There is nothing quite like showing visitors around your own home town or country. Of course you know all the good sites, your favourite restaurants and can probably provide an excellent guide to your favourite shops!!!
Nothing changes really when you visit families all over the world and the best is you get an insiders view, get to learn what the locals do and be part of the their customs and traditions.
Immediately after the tour I was invited to go back to the Veneto with the tour bus. (a very long day) Alberto and I departed Beaune at 8am, dropping tour group people off at Geneva Airport to travel back to New Zealand and after a 20 minute drive through the Mt Blanc tunnel continued the long drive across Italy to the little Village of Onigo in the Veneto – arriving just on 9.30 in the evening.
I was staying with the owner of my bus company Daniele and Marika and their family of four children.They were all waiting to have dinner with me and the fresh orata fish from the lagoon was cooked in piles of salt on the barbecue and although ‘quite ‘ tired we talked – me with my bad Italian and them with some better English until late into the night. Deborah the eldest is coming to New Zealand to stay with us and experience our lifestyle for a year.
The weather has suddenly changed all over Europe and most places were experiencing cooler temperatures with rain, lightning and thunder. Daniele and Deborah were very keen to show me the Dolomites and drive through to Cortina. It was a spectacular day. The mountains had a light dusting of snow the previous day and our exhilarating ride up on a Cable Car to the bottom of the ski chair had a sensational view. We actually continued on up in a four wheel drive and felt very small surrounded by the majestic Dolomites. It was easy to pick out the numerous ski fields and look down on the ski jump from the 1956 Olympics.
I would love to come up here in the winter to see Cortina and the surrounding villages covered in deep snow, filled with skiers and tourists.Returning, Daniele took a deviation through the very very ancient village of Maserie – renound for murals painted on the buildings. It was a very tight squeeze for Daniel’s Mercedes and I can’t help thinking who is going to be living in these character filled villages in the future.
The family always sat together around the dining table for meals. The children came home from school which started at 8 am and finished at 1 for 6 days a week. Lunch would start around 1. 30 pm followed by a siesta. Work however, continued for Daniele and Martina in the office of the bus company until dinner at 8-9.
It was similar on my last night in Italy where I stayed with my Venetian guide Cristina . I met her mother and aunt having coffee around 4.30, then an aperitif with her sister in the piazza of their own gorgeous medieval village, followed by dinner at a fish restaurant with her friend at 9pm.
Life style is so different from what we are used to in New Zealand and I have come to enjoy their relaxed dining times.
France on the other hand is not so different. I flew from Venice to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport, taxied into Paris and finally trained to the Normandy city of Lisieux.
I spent 3 days in the countryside with my darling friends Jacque and Anny, who spoilt me with Beef Bourguignon, duck and Jacques delicious home made foie gras which I can’t get enough of, served with classic french crusty bread. I was left well rested with plenty of time for walking and sleeping.
A great day was spent on research for my Normandy/Scotland tour, where I found the best restaurant in the countryside serving stunning traditional French food. Plus a chance to cruise a few eclectic Brocante fairs!!!
Life style in France is quite customary and I always wondered why so many cars are on the roads around 12.00. But, it’s everyone heading home for lunch and a short siesta. Shops are closed for 2 hours and work stops. Dinner for Jacque and Anny was in the middle of the day and in the evening after the ritual whisky and nibbles we usually ate cheese, more foie gras, bread or a salad – always around 8.30 and completing the meal with fresh slices of honey dew melon.
It was a delight to buy vegetables at the local market garden, see the charcuterie shops and understand the how the French are very particular about their food and eating customs.
Paris life is quite different however, although the copious quantity of restaurants and cafes are full of city workers taking time out for a substantial lunch with a glass of wine.
Autumn is on its way and so are the mushrooms – these are bought in from the south of France and find themselves on the local menus that change daily with the season and serve produce ripe, ready and available.
Food customs are vital in Italy and France along with many countries. The joy of being a tourist is experiencing where, how and why the region you are visiting lives and works and nothing helps more than having the opportunity to stay with locals, eat, sleep and follow their daily routines. All the while enjoying their history, art and culture.
I feel very fortunate to have spent time with my very dear friends. I know when they come to New Zealand we will get to host them. But, probably won’t get a siesta in the afternoon that I learned to love.