Red Means ‘GO FAST!’

7 Jan

I have noticed that some of you, my dear and loyal readers, have returned to work today – the visits to my blog have jumped up again!  Hilarious!  Thank you.

The last day of 2012 dawned frosty but clear and sunny as we prepared for Carole’s return in the evening and started to pack our few belongings ready for the trip back to Carcès.  Something we had not yet done was to take a stroll through the streets of Gualdo itself so we set about that just before lunch.  It is not a big place, perhaps on par with Le Thoronet or Tirau.

Take a look up this busy street… which one is the 'Ferramenta' or hardware store?  Here's a clue, it is on the left.

Take a look up this busy street… which one is the ‘Ferramenta’ or hardware store? Here’s a clue, it is on the left.

Here is the door at the lunch close period.  The doors shut at 1pm and open again at 4pm-ish.  This was taken at 12.45pm and the door is closed but the keys are still in the lock!  Beats me.

Here is the door at the lunch close period. The doors shut at 1pm and open again at 4pm-ish. This was taken at 12.45pm and the door is closed but the keys are still in the lock! Beats me.

This is the butchery in Gualdo although how you would ever know this is beyond me.

This is the butchery in Gualdo although how you would ever know this is beyond me.

1.30pm and the frost is still in all the shady spots.  It really didn't seem that cold when you stood in the full sun but as soon as you hit the shade and/or any breeze you realised just how cold it actually was.

1.30pm and the frost is still in all the shady spots. It really didn’t seem that cold when you stood in the full sun but as soon as you hit the shade and/or any breeze you realised just how cold it actually was.

Our time in Gualdo passed quickly and very enjoyably thanks partly to Carole introducing us to a few of her friends before leaving.

We spent many enjoyable hours visiting, dining and just talking with Gina and Gilbert over the two weeks.  That's their dog Monty between them.  They own the biggest cat in my world - Polly.  Their other cat is on the back of the sofa behind Gilbert.

We spent many enjoyable hours visiting, dining and just talking with Gina and Gilbert over the two weeks. That’s their dog Monty between them. They own the biggest cat in my world – Polly. Their other cat is on the back of the sofa behind Gilbert.

Carole’s flight arrived back on time and she was home by 18h00 in plenty of time for the traditional New Years Eve dinner at a local restaurant with about 45 of the local ex-pat British community.  Dinner was very nice although I did make a mess of pacing myself – the food kept coming and getting better but I ran out of room.  The wine also kept coming.  We didn’t party up or anything radical and were in bed by 01h15.

New Year’s Day was a bit of a late start but there was not a lot of damage done, just a slight shortage of sleep.  We headed over to have a coffee (and Grappa) with Gina and Gilbert at 11-ish and ended up having another lovely lunch with them that somehow only ended at 15h00.  Hopefully we will see them again one day, maybe even in NZ!

On Wednesday morning we got everything in the car and ready to go by 10h00.  We made quick visits to Penna San Giovanni and Sant’Angelo before hitting the road proper about 11h00.

This was 5 minutes before we left Carole's so it was time for a farewell belly rub for Chiara and Stella.

This was 5 minutes before we left Carole’s so it was time for a farewell belly rub for Chiara and Stella.

The drive from Civitanova to Rimini was the same pain in the arse that it was on the way down – 155km of road works.  The locals said it had been going on for 8 years.  The most difficult thing about it was the speed limits.  They kept reducing the limits from full speed 110kph to 90 to 70 to 60 and then there was no sign to release it back to 110.  Besides that nobody seemed to take any notice of the limits and if you slowed down to 60 cars would still be passing you doing 110+ which is dangerous.  Sometimes you could see a reason for the reduced limit but mostly the road looked finished.  Looked like a setup for revenue gathering to me.  There was no way you could keep track of what speed limit was in effect.

By the time we got to our hotel near Modena it was raining lightly but we had made good time so there was enough time left to visit the Ferrari Museum in Maranello for two hours before it closed at 18h00.  The museum isn’t massive but it covers various groupings like road racers, F1, street and prototypes plus an F1 engine display.  In total probably 50 cars including 10 F1 models.  In the victory hall there was a collection of F1 Constructors Championship winners from about 2000 to 2008.  It was fascinating to see how various features like winglets in front of the air intakes evolved from year to year.

Ferrari 166 F2 1951 12V 60deg - 1995cm3 165bhp (CV) @ 7000rpm

Ferrari 166 F2 1951 12V 60deg – 1995cm3 165bhp (CV) @ 7000rpm

Ferrari Sa Aperta 2010 12V 65deg 5999 cm3 670bhp (CV) @ 8250rpm

Ferrari Sa Aperta 2010 12V 65deg 5999 cm3 670bhp (CV) @ 8250rpm

The next morning we went back to the Ferrari Museum to get some photos of the exterior because it was not light enough last evening.  One thing led to another and we ended up taking a 20 minute ‘test drive’ in a red 2011 Ferrari California.  This is the only model with four seats so we could go together and drive 10 minutes each.  What a blast!  The weather was fine, the road dry and the top down.  The route starts from beside the museum and heads just outside the Maranello town zone where the speed limit is 70kph.  On one straight section with a sweeping left bend at the end our ‘co-pilot’, Christian, told me to slow right down to a crawl.  Then the command was ‘FLOOR IT!”.  So I did.  The transmission was on manual and in 2nd gear and I was using the paddle shifters.  There are red LEDs on the steering wheel that light up as you approach the red line so each time I had about 4 of them I hit the up-shift.  What a roar!  In no time we were doing 170kph and it was time to start thinking about the down-shift and some braking.  That really got the adrenaline flowing and then my right foot wouldn’t stop shaking so I had to hold it against the footwell to stop it affecting the accelerator.  Needless to say we both had huge grins when we got back from that.  We also got a DVD of the drive so I will edit that down to a short highlights package and post the link sometime soon.

That was good!

That was good!

You can't see my right foot shaking from this distance!  That was Christian, our 'co-pilot'.

You can’t see my right foot shaking from this distance! That was Christian, our ‘co-pilot’.

At the end of the drive I got the contract out of my pocket that we had signed before the drive.  I was glad that they had not explained it to me beforehand!  I probably would not have proceeded.  The car was insured, BUT, the excess was €7000 and damage to a rim was €1200, damage to a tyre was €500, and we agreed to obey all road rules.  Yeah right!

After all that excitement we climbed back into our little French sports car at about 12h30. The 1.5 litre diesel felt a bit different to what we had just experienced but it didn’t take long to adjust!

Our next stop was Riomaggiore on the Cinque Terre after passing through La Spezia on the way and taking some photos.  We got to our accommodation at Villa Argentina by 15h30 and went out almost straightaway for a look around town as the sun was setting.  The forecast for the next day was not too good so we wanted to take advantage of the fine weather.

The view back over La Spezia as we drove up the hill towards Cinque Terre.

The view back over La Spezia as we drove up the hill towards Cinque Terre.

This was our first view of Riomaggiore as we wound our way down from the main road above.

This was our first view of Riomaggiore as we wound our way down from the main road above.

The view from our balcony at the Villa Argentina in Riomaggiore as the sun got low, 15h30.

The view from our balcony at the Villa Argentina in Riomaggiore as the sun got low, 15h30.

Late afternoon view down the main street of Riomaggiore to the harbour.

Late afternoon view down the main street of Riomaggiore to the harbour.

Instead of cars parked in the streets they have small boats.

Instead of cars parked in the streets they have small boats.

Looking back up the main street of Riomaggiore.  If you zoom in you see that there is laundry hanging out everywhere.

Looking back up the main street of Riomaggiore. If you zoom in you see that there is laundry hanging out everywhere.

At one stage Leanne and I ended up on opposite sides of the small harbour.  Besides catching her being a tourist the rock formations and how they had been morphed into manmade elements looked really cool.

At one stage Leanne and I ended up on opposite sides of the small harbour. Besides catching her being a tourist, the rock formations and how they had been morphed into manmade elements looked really cool.

Sunset over the Mediterranean - I couldn't help myself.

Sunset over the Mediterranean – I couldn’t help myself.

When we got up on Friday morning the weather was much better than expected so we decided to catch the train to Vernazza since that was our favourite memory from our visit here in 2005.  We would have walked the 30 minutes or so to Manarola but since the flooding in September 2012 the track is closed.  In fact the main road is still not passable beyond Riomaggiore; to go north you have to backtrack to La Spezia and take the Genoa road.  There are apparently many sections of walking track that are not in service.

Another photo from the balcony of our room but now with the pink afterglow of sunrise, 8am.

Another photo from the balcony of our room but now with the pink afterglow of sunrise, 8am.

Another morning photo of Riomaggiore.  It was 09h30 and the sun is just touching the top of the hills behind.

Another morning photo of Riomaggiore. It was 09h30 and the sun is just touching the top of the hills behind.

Vernazza was badly damaged in October 2011 by heavy rain and flooding from the hills.  Then in September 2012 it was hit by a storm that did a lot of damage to the harbour and its surrounding buildings.  As a result it is looking a little worse for wear at the moment.  From our trip in 2005 this was our favourite village but it was not much as we remembered it.

Vernazza was badly damaged in October 2011 by heavy rain and flooding from the hills. Then in September 2012 it was hit by a storm that did a lot of damage to the harbour and its surrounding buildings. As a result it is looking a little worse for wear at the moment. From our trip in 2005 this was our favourite village but it was not much as we remembered it.

"Now go away and stop watching… I want to hang out my underwear.  Honestly, there's just no respect from these tourists with big lenses.  I am starting to understand how The Royals feel."

“Now go away and stop watching… I want to hang out my underwear. Honestly, there’s just no respect from these tourists with big lenses. I am starting to understand how The Royals feel.”

On this visit Manarola was our second favourite after Riomaggiore.

On this visit Manarola was our second favourite after Riomaggiore.

The view up the coast from Manarola towards Corniglia on the next bluff.

The view up the coast from Manarola towards Corniglia on the next bluff.

This was the view as we left Riomaggiore just after 14h00.  How beautiful is that?!!

This was the view as we left Riomaggiore just after 14h00. How beautiful is that?!!

So we left Riomaggiore at 14h15 and drove, via La Spezia and Genoa, back to Carcès non-stop.  5 hours and 428km, dry conditions and only got held up by about 10 minutes around Nice due to a breakdown.

It was quite cold in the house when we got inside, like 10˚C.  I went to light the fire I had left set and ready to put a match to and found just a small collection of ash.  I couldn’t work it out until talking to Jeremy on Saturday.  He had been here until midday and lit the fire for us to take the chill off the house.  A lovely thought but rather than heat the house it caused me to wonder more than usual about my sanity!  It was good to solve the puzzle and very nice of Jeremy to think of doing it.  And funny too!

On Saturday morning, while still waking up at 08h00, the contractors arrived to cut down the large pine tree that was leaning over the house.  It is always interesting watching them dismantle a tree piece by piece.  It must have been over 20m high, now it is a pile of firewood for next season!  We went out to get groceries and paid a visit to Les Fadons where we met the new house sitters, Lew and Jean.  Then we called in on Jeremy and Jo for a coffee and a chat.

James and Lavinia at work building the new chicken resort at Les Fadons.  Lew and Jean were working on it also but somehow avoided my lens on this occasion.

James and Lavinia at work building the new chicken resort at Les Fadons. Lew and Jean were working on it also but somehow avoided my lens on this occasion.

On Sunday the first priority was to cut some firewood!  That took a good part of the morning by the time it was all put away.  Then we had a Skype call with the home owners for whom we will be sitting from 23rd June till 8th July.  The location is near Glasgow and we are very much looking forward to it.  It looks like there is plenty to see and do nearby including the whisky trail.  Only 30 minutes from Loch Lomond too.

That’s it for this busy week.  I think we will need a quiet one just to recover.  Until next time…

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One Response to “Red Means ‘GO FAST!’”

  1. Jeff January 8, 2013 at 01:40 #

    but when else are we real people who actually work 🙂 going to find the time to read the blog!! 😉 and of course it is always during our lunch break….

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