A Travellerspoint blog

Final Thoughts

Or lack there of...

sunny 35 °C
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So now that our trip is over, everyone is going to be asking us, what was your favourite place? What did you learn? Yadee yadee yadaa. So, here ya go! Be the first to know.

Top 5 Favourite Places:

1) San Sebastien
2) Milos
3) Granada
4) Florence
5) Innsbruck

Lessons Learned: The Sixteen Commandments

1) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's gelato.
2) Thou shalt always order lemon gelato in Italy.
3) Thou shalt not buy cheap wine in Greece - it is not the same as France!
4) Thou shalt not take the words of train attendants at face value. They are not to be trusted.
5) Thou shalt book everything ahead of time when travelling after June 15th.
6) Remember the earplugs and keep them handy.
7) Thou shalt not make thy cell phone an idol (like Europeans tend to do!)
8) Thou shalt make thy Leatherman an idol.
9) Thou shalt follow the word of the locals.
10) Thou shalt not steal, but haggle thy must.
11) Thou shalt not drink coffee in the UK. They should stick to their tea specialty!
12) Thou shalt not travel on Rick Steves' recommendations.
13) Thou shalt not travel in peak summer times.
14) Thou shalt not take overnight trains in Spain.
15) Remember thy rain gear and keep in handy in the UK.
16) Thou shalt not travel on Sundays!

And remember....everything is free, plus a surcharge, even railpasses!

We'd like to extend our warmest thanks to the following people for helping to make this trip possible for us: Roger/Dad, Sandy and Warren/Mum and Dad, Sherri and Anders, Christopher and Laura, Sally, Aunty Jilly, Uncle Tony, Markus and Nina, Maryse and da Fam, Spiros and all those who have supported us along the way! Our deepest appreciation goes out to you all. Also, thank you readers for following us on our grand adventure! PEACE!

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Posted by TnC 03:06 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

London...

Typical London summer?

rain 12 °C
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Yes, we are back in London. It was quite the shock to go from 40C to 14C and flooding, but hey. Our tans have now faded a little :( We came back to visit our fabulous hosts Christopher and Laura, and had, as always, the most excellent of cuisine. Shortbread, chocolate cake, tea, Claire's favorite sausages, crumble....ah it is rough.

Although we had been here before at the beginning of our trip, we hadn't had a chance to see much due to Taylor's unfortunate jet lag episode. So this time, we took a bus to St. Paul's cathedral one day and walked over the millennium bridge, then walked down to the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge, and past the London Tower. We also mosied down Regent St and Oxford St - window shopping only, promise!

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Our last day we spent with Claire's uncle, Tony, who is her dad's older brother. He lives here in London, but was absent last time we were here. We met him for coffee, then took the train out to Hampton Court Palace (where King Henry VIII presided). We did an audio tour of the place and had some lunch. We were amused by how much Uncle Tony and Roger think they are not alike, but little do they know....some habits are too ingrained! It was great to see him though, and we had a lovely visit. For dinner, the three of us met up with Christopher and Laura for dinner at Thai Silk. They know Tony from, well it is complicated, but they have met before.

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They were experiencing floods in England while we were there, and the Thames was flooding a bit too!

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Anyways, that was our last day in Europe, we packed up the next day, complete with an extra bag full of amenities for Claire's dad, such as tea and Marmite! You have a keep an Englishman well stocked!

Our flight home was smooth going, much much better than our last Air Canada experience! We had a newer plane and much better service. More leg room, better movies and better (though by no stretch of the imagination good) food. We watched Shooter, Frequency and Music and Lyrics, which made the time go by quite fast. It also meant that we didn't get much sleeping done! By about midnight, London time, we both felt a little weird that it hadn't gotten dark yet....we basically saw 24 hours of daylight....definitely does a number on the body. When we arrived in Vancouver we were pretty beat, so we napped in the sun while we waited a few hours for our next flight to Kelowna. We made it safe and sound at 11pm local time, which to us was about 7am. We slept very well.

Although we enjoyed our travels very much, it was nice to be back in familiar territory. Back to business of job and house hunting now!

Posted by TnC 02:52 Archived in England Comments (0)

Greece

Athens, Milos, Santorini

sunny 42 °C
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Walking off the boat in Patras that morning was like walking into a heat wave - it was about 38 degrees and very humid so that even just walking 100 yards to the train station left us dripping with sweat - lovely! Luckily the train for Athens left about 5 mins after we got there, but to make matters worse it was not air conditioned, making our two hours on it rather unpleasant. But, we must admit, the sunshine was lovely and the views of the Mediterranean along the coast were just stunning. We had to change trains somewhere and we had no idea if we were even heading in the right direction - a young lady was trying to help direct us, but we were unsure if even she knew where she was going. By some miracle we did manage to arrive at Athens station, where we were met by Spiros, a great friend of Claire's dad's whom Claire has known for 16 years. He used to live in the same apartment building as Claire and her dad when they lived in England many years ago. Anyways, this was Claire's third visit at Spiros' place in Athens, and his hospitality was as fabulous as ever. Man, Roger/Dad has great friends!

That evening we settled into Spiros' apartment and chatted until nearly three in the morning. It had cooled down to about 35 degrees by then....You see in Greece it is normal to have dinner about midnight and head to bed around 3 or 4 because it is (slightly) cooler in the evenings.

You can see the Acropolis from Spiros' apartment, but we decided to head over to see it in person, so the next day we took the metro to Monosteraki and climbed up to the Acropolis and took some photos. Unfortunately it is undergoing extensive rebuilding renovations, so most of it was covered by scaffolding, but it was still a marvel to look at. You can't help but wonder how the hell they got all those huge rocks up there so many years ago. It was baking hot, so we didn't linger, but headed over to Spiros' warehouse (he is a supplier of tourist goods in various Greek locations).

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That night we met up with Spiros' gf Dimitra and headed out for dinner with some other of their friends at 10 o'clock. We ate dinner at about 1am, then made it to bed about three. It was a fabulous place though, right on the beach and loads of plates of food were ordered and we just helped ourselves sort of buffet style to the various Greek dishes. Most of them were very good! It was so nice to have some locals to order the good stuff :)

The next day we just sort of hung out, bought our boat tickets for the islands, packed up some things to take with us - man it was nice to have such light backpacks, as we were able to leave quite a lot of stuff behind at Spiros' for the week. He was kind enough to lend us all sorts of beachy things like flippers, goggles, a beach umbrella, a snorkel, etc. We were ready for the beach. Again we were up late chatting and packing, managed four hours of sleep, then headed out for the 730am boat to Milos. It was Friday the 13th....

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We arrived about 8 hours later, after an extremely windy voyage and found a shuttle bus to the camping ground. We set up camp and bussed into town to find food and some wheels! The food mission was minorly successful because Milos is a small island with no major supermarkets, and any market that is open seemed to run opposite of our schedule. We did manage to find a sweet set of wheels though, a dune-buggy! We then filled the tank for €7 (which lasted over 2 full days) and buggied up to a small village at the north of the island down steep back roads only wide enough for one vehicle. Buggy number one turned out to be quite the lemon. It had a major exhaust leak and the drive chain to one of the wheels was loose so it didn't like to turn one direction. We returned it later that evening for a new buggy. Other than that, Friday 13 went rather smoothly.

The next morning we explored our campsite which had a gorgeous pool and restaurant that overlooked the bay.

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We also found that there was a family of kittens living there who definitely knew how to milk the campers!

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We decided to explore the North side of the island first because the wind in the summer blows N-S, so we wanted to get the windy part over with first. Our first destination was Sarakiniko, which was a beach of completely white soft rock. There was a small inlet which sheltered us from the waves, but because the rock was so soft the water here was a lovely color but was rather murky.

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View of the harbor town on the way to Sarakiniko

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Once Claire had her fix of sunbathing we headed up to Pollonia, which is the northern tip of the island for some lunch.

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Our final destination of the day was a beach called Plathiena. When we arrived we found a virtually deserted beach with umbrellas and loungers with no one to collect any money. Perfect!

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And home in time for the sunset

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Day two was exploration of the southern beaches of the island. We started out with a large beach full of Greeks playing a game which seemed to be the next best thing, where the essentially playing catch with oversized pingpong rackets and a tennis ball. This beach turned out to be rather miserable as it was not sheltered so the wind whipped sand around everywhere and there were quite a few people.

It wasn't long before we headed to the next set of beaches, Firaplaka and Tsigrado. Firaplaka was beautiful but very busy so we took some photos from a distance and went to check out Tsigrado.

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You drive down this small dirt road to skinny point of dirt surrounded by sharp cliffs. We weren't sure if we were in the right location but there were a few cars parked here so we couldn't go any further, so we decided to get out and take a look. Turns out, this beach is down 40ft in the small cove. The only way down was a rope down a very skinny crevice. This turned out be very important because there were very few people there and were all of similar age. The cliffs protected us from wind and the water was crystal clear. We stayed here for many hours on the beach and in the water!

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To top off a wonderful day, the exhaust pipe on our dune-buggy blow out of the engine so we had a noisy ride back to the campsite. There we picked up some earplugs and headed into town to get it fixed.

Day 3 of beaches involved a trip to Kleftiko which we were told was only accessible by boat. Not knowing that this wasn't a beach at all, but a beautiful cove, we were the only ones on board with a pack full of beach stuff. We arrived at Kleftiko and were told in Greek to disembark. A little confused we watched the rest of the boat jump off the boat and swim/snorkel around. We soon did the same.

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Arriving back at the small port we found that our battery was dead. A few attempts at roll starting, and some charades, we eventually got someone to come and replace the battery. Seeing that 90% of the cars on the island are rentals, no one caries jumper cables.

After that was settled we headed back to Tsigrado to relax a little before our boat to Santorini at 12:30am.
We had to get the buggy back by 7pm so after the battery fiasco, we only had a few hours left on the beach. Once we gave the buggy back we chilled on a bench in the harbor until our boat arrived.

We arrived in Santorini at 4am with no accommodation booked. Surprisingly the tourist information centre was open as most Greek islands survive off of tourism. However, the man behind the desk was little help so we decided to sleep in the waiting room until a few more place opened up. We were then going to contact a friend of Spiros on the island for his recommendation on where to stay. A few hours of extremely uncomfortable sleep left us groggy. it was a little after 6am and there was one restaurant open where we sat and had a coffee. They didn't seem to mind us hanging about waiting there as there market seemed to be to gauge sleepy tourist early in the morning when nothing else was open. After our coffee, Claire's pencil was full of lead and she took off and found us an accommodation at another travel agent. A few minutes later a shuttle van arrived and we made our way up the caldera via a 900 vertical ft set of switch-backs.

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At 7:30 in the morning the island looked beautiful and peaceful, but by the time we settled into our room and decided to take the bus into the main town of Fira, there were cars/scooters/ATV's everywhere! It was a bit of a shock coming from Milos, where everything was much slower and you could drive from one end to the other and only see about 15 cars. Here was a constant stream of vehicles, where 90% of them were tourist! We got to town thinking we were going to look for another buggy, but to our surprise there were very few. The vehicle of choice seemed to be underpowered ATV's. A bit discouraged we walked down the main street to find a million vehicle rental shops and a million pushy salesmen offering us special prices. Almost ready to give up we decided to walk a little further were we found a newer buggy for a better price than Milos... Cash only of course. A little intimidated at first, Taylor managed to get into the swing of things very quickly.

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By the time we got home and got organized it was too late to make it to the other end of the island where the famous Santorini sunsets are viewed. On our way home we did see a sign of 'unique sunset' not far from our hotel, so we headed there and were pleasantly surprised. Reclined chairs, nice music, and a cold beverage on the edge of the caldera made for a good evening.

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The next day was supposed to be beach day. We went to the black beach for a while but found that it was just too hot. The sand radiated heat from below while the sun baked us from the top. It was an interesting feeling to walk a few feet into the water and be on a giant smooth rock though. This beach was also very long so it was too windy to put up our umbrella.

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Next stop red beach! This beach was more sheltered and more beautiful, but also more populated, seeing that it was the only beach on the island sheltered from the wind. We stayed there for a while where Claire red on the rocks and Taylor snorkeled.

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We headed back to the hotel early in order to make it to Oia (ee-ah) for the sunset. After about an hour of driving, we got to Oia with little time to spare. Oia is the most picturesque village, but also very expensive! Anyways, this place was PACKED with people for the sunset. Not a nook or cranny was available for late arrivers. We watched the sunset from overtop of crowed and decided to return to the first sunset spot the next day.

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Day 3 consisted of heading back to Fira to browsing all the little shops and meeting up with Spiros's friend Alxendros. While we were there, we were fortunate enough to see 3 cruise ships pull up and off load a few 1000 people! The harbor at Fira is almost exclusively used for cruise ships so they could either take a gondola up the caldera, walk 600+ steps or take a donkey!

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That evening we relaxed around our pool and went to our favorite sunset spot again, trying to mentally prepare ourselves for our journey the next afternoon.

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We left the harbor at 4pm on the boat where it was 46 degrees! The view from the boat up at Santorini was supposed to be spectacular but we didn't see it on our way in because it was still dark out!

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The above two pictures are of Fira, where you can see the walking trail up the Caldera the donkeys take!

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Oia

So long islands, time to make our way back to reality.

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Eight hours later (12:30am) we arrived in Athens just in time for dinner! Greek style! Spiros arranged another fabulous Greek meal, and at the wee hours of the morning we headed to bed in order to get up early to pack for our flight back to the soggy UK.

So long Athens... so long nice weather...
Operation Greece, very successful.

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It should be noted that it was +40C when we left 14C and raining when we arrived in London.

Posted by TnC 09:29 Archived in Greece Comments (0)

Switzerland

Geneva

overcast 15 °C
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After a lovely stay in Innsbruck, we headed by train to Geneva. The trains ran on impeccable timing and were never more than a minute behind schedule, from which they soon caught up. Very impressive, very Swiss! We were met at the Geneva train station by Maryse, a friend of ours who we knew from the EcoVillage where Claire's dad lives. She is an awesome host and makes you feel bubbly just to be around her! Her cheerfulness is contageous! We stayed with her at her parent's house in Geneva for four nights and had an awesome time. We met her mum, Rachel, who is as bubbly and cheerful as Maryse and such a joy to be around and her brother, Christophe, who was the epitome of friendly bilingual Canadian. Thanks guys we had an awesome time with you!

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We spent our first night going to a free concert in the park, which was a sort of reggae/african style. It was super fun, even if we were huddled underneath umbrellas the whole time. Their music was so cheerful, which we found uplifting especially because the guys were refuges from Africa. It was amazing that despite enduring such hurendous circumstances, they can still create amazing music.

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The next day, Maryse accompanied us to CERN (some fancy pants nuclear research centre where they smash particles together for fun - also the birthplace of the internet). We thought it would be more specatacular, but since the tours were booked until January, we had nothing to do but explore the museum, which left all of us feeling quite sleepy. Next was much needed coffee in the old town of Geneva and a picnic on the church steps. Yes, real French cheese again and excellent chocolate :) Geneva is so close to France that it has a ton of French influence. Next we walked through the parks to the UN headquarters, which was closed for meetings all week, unfortunately. We still got some photos with the flags though :) We had a fabulous home cooked meal for dinner, so much appreciated after eating out for so long, and hung out that evening.

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The following day, we got up early and Maryse drove us to Chamonix in her mum's fany Alfa Romeo. Chamonix is across the border in France and is a famous ski town in the Alps. It took about an hour and a half to get there and we had to go through like three toll boths on the road and pay to pass!!! French I tell ya! Upon arriving, we had some gorgeous French cafe au laits and croissants. Sigh. Then we hiked up into the mountains for a few hours, no we didn't make it to the top of the Alps, but we still had some lovely views and a picnic up in the mountains.

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That evening we had our first cheese fondue experience. WOW. Christophe is a fondue master, and the Swiss are also known for their fondue, so as you can imagine it was absolutely amazing. For two people that love cheese as much as we do, well, we were in heaven. Thanks Chris! Afterwards some of Chris' friends came over and all of them could speak English so well. We were very impressed. We hung out with them all night and went down to the lake for some drinks. We had an awesome time. It was nice to hang out with people from another culture, similar, but yet different too....we headed home at about 2, Chris came home at 7am. I guess we are party poopers by those standards!!

The next day, Maryse, Rachel and Christophe had a wedding to go to, so we got ourselves organized and figured out how we would get our booties to Greece by land and boat because flights were too expensive. We had planned to go to Belgium and the Netherlands before Greece, but we just didn't have the time and wanted to maximize our time in the sunshine. A great finale to our trip!

The next morning we caught a train at 550 to Milan (after only 3 hours of sleep!), then we caught another train to Ancona, which is one of the places where boats go to Patras in Greece. According to our Eurail timetable there was supposed to be a boat that night at 7pm, so we headed right for the dock at 5 when we got off the train, only to find that there was in fact no more boats that night. The one at 7 only goes on Tues, Thurs, Sat. It was Sunday. We should have learned our lesson about travelling on Sundays, we know. Oh well. We will have some nice words to write to Eurail about that one. We found a cheap hotel, like the worst place we have stayed yet, for the night and had some gelato to soothe our wounds. It all worked out fine and we caught the 130pm boat the next day to Patras. Greece here we come!

The weather in Austria and Switzerland had not been very summerlike, so we were happy to be back in the sunshine again, even if it was like 38C. We had a lovely breeze on the boat and sat out in the sun and read for the whole afternoon. It was heavenly. The boat was super new and nice and we had nice airplane seating this time, unlike our French experience. We were very impressed. Superfast Ferries is the way to travel! We spent the night on the boat after watching the sunset over the sea, and arrived in Patras the next morning at 1130. It was hot, and muggy!

Posted by TnC 09:28 Archived in Switzerland Comments (0)

Austria

Innsbruck

overcast 18 °C
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It was like night and day between Italy and Austria... well actually like sunshine and rain. We had not seen rain since Biarritz a month ago so it was a bit of a shock comming up on the train. For Taylor it was refreshing, but for Claire it was most deffinately not! But the scenery and mountains were beautiful, reminded us alot of home. We had not seen a forest of green trees in quite some time. We arrived in Innsbruck, which is nessled between the alps, late as we were on the TrenItalia (surprise surprise) from Venice. We took the bus to Markus and Nina's just in time to say goodnight to their beautiful children Kira and Paula.

That evening Markus stayed home with the kids while we went into town to watch a free movie in the town square with Nina. Good movie but we are getting tired of watching english movies dubbed in another language. However, Nina did an excelent job translating!

The next morning we walked into town. The nice thing about Innsbruck is it is not a typical tourist city. There isn't alot of sights to see or a tourist map, it is just a beautiful clean city. Everything runs on time, and runs well. The people are just as organized as the Germans but are layed back at the same time. The alps are litteraly just in their back yard. Taylor fell in love with Austria(Innsbruck). The city seemed very young as it is a univercity city. A nice mix of modern and old (well taken care of) building. That afternoon Nina prepared us some very delicious Austrian dumplings and the kids created some masterpieces for a fridge in our new apartment (when we get one). After lunch we literally stepped out the back door and we were walking in the alps.

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We had a great time with Markus and Nina, but now we are off to see the Swiss Miss!

Posted by TnC 00:52 Archived in Austria Comments (0)

Italia!

Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, Venice

sunny 38 °C
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The plan was simple, arrive at the train station at 8:30am, and get on the train we reserved the day before (€50 surcharge) and arrive in Florence a few hours later. But that would be too easy. The Italians joined the French train strike which had been off and on for about a month but hadn't yet affected us. We arrived at the chaotic Nice train station to find that our train was not on the list of departures. Along with everyone else, we needed to spend hours in multiple queues to get our money back for the reservation and try to find our way to Florence. Like any profession, there are good workers and there are bad workers. On our first attempt at the queue we were able to get our money back but the ticket attendant told us that we needed to get on an overnight train that was FULL, End of story, no other way to get to Florence. How helpful she was. Our next attempt at a different queue found us in line with a friendly Australian couple who just happened to be in the same predicament. We were both headed for the same campground in Florence, so we pooled our knowledge and decided to make the trip together. The next attendant was much more helpful, she could get us to Italy and give us a theoretical plan but couldn’t promise the trains in Italy were all running. Along with everyone else trying to get to Italy, we boarded a train to Veintemille which is a city on the France-Italy border, and then we would take local trains because the international trains were on strike. The first problem was that everyone and their dog were on this train and it was due to arrive 20min after our connection to Genova was supposed to depart. Apparently it was supposed to wait but thanks to some quick thinking by the Aussies I think we were the only ones that made the connection as this train was about to pull away as we got off the first train. Four trains and one bus later, we arrived at Camping Michelangelo at midnight.

Florence is a beautiful city. We stayed at very well established campsite which had the best views of the city, and was right below the lookout! It had a nice patio restaurant and bar which we enjoyed many evenings.

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The first day was spent at Uffizi Gallery with the Aussies (Troy and Alwyn), which contained famous works by Botticelli and Michelangelo to name a few. It was great, but we were very exhausted by the end of our 3 hour endevour. Our next goal was food. A little pizza and some gelato! We followed the guidebook in order to find the best Gelatoria in town. It was right! Simply fantastic. Gellato is indeed an edible art form, as it suggests. We went for the fruity flavours since the weather was so toasty. The peach and the strawberry tasted exactly like the frozen fruits, but the lemon took the cake. It was like ice cold lemonade. Fabulous! Afterwards we went to the local supermarket for some food for dinner and were inspired by a fabulous sandwich idea. We got fresh pesto from the deli and fresh buffalo mozzarella, and Taylor had some meat, all of which we assembled onto a warm baguette fresh from the oven. WOW. What an amazing meal. No other food has topped our Florence experience. We hiked back up to the campsite to stumble upon happy hour at the campground bar - pints of beer for €2 and bottles of wine for €2.50, and I am talking good stuff. We couldn't pass the opportunity. We drank a few bottles of wine between the four of us and talked the night away. We realized that Australia is definitely a place we would like to visit someday, and now we have a place to stay!! We got along so well with them.

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As fabulous as the campsite was, its one drawback was that we had to get up before 8 when the sun hit our tent in full force and breathing became difficult! Oh well, it made the days that much longer. The next day was leather shopping day - the day that Taylor had been looking forward to the whole trip ;) We headed down into town and tracked down the leather market, which consisted of several hundred stalls selling anything and everything leather. Claire was in heaven, but we had to learn the art of true Italian haggling if we were going to buy anything. That day we just browsed....Claire very content, Taylor content with her contentness....and at the last store in the whole city we found the perfect purse. Unfortunately our haggling skills did not get us the deal we wanted, so we had to leave it and walk away :( The next time we were going to prevail! We hiked home up the hill, and spent Happy Hour with our Aussi friends again (who had spent the day in line waiting to see David), and the night passed quite similarly to the previous one.

The next day also began the same, and we went to haggle school. By noon our skillz were sharp and we returned home victorious. After our shopping we met up with the Aussis and wandered to the train station, then to see David through the windows of the museum (you can see David through the glass exit doors, and actually don't have to wait in line for 3 hours to get into the museum!) We topped off the day with another indescribably delicous gelato, and headed up for our last Happy Hour with our new buds. This night was special though, since, very conveniently, there was a festival that night which was celebrated with an hour long fireworks show on the lookout across from us. We had the best seats in the house. It was the perfect topper to a great Florence experience. A great way to kick off Italia....though the food would never be as good.....

The following day we said our farewells to Troy and Alwyn and took the train (about an hour) up to Pisa. We missioned to the Leaning Tower and took the requisite photos.

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Then we took the train up to Monterosso (another hour), which is town #5 of Cinque Terre. We walked out of the station and were confronted with a gorgeous sea of turquoise and lots of sunburned tourists. It was nice, but not the idyllic hide away scene we had been expecting. You see there is this travel writer named Rick Steves, whose book we have with us and have really enjoyed (thanks Jane), but he has a big section on Cinque Terre and his audience is largely American, which meant that instead of the calm scene he described, which we guess everyone was looking for, the place was overrun, I mean packed, with American tourists. All with his book in hand. We found our hotel though - Hotel Souvenir - and checked in. We even got a free upgrade due to their lack of organization. Sweet. We had some gorgeous fresh local pasta named Trofie with fresh pesto for dinner. Monterosso is the birthplace of pesto, so as you might guess it was awesome. We had our token gelato for the day and crashed early, ready for the hike that awaited us the next day.

We were up at 6 and caught the train to town #1 (Riomaggore), which took all of 15 minutes by train. The next six hours were spent mosying along the path between the five towns and stopping where necessary for a token photo or bite to eat. It was awesome until about 8 when everyone else got out of bed and there were too many people for the poor little seaside paths to handle. The views though were stunning and the villages very cute.

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That was our day in Cinque Terre, we would have stayed longer, but the accomodation was expensive and we had achieved our hiking goal. Next we headed to ROMA.

We took the train to Roma Termini station, then a two metros (which took about an hour and were totally packed) to get out of the city to Castelfusano. At the station a little shuttle bus took us to the Castfusano Camping place, aka Little Germany. It was like being in a German summer camp, wit 15-18 yr old Germans everywhere, and it was a big place! Needless to say, we kept mostly to ourseleves in our little bungalow.

We spent two full days sighseeing Rome and covered every major sight there except for the sistine chapel for which the queue was a good 2 miles long (no exaggeration!) A few highlights were St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican, Trevi Fountain with gelato and the cat sanctuary where we got to pet kitties for as long as we wanted at this cat shelter situated in the ruins where Caesar was murdered. All this in 38-40 degree weather!

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Next we took a direct train to Venice, where again we stayed slightly outside the city. We stayed at this little hotel that was a 10 min train ride from Venice, so the location was perfect! We spent the evening paying €8/hr for internet to track down our next place of accomodation in Austria.

Our one day in Venice was beautiful and sunny. We took a "bus" (aka boat) out to Murano, which is an island that manufactures world class glass products. We had the opportunity to see a demonstration which was incredible and did a little browsing in the plethora of tiny glass shops. That was our main mission for the day, but we also walked through the city and saw the main sites and famous piazza, and of course had our token gelato for the day.

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And that was Italia, good food, hot weather and a piece of history around every corner.

Posted by TnC 14:19 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

France Part 2

Nice

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We were up at 630 and caught the train to Montpellier and from there we wanted to take to train to Nice, but it was full (damn high season!), so we had to take the slow train to Avignon, then another to Nice. We made it and checked into our hotel. We did meet a lot of friendly fellow travellers on the trip there, but upon arrival were disgusted by the crowd of people staying there. They were all young and disrespectful and loud...the type to drink in the lobby and blow smoke in your face while you are eating. Made us kind of ashamed to be associated with such a travelling crowd. Oh well. We stayed in a four bed dorm, which was fine. We had dinner and then crashed.

The following morning the weather was gorgeous again, so we headed down to the beach. The beaches in Nice are not sandy though, they are all medium sized rocks, which was a little uncomfortable to lie on, but we realized was nice because rocks (unlike sand) do not stick to everything! The water was absolutely gorgeous. Turquoise blue and SO warm. Mmmmm. We spent most of the afternoon on the beach, then had gelato and got some groceries for dinner. We went back to the hostel to try to cook dinner in the communal kitchen only to discover that it is shared by 4 hostels and was absolutely packed with the kind of people described above. Boo. And it closed at 8. Oh well, we still managed to make some fabulous pasta, the staple of our diet :)

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The next day we wanted to go to Monaco, a tiny neighbouring country that is made of money. We could have taken a bus or a train which would have taken 15-30mins, but instead we had the bright idea of renting bicycles and biking there along the coast. This would have been a great idea if we were more in shape and if it weren't about 35 degrees. It was an adventure though. We got to stop in all of the little sea towns along the way, and went for a dip in the sea at Eze. It took us about 4 hours to get to Monaco, but we made it, tired and sweaty. We got some fabulous looks from the locals, with us dressed in our sweaty biking clothes and them in their Gucci and Prada. Haha. Monte Carlo (the capital city, which takes up most of the country, and is rather small) was amazing - so full of money. The harbour was packed with 100ft plus yachts complete with swimming pools and choppers. The dock was lined with Bentleys and Rolls Royces and the taxis were silver Audi sedans. Not bad. We didn't stay long because we had to get our bikes back. We caught the train home (with the bikes) because we were too beat to bike home. It took 15mins.

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We were pretty beat when we got back, so we grabbed a baguette and some cheese and headed to the beach for a picnic and a final evening swim. We watched the sunset, and then headed back to bed. Nice was nice, but kind of spoiled by tourism. We definitely liked San Sebastian way better for a beach town.

Posted by TnC 13:41 Archived in France Comments (0)

Spain Part 2b

Ronda and Barcelona

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Oh my god, I am mighty not impressed right now because I just wrote like 20 paragraphs about Ronda and Barcelona, managed to highlight the whole thing and deleted it! And I can't undo it. I am so not impressed, so here is a slightly condensed version.

So, when we were in Granada we tried to book our Barcelona accommodation (the next stop) only to discover that high season had hit, and there was nothing available! Gar. Up until this point we had had no trouble with hostel bookings or train reservations or long line ups for things, but almost overnight that all changed. Hostels were full, trains were full, line ups got longer....and it actually sort of changed our travelling from that point on. We had to book everything way in advance, which sort of takes the spontaneous travelling aspect out of things, and we found ourselves with much less flexibility, but overall it had worked out quite well.

So, because we couldn't go straight to Barcelona, we decided to go to Ronda for two nights, and then go to Barcelona. So we hopped on a train to Ronda and went through some absolutely gorgeous countryside....it kind of looked like a cross between Arizona and California...hot and dry! In Ronda we caught a cab out to this cute little campground. You can't beat the price of camping, it is almost like a two for one deal compared to hostels. So we set up camp, then had dinner at the on-site restaurant. The food was ok, but the service was a little lacking.

The next day, we walked into Ronda (about 3km) and took some photos of the gorge and the famous bridge over it (which is super high!) That is the main thing that Ronda is famous for, well, that and bullfighting, but we were there at the wrong time of year for that. We did try to go into the bullring to have a look though, but they wanted €6/person, so we said f*#% that!

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The weather was not the greatest, so we decided to pass the rest of the day in an internet cafe. That is when the mad picture uploading party happened. A long time ago, yes, I know....The price was the best we've seen yet though, at €1.40/hr. We then had some stellar pizza and walked back to the campsite. It is amazing in Spain how even small towns are so lively at night. You see people in the morning, then the place it dead for siesta time, then everyone goes out at night. It is pretty cool. We saw this one pub that had a beer tap at every table with a digital display. You pay the bartender X amount of money, and then drink it dry. It was a pretty cool system. Taylor wants one.

The next day we packed up camp and walked into town with our packs. We had to spend the day in town with our bags because our train didn't leave until 530pm. So we did some internetting, did some window shopping, and had pizza twice. Finally we caught the train back to Granada, and then took the overnight train to Barcelona. I know, you would think that we would learn from our last overnight train experience not to do it again, but unfortunately it was our only option. On the upside it wasn't the six seater cabin train type this time, and it would have been fine if the two seats opposite us were vacant, but they weren't. In fact there wasn't a vacant seat on the whole train; there wasn't even enough room for everyone's luggage! It was packed and HOT! We had less than a foot of leg room, but somehow we did manage to sleep a bit.

We arrived in Barcelona at 930 the next morning. We took the metro to our hotel and dumped our bags, then had some breakfast and went for a stroll down the Rambalas. The Rambalas is a very famous and touristy area in Barcelona and is basically a shopping street lined with stores, street vendors, street performers, and con artists. You can buy anything from leather to live chickens, but you must keep your hands in your pockets or someone else will! We did and we were fine.

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It was a rather muggy day, so after our stroll we were ready to shower. We checked in at the hotel (which we couldn’t do at 930 when we arrived), then cleaned up and headed out on a Gaudi mission. One of our guidebooks had a map that showed the location of his various buildings that are strewn throughout the city which made them look very close together. They are definitely not. We did a lot of walking. We saw Casa Batllo, one sweet building in a row of creative buildings (for those that don't know Gaudi is a very artistic 20th century architect who lived and worked mostly in Barcelona). Only pictures can do it justice.

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Next we walked to La Casa Mila, where we paid to go inside, since we got a half price student deal. It was also amazing, but the rooftop was the most spectacular. It was covered in plaster statues and arches and had fabulous views of the city.

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Next we walked to Sagrada Familia, which was definitely a long mission on foot. It was totally worth it though. Sagrada Familia is perhaps Gaudi's most famous work, although it is yet unfinished. Again we paid to go inside, though we are not sure why. The inside was a maze of scaffolding and the lifts were not working so we couldn't go up in the towers. It was a breathtakingly beautiful building though.

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Next we mad the long mission home, which was largely uneventful since it was a Sunday evening. We did however see a naked gay (male) couple strutting their stuff down the main street. One had tattooed underwear and some very interesting piercings....only in Barcelona! We also saw a protest in full swing, complete with a chopper flying overhead for a good hour. Ok, so maybe the walk wasn't so uneventful after all. And that was Barcelona. We were too exhausted to taste the nightlife, though we did manage to drink a bottle of very strong wine at the hotel! You gotta love how cheap wine is here. About 4 dollars CAN will get you an excellent bottle of wine. Mmmm.

Posted by TnC 12:03 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Spain Part 2a

Granada

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So leaving Portugal....we were up early and took the first boat back to the mainland, then a taxi to the bus station (not repeating that walk again with the packs!) in the hopes of catching the ten o'clock bus to Seville, then another one to Granada....BUT upon arriving at the bus depot at 845 we discovered that the bus to Seville was full...end of story. So how the hell do we get out of Portugal? WELL, the overly helpful lady at the counter (sigh) told us that we could take a city bus to the Portugese border, take a boat across the river to Spain and after that she had no idea. Begin adventure number 3,000,001....we took the city bus, then the little boat across the river with the other immigrants, and man were we glad to be back in Spain...the people were SO helpful! We walked a few km to the bus station, where we found that scedules mean nothing...this is a second world country, a local guy reminded us! Our only option, apparently, was to take the next bus that headed east, getting us an hour further down the road to Huelva (yet still a mighty long way from Granada). Upon arriving we discovered that we had just missed a bus to Seville, so missioned to the train station to attempt train travel...the next train to Seville was at 630pm (it was about 2pm at this point), but we couldn't get to Granada. We had to make it to Granada cuz we had to pay for the night either way!
SO, back to the bus station we went, with our lead weights on our backs, and caught the next bus to Seville. Two hours later, arrival in Seville. From there we thought we were on the home stretch and went to get a bus to Granada only to discover that busses to Granada leave from the other bus station...on the other side of town. Fabulous.
We took a city bus this time, arrived and had to wait two and half hours for the next bus to Granada at 8pm. Hello home stretch. The bus took three hours, then we had to take a city bus to the hostel, and arrived about midnight. Let's just say if all had gone according to plan, we would have arrived in the early afternoon, and saved a lot of money. We slept WELL.

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After such a long day, we were happy to wake up in a cute little apartment with sunbeams flooding in through the open blinds. Sigh. Unfortunately we had to change rooms our second night, but the place was still awesome. You can't go wrong with a name like Funky Hostel. Rooftop patio, free breakfast, sunset views, free internet...

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Our first day we spent walking around the Alhambra, an ancient muslim fortress. In 35 degree weather, we did an audio tour of the whole place, which took us about 4 hours, including plenty of water stops, and pauses to pet the kittens in the gardens...It was a beautiful place...a day very well spent.

View of Granada from the palace:

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Now we are banking on you reading our previous blogs...now remember Claire and Steph from Montreal that we met in San Sebastien....??? No, didn't think so. Anyways, we ran into them again at our hostel in Granada and they were staying in the same room as us along with Claire's twin brother, Louis, who was visiting for a week. They invited us to join them on a tour of the Sierra Nevada mountains the next day for €10 each. Sweet deal, we couldn't pass that up!
So the next day, the three of them, the two of us, and another couple from Montreal (Steph 2 and JP) all headed off with Pepe (our Spanish host for the day) in his trusty van up into the mountains. The roads were super windy, and most of us were feeling pretty ill by the end, but the views were FABULOUS!!! We arrived in a small mountain village about 2 hours later, had a little stroll and a bite to eat, then headed back to Granada for our bathing suits. He then took us to these Roman Baths situated on the edge of a seemingly random desert lake. The views were stunning and we had a great time. The whole trip took about 10 hours. Thanks Pepe.

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We had a great time in Granada, it was one of our favourite places thus far. Next stop Ronda. Will update again soon. Thanks for your comments!

Posted by TnC 10:36 Archived in Spain Comments (1)

Portugal

Algarve....nice place, if you are a local....

sunny 25 °C
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The night train.....ok, so we boarded the train in San Sebastian at 1030pm, luckily with a couple other Canadians and Americans, onto an unmarked train with no carriage numbers. We walked around and finally found our seats in a sort of room within a carriage that has about 8 seats in it. There was one other Spanish guy in there for a bit, but otherwise we had the place to ourselves. The seats were super uncomfortable and there were people smoking in the hallways....we got woken up at 12 by a guy gettting on, apparently on crack and really wacked, but friendly, then at 3 by a couple of drunk Portugese guys. Let´s just say it was quite the night.

We arrived in Lisbon at 11 the next morning where we had lunch (Lisbon was nice, but we decided not to stay long), then caught a train to Faro (in the Algarve, south Portugal - see the map), then another little train to Tavira. Tavira is a small town, but it still took forever to walk out to this little dock where we caught a little boat over to Tavira Island, which is essentially a campground and a beach. It would have been an island paradise if it weren´t for the poor welcome we recieved from the other (mostly Portugese) campers. Let´s just say no one said hi, and we totally felt like we were invading a private party. But the beaches were gorgeous, complete with palm umbrellas :)

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We camped and spent the next day on the beach, then left the next morning because we felt a little uncomfortable. Getting out of Portugal the next day was a freaking mission....let´s just say the Portugese and the Spanish don´t communicate much and travelling between the two is not easy!

Posted by TnC 10:24 Archived in Portugal Comments (0)

Spain Part 1

San Sebastian aka Paradise

sunny 27 °C
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Spain!!! Yay. A place that Claire has always wanted to go, and I think has fallen in love with...should Taylor worry....??
We left Biarritz on a Sunday - bad mistake! Busses do not run on Sundays so our plan to take a coach to San Sebastian for €5 (1 1/2 hours), we had to take a city bus, then a train, then another train and the whole thing ended up taking 5 hours and costing us three times as much! Lesson learned, from now on we will not attempt to travel on Sundays!

But then we arrived in San Sebastian...OMG, I think we found paradise!!! It is a relatively decently sized town that is situation between several mountains and has two long white (like chalk) sandy beaches with turquoise blue water...sigh....One of the beaches (the big one where we spent most of our time) was practically in the town centre and was a five minute walk from our pension (guesthouse) in the old town. The old town is awesome. It is a maze of narrow streets packed with bars and small shops and there are no cars (except for deliveries). Tapas are everywhere, though they are what San Sebastian is known for, so are a little pricy, but the booze are dirt cheap :)

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The first night we got there we walked to the pension with a few Montreal girls we met on the train (Claire and Steff - who you will hear about again later...) and got settled in our little pension. We had a room to ourselves with a private bathroom, fridge, kettle, toaster, free laundry and awesome hospitality for €36 per night, quite the steal, trust me. We were very pleased with it. Plus the location was perfect. We stayed for five nights....

Here was the routine: each morning one of us would walk round the block to the bakery and get fresh (usually warm) croissants for breakfast, and we would enjoy tea and croissants in bed - sheer luxury! Then we´d do something for the morning - shopping or hiking or trip planning or internetting. We would buy baguettes, cheese and meat, all fresh from the bakery and deli, then make sandwiches, put our suits on and head to the beach where we would bake in the sun for a few hours. We swam in the warm (Taylor´s first) ocean water and tanned and munched our baguettes and daydreamed....and it was the perfect temperature. 27C from 11am til 8pm, then ¨cooling¨to 20C at night. Heaven. Next we would go back to the pension and shower and buy more baguettes, cheese, etc plus txakoli (local fizzy wine) and the occasional candies...then head back to the beach to watch the sunset around 930. We would have a picnic and do some more daydreaming - including plans of owning a house here with Sherri and Anders :0 We smoked our celebratory graduation cigars one night. Everynight there was a different sunset and they were all absolutely gorgeous! There would be a few couples with blankets down the beach, but essentially at night we had the place to ourselves....Ok so now do you get the idea why this place is paradise, ok then take a look at the pics.....

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We spent five nights and five days in San Sebastian, then sadly left on the night train to Lisbon, Portugal....and that was a whole new adventure.....

Posted by TnC 09:58 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

France Part 1 (Paris et Biarritz)

Bonjour fromage!

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Country number 8 for Taylor! We woke up groggy and sleep deprived from a seriously uncomfortable sleep on the boat to France. We have never felt like such second class citizens... We were put in a windowless room full of approximately 100 uncomfortable seats. People were sprawled over the floor and we had no access to showers.

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Anyway, we happily arrived in Cherbourg (in sunshine!) where we walked through town to get to the train station. Here we found that phones in France don't take change so you have to buy phone cards. We booked a room in Hotel Tiquetonne in Paris from our Travel Book, not knowing what to expect. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised by our small but very cute room. It was quite the steel for Paris at €30/night! However, they catch you by charging €6/shower, so it worked out to be €42/night which is still quite good for Paris!

We had only one full day in Paris so we wanted to make it good! After a fantastic sleep, first stop Le Louvre! This place is gigantic. Could be here all day. We made a B-line to the major sights, and looked at everything along the way. Crepes for breakfast and then we walked along the Seine to Notre Dame. Very impressive. Managed to stay out of the rain for the most part inside Notre Dame. We then walked along Champs-Elysée to L'Arc de Triumph. Champs-Elysée has everything from designer clothes to designer cars! We didn't stay long because it was windy and rainy. No wonder Paris is the city of love when you have stautes like these everywhere!

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We then took the metro back to the hotel and picked up some wine (€2 for fantastic wine), a beggette from the local boulangerie and some cheese from the local fromagerie! Taylor sat for about 15 minutes in the fromagerie drooling... We took our food and wine and picnicked on a boat tour of the Seine. It rained half the time but we had good company and food! Finally we went to the Eiffel Tower! Amazing view of course, however, the attendant wouldn't allow us to bring a bottle of wine up to the top. We thought that was manditory?

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The next morning we blew out of town and headed south for some nice weather... so we thought. We took the TGV from Paris to Biarritz in a few hours. Very Fast! When we arrived in Biarritz it was raining yet again. We took the bus close to the campground we were staying but didn't realize how far out of town it was. We set up camp and then walked into this surfing city. It turns out there are two buses that run in the town and they are very irregular and do not run past 8pm. Needless to say, we ended up walking home in the rain...

The next morning we outslept the rain and walked into town again. This time we got all the way to the large beach, where all the surfers are in the centre of town. We even caught a few rays on the beach and got bit burned! The next few days we just got lost in the maze of windy, poorly sign-posted streets and layed on the beach when the sun was out.

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We did learn never to travel on a Sunday! Even though the scheduel says the busses go... nothing works on Sundays. Long story short, we spent most of the day cursing the busses. As what as a simple plan turned into a complicated route to San Sebastian. But it was all worth it...!

Posted by TnC 03:10 Archived in France Comments (0)

Ireland

BEER!!!

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Ireland was a bit of a whirlwind trip. On our way from Stranraer, we took the Stena Lines fast ferry to Belfast. This was exciting for Taylor because it was the largest fast ferry in the world! We arrived in Belfast, where we took the bus the same day to Dublin. While we were in Fort William we decided that big cities were not for us, so if we were going to do one in Ireland, it better be Dublin! ... Taylor was not influenced by the beer... Because Irish Ferries sail on an irregular schedule, we had to be ready for the 28th of May. So we stayed for two nights in Dublin. This was also our first experience in a hostel room with 12 beds per room. Lets just say we learned the beauty of ear plugs.

The first night we went to a local bar with live music with a few people from our dorm. Three fellow Canadians, and a German.

The next day we got up early to do all the touristy things, however, that was a big mistake. Because we were on tourist time, we didn't realize it was Sunday. With Dublin being a majorly Catholic city, all the shops were closed until late in the afternoon for church. Do not go to Dublin on Sunday. later that day we toured the Guinness Brewery! Book ahead online! Not only do you get a minor discount but you get to bypass a huge line. The tour was huge! I think Guinness makes more money on merchandise than they do beer. But for 9,50 we got a tour and a 'free' Guinness at the top of this 7 story brewery (pint of Guinness 4,50). The finest Guinness you can ever taste. It was a circular room with the bar in the middle where the walls are all glass. The view overlooked all of Dublin, and for once the sun was shinning. We enjoyed our precious drink in the sun and then headed back to the hostel which was in the main area of city.

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Later that night, we did another touristy activity, we went to Temple Bar with our Canadian friends and a Kiwi. Lets just say, standing room only. This area of Dublin is packed with bars and clubs the most famous being the 'Temple Bar.' We had lots of fun, the only mistake is Taylor ordered what appeared to be a local beer, which turned out to be a cider. Other than that we went to a 4 story, club/bar/lounge/etc.. and headed back to bed. Our train to Rosslare was at 7:40am and we had very little sleep.

And that was the end of Ireland. Did what we came to do... drink the beer!

Posted by TnC 09:52 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Bonny Scotland

Edinbourgh, Fort William, Ben Nevis...

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Well it has been a while, it feels weird to be in France and writing about Scotland still....let me just say that internet access is not all that easy to come by and we have had other important things to do...like travelling!! But I know, we should keep you guys posted, so here goes...this was Scotland....

So believe it or not we did manage to get ourselves out of the mountains in Wales despite the painful absence of public transport....our first bus came, then we waited for the next....for half an hour past when it was supposed to come....then the hostel warden drove up and offered us a ride to Bangor, which we graciously took. Who knows if the bus would have come! In Bangor we took the train to Chester, then another to Crewe, then another to Carlisle, and we finally got to Edinbourgh nine hours after we left Idwall! Ouch. We managed to track down a pretty nice hostel called Budget Backpackers, which we didn't really realise was that nice until later when we had visited other hostels. It had really nice facilities and we shared a room with 3 guys from Colorado, who were really nice. We went out for a beer that night at The Last Drop, which we later learned was so named because it was the place that people could have their last drink before being hung in the square outside! Nice.

The next day we took part in the free walking tour of Edinbourgh that was offered by the hostel. We lots of cool buildings and monuments (like Greyfriars Bobby - a dog that sat on his master's grave for 14 years, or so the story goes....) and learned that Edinbourgh has a very very dark past. Almost every place that we went to was known for public executions or witch burnings or heeps of dead bodies....its really sort of eerie. It's a beautiful place today, but it is hard to imagine what it was like back in the day when people were dying left right and center and the streets were full of sewage. I guess we picked out timing well ;)

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After the tour we met up with Claire, the daughter of Chris and Laura (remember, the people we stayed with in London), who is studying medicine in Edinbourgh. We had an awesome lunch in a little restaurant that is run by volunteers! Claire and Claire have known each other since they were about 8, so it was cool to meet up again and talk about travels (she just did a trip around South America) and med school, etc. Next we went to the Scottish National Museum and saw Dolly (the first cloned sheep!), and gorgeous views of Edinbourgh from the top (you will have to imagine for now....) Next we went to Edinbourgh Castle, which was a total ripoff for what it was. It was big and impressive, with lots of war memorial stuff, but definitely not worth £11 ($25Can). We have seen better for free!! At least one of us got in for free because the tour guide gave us one free pass! After that we pretty much just wondered around for the rest of the day, had a cheap dinner and got ready to leave.

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The next day, we took the train to Fort William, which is a gorgeous ride through the Scottish Highlands, which looked quite similar to BC in parts. Fort William was cold - it's quite far north - but still beautiful. It is situated at the foot of Ben Nevis, which, at 1325m, is the highest mountain in the UK. We stayed at the Achantee Farm House Hostel, which is at the start of the Ben Nevis trail and was totally awesome. The guy who ran it was so friendly and reminded us of Robin Williams. We had a cute little room and a kitchen, living room and bathroom essentially to ourselves.

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The next day we had planned to tackle Ben Nevis, but when we woke up to 30-50mph winds, rain and thick fog, we thought twice....we waited a few hours to see if it would clear up, but at 10:30 we regretfully gave up on the idea, since the hike takes around 8 hours, we couldn't wait all day. We walked to town instead and looked around and planned the next part of our trip, which we needed to do anyway.

The following day when we left for Stranraer was, of course, beautiful and warm - Sods Law. Oh well. We hope to come again some day. We took the train to Stranraer that day, which is on the southwestern side of Scottland, where we camped for the night before taking the boat to Belfast, Northern Ireland the next day.

That's it for now....again, thanks for reading!!

Posted by TnC 09:14 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Having a Wale of a Time

Cardiff and Snowdonia, Wales

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Our next adventure began with a four hour train ride from Totnes to Cardiff, in the southern part of Wales. We were met there by Claire's second cousin, aka Aunty Jilly. We went to her place and hung out for the evening, chatted, had lots of tea and watched the Welsh news. The main story is one about a bull that lives at a religeous temple and that has TB. The question is do you put him down...or not??? Big news.
The next day we went into Cardiff Bay and toured the new Millenium Centre and saw live opera singers on a small stage inside. Then we took a seabus over to the Cardiff Barrage and had a very lively commentary on the surrounding Bay from a very friendly Welshman. You see Cardiff is coastal and so the water in the bay would retreat and leave a largely unattractive mud flat. Since they wanted to develop the Bay they decided to install a Barrage to get rid of the tide "problem." I must admit the Barrage was pretty cool. We managed to watch a few boats go through whereby the boat enters a lock, the water is drained and it sails out the other side into the open ocean. There is even a fish ladder for the fishies.

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That night we went to see "Pan's Labyrinth" at the local arts centre. It was actually surprising good - we had a nice chat about it afterwards, in true art buff fashion, over beer and wine.

The next day we took a day trip on the bus out to Mumbles, which is where Catherine Zeta-Jones owns a house (!) It is also supposed to be a lovely peice of Welsh coastline, to the West of Cardiff by about an hour. We had lunch over the water when we got there, and as we did so the fog rolled in, so the lovely coastline was barely visible. Oh well. We still walked around and out onto the beach and ventured through some parkland with apparently fabulous viewpoints....we'll take there word for it...Right when we were ready to head back to Cardiff, low and behold, the fog lifted. Sods law I tell ya. It was a great day though. An adventure you might say. We had a nice evening chatting with Jill again, definitely another fabulous host. It was awesome to catch up with her and see old photos of Claire's dad in the sixties!!! Haha.

The next day, our last day in Cardiff, was sunny!!! We finally discovered that nice weather does exist on this island!! We headed down to the local gallery where we saw a display of some of DaVinci's drawings. Pretty cool stuff. Then we headed off to the Carduff Castle where we walked around the grounds and enjoyed the sunshine. Taylor actually got very burnt - though that is not really surprising! Next we browsed Oxford St for a bit (shopping central), and home to relax for the evening and prep for our next adventure.

The next day (Friday 18th) we headed off on a train to Snowdonia which took us to a station in Bangor (N. Wales), from which we had to navigate our way through town to find a bus that runs like twice a day to nearby Bethesda, only to discover that there was no busses out to our hostel at Idwall Cottage that day. It just so happened though that some lovely lady, a traveller in her own day, gave us a lift right to the door of our hostel. She definintely did her random act of kindness for the day! Sigh we made it backpacks and all. The wind was fierce, but it wasn't raining, so we decided to stick it out and camp in the hostel grounds. It was a little chilly, but we survived just fine. Idwall Cottage is a lovely little hostel nestled at the foot of a 984m mountain in the rolling Welsh hills that are completely void of trees...not kidding! It's a very beautiful and rugged area. The hostel has recently been renovated to be super "Green" which made for a fabulous stay. We met several other hikers and learned a few things about places to go, etc.

Our first day there we hiked up behind the hostel to Llyn Idwall (a lake), then up a steep hill all the way to the top of Devil's Kitchen (yes, we ate chocolate in the devil's kitchen), then up to the summit at just under 1000m. Stunning 360 views, and we even had sunshine! The wind was still pretty intense though. We hiked down a different route, passing mountain sheep strolling on 90 degree slopes. Nutcases. Overall our first day of hiking was successful - no rain, no blisters, no sore muscles...we were ready for day two and the highest mountain in Wales.

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Snowdon is 1085m (3560ft) in altitude, a hill in Canadian terms, but still a fair hike. Claire had hiked in several times from coming to Snowdonia in her Spring breaks when she lived in England, but for Taylor everything was new. We started out in the morning at the bus stop waiting for the 9:30 bus....at 10 we gave up and started hitching (buses are a rare spectacle in these parts) and got a ride in no time to a town down the road, then another ride then one more and we finally made it to the start of Snowdon around 1045. You see Snowdon is in the next row of mountain over from Idwall, so we had to go around and up the neighboring valley. We were even luckier with the weather that day - gorgeous!!! Our hike was lovely up around several lakes and up and up and up some pretty steep slopes up to the summit. We just managed to snap a few photos when the mist rolled in, so then we sat and had our celebratory chocolate on top of the mountain. Sigh. The hike down was lovely because the sunshine was beating on our backs and we knew that we were almost done hiking, for now at least! We actually managed to get a bus back to the hostel and camped for our last night.

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Goodbye to Wales, we are now in Edinburgh, heading to Fort William today, then over to Ireland for a few days, hopefully getting to France by June 1st. More as it happens. Thanks for reading!

Posted by TnC 11:24 Archived in Wales Comments (0)

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