Archive for the ‘Turin’ Category

A Review of 2017   18 comments

I’ve read quite a few blog post in the past few days reviewing other peoples 2017 exploits. I enjoyed them so much I thought I’d do the same. Good excuse to look back through my photos and remember what we got up to. At my age I need help remembering stuff!.

Acutely conscious of the modern trend for these awful “round robin” letters you get at Xmas (we get one of these smugograms every year) I tried to select photos that bring back a particular memory for me so its more a personal, family introspection on outdoorsy stuff, than a blow by blow account of the year. As its based on my photo collection if I didn’t photograph it, it ain’t here!

January

We started the year off in Tenerife and New Years Day was spent on this rather splendid beach (the earlier part of the day was in the mountains but I cocked up the photos from that part of the day!)

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Returning to the British winter, a walk along the Cats Back in the Black Mountains with TBF, memorable for a cloud inversion after a very wet morning. A reminder that despite our travels we are lucky to have some stunning scenery on our doorstep

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A solo day out in the Brecon Beacons, the first snowy walk near to home and pretty much the only one with significant snow during the early part of the year (made up for it at the end)

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A glorious day out in the Black Mountains with TJS and a cooked breakfast on a cold Table Mountain. I like this photo though as it has Mynydd Troed in centre shot, my very first mountain climbed when I was about 10

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And my usual skiing trip (only a weekend this year) to finish off the month. Snow was a bit rubbish but we had a laugh nonetheless

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February

Another solo day on Fan Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. I remember this day for a very mild Friday afternoon (16C) and snow in the mountains 18 hours later

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A short walk with TBF on Hatterall Hill

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March

The first weekend of the month is always spent in Scotland with friends of long standing. A new location at Bridge of Orchy and a two out of three days were magnificent winter days. The walk along this ridge high above Rannoch Moor on the first day was superb

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Me and TJS also managed a cheeky backpack into the Black Mountains. Straight from work on the Friday for a one nighter in my new tent. Need to do more of these this year

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2017 is the year I rediscovered cycling – mainly to help my knee and also to be less of a lazy layabout during the week. The Hardman – a VERY keen and VERY fit cyclist caught wind and insisted we meet up in the Peak for a trip along a couple of the old railway trails. A cracking sunny day and I survived cycling with the Hardman!

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And we finally managed a meet up in the Berwyns with Uncle Fester after a few aborted attempts

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April

More cycling and solo trip through the Brecon Beacons on the “Gap” route. Cycling to over 600m was a first for me and I started to feel that I almost, might, actually enjoy cycling.

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Easter and a major backpacking trip with TJS to the Cairngorms. The weather was wild and windy but we had a couple of superb wild camps and TJS bagged his first Scottish 4000 footer

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I even coaxed TJF out for a bike ride along the Brecon and Usk canal

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May Day weekend was mostly in April. Mixed weather but we had a fine gaggle of friends on a hike around Greendale, taking in Buckbarrow and Seatallan

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May

No finer way to celebrate a birthday than a lunchtime hike. This one was on one of my local hills, Bryn Arw with TBF

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Followed by a weekend away in Cornwall. It almost felt tropical on the white sands just north of Padstow on one of our walks

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Whitsun weekend was spent with our good friends in Silverdale. The Sunday was a real winner with a long but easy stroll and a fantastic pub lunch. Weather was mixed the rest of the time but great company, many laughs and a chance to relax

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June

A different walk from the usual mountains. One of the small hills that overlook Gloucester and across to the Cotswolds. Not something I’d do every day but a nice change

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One of the highlights of the year was the long-planned backpacking trip with the kids into the Howgills. Despite poor weather we gave it a go and it was a huge success. The kids really enjoyed the adventure and I’m hoping they have caught the wild camping bug

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July

After the backpack trip I was out of action for a few weeks recuperating and resting after a minor knee op. Didn’t affect my water based fun though, a nice albeit far too long trip down the river Wye

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By the end of July I was back in the hills again (the knee op has been a great success I’m pleased to say). A fine evening stroll with TBF and TJS on Ysgyryd Fawr (we even took a cheeky cold beer to drink on the top)

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Another “local walk for local people” – this time Garway Hill where we reached the top, saw this nasty storm approaching and raced it back to the car. We won.

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Late July brings the annual camping trip to Towyn Farm on the Llyn Peninsula. We packed in lots of walks and beach fun in a very mixed few days of weather. My abiding memory though was this game of Kubb which was huge fun with both adults and kids alike taking it far too seriously and larking about in equal measure. A happy afternoon

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August

The big family trip of the year, a rail trip around some of Europe’s finest cities. An real change from our usual outdoor camping trips and it was real success. We all took took to the city life rather well you might say. One of my best ever holidays. A few photos that made me smile

One of the many fountains in Paris (we called this one the fountain of throttled fish)

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A monster thunderstorm in Turin

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My favourite seafront walk in Venice

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The Colloseum in Rome – of course

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Schloss Belvedere in Vienna (courtesy of an unplanned extra couple of hours from a very late train)

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The thermal baths in Budapest – “like taking a bath in a wedding cake”

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A stroll along the Spree river in Berlin on a sunny Sunday afternoon

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And the railway bridge over the Rhine in Cologne

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September

Back to earth with a bump. A few days after the heat and sun of Europe we were walking in the Black Mountains in driving rain and cold winds!

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But there was still enough warm weather left for a round of the hills near the Talybont Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons

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October

A walk with friends in the Roaches on the dreariest day of the year (when everywhere else was sunny – I’m not bitter)

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More evidence of my new found cycling passion (probably too strong a word). A ride around the tracks of the New Forest while TJS took a look around Southampton University

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And why settle for one trip to see major cities when you can do it twice. As a special treat for TJS 18th Birthday we spent a week in Barcelona. Probably my favourite city but despite all its famous sights, this little known hill and its view overlooking the city was my favourite spot

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November

After sunshine comes the reality of winter. A couple of cold but beautiful days. One in the Black Mountains on the Sugar Loaf and Crug Mawr

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And one of my favourite walks in the Black Mountain

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A delayed birthday treat weekend for TBF saw us in Padstow for a couple of nice meals and walks along the Cornish coast and Dartmoor

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December

And last into the proper depths of winter. The first snows saw me and TJS head into the highest peaks of the Black Mountains

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The day after saw the biggest dump of snow I’ve seen in my own backyard for many a year. Walks around my village in deep snow under crisp blue skies were wonderful

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The start of the Xmas holidays is marked with an annual get together of my University friends and their families. Always great fun but this year we could climb the hills in snow (rather than wet rain) and play at snowballs

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Finally coming full circle with a return to the Canary Islands to spend Xmas in Lanzarote and Xmas Day sunning ourselves on the beach

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Well I enjoyed looking through my photos, choosing a few and reliving a great year. Hope you enjoyed it too. All the best for 2018 🙂

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Turin – A Day (and a bit) in the Life Of   21 comments

It was reluctantly time to move on. Another train journey. Another city. Another country. A crap day of weather waved us off as we headed to the impressive Gare de Lyon for a TGV train to Turin.

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I’d grabbed another chance for a slice of First Class life, figuring the extra was worth it for a 7 hour train ride. Plenty of space for a picnic

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The journey wasn’t without some incident. Some kind of problem on the line meant we couldn’t go via Lyon and Grenoble as planned and had to take a very circuitous route through the mountains. The train was actually early so we had to park up for 30 minutes to wait for our slot to pass through the Frejus tunnel into Italy. I took the chance to hop onto the platform for a photo – and a soaking as it was still hammering it down (it rained pretty much the whole way.

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It was a shame that we didn’t get better views of the Alps as we passed through but I’d take the only poor day of the whole holiday as a travel day. I even enjoyed the long journey. Far from being bored as I thought I loved just sitting watching the world go by (after the usual squabble over window seats with the kids)

We checked into our hotel for a couple of nights, the very reasonable and pleasant Hotel Dock Milano (not sure why it was called that as a Hotel in Turin). We had a large spacious, clean quad room with a small balcony for the princely sum of £80 a night including breakfast. I’ve stayed in plusher hotels but I don’t think I’ve ever stayed in one that offered better value, especially one walking distance from a city centre.

We hadn’t originally planned a stop in Turin. We had thought about taking a direct sleeper train to Venice but the reviews of the service were pretty poor and it was very expensive. Taking the day option to Venice would have us arriving late and changing trains in Turin so I thought we may as well have a day to look around.

After we checked in we headed out for a brief explore and a meal. The rain had stopped and the evening light reflecting off the wet pavements was rather nice

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We had a decent pizza, a meal enlivened by a local character who I think was trying to convert us to some form of religion. He was harmless enough so we just looked gormlessly at him (we are quite good at that) and he wandered off

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The next day looked bright and sunny as though the bad weather had passed. The most striking thing about Turin are these covered arcades which run along the main streets. They are rather stunning and provide a welcome shelter from the weather. At this part of the day it was relief from the hot sun

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Turin’s main square is a sort of two-part affair. This is the Piazza Castello with the Piazzetta Reale behind (backed by the Palazzo Reale) and another nice if minimalist fountain

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And flanked by the Palazzo Chiablese on one side

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And the Palazzo Madama on the other. A collection of exceedingly fine buildings around an exceptionally fine and very quiet square

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We wandered out the back of the Palazzo Reale to look at the gardens but they were shabby in the extreme. There was a keep off the grass sign. More accurate to put a keep off the weeds sign

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The other side of the Palazzo Madama

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Turin’s most famous site is the Mole Antonelliana. It was originally a synagogue but is now home to the National Film Museum. As such its the tallest museum in the world.

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Brief reviews seemed to indicate that it’s a pretty good museum with a glass lift to viewing platform and fine views across the city. There was a slow-moving queue however and we only had a day so we moved on. Its tucked into a series of narrow streets so hard to get a decent photo of from close up

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This is the Piazza Vittorio Veneto. Even though it had a road through it, I really liked its vast space and elegant white buildings

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I mentioned cities and rivers in a previous post. From what we saw in Rome and here in Turin, rivers are not a great feature of Italian cities. The Po was pleasant enough but nothing like the scale and grandeur of the Seine. Most of the times we saw the Po, and the Tiber in Rome they seemed little a little manky to be honest

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Still, wandering across an old bridge (this one is the Pont Vittorio Emanuele I) with views to a square and a fine church is never bad.

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This very Roman looking church is the very marvellously named Chiesa

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The views from the top of the steps back across the city was excellent and worth dodging the dangerous road crossing to reach it and return safely

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It was time to eat so we wandered back into town for a nice lunchtime salad and sandwich in the city

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Turin’s major shopping street, the Via Guiseppe Garibaldi, home of revolutionary biscuits

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Wandering back to our hotel we came a cross the old roman part of the city and the Campanile del Duomo

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And an old gateway that doesn’t seem to have a name on my map

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TJS returned back to the hotel for some quality WiFi time while me and the Funsters decided it was time to try some Italian ice cream. Well I can tell you that the Italian reputation for Gelato is well founded. It became a daily ritual to eat a large tub of the stuff with myself and TJF eventually settling on a 2 flavour combination of fruit and dark chocolate. It’s a passion in Italy and Gelato establishments are everywhere. The tip is apparently to look at the pistachio ice cream. If its bright luminescent green as we see in the UK its bad news. If its pale olive-green its most likely natural ingredients and good quality. Here and in Venice our chosen shop was a place called Grom. Considering the enormous portions and high quality it was pretty good value as well. We ate loads over the next couple of weeks

While everyone rested I went out for another wander, eager to see some more of the city and to find us a restaurant for the evening. I came across the very fine central railway station, Porta Nuova.

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And a statue of Vittorio Emanuele II. There are loads of statues of this bloke in Italy

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There was a huge boom of thunder and heavens opened. It lashed it down for a good hour and you’re thinking I got a soaking but I was saved by the cities endless covered arcades. Other than crossing the road I walked home about 15 minutes without getting wet. I liked Turin.

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When we stepped back outside to eat the evening was glorious once more, with views to distant mountains

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The late evening sunlight in the arcades was also rather fetching

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Our whistle-stop day ended with an exceptional meal and as it turned out the best meal for the whole trip in my opinion. That was up against some stiff competition as the food in Italy was without exception superb and despite my reservations pretty reasonable in cost (once we worked out Italian menus anyway!). This place was called La Capannina and if you are ever in Turin I suggest you go find it. The food was sensational and the staff friendly and welcoming and appreciative of our efforts to speak some very basic Italian

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A walk back through the moonlit streets to finish off our brief visit before we were off again. I’d certainly recommend Turin for a weekend break. It has a decent collection of old buildings and squares, great restaurants and was quiet. It’s also a bit more “real” if that’s the right word than the living museums (and crowded) Rome and Venice

A Tale of Eight Cities   20 comments

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Kids and how to keep them happy on holidays. Both of mine have grown up with radically different interests especially when it comes to leisure time. TJS loves walking and backpacking through the mountains. TJF loves chilling and when encouraged some adventurous climbing and water based fun. Neither enjoys the others preferences. I was stuck for this years holiday, keen to keep the family trips going as long as possible as University years approach, without one or both of them looking bored.

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Several of my friends have been focusing more on cities than our traditional outdoor trips (Barcelona, Nice to name but two). I mentioned doing something similar more out of desperation than anything else, expecting a lukewarm response. I was taken aback when both of them (and TBF) were positively enthusiastic about the possibility of a summer trip to bag a few key European cities as it were. The idea was born and the holiday planner in me sprang into action.

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After much deliberation we centered the trip around Italy and Eastern Europe having never been to either. Train travel was our chosen transport method and we were all excited by the prospect of doing the whole thing by train (and bus) and being liberated from the cossetted world of the car and the endless tedium that is air travel. Thanks to the amazing website, The Man in Seat 61 (I lost hours trawling through its pages) that travel planning was easy and booking rail tickets was simple. It’s a mine of information, almost all of it helpful and unerringly accurate

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Rome and Venice were certainties as was a more modern city in Berlin. I wanted to see Budapest although that got a lukewarm reception (very misguided). As we had to travel through Paris it seemed prudent to spend a couple of days there. In addition long journeys from Paris to Venice and Berlin back home dictated a couple of stopovers in Turin and Cologne. That makes seven. City number eight came courtesy of one very delayed train and an unexpected chance of a couple of hours in Vienna.

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I wanted to spend at least a few days in each of our major stays so a 3.5 week trip was in order to take advantage of the Bank Holiday. We used Apartments for multi night stays and cheap quad room hotels for the single nights. Over the course of the planning, hotels were booked, rail tickets purchased (including several first class tickets – European rail travel is exceptionally cheap if you book ahead). A few key attractions and tours were reserved. We packed light, just one rucksack each.  We were ready.

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Never having done anything like this before I thought the trip could go two ways. It would be a disaster and we’d hate it, vowing to put it down to experience and never attempt such a thing again. Alternatively it would be an amazing, fantastic experience that we’d want to do again. I’m not giving too much away to say it was most definitely the latter! 🙂

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We saw and did a quite staggering amount of stuff. I took thousands – yes really – of photos so its going to take me a while to write all this up. I’m planning one general post about each city and the related journeys and some more specific posts about places or days that deserve them. It will take me a while

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I’ve dropped a photo from each city into this post as a taster to get you in the mood. There was plenty of sun, tons of great food, bucket loads of ice cream, amazing sights and experiences and a lot of laughter (much of it at TBF’s expense bless her!). First instalment tomorrow, hopefully.

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