Bel and Phil's Adventures

Our adventures through Europe, America and Asia

Archive for ‘June, 2018’

Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore and Porto Venere – Italy

Saturday 16th June 2018

Today we explored the area by boat.

We had been told, when visiting Monterosso yesterday, about a ferry service that went to four of the Cinque Terre villages and also Porto Venere. The lady at the ticket booking office highly recommended that we visit Porto Venere and do the three islands tour.

Phil was keen to give this a go as he loves being on the water. I thought we’d be able to get good photos of the villages as the ferry pulled into each village as well. We had also planned to explore Riomaggio today too and figured we would just get off the ferry and explore there, before returning back to Vernazza.

We bought our two tickets for the day including the three islands tour, which were 76 Euro for both of us. It was so nice being out on the ferry, although there wasn’t much swell at all. Of course, Phil wanted to sit up top in the open air, so up we went. As we left Vernazza, we could see just how beautiful it is. We went past Corniglia and this was the first time we had seen this village due to it being high on the top of the mountain. It looked so pretty, yet doesn’t have the coastline of the other 4 towns.

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Corniglia the only village we didn’t get to explore. It it built up high on a mountain and so doesn’t have the coastline of the other 4 villages.

The next place we stopped at was Manarola, where we had been yesterday. All of these villages were so pretty seeing them from the sea. We pulled into Riomaggiore (where Ryan had taken his amazing photo from back in February), and were glad we had decided to explore this town later today. We pulled away from Riomaggiore and headed for Portovenere. It was 25 minutes along the coast from the Cinque Terre. As we were coming along the coast we saw the different colours in the rocks of the coastline – sometimes red, sometimes blue, sometimes the yellow of sandstone.

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As we came to a headland we could see some old buildings and thought that they looked pretty. They were at Portovenere. This place is so beautiful. We then realised that the coast further down was an island and as we rounded the headland we could see all of these Italian towns bordering the water. It was a very busy channel with lots of pleasure craft out enjoying this magnificent day in the sunshine on the beautiful Mediterranean waters.

We pulled into the port and immediately got on the Three Islands tour. This tour went around the three islands just sitting off the coast of Portovenere. It was picturesque and a beautiful day to be on the water.

We got back to Portovenere and set out to explore the town. First stop was to pick up some food and drink. We got some takeaway focaccia pizzas and some Coke Zeros. This focaccia pizza was so yummy. Not only did I take a photo of the one that I had, but also the other ones in the shop window.

After this short pit stop, we set out to explore the town. As we headed into the square we saw this entrance to an alley way with many people. We looked at the entrance and realised that it was built in 1114! Wow! As we looked up we were amazed by how pretty it was. It was obviously still in use now with restaurants, shops and people living in the area. It was just superb. We wandered through the alley way which led us to the castle and tower that we had seen whilst entering the headland. We took a moment to stop and look around at the view overlooking Portovenere. It was breathtaking! I will always remember this!

We looked over into Byron’s Grotto named after the English poet, Lord Byron who lived in this area and was inspired by the area. I was keen to explore this area and clambered down – there were stairs. The water, once again, is so clear and beautiful. You can see all the way to the bottom. It looked amazing! Once we had ventured into there, we then headed up to the castle and the tower. This was amazing with views over the town and the city of La Spezia as well as down the coast towards the Cinque Terre. As we were descending the castle to walk along the coastline, we saw some amazing boats including an absolutely jaw dropping super boat – clearly owned by some very wealthy people (Phil called it the billionaire’s boat), rather than the mere millionaire’s boats which there were a few. We also saw some fancy tinnies too, some old fashioned rowboats along with lots of sailing boat.

We went exploring a little more and had decided, seeing as how Portovenere was SO beautiful that we would go back to Monterosso, so we could do the whole trip on the boat and then catch the last boat back to Riomaggiore to explore, in the late afternoon sun – of course to get the best photos! We could then catch the 8:20 or 9:20 train back to Vernazza.

We got the 2:50pm boat back to Monterosso and enjoyed the sunshine and gentle breezes. Of course we took more photos of the villages as we approached and left them. There were lots of boats out and people on jet skis enjoying this amazing day. We both love the feel of being on the sea with the spray splashing us and the wind blowing through our hair.

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We arrived in Monterosso and headed back to the square. We both wanted a drink, so stopped at a bar. Phil had a beer and I had a glass of Prosecco. We were a little hungry, so we opted to order a banana split. Oh My Goodness!!!! This banana split was the best one I’ve ever had in my life, even better than the ones at the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour! (Yes Chris – it was that good!). We savoured every mouthful. We had decided to share it, luckily cause I would’ve eaten a whole one by myself. It was so good. Luckily we had this on the last day, otherwise we would have had to come back here again! We then wandered through the town and bought our tea towel souvenir.

We headed back to the ferry terminal at the harbour and got on the last boat at 5:40 pm. Bliss! The afternoon sun on all of the villages just made them that little bit more special. We had a great time taking photos and just relaxing and enjoying these moments.

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We got off in Riomaggiore and took some photos as we headed into the old town. We enjoyed exploring this town. We headed up the hill to find somewhere to have dinner. We decided to have a meal at this restaurant further up the hill. Phil had a beer and I had  a glass of Prosecco. Phil had this octopus and potato thing for entree, which I was not keen on at all. Phil had spaghetti bolognaise and I had lasagne for our main meals. The lasagne was delicious and Phil also enjoyed his spaghetti.

 

After our lovely dinner, we headed down to the water again. Luckily, we noticed a tunnel (which we hadn’t noticed when looking around earlier) heading to the train station – we thought it was further up the hill. We went down to the harbour and were rewarded with gorgeous late afternoon sunlight.

We decided to catch the earlier train back to Vernazza. Phil got his gelato from our favourite gelato shop in the town (and it’s also open late so that we get them when we are back from the other villages). We headed down to the harbour for our final evening in the Cinque Terre. It truly is so beautiful. There was a wedding that had taken over one of the restaurants with signing and dancing in the square. It would be an exquisite venue. This area is just stunning and we are so glad we had the opportunity to spend some time here.

We will definitely miss this amazingly beautiful place, but not so much all the stairs. We walked over 7km today and 33 flights of stairs. The perfect end to our time on the Ligurian coast and the Cinque Terre! Off to Florence tomorrow!

Cinque Terre, Monterosso Al Mare and Manarola

Friday 15th June

Today was a day of two towns. We had breakfast in our square, enjoying the beautiful Vernazza. We had some focaccia for breakfast with ham, cheese and tomato. It was delicious. Phil loved his cappucino too!

We decided to head first to the biggest town Monterosso. This was the place that Phil wanted to stay. It is MUCH flatter than the other towns! It is also longer due to the flatter ground. It has a much more beach feel but very limited free beach space. All of the umbrellas that you see with sunbeds / deckchairs cost you to use for the day – from memory for 2 sunbeds and an umbrella it was about 30 Euros. That’s about $50 AUD. We stopped at a cafe to enjoy some morning tea – Diet Coke (of course for me although it’s called Coke Light here) and some strawberries and ice cream.

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View of the beach and the umbrellas

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Another shot further along the coast

We could see how this would make a great beach holiday destination. We then headed up the hill and into the older section of the town. This was pretty with lots of alley ways. We explored around and took some photos. This was really pretty. Phil felt like a beer (it was 1:00 by this time) so we stopped at a restaurant in the old section of town, tucked away in an alleyway (that had lots of people there). Phil had a beer, I had a glass of Prosecco and we each had some bruschetta. We then explored Monterosso more.

We enquired about the ferry prices and have decided that we will definitely do that tomorrow. We saw a train go past and knew we had 30 minutes to get the next one so headed back towards the station. We went through the tunnel this time, rather than up and over the hill. We walked out and saw this view!

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Monterosso beachfront

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Monterosso beachfront

Just stunning!

We walked to the station and got on the train bound for Manarola.

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We arrived in this small village and couldn’t believe how much steeper it was. I’m glad we didn’t stay here. The Main Street was rather small and we headed down to the water. (The street was sloped that way too). We made it to the harbour and there were people jumping off this massive rock! The water was so clear and we could see the bottom. We were shocked! Then they jumped in and we realised that it was much deeper than it looked. The water here is so amazingly clear though. We hung around the harbour taking photos and soaking it all in.

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Manarola’s Harbour

It was such a hot day though and the sun was beating down, we needed to get out of the sun for a while.

We found a restaurant (no bars around, so you can’t just get a drink). Phil was getting hungry by now (it was after 3) so he ordered an octopus and calamari fried. It was delicious along with some French fries. I wasn’t all that hungry so just ordered dessert – it was pears and chocolate wrapped in filo pastry. I shared Phil’s main meal and he had a little of my dessert. It was amazing!

We then headed back up into the town on the other side of the railway. There wasn’t a great deal to see or to shop. We noticed a lot more dogs out getting walked, including a French bulldog.

We found a spot to sit and watch the world go by, although in hindsight, we should have gone to Riomaggiore to explore there and then come back to Manarola for sunset. Although we had decided to explore Riomaggiore tomorrow. We relaxed and chatted waiting for the sun to go down. When the sun was lower, we walked up to the hill overlooking the town. It was after 6:30 by now and the sun was still beating down. We sat up on the hill for a while and chatted to other people there.

The sun was finally low enough to give us our sunset shots. Luckily, because we wanted to get the 8:30 train back to Vernazza. They only run on the hour at this time of day. Most of these were taken between 7:00 pm and 7:50 pm. The sun doesn’t set until after 9:00 pm.

We were happy with these photos and glad we stuck around for this time to take them. As we were racing to the train station, we took some on the way.

We got off at Vernazza and finished the night with a gelato. Phil had passionfruit yoghurt and chocolate. I had a passionfruit flavoured gelato. Early to bed tonight and getting the blog up to date.

 

 

 

Cinque Terre, Vernazza, Italy

We went for a last quick walk around the Square of miracles (the Campo dei Miracoli) in Pisa this morning early, before the crowds arrived. It was beautiful. We headed to the train station and were super early – as neither of us wanted to be late -so we were there an hour early. We got caught up with typing the blog (or blob as my mother calls it). We changed trains in La Spezia Centrale and caught the train to Vernazza.

We caught glimpses of a beautiful blue ocean and a rugged coastline as we were travelling on the train. We got off the station at Vernazza and headed down to the square, lugging our cases, luckily with wheels on them. We have needed to pack for the warm weather in Italy and the much cooler weather in St Petersburg and the Scandinavian countries we are visiting on the cruise. We reached the town square and were amazed by the view with the sparkling Mediterranean Sea right in front of us, restaurants surrounding the square all with brightly coloured umbrellas, the sun shining and taking a deep breath, smelling the sea air, we were momentarily stunned and took a moment to let it all sink in.

We met Giuli (our Air BnB hostess) as arranged. We were able to go up to the room straight away as it was ready (and we were a little later than planned due to delayed trains). We climbed up, and up, and up (or so it seemed when carrying all of our bags). Giuli helped me up some of the last stairs, which I was very appreciative of. The beauty of the place was absolutely mind blowing.

She showed us around the place and orientated us to the apartment and Vernazza. We relaxed for about 20 minutes and then headed into town. The first thing was to get some lunch, so we headed back to the square to a place that she recommended, under the coloured umbrellas. The meal was delicious. We had pasta to start. Phil tried black spaghetti with prawns and I tried penne with pesto. The penne that I had was not like the penne we have in Australia, but still delicious. We then had veal – Phil having veal in wine sauce and I had Milanese escalope – both meals equally amazing. All washed down with Prosecco and Phil also tried one of the Italian beers.

After this amazing lunch, we went for a walk around the harbour and took some more photos. We finished with a gelato each, which we bought from a little shop on the edge of the harbour, which was surprisingly reasonable in price given its location. I had cinnamon and it was brilliant. Phil had chocolate chip and vanilla. We sat down by the harbour and enjoyed our treat, watching all the people wandering past.

 

We headed back to the room and relaxed for a while. We then headed up to the tower, with an entry fee of 1.50 Euro (about $2.25 AUD) each. The views were amazing.

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View of Vernazza from the Tower

After this, we decided to go on the trail a little way to get a different view from Vernazza. There are lots of stairs in Vernazza. We crossed through the main square and took some photos.

We then hiked for a little way along the trail between Monterosso and Vernazza. We came to a view where we could see Vernazza laid out before us. It was amazing. We stayed here a while so that we could get shots of the town as the sun set. Pretty spectacular.

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Late afternoon sunlight (although it was actually about 8:00 pm)

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Sun starting to set

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sunset

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Sunset

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sunset

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Whilst we were there several Instagrammers showed up to take photos for their page.

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Once the sun went behind the mountains, we headed back down to the city centre. We didn’t want to walk down the mountain in the dark. We found some amazing photo opportunities on the way down the mountain too.

We headed to the break wall to take some dusk photos there (after 9pm). We are very pleased with how they turned out.

We were a little hungry again, so headed to another place to have a light dinner. When we asked Ryan about Italy, he responded with ‘Pasta! Pizza! Gelato! Repeat!’ We had tried the pasta and gelato, yet hadn’t had any pizza. We found this beautiful restaurant on the edge of the breakwater looking out to the ocean with amazing pizzas on the menu. We ordered one to share – a pepperoni with tomato and mozzarella. It was amazing! We then had a chocolate mousse and a chocolate pannacotta. This was perfect! It was also reasonably priced!

We wandered back up to our room to relax (it was after 11pm by this stage).

Today we walked 7.3 kilometres and 41 flights of stairs (not including the flights of stairs within the apartment – the bathroom is downstairs).

We had a superb first day in Cinque Terre

 

 

 

Pisa, Italy

Wednesday 13th June

It was a VERY early start this morning, leaving Megan and Paul’s at 3:45am. We had a lovely driver in the taxi who was providing further information about the history of Dublin on the way to the airport. We checked in, without incident and made it to our gate. The flight with Aer Lingus was fabulous. We got to Pisa and made our way to our hotel – the Grand Duomo Hotel. Luckily they had a room available (as we were early). We were exhausted. We just wanted to relax for a while. We opened the shutters and looked out the window and were gobsmacked. The view was stunning! Then Phil looked the other way and there is the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Oh my goodness! We couldn’t believe it.

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The view from our room – after the rain

It looked like it was going to rain, and we were very behind on the travel blog, so decided to relax and update the blog. This turned out to be a great decision! The rain started pouring down. There were heaps of people out around the Leaning Tower and in the Via Santa Maria (the pedestrian area outside our hotel) and they were getting drenched. There were so many people it was crazy.

 

The rain cleared up (and we were starving). We decided to go and get our first Italian meal in Italy in 12 years! We asked for some recommendations from the hotel and went to Il Toscano. The service wasn’t amazing, but the food was delicious. We started with bruschetta, then Phil had spaghetti bolognaise – which was really good. I had tortellini with ham and cream sauce. It was amazing. I’m not sure I can go back to the Latina pasta again J. Clearly we needed a bottle of Prosecco to wash it all down with! It was amazing. Phil then had some vanilla and chocolate gelato.

 

We wandered down to the Leaning Tower to take some of the normal tourist photos. There were still a lot of people around. We wandered around the square and then headed back to our room. We were exhausted and fell asleep.

I slept for a few hours and Phil woke me up so we could get some photos at sunset. The view from our room was fabulous. We then went up to the rooftop bar. That was stunning. We took photos of the sun setting and then headed down to take photos in that light around the Leaning Tower and the other buildings in the square. We were very surprised that there were hardly any people around in the square, near the Leaning Tower. Clearly the tourist groups don’t stay in the area, they just zoom in and out. We were so glad that we stayed the night.

We went for a walk taking photos in the increasing darkness. Neither of us were that hungry, so we both decided to just get some gelato. Phil had vanilla and chocolate. I had strawberry and lemon. It was just perfect. My first gelato in Italy! We headed back to the room. Finished getting the travel blog up to date and edited the photos from today. We were really pleased with the photos that we had taken today, including the night shots. We’ve enjoyed our time in Pisa and are really glad that our travel guru convinced us to stay the night here.

Ireland, Dublin Tuesday 12th June

After our massive day yesterday, there were still a few things that we wanted to do. We had planned on trying to get to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. Unfortunately due to a drink being spilt all over Belinda at the pub, we needed to get some washing done before leaving this morning. This is getting moved to things to do next time in Dublin.

We ended up getting a cab again over to O’Connell Street. We wanted to go on the South side walking tour. We went with the same company that we had done the North side with yesterday. Our tour guide was Peter and he spoke very clearly. We headed down O’Connell Street and he explained how the statue of O’Connell on the intersection was not destroyed in the 1916 uprising, but sustained damage from bullets during that rebellion.

We then crossed the River Liffey and he explained that the government won’t allow any building over 6 storeys, so there aren’t any high rise offices or hotels. It helps to contribute to that quaint old fashioned European town. We had a look at some of the Georgian architecture on the South side.

We then headed into The Temple Bar area. This was an area I was eager to explore. Peter explained that there were plans to build a bus depot in the 1970’s and a company started purchasing land to put the plan in motion. Then, due to the creative people that had rented the shops in the area, the area became a cultural quarter in the 1980’s, so the government decided not to proceed with the bus depot, thankfully. It was initially built as merchant’s quarters and shops when customs house was nearby, then custom’s house was moved to the north side and further down the Liffey. It was really pretty and I enjoyed looking through this area.

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Temple Bar area looking north

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Close up of the shop signs in The Temple Bar area

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Streets around The Temple Bar

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Gorgeous flowers around The Temple Bar

After having a ‘coffee break’ (Diet Coke for Bel), we had some small time to explore this area independently. We continued with the tour up to Dublin Castle. We decided to leave the tour at the Castle as Phil wanted to get back to the Post Office to see the exhibition on the 1916 uprising. We wandered back through the Temple Bar area and crossed the River Liffey on the Ha’penny bridge.

We went to the GPO and paid the entrance fee of 16 Euros for the two of us. This was really informative and we could have spent longer in there, however time was ticking. I really enjoyed the video presentation that played within the exhibition, bringing the time and characters to life. It really gave a fabulous overview of the situation, told through the eyes of Peter Connolly. Phil liked the whole thing.

We were getting really hungry by now and so looked for somewhere to eat. We found Flanagan’s, an old Irish cafe on O’Connell Street. It was perfect. Phil had steak and I had a Chicken Kiev. It was delicious and the service was amazing.

We then got into a cab and went to Kilmainham Gaol where we had tickets for an afternoon tour. We got there in perfect time and joined the tour. This is the gaol that the people responsible for the 1916 uprising were executed. We also learnt that this was the gaol that the convicts being sent to Australia were held, prior to transportation.

This gaol worked on the concept of silence, separation and supervision. Due to the Irish being under British rule, there were many political prisoners held here over the years, some who, when independence was granted in 1922, went on to have long political careers. It was interesting.

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Old section of the gaol

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Looking into the East wing

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Building from the courtyard

After this tour, we caught a cab back to Megan and Paul’s house. We were shattered! Over the last 4 days we calculated that we had walked over 34 kilometres. Our poor feet!

Megan and Paul cooked us a delicious dinner and then we needed to pack as we had a VERY early morning flight the next morning to Pisa, Italy. The taxi was coming to pick us up at 3:45 am!!!!!!!

We have really enjoyed exploring Dublin and look forward to coming back again. Unfortunately we didn’t find any leprechauns, although we looked, except for the souvenir shops. Luckily for us, we had great weather, with no rain. No rain meant no rainbows to look for the leprechauns with their pots of gold.

 

Ireland, Dublin Monday 11th June

Wow! What a whirlwind. We started out on Monday at the Dublin Castle tour. We did cheat a little and get a cab into Dublin as we wanted to be at the Castle as close to 10am as possible. We got there just after 10, and went on the 10:15 am tour. It was a brief tour, however we got to see the different sections of one of the towers, including going underground to see some old entrances, and the different layers of the building from Viking times through to the British occupation. After this interesting section, we then ventured into the church attached to the castle. In here were plaques for all of the Lord Mayors (I think that is what they were called) and their coats of arms. It was very peaceful.

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The church attached to the remaining original tower at Dublin Castle

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The organ in the church – which no longer works

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Crests and names of Lord Mayors (and St Patrick so the bishop could sit there)

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The detail on the ceiling of this church.

After the chapel we headed up into the ‘State Rooms’. Our tour guide explained that a castle was built for defence, whilst a palace was built for entertainment. We then were able to look through the rooms that are now used for ceremonial purposes.

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The drawing room in the State rooms

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The dining room set for a banquet

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The flags and ceiling in the ball room – now used for important ceremonial occasions.

At the conclusion of the tour, we had decided to go to the Guinness Storehouse Tour. Luckily for us, we walked out of the Castle, waited about 5 minutes and along came a Hop On Hop Off bus (which we still had our ticket for from yesterday) going express to the Guinness Storehouse! Winners! We got onto the bus and arrived there in no time. The Guinness tour was 25 Euros each – so one of the most expensive tours we did in Dublin. It was informative and also included a pint of Guinness at the end. It was self-directed and really explained the process of making beer. I found it interesting, although I’m not sure it was worth the price that is charged. I did actually taste it. They had a tasting room where you could taste an 1/8 of a pint, so I tried it. It wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be, however I chose not to have a pint of it at the end. We ended up having our pints up in the Galaxy bar which has a 360 degreee panoramic view of Dublin. It was crowded, but enjoyable. Phil tried to book the Kilmanheim Gaol tickets from here as we had planned to go straight there, however they were sold out for today. We booked them for tomorrow instead.

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At 10:00 am official tasters taste Guinness to make sure it meets their standards. Phil thinks that that could be a great job.

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Phil enjoying his pint of Guinness in the Galaxy Bar.

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Guinness getting trucked out around Dublin.

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The Guinness area.

We decided to walk along the River Liffey and go to the walking tour included in our 48 hour ticket. We had a quick bite to eat on the way and met the tour guides at 3:00 pm. It turns out that it’s a free walking tour and you pay the guide in tips at the end, so it was free anyway! That being said, our tour guide was James and he was amazing. We were staying on the north side and were mainly looking at the history around the 1916 uprising so Phil was well chuffed – as this was exactly what he wanted to learn about.

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Looking to the South side of Dublin across the River Liffey

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A view of the Ha’Penny Bridge across the Liffey

The tour was the perfect combination of history and information about Dublin, from a Dubliner’s perspective. We really enjoyed this tour and especially James who made it all come to life for us.

The tour continued past the Rotunda Hospital, the Garden of Remembrance, the spire, the Abbey Theatre and then at a monument to Connolly.

After the tour, we found a souvenir shop that seemed to have a lot of souvenirs that we were interested in, so we bought a t-shirt each and some other souvenirs. After all of this walking, we were exhausted, so we stopped for a drink on the way back to Megan and Paul’s. They weren’t going to be home until 7:30, so there was no rush. We stopped at Bailey’s Cafe and Bar. Phil had 2 Irish Coffee’s and I had a hot chocolate. It was just perfect.

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Phil’s delicious Irish coffee

When we got home, we then went out for dinner to one of Megan and Paul’s local restaurants. After a lovely dinner, we then went out to see some Tweedle dee music (as Megan calls it – essentially traditional Irish music). It was amazing. The entire atmosphere was something we had never experienced before. It was also the first time that we got to see the city in the dark, as the sun doesn’t set until after 10 pm. We headed home and were exhausted. When we checked our step counter, we had walked over 18 km! No wonder we were exhausted!

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Some of the musicians who were playing and singing traditional Irish music at O’Donogue’s – the Irish pub.

We both slept well that night!

 

 

 

Ireland – Dublin

Well after an amazing sleep and sleep in, we had a beautiful breakfast cooked by Paul today. We decided to head in to Dublin and explore some more, now that we weren’t affected by jet lag. We headed off to walk through St Stephen’s Green, which again was filled with people enjoying the beautiful warm temperatures and sunny weather. Today the temperature was 21 degrees Celsius, although it felt much warmer in the sunshine.

We headed into the shopping area where Phil got a sim for his mobile and I checked out the Disney store. We had decided to go on the Hop On Hop Off bus and luckily, the next bus was due in 5 minutes, so we jumped on. Phil always likes sitting at the top of these buses, in the open air, luckily it was such a nice day. We went on the red route and got to see more of Dublin, including the Liffey River.

Phil is very interested in the history of Dublin and Ireland, especially the uprising in 1916, where the Irish declared their independence from England. After going around the red route and seeing the Guinness area, the Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Phoenix Park, South Dublin, Trinity College and Kilmainham Gaol, we were able to decide which attractions to go back to tomorrow. The Dublin Castle, Guinness Storehouse, Walking Tour and Kilmainham Gaol. We’d also like to go on the blue route, which goes further out of Dublin.

After doing the loop on the bus, we headed up Grafton Street, which is a shopping area and closed to traffic, to get some lunch. (It was after 2:00 pm by this time). We found a cafe called Bewley’s which had some seats overlooking the street in their upstairs dining area. We ordered a croque monsieur each and some scones. After our late lunch, we went shopping because I wanted to get a lightweight cardigan. We went into Marks and Spencers and found what I was looking for.

We had a look in some souvenir shops and were trying to decide what to get. Still thinking about it though. We headed home to Megan and Paul’s as we are having another beautiful dinner there tonight. Phil got the drone out and took some photos of Megan’s neighbourhood. A great day out in Dublin, finishing off with a lovely meal with family. A brilliant day!

Bangkok and Ireland

We ended up finding a restaurant in the shopping centre next door, the MBK centre, and found a restaurant with a lot of local people, so we thought we would give it a try. It was interesting and ok, but we wouldn’t rush back there again.

After a very lazy start to our first Friday, we had a leisurely and delicious breakfast at the buffet in the hotel. We then went back up to our room to attempt to resort the bags to reorganise the weight.

We then headed into the MBK Centre for some shopping. One scarf and some hair accessories were the limit as the bags were already at limit due to the items I’m taking over for my sister.

We had a lovely time looking around and I was spoilt for choice in terms of scarves and hair clips. I eventually made a decision and we ended up at Swenson’s for some ice-cream. When Chris, Ryan and I were in Thailand in January 2006, the boys loved going over to Swensons for dessert after dinner. Phil was quite impressed by the banana split he ordered as well. We walked back to the hotel a different way and discovered a Meat eats Fest so Phil was disappointed that he couldn’t eat another bite. Phil needed his sunglasses, so he raced back to the hotel to get them. Then we explored a ‘night market’ across the road (although it was afternoon). Phil found this place in there that was doing a foot massage for 150 Thai Baht for 30 minutes. That’s a whole $6. He was definitely in for that. It looked painful from where I was sitting, but he enjoyed it and said that his foot felt heaps better for it.

We decided to relax back at the hotel, as we had our flight to Europe on Friday night, leaving Bangkok at 11:00 pm. We got ourselves sorted, and packed the bags. We decided to get an early dinner and found another place in the MBK centre – Chicken BonChon. Again going with a place that had a lot of local people. This was amazing and we were both so glad we tried it.

We then went back to the hotel to collect our bags and meet our transfer to the airport. We left the hotel at 7:00 pm to allow for traffic for an hour! It was chaotic. There was a bus broken down out near the airport and the traffic was banked back for kilometres. There were 3 lanes of traffic, however our intrepid driver decided to make the breakdown lane another lane of traffic. We got to the airport and checked in, with no problems at all. After all that hassle, they didn’t even weigh the cabin bags! We made it to our gate and got onto the very full Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.

We were so tired (and still full from dinner) that essentially we went straight to sleep – well Phil did – snoring away. I dozed. I woke up thinking that I hadn’t slept for very long and yet we were five hours into the flight. Phil was still sleeping / with the occasional loud snore. I found it very hard to go back to sleep as I couldn’t get comfortable at all. We have both agreed that we won’t be doing an overnight economy fare again. We arrived in Frankfurt without a hitch. The airport is massive. You could imagine our surprise when we were following directions to our gate for the connecting flight to Dublin when we found ourselves at a train station to get to the other hub. We then went through security screening again and we clearly got onto the wrong line – the slow line.

We got through and found our gate. The plane was parked on the tarmac right near the plane that we had just gotten off. We had no idea why we had to go so far to end up where we started. It makes sense to someone I guess. The flight was uneventful and 1 hour and 40 minutes later we landed in Dublin. We eventually got through immigration (only 1 line for the Non EU passports) and collected our bags. We found a cab and made our way to Megan’s. It was so fabulous to see her and Paul again. Megan’s house is amazing and very stylish.

After we had given her the things that we had brought (the records survived intact – thankfully), we ended up watching the Australia vs Ireland Rugby Union match. Megan, Phil and I were all happy with the result – not so much Paul (Australia won 18 – 9). We had some lovely lunch that Megan and Paul made us – fried rice. Phil and I decided to go for a walk into Dublin. Paul pointed us in the direction of a very scenic walk and off we went.

It was a beautiful sunny day and lots of people were sitting on the banks of the canal and on the grass in St Stephen’s Green enjoying the fabulous weather. We walked down the canal and then headed off into Dublin. We went to Dublin Castle, as we wanted to know where it was so we could explore it when we have more time (it was after 3:30 pm). We then decided to find St Stephen’s Green, as it was on our way back to Megan’s. As we were walking through the streets of Dublin we saw some amazing buildings that looked really pretty in the sunshine. We found St Stephens Green and thought that it was so pretty, with people out picnicking, playing games or just strolling around the gardens.

We were both really tired though and decided to head home. We got back to Megan and Paul’s about 4:30 and had a chat with both of them. Paul cooked a beautiful dinner on the bar-b-que, which we had early – about 6:30 pm as jet lag was starting to take its toll (along with my rotten cold which I still haven’t shaken). I made it to 8:30 and headed to bed, Phil not long after me.

We really enjoyed our first day in the city of Dublin and spending time with Megan and Paul. We can’t wait to explore this city further and spend more time with my sister and her husband.

Bangkok Day 2

Today was an early start as we needed to meet our tour guide in the foyer at 7:00 am. We had an early breakfast, which was amazing. There were so many options we were definitely spoilt for choice. I had an omelette freshly made for me, enjoyed with bacon and finished with pineapple and watermelon. A lovely start to the day. We met our tour guide and travelled south heading to the Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets.

Our tour guide was Lucky and our driver was Wat, which means glory, or that’s what Lucky told us. Lucky was talking to us about life in modern day Thailand and the minimum wage for workers about 300 Baht per day (13.60 AUD) and if you have a degree the starting wage for day is ($22.72 AUD). She did point out that people were able to earn more by working overtime and extra days. Lucky stated that this was the starting point, but sometimes people (especially educated people) were able to negotiate higher wages. Buying and renting an apartment (or condominium as they are called here) in Bangkok is super expensive. It was an enjoyable trip down the coast.

Our first stop was the Mae Klong railway market, which is also called Talad Rom Hoop, which roughly translated to closing an umbrella or awning. This market has a railway line run through the middle of it. When we first arrived, the awnings and market stalls were set up all the way to the railway line. There were lots of people walking, looking and selling. The train was due through the markets at 8:30am. Sure enough, just before 8:30 people started pulling in their awnings and their stalls. All of the stalls were on wheels so that they could be wheeled back. Tourists squashed into stalls so that they could still take photos as the train limped past. It was going very slowly. As the train went past, the stall holders had their awnings back out and their wares available again within 1 minute of the train passing. It was amazing and yet nothing special to the people that worked there. The train has gone through the market for many years.

After this stop, we headed to a place where they make coconut sugar, (which is used for cooking), coconut milk and coconut oil. It was a very interesting process. Bark off the coconut tree and flower were used as fuel to heat the bowls used in the sugar making process. All parts of the coconut are used, including the shell, which is broken down at a factory and used to stuff mattresses.

The final stop was the floating markets. We arrived at the pier to get onto our boat to travel through the floating markets on the waterways as they originally were used. We had fresh cool water and watermelon for us. We got on the boat and went exploring. There were heaps of boats in the canals causing quite a huge traffic jam at different points. The engines that are used to drive these boats are small 4 cylinder car engines. I was starting to feel quite ill with all of the exhaust. Phil was shocked as there weren’t any guards or protection over the engine, so if the drivers slipped they could potentially lose fingers and / or hands.

People were selling all kinds of goods on both sides of the canal such as souvenirs, scarves, tablecloths, mobiles, dresses, clothes, sarongs. t-shirts, homewares and food. Although most of the food vendors had their own boats who wended their way through the markets. Some of these food vendors even had small stoves on their boats to cook their food. It was crazy. We then veered away from the craziness and got to travel down some areas that weren’t just the markets and we got to see some of the houses that lined the canals. There were some beautiful homes that were stunning. Some people had lived in this area for multiple generations.

We hopped off the boat (which was quite tricky in itself being that we aren’t as flexible as we should be and it was quite a leap up). We then started exploring the markets on foot. Lucky was guiding us and we were taking lots of photos (I know, unusual right?). Lucky then told us where to meet her, so that we could explore independently. We bought a scarf for me (our one item from Bangkok as we are up to our luggage limit due to the items that we are taking for Megan to Dublin – luckily we are already planning a return trip to Bangkok next year). After our big one purchase, with all that bartering – she suggested 500 Baht, Phil offered 250 Baht and she agreed – lots of bartering there – we headed to find a Diet Coke for me and a beer for Phil. We found the perfect spot watching the traffic go by on the canal. After taking some more photos (cause you can never have enough), we headed to find Lucky and head back to Bangkok. This journey took much longer than planned, with us due to back in Bangkok by 12:30 pm but actually arriving at 1:00 pm to be met by Anna – our next tour guide.

She reassured us it was fine and we could push it back to 1:30, which gave us time to race up to the room (on the 22nd floor), change the lens on the camera for Phil and then race downstairs again. Luckily the cafe in the lobby had some bread rolls with ham and roast beef that we ordered and were able to eat quickly. They were delicious.

This tour (again by Buffalo Tours) was the City and Temple tour. Once again it was a private tour. The first stop with Anna and Tom the driver, was the Golden Buddha. This Buddha had initially been covered in plaster / concrete and had only been discovered to be solid gold when people had tried to move it to a new temple. The people constructing the new temple had organised a crane to lift and move it, but it was so heavy that the slings supporting it broke. The Buddha dropped to the ground (it wasn’t very far up) and a crack revealed some gold. It transpired that the monks had covered the Buddha when Thailand (once known as Siam) was fighting Myanmar (once known as Burma) so that the invading armies wouldn’t take the Buddha. The monks all died and so the secret remained until 1955. This Buddha is over 700 years old and is very valuable.

The next stop was The Reclining Buddha at the Wat Pho temple. The reclining Buddha is so long that the Buddha was created and then the building built around him. This temple site is massive and has the ashes of the first 4 kings. It is stunning. We put some coins into the bowls to bring good luck and also rang the bells.

Our last stop was the Marble Temple and was very beautiful, although it did start raining here. The Buddha inside was very beautiful, although I was most impressed with the architecture of the buildings and the ornate decorations. The bells here were ringing in the wind out the back of the temple and were just beautiful. We rang them again to bring us, our family and friends more good luck.

We headed back into Bangkok through the crazy traffic again to get back to our hotel. After a lovely afternoon tea in the lobby, we spent some time editing all of the photos (Bel’s 418 and Phil’s 181) and writing my journal ready to be published. We are going to head out into the nightlife of Bangkok – although we won’t be hitting any nightclubs this trip.

Bangkok Day 1

We had to be at Sydney Airport at 7 am this morning, so decided to spoil ourselves and start the holiday by staying at Sydney Rydges at the airport. This was the BEST way to start our holiday with a view looking out over the airport. It was the first night in ages that we had rain and staying snug in our hotel room looking out at the pouring rain, we were very glad that we had made that decision, rather than struggle in so early the following morning. Our room at Rydges was absolutely brilliant. It was just perfect to relax and prepare for our grand adventure.

We walked over to the airport and were there right on 7am. Amazingly, there was hardly any body in the queue and we walked straight up to check in our bags. We got through customs and learnt that a jar of moisturising cream was not allowed through. Bel was not happy as it was full! Anyway, I bought some more.

We got onto the flight without incident, although the flight was full. The flight was pleasant and the movies enjoyable. Phil was watching a movie and jumped and let out a cry of surprise. The lady sitting next to us and I laughed.

We arrived at Bangkok airport right on time. We were through immigration really quickly. Our bags arrived quickly too and we were out in the airport within 40 minutes of landing. We were super impressed by the efficiency. We found our car transfer people and got organised for the trip into Bangkok.

It took over an hour! There was traffic everywhere. 8 – 10 lanes of traffic, although far less horns than Vietnam. There were many more cars that I remembered too. The city is massive. We finally got to our hotel, the Pathumwan Princess Hotel, and they were so hospitable. We are having room service (although opting for Thai food) and an early night as we didn’t sleep well last night due to excitement and text messages coming through.

We have an early start tomorrow as we have to be ready to go on a tour by 7 am and want to have breakfast first.

Day 1 is over and we are still super excited.

 

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