This week’s photo challenge is Beloved and of course this is a very fitting theme for my blog about our rescue dog Lotta, who came into our lives four and half years ago. I can’t believe how the time has flown by. She has changed our family life in so many positive ways and even my husband is besotted with her. We have been very busy on Instagram and if you are also on there please pass by our profile and say hi!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
This week’s photo challenge ‘Unusual’ leaves the door wide open to interpretation. On Tuesday I decided to follow through with something that I had been promising Lotta for a long time and that was to go somewhere different for our walk. This summer is proving to be a particularly hot one, so I try and walk as early as possible or think of cooler walks where there’s water or lots of shade. We hadn’t been on a forest walk for a long time. I really have no excuses but I guess things start to become routine and you have your rounds that you do. I’m trying to break that habitual habit and be more adventurous as to where we walk. Unfortunately I have a time limit because of work or my children but we have so many beautiful walks here there isn’t a viable excuse.
Anyway, Monday was the day I had decided to break the mundane cycle we had found ourselves in and jumped in the car and drove to the forest. Little did I know every school in our district had decided the same. Nevertheless it was absolutely the right decision. Lotta nose to the ground taking in the forest scents, seemed to enjoy every second. The bright sun rays scattered beautiful patchy light patterns on the forest undergrowth. As I walked I could physically feel all of the stress and worries of the present draining from my consciousness and found myself being hypnotized by the calm swaying of the many branches. After fully recharging our batteries and avoiding, as best possible, the huge numbers of children visiting that day, we drove home.
It was unusual for us to walk in the forest on a weekday and unusually noisy because of the children. We are also having an unusually hot summer. Did I mention we saw a Grey-headed Woodpecker at the beginning of our walk, it’s a shame I didn’t catch it on camera. That was very unusual to see one of those!