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

 

A Book Review of: Learning From Dogs by Paul Handover

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I very kindly received a signed copy of the book ‘Learning From Dogs’ from Paul Handover. It was agreed that I would write a review about his book. For every book purchased some of the proceeds go to local shelters where Paul lives, Oregon USA.

As I started to read the foreword, certain similarities to ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ sprang to mind (My father insisted on playing it in the car as I was growing up!). The foreword to this book was written by a close friend of Pauls, Dr. Goodbrod, who is a local vet.

‘Learning from Dogs’ starts off by taking the reader through several theories of how dogs came to be our beloved pets, non of which has been proven but nevertheless very interesting to read.

The book is at times philosophical with questions of how our dogs can change our lives for the better and how we can learn from them. I particularly liked the auto-biography parts of the book which give a clear insight to the loving relationships the author has had with every one of his dogs (horses). Two particular stories have left a lasting impression, one was of the dog ‘Dhalia’ who wandered off and didn’t return (you’ll have to read it to found out how this one ended). The other one was of Pharoah who I believe played a big role  in the author’s love for dogs and showed him how we as humans can learn from them. Sadly, Pharoah has since, passed away.

In some parts of the book there are medical references which aren’t easy reading but it’s very interesting and it’s worth sticking with it. This unfortunately spoilt the flow of the book at times.

My husband and I have discussed many a time, several aspects of this book before we even knew this book existed. I found ‘Learning from Dogs’ both interesting and enlightening to read. I’m in agreement with the author and think we have an awful lot to learn from dogs. When we start realising the qualities of dogs and incorporating them into our lives then maybe, just maybe our world will become a better place to live.

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Lotta enjoying some down time.

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

Photo challenge: ‘Textures’

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Ebersberg Forest

This week’s photo challenge is of one of our favourite walks in our little town. I love the different textures shown in this photo, the bark of the old trees, the summer green grass, the glimpse of our town in the background all offer different textures. This was a particularly hot day two weeks ago and to keep cool I decided to head to the forest for a refreshing walk.

Some history of the forest:

Ebersberg Forest stretches across 90km2 of Bavaria and is one of the largest stretches of forest in Germany. From the 36m high ‘Look out Tower’ there is a wonderful view of the northern Alps of Salzburg across to the Wetterstein mountains (if the weather allows a clear view). If you look closely on the trees there are memorial plaques of fallen soldiers from WW11. They were all so very young and seeing them on the trees brings it home to just how many young men lost their lives, not just from this country but so many more.

The forest has two lakes, Egglburgsee and Klostersee, several popular bier gardens and a wildlife park which is at the ‘Sauschütt’. Klostersee is open for people to swim in its waters free of charge. Unfortunately there are no dogs allowed. At the ‘Sauschütt’ you can see deer, a variety of preying birds and wild boar. It’s a great family day out and your four legged friends are welcome too. Nature reserves are also very prominent in the forest and in most places the dogs have to remain on the lead.

‘Museum Wald und Umwelt Ebersberg’ is situated at the carpark near the Look out Tower and is worth visiting. It holds exhibitions and events which are of great interest. Click on the link to read more: Museum

The forest even has its own mythical tale of ‘The white Lady’. There have been several sightings of a ghostly figure around midnight whilst driving through the forest. Several serious accidents have been reported at around midnight near the Hubertus chapel. If you see a light burning in the chapel, you know the White Lady is around!

Textures

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