La Dolce Vita

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!

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This was on the way home! She jumped into the front seat as if she was trying to make us laugh, it worked!

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.

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Entrance to ‘Ai Pozzi Village’

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.

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Lotta looking smug, sunbathing on the terrace.
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View from our hotel room at night, looking over the pool.

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!

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The hotel room.
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Lotta found the beds very comfortable.

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).

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Loano town centre at night.

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.

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The narrow streets and alley ways of Loano.

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?

 

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Waiting

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The above photo was taken yesterday evening. We are waiting for the new bypass to open on Wednesday. This should mean less traffic in the next town but unfortunately it also means one less place to let the dogs off the lead. This area used to be a popular area for dog walkers as you could let your dog off the lead and not have to worry about the traffic too much. I don’t see any signs of a fence, so it would be too dangerous to have dogs wandering free next to a busy road. This road is badly needed as the local town suffers with lots of traffic and lorries which are just too ridiculously enormous to be passing through such a little town. It is however, such a shame that, yet again we have lost a place to walk our dogs off the lead.

 

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This photo was taken at the same time as the photo above and she’s waiting for me to take the photo. Even though this photo makes Lotta’s eyes look smaller than they are, I still like the colours and composition of this one.

Hey, guess what? You might have already guessed but we finally decided on a camera. We bought a Canon EOS 80D just before our summer trip and I love it already. I still have lots to learn but it’s really fun to use.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:

 Waiting

 

How not to go camping with pooch and Co.

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Chiemsee at sunset with Lotta.

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.

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Home for a few nights ⛺ @Vaudetent

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.

Herren Chiemsee Link.

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.

Panorama Camping Harras

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.

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The surf school next to the campsite.

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.

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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.

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Lotta settled but alert inside 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.

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Lotta chilled out at the Chiemsee Beach.

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.

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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.

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The morning after.

The next trip will be better planned but I think being spontaneous sometimes keeps life a little more exciting, don’t you?

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Lotta snoozing in the car on the way home 💤

Weekly Photo challenge: Ooh, shiny!

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Ooh, shiny!

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.

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Ooh, Shiny!

Weekly photo challenge ‘Elemental’

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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.

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Snoozing in the car on the way home 💤

Weekly photo challenge:Elemental

Meet Mini Lotta’s Feline Sister

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Princess Mini

Let me introduce you to our 7yr old cat ‘Mini’ who we collected free of charge from a farm. She’s quite a character, likes to talk back, begs to drink water from the bathroom tap and keeps us busy letting her in and out. Our boys chose her out of the 6 other kittens in the litter. Mini was the only one that didn’t wake up on our first visit, I actually had my heart set on a black kitten but was out voted. When the exciting day came to collect her, we jumped in the car full of anticipation. We were shown into the house to collect Mini, well she had other ideas and didn’t want to be caught. After chasing her around the living  room for what seemed like quite some time, poor thing, we finally caught her. On the drive home my husband could only drive max. 60 km otherwise the tiny kitten would get upset if he drove any faster. She would start miaowing very loudly in her travel box. We still have a chuckle at that now when we look back. At the farm she had been in close contact with a black labrador so was used to dogs.

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So tiny, fitted into the palm of my hand (12wks).

Before Lotta came to us she had been in a foster home in Munich where she had had contact with lots of cats. Mini was initially not amused at us for having brought home another animal. At the time we also had two guinea pigs. Lotta had to be trained not to chase Mini round the house and also not to eat her food. I had to elevate Mini’s food to the window ledge where it’s more difficult to get to. What is it that dogs love so much about cat food? Or is it just any food I wonder!

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As you can see from the above picture they have become friends of sorts. I wouldn’t say they are best friends but they are definitely better than they were. I remember one day after coming back from work and finding some blood on the floor. It took me a while to realise what had happened. From what I could make out, Mini had snagged Lotta’s elbow (front leg) badly enough to leave blood on the floor. There wasn’t much blood but I did get a bit of a shock when I first spotted it. Since that incident Lotta has a lot more respect for the cat.

Lotta will get upset if Mini is in trouble outside with another cat and will whine to go outside to go to Mini’s defence. I don’t encourage her to chase cats off but I think if my cat is being beaten up, then Lotta has a right to defend her and come to her aid.

Recently they have become even closer and will sniff each other nose to nose! It’s taken a while to get where they are now but I can’t complain about their progress, because I have heard of some horror stories where dogs will actually chase and kill cats. Thankfully our two are at peace with each other and will huddle together in the cellar during a storm.

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Princess and the pea!

Weekly photo challenge ‘Satisfaction’

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Peek-a-boo!

Yes, I did it! Getting the shot you hoped for with animals can be really tricky. This photo above took quite a few tries, as you can imagine. It’s maybe a little on the dark side but I am really pleased with the way it turned out. I took this photo on our walk this morning and was walking past a hollow tree on route and thought it would be the perfect setting to take a shot of Lotta looking through to the other side at me. Of course there was bribery involved, who am I kidding, Lotta isn’t a perfectly trained TV dog.

I get a lot of satisfaction lately with photos that turn out just the way I’d like them to. Lotta seems to enjoy her walks and of course her treats too. She licks her lips every time I get my mobile out. I hope you get some satisfaction reading this post!

 

Satisfaction