Done Deal!

Just on 15 months ago I described “Dulmen: seems to be a lovely village, district really, and we look forward to coming back, hopefully in better weather. Vast flat expanses of crisp white snow suggest a summer view of lush green fields.”

Today, it’s spring!!!  Beautiful, blossom filled, warm and sunny days!  Quite the opposite of when we arrived.

We have come back to sell Cubby and are delighted that the selling process was as easy as the buying process.  We could not have hoped for things to go more smoothly.  The team at Dumo assessed Cubbys condition and offered a fair exchange.  We deregistered as temporary “Coesfeld” residents and closed our bank account – done and dusted in half a day.

Jorn and Antonio seal the deal

Now we have now sold Cubby, homeless and vehicle less we are not sure what to think, and surprisingly are emotionally neither here nor there!  Mostly our thoughts are preoccupied with the logistics of getting home and wondering about the outcome of the baggage handlers strike today at Frankfurt airport!!!

We think positively and wait and see.

PS: For those economists and those just plain curious, the outcome of the buy/sell idea:

Accommodation and Car with deisel fuel – 15 months:

Including fluctuating exchange rates, around $32,000!!! We are happy with that!


By Joves – We Got It!!

It seems only fitting that as our trip draws to a close and we end our time in Italy that, at last, Antonio has a new status.

Señor Antonio Mazzon; Cittadinanza – Italiana, Residenza – Venezia.

It’s been a long haul and we asked ourselves many times if it was worth pursuing. 3 appointments might have been enough. Instead it took about 9 from us and more from his cousin Remigio, whose help we could not have done without. We really want to thank Remigio who persevered with us, interpreted the system for us, guided us to where we needed to be, and supplied patience and encouragement when we thought we lost it! We were thwarted on many occasions by offices not opening the afternoon we arrived, the person we needed to see was on a day off, a couple of times papers had not been received from another department: Expectations not met, traveling to offices and waiting in queues only to be turned away was frustrating to the extreme. One occasion was my fault.  I left the passports in Maniago and we would have driven back the hour and returned but the office closed at midday.  Even though Antonio had a recently certified copy of his passport with him, it needed certification for Italy. His had an international certification only, prepared to arrange a renewal on Noahs passport. Dare I say anymore for fear of dampening the excitement we have for our newly adopted country!!!  Yes, joyfully, even I as Antonios spouse, am now entitled to all the benefits of an Italian citizen, all the benefits of an EU citizen!! Well, all bar one!  I am not entitled to vote!!! How sad!

After a celebratory visit to Venice we have returned to Maniago and are starting to take stock, pack up and prepare for our return voyage.  A much lighter cubby will be resold in Germany where we bought her; back to where we began – a complete cycle.

There is much we will miss about living in Maniago: Extended family, Norinas kitchen, the rituals of the table and of eating, including the use of the kitchen window – to shake out the breadcrumbs after meals; being a part of the events and community of the Maniago piazza, center of town and host of events, carnivals, the weekly market, shop openings.  A hive of activity every morning until around midday when Italians retire home to eat and rest – alive again late afternoon and into the night. It’s a rhythm that is worth getting used to.

Antonio will also miss his daily hill walk and I will miss my mental gymnastics, sweating it out for two hours each week in Italian language classes with Yvonne.



Alas as much as we have enjoyed living in the city of Maniago, we are excited about getting home and settling in to old routines and all we have missed …………………… family, friends, horses, garden, home on the Peninsula!  Waiting for us ……………….

only 25 more sleeps!

Noah in Italy

Noah is growing up.  Getting taller, attempting more English, starting school this August.

We have had a wonderful week with him. His enthusiasm, energy and love for life reminds Antonio of his own little self in Maniago at that age.  He is simply good company, going to bed laughing and waking up – laughing!

We all kept busy.  Between sking, ice skating, remote car driving, visits to the library and the park and the pool, watching films, visiting Venice (a big hit with a boat loving boy), there was Gelato to eat and babychino to drink.







A lovely week was rounded off, meeting Kate at the airport and going for dinner and driving them to their hotel, Noah did not stop talking about the fun he had (at last for him in Norwegian to someone who could understand him!!)

Best of all his summary, translated to us by Kate, as he said (somewhat poignantly)
“I’m so lucky to have Papa and Neicy!!!

Spring Sking in the Dolomite!!!

Antonio and Elizabeth "kitting up" somewhere near Heaven - Marmolada Glacier 3342 mt above sea level

It feels like, unknown to us, we could be characters in a movie like the Truman Show.  It is hard to believe it’s this good, and it’s real!!

Spring sking in the Dolomites, Alta Badia, Italy!

Sunshine, no wind, excellent snow, thinly populated slopes ………..


Charming places to ski to ……..


Fantastic range of restaurants and menus, gourmet to rustic!



This is our third visit to the lovely hotel of Walter and Rosa Craffonara, Ciasa Lara We began our journey here just over 12 months ago and many of the same staff welcome us back and ask how our year has been.  Jaws usually drop as we answer, “Well, pretty good actually – 26 countries, 40,000 kms and a multitude of truly wonderful memories.”  Returning here near the end of our journey reinforces just how much we have seen and done in the last 12 months.


And Elizabeth has been able to join us again.  It’s such a contrast to when we last met.  I can still see her sitting on a camels back on a sunny beach in Morocco.  Now, she is just a blur zooming down a pristine white snow capped slope, or smiling, taking a break in a “snow chair!!”

Punctuating our travel with time in La Villa also reminds us that our journey is drawing to a close.  We will miss our sunkissed slopes, but in less than 8 weeks we will be home.  In the meantime, we will spend a month in Antonios home town of Maniago; we will have another week with Noah, in Maniago; we will sell our Cubby in Italy or Germany; and we will pamper ourselves for 6 days in Thailand to break the 24 hour travel home.  So hold on………… There are still, just a few more tales to be told!!

Verona……. Florence……. Ahh Italy








The European Union has a new member. Number 28 – Croatia.

Negotiations began 9 years ago in 2003 and last Sunday Croatia went to the polls to confirm the population still wanted to join.  In a lack lustre turn out, a majority affirmed the decision to become members of the EU and all will be finalised in 2013.  The outcome of the vote was not a given.  There has been concern in Croatia about the ramifications of the EU regulations on local industries and how the Euro will increase prices.  Also, the EU has not proven to be the “rich mans” club it appeared to be 9 years ago.  The attraction of being part of a 500 million person market and a couple of Billion EU Euro given to Croatia for development each year for the next few years won out. My question is where does an “instrife” EU actually find a couple of Billion each year for the next few years!!!  That’s another story!

For a 3 day visit in Croatia we chose the Istrian Peninsula. Croatia has a less developed feel than Slovenia.  A slow start to join the EU and a 4 year war in the The War of Independence of the 90’s, has taken its toll, but what remains is charming and has a feeling of the olden days! It’s cheap to travel here.  Still on the Kuna, petrol, accommodation and food is a 3rd of the price in Italy!  In summer it must be beautiful.  Its very cold now, -7 to 0.  Winter here is not the green countryside we see at home, but a frost coloured beige – frost that can sit stiffly all day in the shadows of the surrounding mountains.


The Dalmation coast was a republic of Venice for over 300 years and it clearly shows in the architecture of the lovely, walled, seaside village of Rovinj.  Elegant and well planned the city climbs from its seagulled bay to the classic church at the top, from where on a clear day, you imagine you could look across the Adriatic sea and glimpse the gondolas of Venice. Incredibly well maintained, cafes, artists shops and a harbour full of fishing boats and yachts make the village ideal for a tourist day out.  In summer it must be brilliant – the stone streets and rising landscape providing coolness and breeze.

With a recommendation from Ivano we headed off the Istrian coast into its hinterland and made our way to another historic walled village climbing 277 meters up a hill – to a castle!!!!  Motovun.

It was lunch time and we were excited as we had been told Motovun is not only picturesque and historic, but a gastronomic highlight of Europe!  Particularly in its truffle delicacies.  We climbed the wonderful maze of streets and eagerly looked in windows of some brilliant looking old and interesting tavernas and restaurants, unfortunately to no avail.  January is downtime and not expecting tourists, the locals try to take a holiday to the ski slopes or further afield to somewhere warm.  Everything was shut!

It’s a gorgeous village.  Peeking into houses and shops, many have been beautifully restored and look charming with an interesting and creative feel.  We did find staff to give us a tour of the closed for the season Hotel Kastel which sits at the top of the village in a Venetian Square and was of course, a castle before being restored into a hotel.  Hotel Kastel is a lovely hotel with incredibly reasonable room rates, and whilst everything else may be shut for vacation, not the hotel run campsite at the bottom of the village. One of our favourite camp sites so far it’s self serve and open 24-7-365!!!  It has all the facilities we needed, spotlessly clean, and in Summer, you can also use the spa facilities of the hotel.  A brilliant tip for campers.

There is something cosmopolitan about this antique village, an atmosphere that must really come to life when the avante-garde independent film devotees climb the hill from all over the world each July to participate in the highly regarded It’s intriguing to imagine the contrast of these centuries old steets inhabited by our modern film culture and we want to see that! Being so close to Antonios home town of Maniago, we know we will return.



Woops!!! Take Two.

This is Bled, village in the north westish of Slovinia. I am starting at the end of our Slovenian escapade as I loved this photo so much – loved this place – loved, actually Slovenia. One of Europes best kept secrets. Slovenia is our 26th country and we were both amazed at the beauty of the scenery and the towns.  Maybe it’s just because it’s the most recent in a long list of fabulous destinations.  None the less, I felt VERY privileged to take our morning walk 6kms around the Bled Lake on a well cared for gravel pathway.

These are more photos of Bled and another village on the way there!!


My early morning walking companion, Antonio - too cute huh?

We also fell in love with the capital. (Prizes for anyone who knows its name – I certainly didn’t. PS  We know you will know Douglas!!!) Ljubljana (meaning “the beloved!”) a European capital, sitting between Venice and Vienna, has all the culture, (apparently over 10,000 cultural events a year) glamour, wealth and history to measure any other.  With a population of under 300,000, it has a small town, almost country friendliness and ease of getting around.  Add to that just under a quarter of the population are students – its a vibrant mixture and a wonderful place to spend time in.  Classy, almost flashy in a fresh, shy way and was recently awarded the Readers Digest most honest city after 10 mobile phones were left lying around the city streets and all bar two were handed to police!!! The Franciscan Church is pink, interior domes are lined with uplifting cherub and angel frescos and the entrance is very cool – stone and timber.


The shops are Stylish with a capital “S.” The architecture, in the old city, a Viennese feel, commonly Baroque and Art Nouveau.  Ljubljana seems to have shrugged off past conflicts and wars with a positive youthfulness.  During the 2nd world war this lovely city was surrounded by a 33 kilometre barbed wire fence constructed by the Italian army. It stood for 3 years in a attempt by the occupying forces to keep the partisans at bay! Today a well maintained 33 km “Pot ob zici” or “path along the wire”, commemorates the liberation of Slovenia after the 2nd world war, and also the winning of independence from Yugoslavia after the 10 day war in 1991, in a lovely way and is used and loved by locals and tourists alike.


All together, Slovenia was all not what we expected.  Perhaps I thought Slovenia might be a little sad, ex socialist and war torn.  Instead we found a beautiful country with happy people, proudly members of the EU for the past 8 years.  Seemingly more closely related to its Austrian and Italian neighbours than the other Balkin states. Very much a world class European destination.