After-Christmas (Farm) Walk….. in Varase, Italy

It’s the time of the year when the house becomes a natural fridge and our heating expenses are madly going through the roof, hence, we decided that our “after-christmas-walks” should also be geared on saving on energy bills.  How?  By going out of the house and bask in warmer climes, where else but nearer the coast where “le soleil” (the sun) shines more!

So off we went driving towards the sea and the place we chose is Varase, a glasshouse-ridden  hamlet of Ventimiglia, five kilometers from the sea.

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The centro historico of Varase, at 40 meters in altitude, requires that you are reasonably fit to walk up the top.

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Only the one-passenger Piaggio is drivable on these narrow roads.

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It has a population of 160 inhabitants but the whole time we were there, we saw only four people, two of them are farmers tending their fields above.

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Located on the left side of the perched hamlet are glasshouses upon glasshouses, but looking closely, more than half of them seem to be abandoned….

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A modern church guards over the glasshouses

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The lovely succulents of Varase

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and more succulents

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We walked higher and higher until we reached the olive orchards. 

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This must be more than a hundred-year old olive tree.

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Walking though olive trees on a steep footpath, we were practically trudging on olives that fell on the road.  They lookk so healthy, it must be the all-year sunshine and the rich soil.

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We also passed by these grapevines that have already shed their leaves in the winter. 

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Huh! some mammal must have waded on the muddy soil to cool off..a wild boar perhaps?

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Wild marguerites growing in the winter! 

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Edward Scissorhand, made of machinery parts and tools….cool!

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Even the chickens are healthy! 

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A good part of Varase’s territory is occupied by this equestrian center

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So if you want to go horse riding or even do business with the hamlet’s farmers, there is a 1-star hotel ready to take you in.  

After Christmas Walk…in Saorge

This is the second article of my “would-be-several-series of-Christmas-walks” that we had and still about to do until the holiday season is over.  It’s fun to walk especially if the scenery is staggeringly beautiful and time passes so quickly that you don’t realize you have already done up ten kilometers!  Imagine, if I walk that distance each day until the New Year, 2012,  I would be fitter and lighter than I was in 2011!

Our destination for today is classed as One of the 40 Most Beautiful Villages of France – SAORGE.

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With a population of around 400, Saorge is a very charming medieval village perched on a long narrow rock, 500 meters in altitude and overlooking the Roya river. 

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The tall multi-level houses date back from the 15th-19th century

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The roofs of the houses are the grey and dark-red slates that were chipped out of the mountains

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The communal Lavoir (washing area) in the old days

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This tall house which used to belong to an Italian duke was for sale for several years.  Seeing the curtains on the opened window says that it now has a new owner.

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This building was the site of the old communal oven.

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This ancient photo shows how the village folks used to line up with their bread dough for baking in the public oven.

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This is the 17th century Monastery of Saorge which was built by the Franciscan monks when they came to settle in the village.  It houses a museum and the church is regularly used as venue for free concerts especially during the annual Fete de la Musique.

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The 11th century Madone del Poggio church with its 15th century Lombardy style bell tower.  It was built by the Cistercian monks who lived in Saorge for 700 years.  The present owners now run it as a home for writers around the world wishing to find inspiration in tranquil and beautiful surroundings.

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The old pulpit stairs of the Church of Saint Sauveur.  This must date back as early as the 18th century when the church was modified to conform to its present Baroque-style

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The Sistine-chapel looking like ceiling which is getting into a bad state of disrepair.

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Of all the various architectural designs used in churches, I just love the Baroque-style! Such glory and elegance!

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In France, the colours of the window shutters must conform to what is legally allowed by the mairie (town hall).  In Saorge’s case, it must be green, different shades of green, however, is acceptable, as long as it is found in the colour chart which is kept by the Office of the Maire (mayor)

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This bed and breakfast establishment, as typical in the region, is closed in the winter and opens up again in the summer.

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A drinking fountain dated 1920.

The day after Christmas….in San Remo

A holiday tradition that’s just as sacred as Christmas Day itself is going for a Christmas Walk the day after the 25th.   It’s not purely for the sightseeing factor but more for burning off  some of the festive calories that accumulated from the previous day’s overindulgence of stuffed turkey, roasted rooties, chocolate pudding and copious amounts of wine.

Our destination is the Italian seaside resort town of Sanremo.  We’ve been to this town a couple of times,  and in both occasions, it was just a food-shopping trip to its colourful and popular  Tuesday market.  Today, we are not going shopping but simply to find out how Italians go about their own Christmas walk and what a better place to do it than  in one of their most famous seaside resort towns – the flower city of Sanremo.

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After the excitement of opening his Christmas gifts yesterday, this bambino is enjoying a day out with his parents sans his new toys

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Ciao, Mama! Buone Feste! (Hello Mama, Happy Holidays!)

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Buon Natale, il mio amore!  (Merry Christmas, my love!)

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A family that bikes together, stays long together…

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Chatting over a cup of coffee….outdoors…in this European winter!  Sanremo is blessed for its temperate climate that even in the winter, it enjoys warmer temperature.

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Italians, by tradition, take out their evening stroll seriously. 

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The day after Christmas, sitting on a café is the place to be 

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Time to do some post-Christmas shopping

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I’m not sure if he had a happy Christmas but one thing is certain, wherever he goes, he can take his portable home with him.

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The old town of Sanremo is a very interesting place to stroll around

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Visiting art galleries is one great way to spend your long festive holidays

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Tending his master’s shop while the latter is probably attending to some post-Christmas stuff

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Lucky puppy

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Another lucky puppy

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A lucky rat..err pup!

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The 26th is also the best time for fishermen to patch up their nets

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And for friends to meet up, like here in the Marina and watch the boats go by

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Or in this restaurant for some chat over dinner

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But trade goes on..as this man (on the right) selling imitation bags in the shopping street

A Christmas stop in Ventimiglia

It’s the 24th and is definitely suicidal to do our last-minute shopping in the market town of Ventimiglia but that’s the point, we wanted to see the wild hustling and bustling of panic-buying humanity so we went alright, but instead of watching the shoppers, we ended up gazing at all things bright and beautiful. …

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While walking to the market, we passed by this window display of giant pasta.  Yes, this caccavelle pasta shell currently holds the world’s largest pasta shape.  Approximately 11cm wide, it comes from Naples and cooked in a hot oven stuffed with whatever combination dish you can imagine then topped with cheese….delicious!

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Last minute solution for the still-bland-looking Christmas table.

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Some guy smelling the scent of a Bugatti…

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It’s a wild wavy day today

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Whoosh!…

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Seagulls doing the ballet in search for fish

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This fishing village is closed for the winter

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My dream terrace……overlooking the Mediterranean sea

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These orange fruits of the palm tree are like jewels about to drop on my head..

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Everyone wears red at Christmas time

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The snow peaks of the Italian alps

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Seagulls feasting for Christmas fish…

Christmas in Monaco

One thing I love doing during the holiday season is going on a Christmas exploration of villages, towns or cities near us to see the colourful festive decorations, the magical Christmas markets and themed activities.  Yesterday, we went to Monaco, the land of the filthy rich and famous which is exhibiting a 19th Century English Village as its theme.  H, an Englishman who had been living outside of his country for the last 31 years , is naturally excited so he didn’t need convincing. 

You might say that a visit to Monaco is bank-breaking, Not at all!  Would you believe if I tell you that we spent only 4-euros going and coming?  Let me share with you how we did it:

First:  From home, we drove the car to Menton, a town just 20-minute bus-drive away to Monaco

Second:  So that we don’t have to spend for any carpark fees in Monaco which costs a fortune per minute, we took the shuttle bus to the Principality where we paid only 1-euro per person one-way.

Third:  Before catching the bus, we had our picnic lunch by the sea in Menton, watching the turquoise-blue Mediterranean while enjoying our ham and cheese sandwich!

Fourth:  Full and satisfied, we didn’t need to spend for anything to nibble nor drink in Monaco.  The fact that we got there and saw really stunning sights and valuable Christmas decorating ideas without spending a single centime is already enjoyment with a capital “E”!

Enjoy browsing!

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The giant ferris wheel

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The festive Casino de Montecarlo

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It’s Winter Wonderland infront of the Casino

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Inside the Cafe de Paris Casino

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Santa Clauses about to play Christmas carols

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A-da-da-da….

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“Guignol” or  marionette show

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The Christmas market

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Lady:  “Let me see if I have some coins for a carousel ride.”

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The Olympic-size swimming pool which is transformed into a skating rink every Christmas time

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—– and finally, the non-Christmassy stuff that makes Monaco, MONACO!

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Great! For 1/3 of its population comprising of billionaires, 3M euros for a 1-Bedroom flat is peanuts!

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The 5-star Belle Epoque styled Hermitage Hotel

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Soul-searching at the Casino steps

—– AND THE BAGS! ——

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