Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Toyota Travelogue 2016 part 2

On 24 August we reached Castagnole Lanze, in Piedmont. We had the car checked and it was fine, great relief! Just water from the aircon, not oil or anything nasty, as mentioned in Part I. Castagnole Lanze is a small village, the nearest town are Asti and Alba, both medieval and worth a visit. They are famous for wine (Barolo, Asti spumante), good food (including the famous white truffle) and two different Palios in the autumn (horses in Asti, donkeys in Alba). Castagnole has two annual street celebrations: the Spring one dedicated to new wine and good food and the summer one with street concerts attracting major names in Italian music (folk and pop). We stay at my parent's house in the centre of the new part of the village but visit the old part which has an amazing Baroque church. However, the major attraction for Michela was my godmother's beautiful new cat, whose mum is a ginger moggy and the dad is unknown but certainly a pedigree one. You can see it in action below.

In Italy I saw all my school friends as we celebrated our Leva, a gathering that starts at 18 (last time I did it) then continues at 25, 30, 35, 40, etc.... We celebrated with this big champagne bottle with firework at a dancing and eating restaurant and on Sunday I got this cute posy before the special Mass given by our Professor of Religion in secondary school. The summer street celebrations also include a fairground and it's Michela's favourite time of year. I saw parts of the street concerts as we needed to keep an eye on Michela who tried all the rides... Soon we were back on the Mont Cenis, where we visited the beautiful church and the Alpine garden. There is also a museum.

Next stop was Annecy, a beautiful town with a lake, famous for the inventor of safety matches and the colour in fireworks. We went on a boat tour of the lake and Michela was asked if she wanted to pilot the boat, I had to say yes on her behalf as she was a bit shy about but then enjoyed it a lot judging by the mini pump fist when she told this to her dad, who is not keen on boats. 

We had dinner at Les Tables, which I have reviewed on TripAdvisor because it had a very nice kid menu and a very affordable Savoyard menu for adults. If you love cheese, I recommend it. The kid meal included ice cream served in a plastic cow, which Michela has kept to use as storage for rubbers.

Chambery was once Italian and capital of the Savoie, a small kingdom with a king (the King of Italy and his family were exiled after 1945 for their complicity with Fascism). There is great looking castle and it's a pity we did not go to see it as the admission charge is small.

On to Troyes, which is a great city if you like half-timbered buildings, narrow medieval streets and Champagne! Back in the Champagne region, where the food is excellent. We always go to the same restaurant as it has delicious food and menus in English (not a tourist trap, don't let the translated menus blind you). Troyes has a pretty good covered market, if you fancy buying your lunch or dinner.


Last stop is Calais, which has been in the news a lot because of the migrants' problem. Last year we did not venture in town but this year we did and it was back to normal. Two years ago we went and the shopping centre look terrible with many empty units, there were also many young male migrants roaming the streets and looking very unhappy, which is understandable but a bit frightening when you visit places with a young child. This year the bookshop had reopened and there were less empty units. The streets look more lively. Let's hope that this situation is resolved, UK charities have been set up to relieve the immigrants' plight with donations of food and items for families. Calais has an amazing townhall with a Rodin statue and wonderful gardens. This year the theme was Oriental gardens, hence the red sticks and the pagoda and small pond at the front. We had dinner at the modest hotel we stay at because the restaurant is so great.... This year we booked and got a table overlooking the beach walk, which is full of playgrounds, mostly free.

The last day it was a sunny day and as Michael and Michela enjoyed a lie-in I went to the beach and it was wonderful, so empty and natural... It was around 8am on a Sunday. Just me and a few birds, the sea had retracted a long way. Then two walkers appeared, too good a morning to miss out! We were back in England a few hours later.

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