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Jamikins and Bikerscott Head Back to Le Marche

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Aug 15th, 2014, 10:09 AM
  #1
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Jamikins and Bikerscott Head Back to Le Marche

We fought the tube, the check-in and security and are in the lounge awaiting our flight to Bologna - yippee!

We are staying in Bologna tonight then heading to Pesaro on the train first thing in the morning to pick up the car and drive to La Tavola Marche www.latavolamarche.com for two weeks of wining, dining, cooking and relaxing!

Stay tuned...
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Aug 15th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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...I can hardly wait!
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Aug 15th, 2014, 11:03 AM
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Happy days ahead.
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Aug 15th, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Oh rats, I'm going to get hungry reading this.
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Aug 15th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Lucky! I so envy your trips! Can't wait to read another of your reports!
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Aug 15th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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I am going to pick up a bottle of a nice red to keep by the computer and savor with your upcoming reports...
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Aug 15th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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I am NOT going to be reading this... the last thread of yours I read made me book a week at the cooking school you went to... As I already have 2 trips planned for 2015 (plus a 2 week one in 50 days!) I can't afford to follow along here ;-)
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Aug 15th, 2014, 06:21 PM
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Yea!!
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Aug 15th, 2014, 07:26 PM
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Having a sip of wine yet?
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Aug 16th, 2014, 04:57 AM
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Well we made it to Piobbico and had our first rain storm! Now sitting outside sipping (not the first) glass of wine!

They now have wifi outside so we are connected!

Lazy day planned today with a big dinner tonight!
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Aug 16th, 2014, 05:19 AM
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ttt
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Aug 16th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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I'm coming along with you...
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Aug 16th, 2014, 08:41 AM
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Looking forward to following along on your latest adventure!
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Aug 16th, 2014, 08:41 PM
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Tried a glass of a CA North Coast Cabernet (SO's selection) but have reverted to my current fave, a 2012 reserve Barossa Shiraz, prepared for vicarious gustatory bliss.
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Aug 17th, 2014, 12:54 PM
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Le Marche 2014
Day One and Two – London to Bologna to Le Marche

Our friends and family are starting to think we’ve become slightly obsessed with Le Marche – we’ve been here four times in two years, always staying at La Tavola Marche, located almost exactly in the middle of a triangle formed by the villages of Piobbico, Sant’Angelo in Vado, and Appechio; about as far into the middle of nowhere as it’s possible to get these days.

The trip from Heathrow was better than usual. I’ve been doing a lot of travelling for work for the last year or so, and have managed to get myself BA Executive Club Silver status, which meant that we got to use the Business Class check-in desks, used the fast-track security queue, and the best perk, got to spend the few hours waiting for our flight in the lounge (featuring a bit of dinner and an open bar – the Bacardi took a bit of a hit if I’m honest). I’m perfectly willing to admit that I’ve become a bit of a travel snob – the lounge makes spending a few hours at the airport less of a pain – the seats are comfortable if nothing else, and almost no children.

We arrived in the Bologna airport and for a change I remembered it – in the past I’ve had a blank spot in my memory for the Bologna airport, which is odd because we’ve been there a few times. This time I even remembered the Lamborghini display on the way out, although it would take quite a lot for me to forget a Lamborghini under normal circumstances. We took a taxi to the Starhotels Excelsior (odd name) across the road from the train station. It was a late flight, so we didn’t check in until midnight.

The room was bizarre – really nice, in fact, one of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve stayed in while in Europe – it looked like a higher-end American hotel. Not what we were expecting across from the train station. We dropped our bags and thought we’d go for a final glass of wine before bed – we’ve been to Bologna a few times and thought we’d be able to find a wine bar somewhere that was still open. We went outside and were quickly reminded that they don’t often put the train stations in the nicest parts of town; or rather the nicest parts of town are rarely located near the train station. We walked toward the centre of town, but realized that it was really a lot farther to centro than we were willing to go that late at night, so went back to our room and went to bed – probably a good decision in retrospect.

The next morning was an early one; we checked out and were at the train station before 8am for our 8:42 train to Pesaro. The train journey would’ve been nice, if it weren’t for the whining children in our carriage. Why they have to make that endless moaning noise is beyond me – the kid behind me, I wanted to give him something to really cry about…

The Italians are funny on trains – it was complete chaos both getting on and getting off once we’re reached Pesaro. The girls dragging their GIANT suitcases up and down the aisle, the impasses where the people heading one way refused to back up to let the people going the other way pass, the shaking of heads and tutting…endless entertainment. It must be tiring to live like that – I prefer the Canadian method of letting everyone past while apologizing to everyone along the way (sorry, my fault, sorry, sorry, sorry).

The clouds over Bologna were black and ominous as we headed towards Pesaro, but seemed to be moving fairly slowly. By the time we reached our stop we’d more or less left them behind, but the forecast warned us that they would be following later that day.

The Pesaro train station is relatively small and we found our little car hire shop quite quickly, which is unusual for us. Jamikins and I have an ongoing argument about the type of car we should hire – Jamikins doesn’t really care about cars all that much, and for the minimum cost is the most salient factor to consider when looking at cars – the cheapest thing that will get us from point A to B safely is good enough. I, on the other hand, feel that a Ferrari is a perfectly reasonable choice. I’m not in charge of trip planning, so we ended up with a Volkswagen Polo, which is sort of the automotive equivalent of instant coffee – it’ll get the job done, but no one is going to get all that excited about it. I’m just hoping next time we hire a car that Jamikins lets me book one that comes with an engine…

The advantage of taking the train from Bologna to Pesaro is that it cuts about two hours of Autostrada driving off the three hour trip. There is still a little bit of Autostrada, but it only cost €1.30, which in Autostrada terms is about 8 minutes of driving. The rest of the drive was a drive back into the familiar – back to what felt more and more like home with every passing kilometre.

We stopped in Piobbico for the essentials – lunch and wine. First was lunch, at a little restaurant just off the main (and really only) street – I don’t know what it’s called, but the guy that runs it (Andreas) is very nice, and the food is both excellent and very cheap (as is the wine, which is also a bonus). We sat outside in the alley hoping that the clouds would stay away long enough for us to finish lunch – they did. Next was the Conad for essentials – bottled water, yoghurt for breakfast, and a couple of six bottles of wine (we clearly have our priorities in order). As an incidental, we’d never seen Piobbico so busy – there were people everywhere, and we actually had trouble finding a place to park – this has never happened before. There were even people eating at the restaurant which is always open but we’ve never seen anyone at before! Astounding!

We drove up the dirt road the La Tavola Marche – parts of the road had clearly been fixed, but in others the potholes have actually gotten worse. Its funny – when we first came up here, the road seemed so long. Now it feel like it’s only a few corners and straight bits and then we’re here. Ashley and Jason both came out to meet us, and it felt like we’d never left. We’re staying in our little room “La Pesca” again – the smallest room they have, but it’s perfect for two, and is on the ground floor with a little table and chairs just outside the door. We settled in, opened a bottle of wine, and relaxed in the sun for a few hours with our books.

As is our tradition, we had dinner at La Tavola Marche on our first night – the last thing I want to do after travelling all day is cook, and going out never seems as much fun when we have to drive all the way home afterwards. Jason has never let us down and this wasn’t the first. We ate until we actually couldn’t eat any more, and then we had dessert. Tonight was three antipasti to start, featuring a plate of cheese and homemade salami picante, breaded and grilled courgettes and peppers, and hard boiled eggs with a salsa verde. Not to be outdone, our pasta course was handmade fettuccini with a rocket pesto, and then a grilled pork selection (pork-pops) with green beans fresh from the garden and roasted potatoes. Desert was peaches poached in white wine with some marscapone, so that they didn’t get lonely. We may or may not have had a bit of wine as well. Sleep came quickly and easily.

Glad everyone is around for the ride! Jamikins will post pics at this link - the pics at the top are from this trip, the ones below are from prior trips to the area.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/pug_gi...7634528008046/

Enjoy!
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Aug 17th, 2014, 02:57 PM
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just found you - glad you arrived.

I was wondering what we would do if we turned up in Bologna on that late Ryanair flight - now I know!

Isn't it lovely when you arrive on holiday and feel at home? looking forward to more....
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Aug 18th, 2014, 08:07 AM
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I'm so glad I found this report, always enjoy reading about your adventures and seeing your wonderful pictures. This report will tide me over for the next 2 weeks until I'm on a plane to Torino! ;-)
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Aug 18th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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Oh we loved Torino! I hope you are doing a report!

Annhig, I think several flights arrive around the same late night time - no problem at all!
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Aug 18th, 2014, 12:04 PM
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Day Three – Festivals, or Not

The silence in the Marche hills at night is amazing for two Londoners – we’re used to constant sirens and cars and drunk people leaving the pub downstairs to stumble home – why they always have to yell is beyond me. Here there are frogs and crickets and the wind in the trees and that’s about it. It is actually a bit hard to sleep at first – it doesn’t feel natural for there to be such a lack of the hum of humanity.

According the Fitbit tracker that we wear, we both got a very good night’s sleep. Jamie got up early at 8:30 and sat in the morning sun reading a book and eating some fresh watermelon while I managed another hour and a half sleep. For me, this is the best part of a vacation – uninterrupted sleep for an extended period without the interruption of work or phones or email, which is unusual, being the senior technical manager in an IT department of a company that provides services to banks – there’s ALWAYS something going on, and when it’s a bank, it’s always an emergency.

We lazed around for a bit for the rest of the morning. I was feeling a bit woolly headed from the red wine the previous night and deeply felt the need for coffee, and lots of it. There’s a little old-school Italian espresso maker which gets a good workout while I’m here (I have one at home, but have upscaled to a fancy Nespresso machine that Jamie bought me for Christmas – I can pretend to be George Cluny (only good looking) while drinking my morning wake-me-up). The sun was out but there were a few clouds in the sky, and while it was warm, the temperature wasn’t what we’d expected for mid-August in Italy.

They’ve had a terrible summer so far in most of southern Europe apparently – cooler temperatures than normal and far more rain than they normally get. It’s meant that Jason and Ashley’s tomatoes have almost all been ruined through blight, but they have more courgettes and squash than they know what to do with. The downside of relying on nature to provide the larder, although I suppose they don’t have less food than usual, just different (although for a nation that eats as many tomatoes as the Italians do, it might be a difficult winter). On the other hand, northern Europe has been bathed in sunshine and warmth, so we almost had a base tan, or at least as much of one as people from London can ever really get, before we came.

Today’s mission was one of festivals. There were two advertised within an hour or so drive, so we decided to have lunch at the closest one (a polenta festival just outside Acqualanga) before driving to the big town festival in Urbino. We found the signs for the Polenta festival with no problems – there were a couple on big boards along the road. We were hoping that they’d just recycled the signs from a previous year, because according to them, the festival was running from the 14th to the 16th, and today was the 17th. We followed the signs off the main road up into the hills and found the turn-off for the tents, but there only seemed to be an old lady and a young girl there – we were hoping that they just weren’t ready for lunch yet (it was just before noon, nothing really gets going in Italy in terms of lunch until 1pm from what we can tell).

We drove on a bit further and stopped for lunch at a slightly odd place that we’d driven past many times before, passing a few more signs for the Polenta Fest on the way, these ones with a hand-written piece of paper stuck to them which said “17” – we took this as confirmation that an old sign had been used and that the festival was still on. Hosteria del Vigne doesn’t look like much on the road between Piobbico and Acqualagna (as an interesting and slightly odd side note – Microsoft Autocorrect keeps trying to change Acqualagna to Aqualung – apparently someone at Microsoft is a Jethro Tull fan). It looked like one of those highway truck stop lunch places, complete with giant patio area and yellow awnings. It turned out to be actually quite good – these types of places can be a bit hit and miss, but this was definitely in the hit column. We went traditional for lunch with a pasta starter each (GIANT portion – you don’t go to lunch in Italy if you’re only a little bit peckish) followed by a scaloppini each for our second. All this with a mixed salad, a bottle of water, and half a litre of wine only cost €41. The same meal in Tuscany, just a few hours west, would’ve been at least double.

We drove back to the polenta festival hoping that the few hours we’d spent at lunch meant that some people had arrived and the party was going – it wasn’t. In fact, the old woman and young girl had left, so we did as well. Next on the agenda was the big festival in Urbino – the Festa del Duca.

Last time we went to Urbino it was about as hot as the surface of the sun, and we parked at the bottom of the hill and walked all the way up. This time, it was quite a bit cooler outside, and I’ve improved in my hill starts so found a parking lot about as high up as we could go (this turned out to be a bit of a strategic error, but we’ll get to that later). The festival itself didn’t get started until 5pm according to the brochure, so we didn’t have any trouble finding parking and didn’t even have to pay to get into the centre of town.

We’d found parking at the very top of the tallest hill in Urbino as it turned out, so got our leg workout walking down the quite steep hill in to the main part of town. My knees are a bit dodgy at the best of times, and they don’t do all that well with really steep downhill walks, but other than a few twinges I made it without too much problem. Everyone in Le Marche seemed to be down in the main part of town. The festival was a renaissance fair, and there were seemingly hundreds of slightly out of shape men walking around in tights carrying bows and arrows. They seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

There were a few dozen stalls selling vaguely mediaeval type trinkets – wooden swords and ceramic dragons and fairies and the like. Most popular seemed to be woven flower circlets for the girls to wear in their hair. Despite the archers in awkward trousers, there wasn’t much else in terms of organized entertainment, so we decided to sit in the shade at a little café on the main square – the Piazza Duca Federico, where the 5pm parade was meant to start from. We had a few glasses of coke and wine (the coke for me, wine for Jamie – downside of being the designated driver) and passed the time until 5pm, at which point absolutely nothing happened. We waited for about 20 more minutes, checking the brochure to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake of some sort. Eventually we gave up and walked back to the car.

This is where the error of the parking lot choice became clear. When parking at the bottom of a hill and walking up into town, you are left with a saunter back down when you’re ready to leave. If you do the opposite and park at the top, you are faced with a death march up the side of a mountain to get back to your ride. We stopped a lot on the way up to rest our legs – why they built Urbino on such a steep bloody hill is beyond me.

The parking lot was chaos by the time we got back. Everyone wanted to see the parade I suppose, and seeing as it was 5:40 at this point they must’ve thought they’d missed most of it – they were in for some luck as it turned out. We even had a woman claim our spot before we’d managed to pull out. It seems that she’d been walking back and forth while her husband waited in the car down the hill – she was following everyone who was walking into the parking lot to see if they were leaving. There was almost fisticuffs when a guy in another car who wasn’t her husband tried to take our spot as we pulled out – she was NOT having any of it.

We bought a new sat nav before coming on this trip. Our old one, nicknamed Gaz, was starting to show his age, and we decided that an upgrade was in order rather than just a map update (and the new one comes with free lifetime map updates, as a bonus). We also bought an add-on which imported the entire Michelin Red Guide, and so we found a recommended taverna in Sant’Angelo in Vado, which is fairly close to La Tavola Marche. We got there and found more signs for a festival and most of the town blocked of as pedestrian only, so we parked outside of town and walked in.

It turns out that much like the Polenta festival, the Sant’Angelo festival was over-advertised and not actually there. The streets were certainly pedestrian only, but it seemed the locals just took this as an opportunity to move the café seats out into the road for the evening. There was certainly nothing festive going on, and as it was Sunday, our restaurant was of course closed. We walked around for a bit looking for any other option at all without finding anything. We decided to leave and nibble on bits of leftovers back at the room when we spotted a woman walking down the road with a take-away pizza box. If she had a pizza box, there MUST BE A PIZZA PLACE SOMEWHERE! Eureka!

We found it down an alley in an unmarked door. It seemed to be a locals place, as it was full of locals and us. We stood awkwardly while the town joker took the opportunity to make fun of the foreigners (unfortunately I understand enough Italian to know when I’m being mocked by complete ******* in pizza joints). We took the pizza home and opened a bottle of wine. By the time, the temperature had dropped quite a bit, and while Jamie put her jeans on, I refused to admit defeat and froze in my shorts while we ate outside (it’s August in Italy for crying out loud – I’m not going to wear jeans, although I did put on my jumper – there are limits).
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Aug 18th, 2014, 12:55 PM
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We had a few glasses of coke and wine (the coke for me, wine for Jamie – downside of being the designated driver) and passed the time until 5pm, at which point absolutely nothing happened. We waited for about 20 more minutes, checking the brochure to make sure we hadn’t made a mistake of some sort. Eventually we gave up and walked back to the car.>>

lol, scott, we waited for 4 hours for an elephant parade in Sri Lanka before we gave up and went home; 20 mins seems a bit wimpish! isn't it funny about the weather this year? on another thread jamikins mentioned that you moved to the UK in 2007, which was the beginning of the run of awful summers that we had until last year. I had that confirmed for me by a weather forecaster who was on the radio [TMS] over the weekend who mentioned that our run of bad summers started 7 years ago.

Why did you stay?
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