It's Better to Travel than Arrive?

"To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive"

Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque, 1881.

"Robert Louis Stevenson speaks utter tosh and has

obviously never flown long haul economy class"

Kristy, first ever blog post, 2011.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Inflatable Travel Pillows

You know that I spend a fair bit of time in planes, and I've seen these inflatable pillows on sale for years and years now in in-flight magazines, or occasionally mentioned in newspaper travel articles - but I've NEVER seen one being used on a plane.

It's no surprise that sleeping in Economy class on long haul flights isn't fun and it isn't easy, and I'm not entirely sure that this would help.  What happens if you're in the aisle seat and someone needs to clamber past/over you to get out to the toilet?  Not a chance if there's that giant pillow blocking the way.  Do you have to deflate it for mealtimes?  Good grief, then you'd have to blow it up again!

I think that by the time I'd actually blown one up, I'd be so exhausted that I'd pass out.  Maybe that's the idea?  You don't sleep, you just collapse from oxygen depletion?  Has anyone got one of these?  Do you know if they work?  If you want to give it a try, you can buy one HERE.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Castellare di Tonda : Accommodation

Castellare di Tonda is spread over around 900 acres with lots of accommodation options.  As I didn’t have a car, I was happy to be placed in the Fornace complex which is located within very comfortable walk (or stagger, depending on your wine intake) distance from the bar/restaurant and lobby.  There is ample parking outside Fornace if you are bringing a car.

Fornace provides plenty of shaded outside seating areas, a big communal BBQ and a large pool with loungers, and a few childrens play equipment items on the mown grass alongside.  There is also a gorgeous old pony, Baloo, who has free rein around the property, so don’t be surprised if you turn a corner and bump into an old grey pony who is looking for an ear scratch or an apple cut up into small pieces that he can slowly munch with his old teeth.

Baloo, the old pony, having a snooze out the front of the Castellare church.

I was originally checked into room 1101, a gorgeous apartment containing a large bedroom (king sized bed), combined sitting/dining, kitchen and decent bathroom (though very tiny shower).  Most windows had grilles and insect screens so it was safe to leave them open to get a breeze without getting bitten.

There was a welcoming bottle of Castellare’s own white wine waiting for me on the table and I popped it straight into the fridge to cool down.  We opened it the next night after a fair bit of exertion (the bottle opener provided was a bit flimsy and we had to try a few times to get it right).  After all that effort we discovered that the wine wasn’t really to our taste, but we drank it anyway – we don’t like waste!

I stayed there for two nights, but in the end, the noise from the other apartments just got to me.  I’m not a good sleeper, and all of the Fornace apartments are lovely, but they’re renovated farm buildings and they’re a bit loud.  After having two bad nights sleep, I asked to be moved either to a free-standing apartment (there are a few) or to an upstairs apartment. 

The Fornace complex pool - gorgeous!

This was no problem for the staff as I was staying early in the season, so they weren’t full.  I happily moved into 1104, an upstairs corner apartment in the same building I was in previously.  It had two bedrooms, one was a single, and a big master bedroom, combined sitting/dining/kitchen and a fab big bathroom with a brilliant shower – it even had a window in it.  It did flood the floor every single time I used it, but it was worth it!

Castellare is a pet friendly resort, and lots of people were holidaying with their lovely big dogs, and even a few lovely little ones.  Dogs are also welcome in the restaurant and bar.

The view from my shower cubicle - fab!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thank You x 60,000!

My blog has just ticked over to 60,000 page visits
and I can't quite believe it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to click over and see what's been going on - you've made my day!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Siena Photos

A random selection of photos from my afternoon in Siena, on my free day whilst staying at Castellare di Tonda.  I caught the train in to Siena and neglected to bring a map, so I just wandered around for a few hours, following the signs to things I vaguely recognised from books.  I figured if I got too lost, I'd just jump in a taxi, but I found my way back to the train station with no problems at all.  Siena is gorgeous!

This is where I had lunch.  It was in a 400 year old archway leading to the Campo, with a small restaurant and some tables staggered up the steps.  A gorgeous breeze was blowing through which helped keep me a bit cooler than the people sitting in the Campo.  Fettucine with shaved truffles and a glass of chilled white wine - bliss!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Castellare di Tonda : Food

I was on a half board holiday package, so that includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner with wine - along with the riding.  Picnics were provided on full day horse rides, so I only had to pay for a few lunches out of my own pocket for the whole week.  The restaurant isn’t open during the days, but there is a little store next to the bar which sells basic groceries and the bar caters for lunches if you wish.  I had a lovely meat platter one day, and Lucia made me salad for two days.  A fairly large tasty salad, bag of fresh bread and a very generous glass of wine cost around €12, and there is WiFi in the bar.

The breakfasts were served upstairs in the restaurant and were European in style, which means buffet choice.  There was only one hot dish, a bain marie with scrambled eggs.  There were a few cereal choices, some cold meat, cheese and bread rolls, yoghurt, some pastries and cakes, and a toaster with bread which only warmed the bread no matter how high you turned it up.  Tea and coffee were in hot pots and you could also order good cappuccino from the staff (do this, the hot pot coffee was pretty ordinary).  Honestly, the breakfast was okay, but not anything above average.  It would benefit vastly from some fresh fruit, and maybe making the scrambled eggs when they’re needed as opposed to leaving them congealing in the warmer for the length of the breakfast service.

Dinners were served in the restaurant or in the lovely annexe attached (for the buffet dinners, of which there were two in the week I was there).  As I was on a half board deal, I could choose from a set menu, though there was a normal menu for people not on a deal plan.  Again, the food was okay, but not amazing, and I did expect better Italian food from Castellare – they’re in the middle of Tuscany, there’s not really any excuse for “ordinary”.  I did speak with people who were not on the meal plan and they said that their food (ordered from a different menu) was absolutely lovely, so they may well be catering to a price for the half board guests. All of the staff were unfailingly lovely throughout the week.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Castellare di Tonda : Horses

I like big butts and I can not lie!  Lovely Banderas the Criollo - my first horse.

Castellare is a western riding ranch, the main focus is breeding and training Quarterhorses for the sport of reining – and Castellare excels at this!  Their horses are all top quality, well trained and healthy.  They also have horses for every ability, so you can go there to learn to ride, or, if you’re like me, you can go and ride out every day with a guide.

My only real requests regarding the horses were that any horse I was given had to be between 14-15hh and have good brakes - a bonus was if they had a big butt!  I know, “big butt” is an odd request, but I like solid horses rather than finer boned ones.  Castellare didn’t disappoint.  My first horse was Banderas, a gorgeous imported Argentinian Criollo with great brakes and a significantly large butt – yippee!

As I’m used to riding English style, it took a few rounds of the arena and then a few hours on the trail with Banderas, to get used to the big comfy Western saddles, and that you don’t keep a contact on your horses mouth.

The Castellare horses are all trained to neck rein, and they do it well.  It was also my first time riding with a shanked Western bit, and I was anxious that I wasn’t putting too much pressure on the horses mouths – it took me a little while to get used to.

The lovely Jess & Mario (and their dogs, Jack & Arn) were our guides for the week and they really looked after us - you couldn't ask for better.

Out on Banderas in the gorgeous countryside.  He took good care of me.
That's Diego standing behind us, his head obviously dropped off for this photo - giggle.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Castellare di Tonda : Horse Riding Holiday

I'm recently back from a fantastic horse riding holiday that I booked with In The Saddle to Castellare de Tonda in Tuscany, Italy.  In The Saddle are the fab people that sent me riding in Macatoo in Botswana last year, and that holiday was so amazing, that I thought I'd try them again for Tuscany - I wasn't disappointed.

The next few blog posts are going to be about my Castellare di Tonda riding holiday - just warning those non-horse people!  That said, Castellare di Tonda has many other facets to it, horse riding holidays are just one part.  You can do a wellness holiday, take a photography course, drink their wine etc., click HERE for a full list.  I had a ball.