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  • Writer's picturesi newell

Grand Tour ‘18 - France / Italy / Croatia

Day Nineteen

The final day and a ferry back to Split to spend my final few hours. Split is another really interesting city with a great waterfront. The central area is situated around a well preserved Roman Palace and I couldn't resist a sketch in the main Forum area (despite the heat!).

The tight streets reveal almost Venetian architectural historic buildings. Fortunately no large cruise ships were calling today so the city was not too overcrowded.

Then the final bus to the airport and a return to the UK. It has been an absolutely amazing journey through some of the most beautiful places I have ever seen!

Day Eighteen A chilled final full day - a walk up to the old fortress after breakfast, some morning shadow added on to yesterday’s sketch (as the light was lost yesterday evening) and the a boat taxi to a tiny neighbouring island, Jerolim. It had a fabulous little ‘hippy’ bar and beaches and rocks to chill on and enjoy the crystal clear waters in this part of the Adriatic. Then a return to Hvar and a quick sketch of the main square next to the cathedral before a beer to start my final evening. When I saw Bellagio last week, I didn’t think I’d find a place on this trip to top it, but Hvar might just have done just that! Love it!

Day Seventeen

Another early start to get to my final destination - the island of Hvar. A two hour coach trip and an hour boat trip from Split, I finally arrived at this stunning place. I really thought that after all the beautiful places I’ve been fortunate to visit over the past few weeks, maybe Hvar would be an anticlimax...but there’s no danger of that. It is truly gorgeous - I just hope it doesn’t become a victim of its own success. As I was early to check in, I chilled around the hotel pool for a few hours. The sketch of the day took place looking across the harbour helped by some Cappuccinos from an adjacent cafe followed by wander around the town.

In the evening it was great to see the Croatians celebrate their World Cup win over Denmark.

Day Sixteen

An early start to catch the ferry to Zadar - a ferry trip along the Adriatic coast stopping at several beautiful Croatian islands en route - just wished I could have stayed longer in each place! The ferry stops were short but I attempted quick thumbnail sketches in a couple. Then on to a very cool and rather nice Zadar, staying in the old city (Hotel Bastion - very good). I then explored the this quarter with its amazingly tight street network and bustling bars and cafes and the waterfront and beautiful parks set high on the city walls. I returned to the cathedral for the evening sketch - it was interesting to see how interested the locals were in someone sketching - the French and surprisingly the Italians were relatively uninterested. After dinner a wander around the lively nightlife including a great outdoor club set in part of the gardens and historic walls - can’t see that ever happening in the UK unfortunately!

Day Fifteen After breakfast, a further explore of the city centre - the old quarter is very charming and right next to some of the busiest ship building yards I’ve every seen. Historic buildings, tankers under construction, Roman temples - they’re all here! Including one of the best preserved amphitheatres. I started with a sketch of the forum main square in the old quarter, sorted out my ferry down to Zadar tomorrow and took the hotel receptionist’s recommendation of a coastal walk along beautiful scenery and beaches. A spot of sun bathing and a sketch of the peninsula opposite the beach in the afternoon was followed by a walk down to Verudela - a more modern resort area and marina. Before dinner, I had to do a quick sketch of the amphitheatre and then to bed for an early start tomorrow.

Day Fourteen Venice is a great city just to walk and get lost in it’s labyrinthine urban structure. You just continuously come across little piazzas, canals and sumptuous pieces of architecture. I stopped off on one bridge I wanted to sketch from, with a coffee and enjoyed the view of the many gondolas with tourists passing under the bridge. The areas away from St Marks are much more chilled (and reasonably priced!). Then a walk to the southern waterfront area for lunch and a few elevational scribbled details of a lovely old merchant's house. Then off to the ferry terminal to catch a boat taking me away from Italy to Pula in Croatia for more Adriatic adventures...

Day Thirteen

An early start with a fast hydrofoil to Como and then two trains to Venice via Milan to start my Adriatic section of the trip and end my stay in Italy.

After hotel check-in, I met up with some friends for lunch who were visiting Venice today.

Then a sketch looking across the Grand Canal avoiding the mass of tourists around St Marks.

An enjoyable evening walk looping around the city was so much more chilled and revealed a much more real and interesting city away from the big set pieces.

Day Twelve

Bellagio has already won my heart as one of my favourite places - it’s chilled, it’s chic, it’s laid back, it’s Italian, it’s beautiful!

The day started with a walk round the gardens of the Villa Melvi along the shoreline of the lake - the perfect start to a chilled day - a quick sketch of the pavilion followed.

Then lunch by the water and a main sketch of the beautiful waterfront area. Then a walk over the hilltop to the other side of the peninsula and eventually a swim and chill by the lake.

This is certainly my kind of place to relax and ponder - truly wonderful!

Day Eleven A new day and a new Italian lake to discover - this time Lake Como and staying in Bellagio. After two trains via Milan, I reached Como and took a 2 hour river boat cruise on the Lake to Bellagio. Very different to Maggiore, more mountainous and stunningly beautiful - all of these destinations have been almost visual overload! After check in at the cute small hotel (Hotel Centrale a few steps up the hillside from the boat), I wandered around the town. This feels like real Italy again - very chic and brimming with character - a good place to chill for a couple of days I think. A watercolour today down by the water with a cappuccino and beer - very chilled :)

Day Ten A day visiting islands within the lake - first the beautiful island of Isola Bella to see the house and the renaissance gardens - as stunning as I anticipated it would be. Then a short boat trip further to Isola Superiore (an old fishing village) but very popular as a tourist destination now. A sketch of the gardens at Bella and a quick ‘colour first’ sketch at Superiore. Then back to Stresa sitting along the waterside with a Cappuccino and a scribble of the architecture of the town.

Day Nine

An early start to spend the weekend along Lake Maggiore so 3 trains via Genoa and Milan to get to Stresa - a very chilled and beautiful place and my first experience of the Italian lakes.

A quick ride up the cable car to get some amazing views and then a coffee and sketch overlooking the stunning Isola Bella - I put together a study over thirty years ago at architecture school of this wonderful little island and I can’t wait to go visit tomorrow.

Day Eight Woke up to an overcast sky which wasn’t a problem as I wanted to do a few more hikes from Manarola to Corniglia and then on to Vernazza for some sunbathing, beers and swimming - and the sun returned in the afternoon too! First I wanted to complete the Riomaggiore sketch I started before sunset yesterday. The second sketch of the day was towards the end of the first hike approaching Corniglia. All the villages are stunning and have their own identity and it’s a fabulous place to visit (June was busy but not too bad - peak times seem to get very busy from what I’ve heard though). So worth it and I love Italy so much :)

Day Seven A day on the boat connecting the Terre villages - first to Monterosso with a surprising fab beach - a sketch and coffee before the shortest of visits to Vernazza - a quick 15 minute scribble because I wanted to visit Portovenere in the south. The weather is amazing and perfect for a boat trip (I remember the receptionist in the Rome hotel 3 years ago saying June is the best month in Italy). A sketch here of the amazing waterfront before returning to Riomaggiore - the Cinque Terre are beautiful! Love Italy so much and it’s good to be back :)

Day Six A day to explore some of the Terre - a marathon hike on the long route between Riomaggiore and Manarola and climbing so many steps (apparently 151 floors worth according to my iPhone!) Lunch in Manarola and a sketch of the dramatic hillside village in some limited shade in the intense heat.

Day Five

A busy afternoon after a morning sketching from ‘probably the best Starbucks in the world’ towards the casino. Then leaving the beautiful Côte d’Azur - 4 trains and 5 hours later arriving in the Cinque Terre in Italy - very excited about this but it will have to wait until tomorrow (other than the gratuitous topless photo) - as they say, things can only get better lol.

Day Four

My journey continues to Monte Carlo with a stop at the beautiful village of Eze en route. An expensive coffee at the Château de la Chèvre D’or but worth every Euro for the view and opportunity to attempt some watercolour. Another quick scribble of one of the beautiful streets - full of tourists but well worth a visit.

Then the bus trip continued along the coast of the stunning Côte d’Azur to Monte Carlo - a massive contrast to Eze but I must admit better than I expected - the ‘rock’ with the main palace is lovely and I couldn’t resist sketching part of the mass of buildings that line the harbour like a massive auditorium - shame the contemporary architecture is so bland.

Day Three

After a sketch over breakfast, I walked to the north of the city to Musée Matisse but it was unfortunately closed preparing for a new exhibition. Fortunately Musée Marc Chagall was close by and a chance to see some of his colourful work. The highlight for me was amazing stain glass windows in the theatre. Then a return to the the Promenade des Anglais for the beach and a sketch while relaxing in the sun. A walk in the evening to the port marina area and to rocky beaches to the east.

Day Two

Beautiful weather to wake up to and explore a new city - couldn’t resist the Promenade des Anglais first and a sketch of the Opera de Nice. After a climb up the Colline du Château to get a great view of the city, I wandered around the old town and found a beautiful square for a beer and a scribble...