Passing Time


I was to spend the days before my return in Verona and Calcio, I had the intention of visiting Padua as this had come highly recommended by Simona before leaving Lake Garda. I unfortunately got side tracked by food, I called into a little cafe on the straight road to the train station and had some lunch, followed by a stroll and a waffle stop. I used the cafe’s free Wi-Fi to use Skype. I chatted with my mother for a good half hour about my plans and when she should expect me. The Wi-Fi was excellent and the Skype call was really clear, I sent a few emails and updated Facebook. I decided to buy my train ticket for my journey tomorrow back to Calcio where I would  spend a couple of days with the Belotti family. My train was to depart at 14:40 and go via Bressica, I had to pay for the bike but only one way as my plan was to give my bike to Matteo as a thank you for the wonderful hospitality Davide and Daniela had given me.

14-September-2014-(11)I called back in to the cafe which sold those delicious waffles again to check my flight details grab a macchiato and make a final decision on what I would return with. I needed a cheap bag to check in as I wasn’t going to throw my leatherman wave away just because I couldn’t take it in my hand luggage. I headed to Caprisca a luggage shop I had passed several times when roaming the streets of Verona. I picked up a folding bag, the quality looked good and as it folded in on itself I could pack it away until needed, I also bought a new wallet as mine had fallen apart plus it would be a good memory of my time in Verona. I also find it funny that once you buy a new wallet you then have no money left to actually put in it.

wpid-verona_juliettsbalcony.jpgI returned to the campsite via the river and had pasta, meatballs and a becks. I was gutted that my journey was coming to an end but felt determined to finish what I had started, all I needed to do was save up enough to complete the adventure and plan a lot better. I retired to my tent and watched a movie to take my mind off the cat and rat incident from the  night before. I slept fairly well only waking up twice to blow up my inflatable mat, luckily the cat was nowhere to be seen or heard. I was woken at 07:00 by my neighbours packing their tent away, I was relaxed and just lay there listening to them until I was ready to start my day. I planned my day, sorted out what I was going to leave behind. I went for a coffee and croissant before packing, I checked Facebook and Gmail, put my power monkey on charge as I wasn’t leaving that little gem behind. It didn’t take long to pack everything away, lots of things went in the bin, mainly clothes. I donated all my camping gear to the campsite so any travellers who were missing stuff could use it. My tent poles had shattered but still worked, my tent was a little mouldy but I was positive someone would use it. The sleeping bag was ripped and the mat was punctured so they went straight in the bin. I’ve packed my hammock and tarp but I’m unsure whether to take them home. I sorted out my gopro gear most of it I hadn’t used, I had a second breakfast which was now a common thing with adventure cycling. I collected my bike and cycled out of the campsite which felt weird as the bike was extremely light. The staff were busy with people checking in so I didn’t say goodbye but I’m sure I’ll return. I rolled down the hill to the river over the cobbled arch bridge into Verona. I had been looking online for a new watch and discovered it was a little cheaper to buy here, I hadn’t worn or needed a watch for 2 years, I bought 2 £10 watches from Argos for the journey but the first one broke before leaving the UK and the second fell off my wrist somewhere in Northern France. So I cycled and pushed my bike through Verona’s main shopping streets until I arrived at the Swatch watch shop, where I treated myself to a new watch. I had a snack in the waffle shop close to the railway station this time no waffle just a rustic pannini, which turned out to be a toastie, coffee and water. I then headed towards the railway station, as I was early I sat next to the city walls before heading into the station.

wpid-venice_train_board.jpgI pushed my bike into the station, it was really busy and I found it difficult to get my bike through the crowds. I checked the departure screens but my train wasn’t yet on there, mine was 14:40 and the last entry was 14:32, so I made my way along a busy corridor to the main ticket office where the screens displayed the trains well into the night. The platform I needed was No:3, I was to get on the main line train to Milan but change at Bressica to a branch line to Calcio. Luckily for me Verona railway station has a lift to the platforms but as I had ditched so much luggage I could’ve carried my bike up stairs, I still opted for the lift. I was unsure where to board the train so validated my ticket, as I had been told off for not doing this on a previous trip, I made sure I didn’t break the rules again. I watched other trains and tried to figure out where I should board my train with my bike, I needn’t have worried. There was an announcement that a train would be arriving late and this turned out to be the train I would be catching. Once it did arrive I had plenty of time to figure out what carriage I needed. I loaded my bike onto the last carriage which conveniently had a big sticker of a bike on it, I still needed to lift the bike up some steep steps into the train but the bike was a lot lighter. I locked the bike to the train and sat on the first seat, right next to the carriage door. The carriage I was in was very quiet, the train was old with blue leather seats and a blue marbled patterned vinyl floor. The windows could be pulled down halfway for ventilation, as it was a hot day I opened the window. Opposite the train I was sitting on was a bright red snow plough, I sat and watched the driver prepare the train and eventually drive off.

wpid-verona_plaza_book_sculpture.jpgThe doors on my train closed with a dull thud and within a minute we set off, I had my tablet switched on so watched on my navigation app our speed and progress and tried to gauge how long it would take to Bressica. The Italian scenery was stunning in the afternoon sun and although we were travelling at 148kmph the landscape seemed to pass slowly. We stopped at 4 stations before Bressica one of them lake Garda, it had taken me 4 hours to cycle from Garda to Verona but the train took only 15 minutes.

16-September-2014-(11)Bressica station was an old well-worn place but luckily for me the train to Calcio was waiting patiently on the next platform, so I didn’t have to negotiate any stairs other than the ones to board the train. I presented my ticket to the conductor who was stood at the front of the train and he indicated that I was to board at the door where he was stood. Once I had my bike on the train I settled in for the short journey to Calcio. I was joined by an elderly man all dressed in lycra and sporting a very nice new carbon road bike. I stayed with my bike for the journey and chatted with my fellow cyclist. It took only a fifteen minutes to arrive at Calcio where I would spend a few days with my new Italian family, as we pulled into the station the gentleman I was travelling with corrected my pronunciation of the name Calcio, I had obviously butchered it and was glad to have been corrected. On the platform I adjusted my bar ends as I already scratched my new watch on them and if I went over the handlebars the bar ends would have contributed to a broken wrist. I looked around the station before setting of to ensure I had the correct time for my return train.

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Verona part II

Rooftops of Verona

Wednesday 24th what a night! It started off very well, at 16:00 hrs. I cooked on the small terrace close to my camping pitch. It was a small stone patio with a few small round metal tables, chairs, a cooking area and a couple of outdoor sinks. The weather had been blistering hot all day and there was going to be a beautiful sunset. I set up my camping stove on one of the metal tables so I could see the roof tops of Verona as I prepared my evening meal. It was to be my remaining food supplies which consisted of a packet of wild mushroom risotto. It seemed to take forever to make and I’m sure it was a family packet as I was unable to eat it all. I chatted with a German couple who had just spent the past 2 weeks cycling around Italy but due to work commitments had to fly back home. Surprisingly they didn’t think I was mad cycling across Europe and were very encouraging, it was a pity my funds couldn’t stretch to completing my original plan of circumnavigating the globe. I washed up after my evening meal and had a cappuccino at the bar whilst I charged my tablet. I decided to pay for the camping now so on Friday I could leave early if I wished.

wpid-overlooking_verona.jpgI ventured back into Verona which was proving to be a wonderful place to spend my last few days in. Once again I walked through the castle grounds, down the 200 or so stone steps, crossed the stone arched bridge over the fast flowing river, under the arch in the city walls, turned left along the narrow cobbled street and straight passed Julia Roberts sat outside a restaurant. I had to look twice as she smiled at me, Julia was with 3 other people and I didn’t want to be that person who walked over and asked for an autograph or photo, on reflection I should’ve done. Apparently Julia was in town as that weekend was George Clooney,s wedding in Venice and she was filming nearby too.

wpid-verona_nuns.jpgI had the intention of eating a late meal in Verona as I would be heading back to the UK soon and it was to be my last treat and to round the journey off. I made a point of avoiding streets I had walked down before, I came across a familiar corner with Saint Anastasia on it. The church was surrounded by towers and a large fence and a stone coffin over the church entrance. I turned left along Corso Anastasia, there were several osteria’s along the narrow street. I looked at the menus outside a few, continued to the end of the street where it joins via Rosa and towards Piazza de Signori. I then turned back along the street I had just come up and went in Osteria Guilette E Romeo. At first I didn’t know the name of the small and very old osteria I had chosen for my meal, it was only when I was seated upstairs that I noted the name from photo’s hanging on the walls. It turns out that the photo’s on the wall was of the owner and the famous people he had met throughout the years he’s been in business, I didn’t recognise any of them. The restaurant had a certain appeal, it was very small almost like I was sat in someone’s lounge, looked very old and very Italian with sketches of Verona on the walls. There was a very old bookcase in a small alcove full of old leather-bound books and wooden tables and chairs for the patrons of this osteria to sit and enjoy their fill.

wpid-verona_osteria_meal.jpgI had studied the menu outside the front door and had already decided I was going to have the menu of the day for €17, it was a 2 course fixed menu with wine, sparkling water and some stale bread. Starters consisted of flat pasta strips with meat, similar to spaghetti Bolognese. It tasted like it was made fresh by grandma herself, who was actually waiting on, I bet she was about 90 years old and had been waiting on since she was a little girl. I noticed on the menu which sat perched on my table this dish was also available with pieces of donkey, this brought back memories of Leglise when the donkeys in the field followed me up the hill. My main course was veal covered in a creamy mushroom sauce and yep it was just that a delicious piece of veal with mushroom sauce, no vegetable or potatoes just veal. However both the course were extremely delicious and very filling.

wpid-verona_bike_alley.jpgI walked slowly back through Verona and back up the steps to my castle. I had a becks beer on the terrace before retiring to my tent for the night, I blew up my sleeping mat, hoping it would stay up all night so I could get some sleep. That wasn’t going to happen, around 4:30am I heard the sound of rustling of leaves just outside my tent door. At first I thought someone was walking past the front of my tent, however this would be impossible especially in the dark as I was about 3 feet from a stone wall with my bike propped up against it and my tent guy lines tied to my bike, so there was no path in front of my tent and no one would have reason to walk past. I was hoping it was the waitress from breakfast trying to track my down but unfortunately not. I heard more movement but this time it sounded like someone was playing my spokes, I slowly unzipped the tent door to discover a black and white cat sat on my rear rack. I had seen the cat several times before but didn’t know how musical it was, it kept sticking its paw in between my rear panniers and playing my spokes. Occasionally it would jump down and look up in between my rear panniers then jump back on my bike. I got out of my sleeping bag put my shoes on and got out of the tent to persuade the cat to give up its musical endeavors and go away but it just kept returning and jumping on the bike. I decided to investigate further and lifted one of my panniers off the bike and sat in the middle of my rear wheel clinging on for dear life was a rat. I spent the next hour trying to get both animals to leave, I had to pull up the sign for plot B12 to use to prod the rat but when I did it shot up my arm and jumped into the vines hanging over head, of course the cat followed in hot pursuit. This went on for a while as the rat avoided the cat and went straight back to my rear wheel where it knew it was out of reach, however it hadn’t anticipated that as I had removed my pannier the cat could now get at it. After an hour of chasing them both around I gave up and got back in my tent, blew my sleeping mat up, took off my shoes and got back in my sleeping back and tried to ignore what was going on outside the tent, not a chance! Once the rat had figured out the cat could reach between my rear spokes it darted under the fly sheet in front of my tent, the cat went berserk hitting my tent as it attempted to catch the rat. Either the cat had caught his evening snack or the rat had got away, anyhow it went quite. I unzipped the tent door to take a look expecting a half eaten rat to be outside but I only found the cat sat there staring my down. I zipped the tent closed wondering if I was next on the cats list and tried to sleep.

wpid-verona_hillside_pantheon.jpgI woke at day break and luckily the cat had gone, I looked under the ground sheet which makes up the tents wet area and no rat so I got up and went for a shave and shower the water was hot and I had the place all to myself most people who were at the campsite the day before had packed up and gone. I went to check my emails over a fresh orange juice followed by a coffee, today will involve a siesta.

wpid-verona_plaza_horse.jpgI then went back to my tent to sort out what I would be throwing away and what I would leave for other campers to use. I wasn’t sure what to do with my hammock but decided from now on this would turn into a credit card tour, no more cooking and if I needed a bed for the night I would stay in a hotel. When I got back to the tent the cat was sitting on my porch staring at the door, I chased it off. I opened my tent to find there was a lump under the ground sheet, I guessed it was the rat so checked to see if the cat had really gone before sliding it to the edge of the tent. It popped its head out of the ground sheet and it looked hung over its hair was sticking up and it looked knackered. The rat then hopped across the campsite and into some bushes, I hope it’s learnt its lesson and doesn’t return. I would also appreciate if it tells all its rat friends to avoid the area.

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Selfie Outside Verona Rrstaraunt

So I’ve dropped my tablet and I’m having to type my blog on a mobile phone screen which isn’t proving to be easy.

I left Amy’s apartment when she set off for work at 07:50 and as usual I had to cycle up hill. The good news was I found the correct roads straight away and managed to cycle through some beautiful countryside. I followed th SR249, SP31, SP29, SP5 and the SR11 these roads were magnificent.I had cycled for 2 hours and came across a sign for Auchran a supermarket chain I had become familiar with. I followed the signs, took a 10 meter detour and found a quiet spot in their parking lot. I then had a second breakfast, coffee a roll and a croissant. I had bought a pureed apple earlier it was a bit like baby food but was delicious. I walked around Auchran and picked up water,a pair of underpants for €1 which turned out to be very comfy when cycling and some velcro straps to attach the gear to my bike, hoping it would be more secure than the paracord I had previously use, turns out paracord is better.

wpid-verona_station_shortbikelock.jpgWithin 5 minutes of leaving the supermarket I came across a sign saying I had reached Verona, it was the outskirts but good enough for me. I should be at camp by lunchtime and be able to explorer Verona that night. It took me another 2 hours to cycle along beautiful tree-lined roads, past the city walls, over the fast flowing river and up to the castle which was to be my home for the next few days. The campsite is in the castle of Pietro I had read about it in a book about reggie and new it was cheap but had rough ground but hey I had my inflatable mat so I’m sorted,or so I thought. Camping castle Pietro is the strangest but friendliest campsite I have ever stayed in, first I had to cycle up a steep winding road to the top of a hill, a hard slog but I didn’t get off and push. The campsite seemed to be situated below the castle walls, it turned out that it’s in the castle grounds and is not your conventional campsite. It is a series of small terraces going up in steps, each step is a pitch. I cycled in but had to dismount to stop the bike tumbling down a steep hill to the reception area which was closed, well not closed exactly the rooms and building were open, anyone could walk in but on the desk was a sign saying it was closed and someone would be back at 13:00 hrs. There were plugs to charge devices so I plugged my tablet in, checked my email on their free wi-fi and I also spotted that their internet router was not secure and I had access to its settings.

wpid-verona_rivercurve.jpgA young woman entered the office and told the people waiting myself included that check in would be available when “the lady with the long hair, returned from lunch”. I was quite happy using the free wi-fi so could easily wait the 20 minutes until 1 o’clock, 40 minutes later she arrived and checked everyone in. I was to go to pitch B11, down the steep hill, through the stone arch and turn right. The scenery was amazing, I was in a medieval courtyard with a canopy of vines and red grapes. The ground was awful, hard dried dirt, covered in grapes which had fallen from the vines above, hundreds of ants and stones everywhere. I managed to sweep the stones to one side but knew I was in for a rough night as my inflatable sleeping mat was punctured. I used a rock to hammer in my tent pegs which had signs that it had been used for just that purpose many times before. I was rather creative at setting up my camp as I tied the guy lines at the back of my tent to the posts holding up the vines and the front ones to my bike which I had propped up against the castle wall. I then went for a shave and cold shower.

wpid-verona_arena.jpgImmediately after my shower I went to explore Verona, via the castle in which I was sleeping in the grounds of. I had been told it was only a 10 minute walk but it took me over 30 minutes as I wandered around the castle gardens enjoying the views. 200 steps later I was at the base of the castle and next to the river. I crossed a spectacular stone arch bridge with a fast flowing river beneath me through an archway in a stone building and into the heart of Verona.

wpid-verona_rooftiles.jpgThe whole place was amazing, the buildings were seriously old and the atmosphere had a nice relaxed feel to it. I wandered the streets of Verona for hours, I stumbled across Casa Guilette and went to see the famous balcony and court-yard. I asked an American gentleman who looked like Victor Hugo to take my photograph with Guilette’s statue, yes the one were you hold her boob and your suppose to fall in love forever. Still looking!

wpid-verona_holdingjuliett.jpgI sat on some stone steps next to the river for a rest before I went to find the train station, my plan was to go to Venice by train early in the morning. This would save time and mean I could get back to Calcio by Friday or Saturday. The station was a long walk away but the walk through Verona was beautiful it was such old architecture. I did find a very clean modern vending machine snack bar and bought a cappuccino for 50 cents, the cheapest I’ve found in Italy. I walked past the roman arena along a very narrow cobbled street which opened out into a huge plaza with statues and restaurants everywhere. I took some photo’s in the plaza before heading under a beautiful archway with an ornate clock on it and along a perfectly straight road to the railway station, it was extremely hot and my legs were aching. The station was on the other side of town but I got the information I was looking for. I also checked the bus information to get back to camp, row D bus number 103. I had seen a snack bar close to the station which was advertising lasagna for €4.90 so headed there and wrote some postcards whilst I ate. The lasagna was delicious but with some water it came to €7.90, next time I’ll know that they add service charge on a bill when you stay in to eat.

wpid-verona_arena_panorama.jpgI decided to walk back to the campsite and was surprised at how much quieter it had gone, most of the day trippers and excursions had left Verona, so I walked around this beautiful city once again but this time without the crowds. I returned to camp by climbing the 200 or so stone steps up to the castle, at the viewpoint people were sat watching and photographing the sunset over the roof tops of Verona, it was magical. The was also a photo shoot going on and it wouldn’t be until later I would discover that I just missed Julia Roberts.

wpid-verona_archway.jpgThe Pietro castle campsite had a terrace just outside the reception so I sat and had a couple of Becks beers whilst other people around me were relaxing and chatting, some were cooking in the corner of the terrace, the campsite provided an outdoor kitchen for people to prepare and cook their own food whilst others ordered pizza from the bar. That evening there was an irish band playing but I decided to go to my tent and watch Bourne Identity followed by lying in the tent listening to the Irish band until I fell asleep.

wpid-verona_campsite_barrow.jpgI woke several times as my inflatable sleeping mat had deflated and because the ground was so hard once re inflated I put my coat and clothes under me for some padding, this didn’t work in fact I think it made it worse as my bed was now lumpy. I wanted to get up at 05:00am to get the 7:00am train to Venice but I snoozed until 07:30am, as I had such a bad nights sleep, I just took my time. I then walked to the station stopping for a mixi caliozone, coffee croissant and an orange juice before catching the 10:59 to Venice.

wpid-venice_canal_bridge.jpgI was glad I went to Venice so I can now say I’ve been but it was not as impressive as Verona, I was either pre occupied about ending my journey or it was just too busy. The Grand Canal, well looked like the Grand Canal and every street, bridge or plaza was so crowded it was impossible to enjoy. Venice is a place to stay and wander either before or after the crowds descended upon it, I walked the streets avoiding the touts selling everything you could imagine and after 2 hours I got fed up and left. I bought a ticket back to Verona for €8.55 on a train which was to take 2 hours, so I spent more time on trains than I did in Venice.

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