2nd chances ... Everyone, thing, place deserves one, right?! On Thursday 20th April we gave Italy that second chance to redeem itself in our eyes, after having left said country one month earlier, with our Italy Lonely Planet guide being hurled at customs officers to cries of “and don’t think we’ll be back here again!”
Way too cold!!
Slovenia ... sleet followed by snow
The real reason for such a dramatic U-turn?… After entering Slovenia - a country we had high hopes for - and having spent a lovely Easter Monday in their seaside town of Piran, with lunch outside and temperatures at about 27 degrees, we awoke on the Tuesday to heavy rain and when we finally parked up at one of their World Heritage sites (the Skocjan Caves) the temperature was just 2 degrees and bloody cold.
The caves were amazing and right out of Jules Verne’s – A Journey to the Centre of the Earth. It’s a guided experience of about 2 hours with stalagmite and stalactite formations and 60m walkways over the underground rivers. (I know none of this personally - only from David’s description - as following an in depth interrogation with the guide at the caves we both decided perhaps it wasn’t a place for me and my claustrophobia! No photos are allowed in the caves for health and safety reasons (those shown here are PR shots), but David was in awe and amazement when he came out and they are one of Slovenia’s most visited sites... if not by me!
With snow and sleet that evening we pushed on to the capital Ljubljana arriving at a ‘free’ aire in a restaurant carpark just a walk from the centre.
The principle behind the parking was that they have the space and in return you eat in the restaurant at least one of the nights of your stay - a fair exchange we thought.
Our day in the capital was with weak sunshine, still not reaching double figures at all but we both fell in love with this small, buzzy capital. We visited its hilltop castle, wandered across the small and much celebrated Triple Bridge (Tromostovje) designed by their own prolific architect Jose Plecnik, whose masterpiece is the National & University Library in the capital, completed in 1941.
Slovenia National Library – a work by Plecnik - Slovenia’s Gaudi
Plecnik is likened in the Slovenian architecture world to Gaudi in Spain and you can do Plecnik tours of the capital. But for us no amount of hot chocolate or cold red wine was going to warm us up, and with the forecast of snow downfalls ahead of us in Austria we decided to take full advantage of motorhome life and change direction completely.
Slovenia - Krunjska Klobasa, a EU protected fatty sausage from here and our lunch - very tasty
I’m on a downward spiral!
Northern Italy was warmer and due to stay that way for a bit longer, although a splurge of rain is due all over Europe shortly. But the cold front and winds from Russia weren’t reaching there, like they were here, and so with sad and wimpy hearts we left Slovenia, without seeing Lake Bled as we had hoped.
As we made the journey that Thursday the weather improved more and more the further west we went, but we were both in slight doubts as to how we would feel about Italy after our last visit there.
Of course being back in Italy we have to up the ante on the clothes front and so with many of David’s shorts and trousers in disrepair we did a handbrake turn when we saw a MacArthur Glen outlet shopping centre just short of Venice our next stopover. The shining sun helped loosen David’s wallet and his wardrobe was restocked!
Just some 30 mins later in the early evening we were parked up at Venezia Camping Village, sitting outside the bar in our flip flops, Aperol Spritz and beer in hand in the warm evening sun.
The site had been recommended to us by our friends met earlier in Sicily who have in their journey continued their adventures in Italy and we caught up with them for a pre-dinner drink in the bar. Great to catch up, swap stories and experiences - and in fact the swapping of countries as the next day they headed for Slovenia while we headed into Venice.
Venice ... what to say about it?! Not one of my must-see destinations at all and from Croatia we could have hopped over for the day on a ferry, but we never bothered. Fate, kismet ... call it what you will, but from the moment the both of us got off the bus and caught our first glimpse of the Grand Canal, bridges and buildings we were spellbound.
Our first public boat trip meandered through the heart of Venice on the Grand Canal, giving us a stunning introduction to the city and providing photo opportunities not possible from the land.
We spent 2 days taking in Venice and we could have taken more time there but it’s not a cheap date whichever way you wrap it up and in a quiet moment on the Saturday I totalled up our outlay for the day and it was in 3 figures, with the first number being dangerously close to 2.
It is completely touristy and very busy, probably at all times of the year - but it is unique and no amount of photos, James Bond movies or even George’s wedding will ever do it justice - seeing and experiencing it is a must - push it to the top of your list ... after all, it is sinking!
Venice and the Grand Canal
View from the 'bus'!
On the Venice '89' bus
So many lovely buildings!
Loved the building, perhaps a little bit of work to be done though!
San Marco Campanile and Doges Palace
Cicheti - a sort of tapa Venice style and our lunch
Gondola's and water taxi. Gondola rides at €80 per 30mins and water taxi €10 to get in and €2 per min!!
Peggy Guggenheim Gallery and a moment of reflection
On the balcony at Basilica di San Marco
Inside the Basilica di San Marco
A footnote here on how to do Venice on a budget , if you don't have a motorhome like us. Most if not all campsites have cabins or bungalows on site for rent and the sites are usually placed near the tourist destination.
The cost of a cabin was €45 for 2 for the night and although I haven’t checked I do not believe that you could get a decent room for that price in Venice. There was a Hilton across the way from us on the main road and our site was far more engaging then that with a small pool, decent restaurant and green space to boot. Plus, you never know, you might bump into two Grey Gappers to boot!
The price of our pitch per night was €19 but of course you’d have to add in the cost of a motorhome as well - but we'd advocate this as a great way to travel, changing your mind and route as and when you and the weather chooses. Our own personal choice would be an Elddis of course!
Will the ‘love’ continue and will David’s new clothes pass Italian muster, all to be found out in the next week!
This week's route: