far away. Once the online form had been filled in I decided to enquire about another campsite just in case the other one didn’t have enough space for us. I received an email very late Saturday night asking for my credit card details because I had to pay a deposit due to such short notice. The other campsite also allows dogs and is in an area of Chiemsee I know well. The lake is enormous and has several areas where you can stay. The other site is in the Prien part of Chiemsee and has lots of activities for families to do, cycling, swimming, climbing and you can also take a boat trip to Herren Chiemsee to see one of King Ludwig’s palaces, inspired by the Versailles Palace.
So Monday arrived, at 10am the tent came and by 12 midday we were packed and ready to go. Lotta is used to us travelling now and seems to take it in her stride when the car is being packed. We headed towards Wasserburg and then on to Chiemsee to the small family run campsite. It took us just under an hour to get there. We arrived at the reception and I explained who I was and that I’d booked a few nights camping with them. I was met with a look of confusion which made me feel slightly uneasy. She looked at the list of names and said that she was very sorry but they don’t make reservations for tents, you just turn up and they decide on the day if they have space for you. My heart started pounding and I could feel the panic starting to wash over me. My boys were not amused with a look of disbelief on their faces, I scrambled to find my mobile to have a look at the confirmation I had received per email and realised my mistake, the second choice campsite had been quicker to take the booking.
So off we drove again with a confused dog and two disgruntled teenagers. After 20min. we finally arrived at our camping site and this time everything went smoothly, well sort of. Seeing as I’d never actually pitched the new tent before, it took a while to understand how everything worked. After working out how to erect the tent I realised I had forgotten a very important tool………..the hammer! The nice thing I find about camping is the social aspect of it. There’s always someone who is willing to help. I heard someone hammering in his tent pegs and followed the noise. It lead me to a young man and his son who had just finished pitching his tent. After asking very nicely if he wouldn’t mind lending me his hammer he dutifully agreed, thank goodness! My other neighbour gave me his spare tent pegs as the tent came with only just enough but not enough for the storm guy ropes.
Once we’d pitched our tent we decided to go out to eat. The kids wanted Italian so we drove into town. I know we were more glamping than camping. My eldest son found an Italian using his mobile phone and navigated us to the restaurant. They fortunately allow dogs so it was perfect. Lotta is really well behaved when we go out to eat. She just makes herself comfortable under the table or somewhere near my chair.
I remember when we first took her out with us we tried taking a bed for her or something to chew and so it went on, until one day I decided enough was enough and she should just sit quietly somewhere near to us, preferably under the table. Lotta has calmed down a lot over the three years we’ve had her and trusts me enough now to go with the flow.
Once we’d eaten we headed back to our tent for the night. I had seen a nice spot not too far away to take a sunset photo of Lotta and I. My eldest son agreed to come with me and take the photo. Off we set to a little jetty around the corner. It’s a place where the boats are moored with a little stoney beach where the dogs can bathe. It’s not nice enough to sit all day and sunbathe but it’s good enough for a quick dip to cool down the dogs during a walk. It was also very tranquil sitting on the wooden jetty looking through the moored boats at the mountains. This is where the featured photo was taken.
We walked back to the tent to where my youngest son was waiting for us. Lotta obviously thought this was a day trip as she insisted on going to the car which was parked in front of our tent. Once she had realised we were staying for the night she settled on a padded beach mat in the middle of the tent. She was so settled in fact that I didn’t need to have her on the lead. The only times she became unsettled was when I left the tent.
The tent has two separate sleeping compartments where two people (four in total) can sleep. So I suggested that my eldest son slept with Lotta and my youngest and I would sleep in the other one. That way everyone would have ample space. For Lotta I took the padded beach mat we use in Croatia and an old sleeping bag. The beach mat has waterproof material on the underside so was perfect for this trip. She slept well and was kept warm by the sleeping bag. The tent is well ventilated so the air inside doesn’t become too stuffy.
The next day came, we had breakfast in the tent after my youngest bought bread rolls from the kiosk (I took Nutella with me) and set off to the ‘Chiemsee beach’ which is where you can sunbathe on a grassy area in front of the lake. Here you can hire out stand up paddles and kayaks at Kayak and SUP hire . I thought it would be fun for the boys to do but by the time they had decided to have a try, there was nothing left to hire out. Both boys then spent an hour or so swimming and playing in the lake. They were braver than me, I got in up to my knees and that’s as far as I got, the water was ice cold! Next to the hire place is a little café and bar where the boys bought themselves something to eat. After having a relaxing time swimming and sunbathing it was time to go home. The sky had started to look rather ominous.
I should have realised from the on coming mass of traffic (exiting the touristy area) when we arrived back in Prien, what would be in store for us that night. Luckily I had pitched the storm guy ropes and had hammered in the tent pegs well. We were also fortunate enough to have gone to bed early that evening because at 9pm the most tremendous thunder storm started and didn’t stop until 6am. I don’t think Lotta slept a wink all night, neither did I. The next morning weary eyed and a little wet we decided to leave a day earlier than we had planned. Everyone was exhausted and I needed to get the tent dry and clean. The tent had remained stable during the storm and the only reason we got a little wet was because our camping neighbour’s awning roof was so close to our tent, that when the owner knocked the water off his awning roof it all landed on our tent.
The next trip will be better planned but I think being spontaneous sometimes keeps life a little more exciting, don’t you?
This photo was taken during our annual visit to England in June of this year 2017. My grandmother had spoken of this beautiful garden hidden in the depths of Herefordshire, Westbury Water Gardens. I posted a different photo a while ago of the same garden for the ‘Bridge’ photo challenge. It is such a beautiful garden and well worth a visit. Dogs are welcome, I had the feeling Lotta really enjoyed exploring the nooks and crannies of this spectacular garden.
The owner of the gardens built this feature as a dome. It has two openings where you can enter and exit it. The dome is made out of different coloured glass bottles with a small pool and a seating area where you can sit and enjoy the tranquility of the colours and the water.
We recently had a very spontaneous camping trip to one of Bavaria’s biggest lakes, Chiemsee, which is actually less than an hours drive away from where we live. It was so spontaneous in fact, that I ordered a new tent on Friday, booked the campsite Saturday afternoon, the tent arrived Monday by 10 am and we hit the road at midday.
I really enjoy camping, being out in the elements and meeting new people who turn out to be very helpful when in need. I only went and forgot the most important thing when you go camping…..yes that’s right, the hammer! The tent didn’t come with enough tent pegs but luckily my camping neighbour had a bag he didn’t ever use with his camping van and gave me his to keep. Wonderful! Gives you faith in humanity again.
The photo shows the surf school next door to the campsite. It shows all the elements of water, air, earth, sand, stones and even fire as it was taken at sunrise. This was the day after a night of storms and heavy rain which kept us all awake. Lotta was shattered on the way home the next day. She had been the most impeccably behaved dog on the campsite.
When we were talking as a family about getting a dog, one of my husband’s main concerns was that it would be difficult to go away on holiday. There are several options you have as a dog owner to solve this problem. Some people choose kennels, some prefer a dog sitter who either comes to the house several times a day or your dog boards at their house. We were lucky, the first holiday we had without Lotta was a ski trip we had booked before taking Lotta in and my neighbour’s children and husband were desperate to get a dog. Well, my neighbour saw it as an opportunity to let the family have first hand experience at what it’s like to have a dog and all the responsibilities it entails. So it was agreed they would look after Lotta for the week we went skiing. She was in her first year of adapting to our family and in hindsight maybe it was a little too soon to have left her. She was quite stressed as it turned out, destroying her bed and keeping them awake at night until she was allowed to sleep with one of them in bed. Needless to say at the end of her stay there, the family no longer wanted the responsibility of owning a dog, this was what my neighbour secretly hoped for, as she knew she would be the one lumbered with all the hard work. We on the other hand have never looked back and couldn’t imagine a life without her. She enriches our lives in so many ways.
When booking our family holidays now, we choose somewhere where dogs are welcome. We had previously been to Croatia on holiday and had had a wonderful time. For us it is about a 6 hour drive depending on where in Croatia we stay and of course the traffic. This country has become a popular destination for dog owners in Europe because of their fantastic dog beaches and relaxed approach to having visiting dogs. They themselves are very relaxed dog owners, letting their dogs have a lot of freedom but also don’t seem to be too keen on sterilising their dogs either (based on my observation). This only becomes a problem if your dog happens to be in season at the time of your holiday!
Along the breath-taking Croatian coastline and on the beautiful islands there are designated dog beaches which are away from the over crowded touristy ones but not too far away, that the children have to miss out on the fun, if they want to join in the activities some holiday complexes put on for the kids. We actually prefer the dog beaches because you have more space and can normally see more fish whilst snorkelling.
The beautiful coastal areas are rocky not sandy with tree coverage from Pine trees for natural shade. As it can get very hot during the day the shade of the trees is very welcoming. We normally set up camp for the day with our foam beach mattresses, little beach tent for keeping our belongings together and shade if need be for Lotta. She loves clambering along the rocks (which is great for keeping her claws filed down) and exploring the nooks and crannies of the beach. Not too keen on the water yet, but will go in up to her tummy. We even managed to get her on a boat on our last trip when we visited the Plitvice Lakes. All the dog obedience classes are paying off. We are at a point where she trusts my judgement, she will sometimes get stressed about a new situation but I stay calm and confident to show her there’s nothing to be afraid of, then she will normally cooperate on a shorter lead. When we first had her she didn’t have the bond with me that we have now and used to try and take flight, making new situations very challenging and one of the reasons I bought a harness that she couldn’t slip out of.
To be able to travel with your dog to Croatia, the dog is required by law to have an EU passport, listing all of its vaccinations. The dog also has to be microchipped for identification reasons. If stopped by border control and thoughroughly checked, you will have a problem entering the country, if you haven’t complied by the regulations. Having said, that we have always just waved Lotta’s passport at them.
If you’re lucky enough to be able to visit Croatia, I can highly recommend it for both hound and human.
Read more about this stunning country in the link below: