The blog is evolving!

Stay tuned for new features including journey maps, some missing posts, linked photo albums, minor tweaks and ultimately... the earlier trips...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The big questions...

So... how was it?

Commentary to come...

Where'd you get to?

View 2005 - Europe Trip in a larger map

Any good pics?

England - 2005
Scotland - 2005
Italy - 2005

And some time-lapse?

Nah, I wish I had but I don't think the girls would have appreciated it. But, I have found some nice places to do it so maybe in the future?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Day 39 - IT

The flight left on time from Rome and was heading to Dubai. I had an eight hour stop over there which was dead boring. I walked the full length of the airport (30 mins in one direction) and even resorted to slowly walking forwards on the travelators that were moving in the opposite direction. I'm sure I would have had a few passengers and security guards wondering what I was doing. I managed to get a few hours sleep in one of the 'quite' lounges.

Next stop was Singapore again where we had a two hour stopover. I took this as an opportunity to ring mum for her birthday, the same day as my housemate, Kelly. I jumped online for a while and then boarded for home.

I arrived and tried out our Airtrain for the first time. It worked out okay and before long, I was back home.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Day 38 - IT

It was an early rise today as we were heading out to check out some catacombs which were outside the city. Figuring out the right bus was a bit of a challenge but we made it. It was a pretty impressive effort to dig a network of chambers and passages underground like this and the history behind them.

Fi had been saying that there was a place to check out where preserved monks were on display as part of the walls and furniture however when we arrived, it was closed on Tuesdays.

I was leaving today so had to return to pick up my gear and head to the airport. I said my goodbye's at the station and while the girls were continuing their adventure, I was heading home.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Day 37 - IT

Off to Vatican City today and managed to score a tour somehow. Felt odd as they were asking randoms in the crowd who were queuing up. We paid and were ushered through past one of the biggest queue's I have ever seen and up there with queue's like what Bon Jovi get at their concerts, a queue that the Poms would be proud of. It was a guided tour and was pretty good.

Fi walked up the stairs in one of the big domes and Mim walked around the Vatican. We met for lunch and then checked out the Sistine Chapel. Pretty funny listening to the monks going SHHHH!!! at the tops of their voices. Pretty poor form that plenty of people were taking photos and with a flash.

We finished with the Vatican City and left. Later in the evening Mim and I went for a bit of a walk and checked out the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Day 36 - IT

Rome. Apparently all roads lead to it so I wasn't too concerned about finding it. We just headed north and we found it. What was of concern was handing the car over. This was part two of my car story. I had failed to read in the leasing agreement that we had to notify the mob two days in advance that we were returning the car as someone had to meet us in Rome to pick it up. We only realised this the Saturday night and rang the number to find we could only leave a message. Fi and Sarah were rightly fired up whereas Mim was quite blasé (this is what Mim is like about a great many things!).

Fortunately (for me), when we arrived at the airport, someone was there to meet us. I was really impressed at being able to return the car without a ding or scratch because looking around at every other car in Europe, you had to assume that dings and accidents were either a national past time or were optional when buying a car new. The only broken thing was the dial on the radio which was a regular fault.

The train took us to the termini and we managed to secure a place to stay. I had to hang out with our bags to keep an eye on them and several people came up offering places to stay. We ended up near Bologne station which wasn't too many stops from the Coliseum which we walked around after checking in. Didn't do the actual tour and kept on walking past a large forum and a palace to the Pantheon. Took some snaps around the place that turned out quite well and had Macca's for dinner. Regardless of where you go in the world, Macca's is Macca's... crap.

Headed home for some deserved rest.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Day 35 - IT

Big day today. Did a little washing and then caught a late train to Pompeii where we walked around for hours.

The old town of Pompeii is a pretty impressive town to walk though. We grabbed the ever present walking tour devices and made our way around it. It is remarkable how much exists and the condition it's in considering what it experienced. There's several moulds of bodies around the place that capture people in their final agonising moments. It's also great to get a good look at what a Roman town was like etc.

We almost missed the train when we were leaving but made it back in good time.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Day 34 - IT

Yesterday we made it to Amalfi and Positano via bus but today we did it on the ferry and there was a new destination at the end: the Isle of Capri. On the ferry we met some Brits and some Yanks. Sadly enough, their conversations always seemed to turn to politics. Guess that's what happens when you have a prawn running the US of A.

Capri is a pretty place. Quite popular with the tourists and there was a cruise ship in dock. After exiting the ferry we shot up the hill to one of the main centres. We had a bit of a look around and I had the best gnocchi ever and the waiter (Bruno) told Fi a lemoncello recipe.

After we all bought lemoncello stuff and hopped on the chair lift to the top to find an amazing view. You couldn't look anywhere and not be taken in by what you could see. Also consumed more gelato as part of my quest.

Nothing out of the ordinary with the ferry ride back apart from finding the Brits and Yanks again.

Back to what became our local for dinner and I love their bruschette.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Day 33 - IT

At the hostel there was a group that Fi and Min were going to going to go kayaking but it was too rough so instead we bussed it to Amalfi. We had a look around and then headed onto Positano. We had plans to go onto Sorrento but the bus was too full and it was getting on for time so it was back to Salerno for us.

Once again we were able to watch the awesome character of the roads and traffic over here. Seems that buses have right of way on blind corners where they honk before turning into the corner on the opposite side of the road. These roads mind you are probably 6m wide. The shoulder is either a vertical face on one side and some poxy barrier and a steep fall on the other. At one point our bus came head to head with another but fortunately it was on a straight stretch. They squared up, folded the mirrors in and tilted the buses over and squeezed through.

For dinner we went back to where we went last night. I tried a different pasta. It was a bit of a challenge because there were no English menu's so we could only part guess what we were ordering. Bit light Russian Roulette.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Day 32 - IT

It turned out that as we were travelling in what was essentially the shoulder season, we were the only ones staying at the hostel. To make things more interesting, it was actually a converted prison and we had slept in cells. It was nice and tidy and great to not be surrounded by noisy kids etc.

We left and jumped back onto the autostrada and headed for Salerno which is just south of Naples. This was one of the longer drives and the autostrada passes around Rome and the traffic reflected this.

When we first entered Salerno we weren't too sure where our hostel was. The girls were after a pitstop and so was I. The girls went first and then I went. They didn't have any problems locating a toilet but I did. I ended up trying to ask some dude who worked in the petol station where the toilet was. In my worst Italian I worked out he couldn't speak english so I had to mime using a urinal (which I don't think I saw in Italy at all) and he worked out what I was after.

It turned out that we were at the wrong end of Salerno so we headed the other direction. Like in Amelia, we decided that getting out on foot was the way to go so I parked behind some parked cars and Fi and Mim headed off in search of the hostel. Here I learnt two things, the Italians park anywhere and using your hazards means you can pop into a café for a half our lunch all the while double parking someone. I also realised that as the parked cars in front of me slowly vanished, I had actually parked in a running lane.

The girls returned and we parked at the hostel. After checking in and jumping on the net, we went for a walk along the shoreline. Later on we tried to head out for dinner but seemed that we were too early. Most of the places didn't seem to open until after 9. We found a place to eat and then called it a night.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day 31 - IT

Breaky was alright here but we packed the car and left. The plan was to walk around Assisi and then head for Amelia after lunch. Parking wasn't too hard and we then walked up to Old Assisi. The place is full of old city charm and gelato so I was loving it. The Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi can be found here and is an awesome example of basilica, architecture and art.

After lunch and some more gelato (I had decided that my challenge was to have gelato everyday), we made for the car and headed off. Long drive and we drove through Perugia which looked like a nice city to check out but we weren't far from Amelia so we kept on.

Amelia is a walled city and the place we were staying in was in the middle of it. Before leaving I felt that selecting a Citroen C5 Wagon was a smart car for four people plus backpacks. When we entered the city, our cruiser on the autostrada suddenly became a tanker in the tight streets which were one way. Where we had to drive was soo tight we had to slowly work our way around while looking for where we were staying. At some point I even had to make a three point turn to get around a corner. We ended up parking and getting out on foot. Once we'd located it, we moved the car and checked in.

For dinner we went out to have a look around and finally found a place where we ate. Sarah pointed out that some guy kept checking me out which was funny (unless it was the same guys from Luzern!) but I'm starting to develop a bit of a complex!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Day 30 - IT

We woke, and were happy to leave the hostel and made our way back to Francesco's place where we met his family.

Today we were back on the road and were heading for Assisi which was a town that Sarah wanted to check out. We wrrived and found where the hostel was. It was small but adequete. There was a Swiss religious class trip staying there but they weren't as noisy as the last school group we saw.

Before sleeping we sat up chatting about various things. Sarah and I reckon that Mim should try hooking up with Mikey if and when she returned.

Sunday, October 9, 2005

Day 29 - IT

Seeing as though we were over the crap breaky here, we ate out instead. Once Gwennie met up with us, we roamed across Venice, chatted to Francesco about religion, politics and how stuff worked (or didn't) work here and danced the chicken dance in the Piazza San Marco. We ate out for lunch and dinner and Gwennie headed home.

Saturday, October 8, 2005

Day 28 - IT

Another crap breaky today. Guys and girls are split in this hostel but turns out it didn't stop one couple who kept Sarah up till all hours. Doing drugs too so she didn't get much sleep. There's a school group here so the place is pretty noisy in general so it was good to leave.

Francesco met up with us as he has offered to guide us around while we're here. He decided we could head to the island of Murano where we checked out some glass blowing and the shops. Heard from Gwennie that she was here so we went to meet here. We managed to find her which was lucky because her phone ran out of juice.

While Gwennie went and sorted out accommodation, we decided to get off the tourist trail so had a look around Burano. A few hours later we met with Gwennie for dinner on Torcello and she shouted dessert.

Friday, October 7, 2005

Day 27 - IT

A whole lot of leaving today... hmm... that could be a song title I reckon*. Vicky was leaving us and the rest of us were leaving for Venice. We parted company and made a B line for our destination and managed to arrive earlier than we thought. Francesco met us and we followed him to his family's house where we parked the car outside.

To get to Venice you travel over a bridge via car, train or in our case, by bus. To get to our hostel we jumped on a bus boat. Once checked in, even though it was raining, we walked around Venice.

Nothing special for dinner, take away pizza.

* useless trivia from the future: a song released by Bon Jovi in 2007

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Day 26 - IT

Pretty crap breaky today at the hostel. Oddly run place too, felt like a school camp.

We exited and made our way for the bus to get into the city centre. Vicky and I managed to miss the stop but we found the others and then headed to a church monument where Mim and Vick decided to check it out so Sarah, Fi and I headed to the markets. I managed to buy a belt, some wallets and a bag. We also managed to convince Mim to buy some new shoes as her old ones had left their last legs behind months ago and smelled to high heaven!

After lunch we walked a tour around the place and went up to a plaza looking over Florence for sunset. Our stomachs were complaining so we had dinner up there. Instead of walking back to the hostel we tried a cab. The ride was a bit rough and we squeezed in ut we made it in one piece. We walked a little more, found some more gelato and played some 500 before hitting the hay.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Day 25 - IT

Sadly we left the Cinque Terre today but we were moving onto Florence. It was another longish trip and took a little bit to get to the highway but once we did, we made good time.

We stopped along the way to visit Pisa which turned into quite a long stop. We had heard that it was a bit of a tourist trap and were concerned about thieves so we visited it in two shifts.

It was late afternoon when we arrived in Florence so we were confronted with crazy peak hour traffic and crazy Italian driving. It was an experience. I even entered a roundabout that I think was three lanes and as I missed the exit we wanted, I just looped again to find the point of departure. The standout moment was coming to a one way stretch of road that went under a railway which I think was painted as six lanes, I'm sure I counted more than seven cars across and at one point, I found a pair of headlights pointing at me!

The hostel wasn't too hard to locate and we checked in and saw some dodgy concert. Vickey managed to bump into someone she knew and we played cards that night.

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Day 24 - IT

We woke to rain today but instead of sitting around, Mim, Vicky and I walked to Corneglia. It was another good walk that we enjoyed and when we arrived, Fi and Sarah had trained it there so we met them and found some lunch.

The track to Monerollo was closed due to a landslip so we boarded the train to get there instead. Another nice town which we then walked to Riomagiore from. Once we'd nosed around it and grabbed a few pics, we trained it back to Vernazza to watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Ocean.

I headed up along the track to Monterosso al Mare to get a good vantage point of Vernazza to try get a few photos. I chatted to a photographers cousin as he was taking some pics too.

We had some pre-dinner drinks and then dinner which was three courses of anti-pasto, spaghetti and octopus. Once dinner was finished, we headed back to our bar for the evening. It was a lot of fun where Mim is always a lady regardless what she's doing and the bar staff thought I was gay!

Monday, October 3, 2005

Day 23 - IT

We woke to find that the village we were in was was a charming fishing village full of vibrant colours and even had their own fortifications. We had breakfast where we had dinner last night and the girls decided that it has became our local.

It was raining a bit so we did some washing and later on a freak storm blew though with a lot of water and wind. It cleared out pretty quick though so we took our chances with the weather and headed for Monterosso al Mare.

One of the charms of this region is that the five villages are linked by a walking trail so our aim was to walk between all of them. The trail varies in difficulty. This leg was probably the most demanding as it wound it's way around the land and through olive orchids and vineyards.

After returning from Monterosso we made our own antipasto (with pasta haha) for dinner and later we went in search of gelati. I ducked away for some photography and got talking to a coupla yanks. When I returned to the room that we were staying in for the next two nights, we were heading out for a drink. It was a fun night.

Sunday, October 2, 2005

Day 22 - IT

Today was our last day in Switzerland as we left for Italy but there was something big seperating the two countries: The Alps. At first we tried driving over them but as we drove higher and higher, it had started snowing and the road was getting whiter and whiter. The mountain roads had short bits of tunnel and it was nice emerging from these holes into a light snowfall was amazing (wish I had a photo). But we got to a point where we figured it would be smart to turn around so we did.

The signage in this areas wasn't the greatest so we ended up finding some tourist place somewhere and headed for a tunnel. I think we went through the Gotthard Tunnel which is one of the longest tunnels in the world. At the other end was Italy where we had lunch and then found ourselves on the Autostrade to get to the Cinque Terre near La Spezia. The road leading into the Cinque Terre was quite windy and the girls were looking a little green around the gills.

It was evening by the time we made it to Vernazza (one of the five main towns). You have to park outside the town and walk down. It wasn't too long a walk so we soon found out next challenge: to find a room. There was a couple of hotels but many locals rent out camarra's (rooms) so we door knocked a little and found two places for one night and we'd worry about the next two nights tomorrow.

For dinner we had pizza at a place called, The Blue Marlin, where the girls were quite taken by the two guys that worked there. One's appearance was quite elvish and wouldn't look out of place in Lord of the Rings.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Day 21 - CH

Mim tried her hand at driving today. Bit of a bumpy start but she got the hang of it (sounds weird talking about driving because we have been doing it for years but you have to remember we're on the wrong side of the road now). It was a short trip from Luzern to Interlarken so we continued to the Lauterbrunnen where we headed up to the Jungfrau*. It turned out to be the most expensive thing I think I have ever done. It was pretty, pretty cloudy, pretty high and pretty cold. Worth it though.

Dead set, you could drop your camera
and still get a good photo in this country

Yup, we made it to the top and ended up on their webcam

Sarah and Fi were shivering from the cold and the height

Once we arrived in Interlarken we checked in where we discovered Mim had left her passport behind where we had lunch. The passport was still there (typical of the neutral do-gooder moto that all Swiss seem to uphold) and when we returned and picked up Vickey from the train station. We went out for dinner where I had a deer steak and we shared a chocolate fondue for dessert. Even if my wallet couldn't get used to the place, my tastebuds could!

* useless trivia from the future: Gran Turismo 5 Prologue contains a track called Eiger Norwand. It is set on the north face and is visually a carbon copy. Ironically, motor racing is illegal in Switzerland.