Thursday was a day out for us. We hired a driver through the hotel and went to lunch. But this was not just any ordinary lunch. A friend (thank you Te Rina) recommended a restaurant called Relais Blu which is located just outside Termini at the tip of the Amalfi Peninsular. It has a clear view of Capri in one direction and across the Bay of Naples to Napoli and Vesuvius in the other.
It is a magical place.
The restaurant (which is in the Relais Blu hotel) boasts a Michelin star and was also the venue for one of the meals in the movie “The Trip to Italy” starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. If you haven’t seen the movie, you should.
We took this as an opportunity to go all in, selecting their 7 course dégustation menu with matching wines. It was a perfect way to spend 3 hours and to taste the best that the coast has to offer. We are in no way food bloggers but we attempted to document the meal for all to see – you may notice the occasional photo fail but that’s only because some courses were just too tempting.
We also had the restaurant to ourselves which made the whole thing surreal as the entire waiting staff fussed over – well, just us.
After lunch we went to Sorrento – just a few minutes drive down the road from Relais Blu – to do some shopping. We always shop best after 7 “glasses” of wine each.
For us Sorrento is special. We’ve been there in summer and winter. We’ve seen it grow and change as more and more people visit – the blessing and curse of tourism. Last year the town turned it’s main street – Via Corso – into a pedestrian zone which, contrasted with the smaller streets and alleyways either side has made a huge improvement to the town.
We spent two hours there visiting some favourite shops we know and some new ones we didn’t. When our driver collected us and was storing the shopping bags in the boot, he thanked us personally for our contribution to the local economy.
Who is this arriving at Relais Blu for lunch?
A seat with a spectacular view of Capri
Same view, different person
Jean waiting to be seated in the restaurant
Some bloke waiting to be seated in the restaurant
Pre-lunch drink – blue of course
Sea Bass two ways – carpaccio with tomato tartare and crusted with buffalo mozzarella foam
Flying Squid with black bread with orange and cheese
Whoops – looked so good, forgot to photograph it first
Fig Ravioli with courgette chips and cheese foam
Sea Bream with savoury and sweet vegetables
Lamb three ways – and we forgot to photograph it first.
Tiramisu with fennel ice cream
Delicious nibbley things with dessert
Limoncello to finish, of course
Dinner that night – a far more humble affair
The Relais Blu website is worth a visit. Having seen a little of the hotel we will definitely stay there for a couple of nights next visit.
Our girls have been in a kennel for over two weeks. For both of them this is a whole new experience. We were a bit concerned how they would react and whether they would settle in.
We have been missing them so we asked the team at Waglands Dogs’ Holiday Retreat – seriously that is the name – to send us some photos of the girls. They arrived today and it seems we had nothing to worry about.
We suspect they’ve just had a bath as they look a bit too clean and fluffy for over two weeks on holiday in the country.
For the uninitiated, it’s Ellie on the left and Bella on the right.
Today my sister Tina from Austin in Texas was supposed to join us in Positano for the next week or so.
But just a few days ago she fell and broke her leg in multiple places. It was a bad break and has required pins, nuts, bolts, some nails, a couple of girders and multiple surgeries to repair as you can see from the X-ray.
It reminds me of some of the DIY repair work I’ve done around the house but hopefully with better results.
The doctors have done all they can but it’s going to take 6 to 8 weeks – with a chunk of that as bed rest – before Tina can start getting back to normal.
As a result she is unable to fly – or do anything much for that matter – so any thoughts of coming here are gone.
We will miss her terribly and wish her all the best for the next few weeks. Keep your leg elevated Tina, and enjoy the endless waiter service.
Positano is known for its cats. They wander around the village under some form of collective ownership that means they get fed and looked after by, well, everyone. Despite the busy roads most seem to survive and lead long and happy lives – usually curled up in the shade during the day doing what cats do best – not much.
Casetta Arienzo comes with its own cat. It’s a little tabby cat with one eye, an insatiable appetite and a tail that never stops moving. It’s on our door step every morning when we get up and every night when we go to bed. It lies in the shade on the verandah when we are at home or out and about. It has decided it’s our cat.
Cat food is now part of our shopping list when we go to the alimentari and a bowl of water is permanently on the verandah. Ah, the responsibilities of parenthood.
I’d like to say that this post is all about Jean’s first lunch on a train.
The trip from Firenze to Napoli included lunch as we rocketed through the countryside north of Roma at 275km/h. Compared to typical airline food this was a feast of pasta, ragu and buffalo mozzarella all washed down with a Sicilian Chardonnay.
But really this post is just an excuse to use the title.
View from our villa – hazy weather means Capri is shrouded in the distance
Yesterday we travelled from Camogli (south of Genova) to Positano (just south of Napoli). The 2 hour drive to Firenze to catch the train south was negotiated successfully – including the Firenze one way system which is always a challenge.
It felt like it was going to be a good day.
As it was Saturday the rental car office was frantic (most villa rentals run for a week from Saturday to Saturday) with tourist picking up cars. The queue went out of the office and down the street – quite hard work for those waiting in the 32 degree heat.
We drove past all this chaos, into the garage, was met by a lovely Avis rep who checked the car (no dents this time), helped with our bags, ordered a taxi for us and handed me a receipt in about 3 minutes flat.
It was really looking like a good day.
The taxi dropped us at the organised chaos that is Firenze train station with time to spare for our train. Luckily we could escape the chaos as our tickets included access to the Frecciarossa lounge – an air-conditioned haven of peace, tranquility, free beverages and snacks.
Jean discovered the shopping mall under the station and disappeared for a few minutes returning successfully with “that t-shirt top she’d been looking for” and “something to wear by the pool”.
The train trip south was 3 hours. We arrived in Napoli at 5pm and were greeted by our driver Enzo on the platform. An hour later we were in a warm and slightly muggy Positano being greeted by the Eden Roc team.
Today we leave Camogli and head south to Positano. We have thoroughly enjoyed both our time here at Cenobio Dei Dogi and our time exploring the village.
Would we come back – like a shot.
As always it’s about the place but also the people you meet. After 6 days of turning up at the same places for meals and drinks, exploring the village on foot (it’s not a big village so there’s not much walking involved) and generally settling in we are starting to be recognised. The fact that we are from New Zealand is a surprise and the start of a conversation. And that’s what it’s all about.
It’s a first for us – a trained seagull. Every day this bird turns up at the same window of the building across from the hotel at the same time and waits for its dinner. We know it’s the same bird because he’s clearly lost a foot sometime in the past.
The apartment owner leaves the window open and the bird stands there and waits. Eventually it gets something to eat – much to the disgust of the other seagulls – and then it leaves. Until the next day.
We have stayed twice at Camogli in the past – but only for a night each time and in the off season. We stumbled across the hotel Cenobi Dei Dogi on Booking.com when we were travelling from England to Italy in 2011. The reason we picked it was two fold – free parking and dog friendly – two things that were important to us at the time.
We always said we’d come back and stay longer in the high season – and that’s what we’ve done. We have a week here to relax, swim, lie in the sun and explore the local area.
Camogli is on the coast about 40 kms south of Genoa. It is a favourite Italian summer holiday destination for people from Genoa, Milano and Bologna so this week it is very busy in that laid back Italian way – no rush, no fuss, just people getting on with the hard task of enjoying themselves.
Our short stay in Chianti in Tuscany was a chance to catch up with friends – some Italian locals and some Kiwi’s on tour. For three days all we seemed to do was eat and drink and tour the small villages of Chianti.
The base for our stay was the delightful Relais Vignale in Radda in Chianti. Spread across a number of traditional tuscan buildings, this hotel is a great way to enjoy a break without being limited to the “Saturday to Saturday” villa booking cycle. The service is excellent – in fact the manager Serena went out of her way to help us when our booking was affected by our overly long stay in Hong Kong.
We met up with friends from New Zealand who were staying just up the road and our good local friends Olga and Dani. Meals were had and stories relayed.
As always when in Chianti, the surprises were off the beaten track – the small village restaurant we stopped at for lunch and the gallery where the artist told us the story behind the small print we fell in love with and bought.
But after a shortened stay we packed up our rental car with our already expanding suitcases, farewelled friends, and headed north to Camogli for a week by the sea.
Getting around Italy by high speed train is easy and relaxing. We have regularly used it between Rome, Florence and Naples in the past and this trip is no exception.
The one thing we haven’t done before is try out Trenitalia’s premium class. This is half a carriage of luxury seating – 8 seats in all – right at the front of the train. It costs a bit more but comes with a meal service, a cabin crew member to look after you and your luggage and more legroom than you could want. There is even a conference room in the carriage if a quick meeting is needed en route.
On this leg of our journey from Rome to Florence we treated ourselves and booked seats 2A and 2B.
On Tuesday night Hong Kong airport was shut down by authorities again. There were many, many, many unhappy people who had been rebooked onto flights from Monday that now had their flights cancelled for the second time.
For us it meant another night sleeping at the airport. There was no ability to leave the airport because that meant being escorted by Cathay staff (one of the four trying to rebook thousands of stranded people) back through the security area and then having the uncertainty of not being able to get back in again.
For us the critical time was Wednesday morning at 9am when we hopefully started our dog-leg trip to Rome via London. Helping us was the fact that the airport authorities realised that cancelling flights was causing chaos and it was better to let half empty planes fly than to have increasing numbers of people trapped in the airport. So even on Tuesday night when all flights were “cancelled”, some of the high volume flights were leaving.
So with a long night ahead and no chance of getting out of the airport we sought accommodation other than “the third bench from the left at Gate 42” and discovered the only pay as you go lounge we could find – the Plaza Premium First lounge. I don’t think they often have people booking for 24 hours so we negotiated a good rate and settled in. The ability to shower, eat and drink without having to queue up for hours was a God send.
The lounge wasn’t set up for sleeping but with a bit of ingenuity people made up beds from chairs, loungers, couches – whatever was to hand.
Finally on Wednesday morning we flew out to London and dog-legged back to Rome arriving late on Wednesday night exhausted – ready for our holiday to begin.