Euro Day 25 - Bled

Thursday, 18 July 2019

I was in two minds about Bled after our short visit to the town last night - on the one hand it was really pretty. On the other hand it seemed really busy with backpackers looking to be entertained.

We couldn't get into the campground, so we're in a small apartment in someones roof in a little township 2k or so out of Bled. Jon and I drove to town early this morning to run a lap of the lake.  It was really nice.  

 

I'm not saying we ran slowly but on our 6k loop some guy passed us in the opposite direction 3 times! 

 

Once we finished we stopped by the local bakery and got a huge loaf of bread for a couple of euros. Then we went home to wake the kids. 

Once we all got going our first tourist stop for the day was Vintje Gorge - again just a few k away.  The parking was filling up as we got there, but that was actually quite good as we parked in overflow parking which gave us a pleasant 1k walk through the country side before we even got to the official attraction.

 

Once we made it the gorge was lovely - it had amazing clear green water.

    

 The path through it was around 2k long and sometimes so narrow you had to wait for oncoming people to pass by. It was great.

    

After the gorge we drove back to town (parking in the handy places on the outskirts - and funnily enough using the same EasyPark app that Hobart has to pay for it!).  We had a couple of  other 'must-dos' for Bled . The first was to row to the island in the middle of the lake.  Actually we would have preferred to paddle-boat it, but that option wasn't available. So rowing it was. We all took turns on the oars:

    

The island has a church that people can visit and ring the bell for good luck.  We figured we've had a fair bit of good fortune already so we decided just to circumnavigate the island rather than go ashore to ring the bell. Also, it seems that good luck isn't free, so we saved ourselves 5 euro too.

  

 

Back ashore it was time for lunch and a swim. Bled seems to be a bit more controlling about the water activities than Annecy so the only place to swim at this end of the lake was somewhere you had to pay to enter.  This was annoying but we duly forked out our euros and ate our packed lunch on the shady grass before cooling off in the lake.    The kids played on the aqua park inflatable objects:

 

Once we were all refreshed we walked up to the other compulsory tourist attraction - the castle that sits on a hill above the lake.  The walk to it was steep but lovely.

 

Once up on top we looked straight down onto where we'd just been swimming.  We could  even see the dark shapes of the bigger fish cruising around the lake.

  

 

 

 

By the time we'd done all this it was getting on to 4pm, so we headed back to the car then went to the supermarket on our way home. I'm loving Slovenian supermarkets. The huge areas given over to pasta in the french and italian supermarkets have been replaced with a much more diverse range of foods including finally some indian offerings.  They also have a chilled drinks section - bliss!  And it's not too expensive either - Croatia and Slovenia have been noticably cheaper than France and Italy. 

So after today I'm in one mind about Bled - it's lovely and actually a lot more chilled than my first impressions.  It would be easy to stay longer and do some of the other activities that are on offer - rafting, horse riding, zip lining, mountain biking etc etc but we're heading down the road to Bohinj national park tomorrow.

Euro Day 24 - Hello Slovenia!

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Today we packed up our stuff and travelled a little way up the road to a town called Slunj, renown for having houses built right over waterfalls.  When we looked at the information centre map it also showed a longish hike with swimming holes, natural springs and a cave, so we decided to do that first. (well Jon and I did, the kids never supported this plan). Unfortunately the 8k walk turned out to be a bit of a dud. It was nice enough but really just up the bank of a river for a while. The swimming spots looked okaay,  but not that enticing. 

 

 

Back in town we wandered around the regular tourist paths - the waterfalls were really pretty

 

 

 

Then we headed onwards to Slovenia. We didn't have any trouble at the border this time (we made sure we crossed on a major highway), and before too long we were driving the relaxed highways of Slovenia.  I've noticed that the driving in Croatia and Slovenia seems a lot more like driving at home for some reason - slightly wider roads and less lanes maybe.  We stopped at another salubrious lunch spot:

 

As we were going so close we decided to divert to Ljubiana to check out the Slovenia's capital. It was a really pretty and relaxed city - we really liked it for the 1 hour we visited it!

  

 

 

   

Then onwards to Bled where we arrived just in time to put on a huge load of washing and go out for pizza near the lovely lake. It it really pretty but does seem a bit Noosa-ish - i.e pretty busy with holiday makers and packed full of  holiday activities.

 

 

We're looking forward to exploring it some more tomorrow. 

Euro Day 23 - Plitvice Lakes National Park

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

I had never heard of the Plitvice Lakes before Zali showed me some photos of it as we were planning our holiday. And I'd never really considered putting Croatia on the itinerary, but here we are!

And it was amazing.  Not surprisingly it's a pretty popular park - in fact I had to reserve our entry time on-line a few months ago (and pay a huge entry fee). I choose 7am as by all accounts it was much better first thing in the morning.  We're staying just a few kilometres away in a guest house but it still meant an early start so we could be picking up our tickets at 6.45.

  

The park isn't amazing just for the incredible waterfalls, it's also amazing because of the fantastic way the wooden paths wind through, around and over it.  There are plenty of different walking routes to choose from ranging from loops of a few ks to 18 k with a few ups and downs.  Since we'd paid heaps to get here I insisted we walk every inch of the trails and take all the transport options within it which included the electric boats and the buses.  It was great.  It did get a bit busy as we were finishing off our trip but for most of it we had lots of space. Particularly on the less travelled paths.  The water was so clear we could see all the fish quite far out into the lakes. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

So, was it worth the extra time and money to divert down here to Croatia? - it sure was!  We head north to Slovenia tomorrow but we've got another Croation waterfall spot to look at on our way (as recommended by our guesthouse host) .  We really enjoyed the forest that we walked through today too - the area has lots of 'karst' landforms - deep depressions which make for fantastic orienteering.  It was also really nice to eat our lunch not in a car park :)

We're now resting our tired legs back at our guesthouse.  I booked this (rather than camp) because I couldn't really see what the campsites were like online and I was a bit concerned about having all our stuff stolen while we were in the park (we'd been heavily warned about the pickpockets operating in the area too).  But as we drove through the towns near the park I spotted lots of lovely looking campgrounds - so I'm sure they would have been fine too. 

 

Euro Day 22 - Hello Croatia!

Monday, 15 July 2019

Jon and I got up early to go for a run along one of the paths that was close to the campsite (the best thing about it).  We ended up running almost 10k as we found a nice loop trail with great views all the way. The first part was bike path, the route home was along forest trails.

 

 

Back at camp we roused the children and were all packed up and ready to go at 9:30. With no prior knowledge of Trieste we had researched some things that we should do the night before, so we had a few places to go to before we continued on to Croatia.

First was a walking trail further south and along the sea which had lovely views of the coast and boats below us

 

It also had some old military emplacements with their associated tunnels: 

 

 

After about an hour we continued onto the Miramare Castle. It was a beautiful Sunday so the parking was pretty tricky by the sea as every person and his dog had come down for a lovely sunbake on the..um.. rocks. The castle was beautiful though. The most livable we've seen so far I think.

 

 

 

  

By then we were all starving, so our plan was to head to a supermarket then to the sports store Decathlon as Jett needed a new shirt and I needed to buy myself a birthday present. Unfortunately by then the waterfront traffic was crazy, and Jon's google maps lady had gone insane, so funnily enough we got to see the other highly recommended destination that we thought we wouldn't have time for -the Trieste Piazza.  Ms Google directed us right through the centre of it! Poor Jon - he did so well to stay calm. I didn't have the speed to take a photo, so this is from the web. It was very pretty, if a bit stressful!

 

Then we finally made it to the supermarket. We did our shopping then had a lovely picnic in the car park (yes are standards are very low!)

 

Then it was onwards to Croatia. First we left Italy for a short stretch of 20km in Slovenia to the Croation boader. Unfortunately the guards turned turned us back as we had come to a small crossing point which wouldn't let us non-Euro passport holders through. We had to re-route back through a larger crossing which added some extra time to our journey.  Aside from that it was fairly straightforward driving and we're now near the Plitvicka National Park which is the reason for our visit (and one of Zali's picks).

We had delicious italian gnocchi and tiramisu for my birthday dinner.  Yum.  Another adventurous day!

 

 

Euro Day 21 - Dolomites to Trieste

Monday, 15 July 2019

I'm writing this blog from Croatia - it's been a big few days!  

The final day of the Dolomites 3 days was as beautiful as all the previous ones. We arrived fairly early as Zali had an early start. Even the car parking was beautiful:

 

The fallen trees in the background (on the left) are a common sight in the Dolomites at the moment as they had a big storm in October last year which knocked down huge areas of forest.  The forest industry is busy harvesting the fallen timber and clearing the blocked roads.   

The kilometre walk down to the arena was delightful too:

 

 

 The rest of us had later starts so we could soak up the atmosphere of the arena before heading off to the start. The map was in the same area that was used for JWOC 2009, so it was a good area and completely different to the other days. I was expecting a bit of a challenge with the reduced visibility in the forest.

I was pretty keen to get started, and also pretty nervous. I really wanted to keep a podium spot so I could take home a souviner from the event.  I was in a good position overall but it was still possible to lose it all with a few dumb mistakes, which over 17 controls is pretty easy to do!  My plan was to be as safe as possible - it didn't matter if didn't get a place, as long as I wasn't miles behind.   The map was pretty steep and had some interesting rock detail - this is Zali's course which was similar to mine:

 

And generally I had an ok run.  I lost 2-3 minutes at one control when I found myself in a Bermuda triangle of lost orienteers in the middle of some huge rock pillars.  I'm pleased I managed to relocate and find my tiny boulder without losing too much time. Then near the end I was just a bit messy. But it was good enough and I was 6th on the day. Fortunately for me the people who beat me weren't close to me on the overall standings. So I made the podium - yay!  And the funny thing is that because they do men and women together I shared the podium with a Swiss guy who was really good and at JWOC in 1990 with Jon and I, and a Finnish guy who actually won JWOC that year! (they of course went on to bigger and better things like medals in the World Champs but whatevs!   Oh and I got a medal to take home as well as some local cheese and pasta - yum!

 

It was great that Zali also finished the event with her best run, Jett had another solid performance, and Jon had a fantastic run to finish 4th, not much off the pace.

We had to wait a while for the presentations so we didn't get back to the car until about 3.15, and we still had a bit of a drive to Trieste. We hit a really bad hail storm along the way too, so it was slow going. Once again Jon was a champion driver and we made it to our campsite just before 7. It was a pretty weird campsite but it did have a lovely view over Trieste:

 

By the time we'd set up camp and cooked dinner the sun had set on our 21st day in Europe.

 

Euro Day 20 - Dolomites 3 Day - Day 2

Saturday, 13 July 2019

I am going to miss the Dolomites. This whole area is incredibly beautiful. It's filled with hikers and cyclists and beautiful mountain flowers and cows with bells, and wooden chalets and cute villages. It's lovely. And it's been a privilege to be able to orienteer here.

Today we were using a different part of the same map as yesterday. I found it a lot easier navigationally however it didn't stop me making a mistake on the easiest control of the course - much like yesterday. I still finished in 3rd though which I think means I'm sitting in 2nd over-all as the people around me haven't been as consistent.  Tomorrow it will be completely different terrain so anything can happen.

 

Zali contemplating the mountains before her start today 

Unfortunately Zali didn't have a great run, on top of some mistakes at the end she discovered she'd mis-punched which was disappointing after struggling all the way through to the finish.  Jett improved on yesterday, and Jon remained midfield.

Driving home we stopped to check out some donkeys and deer grazing by the side of the road.

 

When we got home I had planned to go for a small hike around this village, but luckily there was a thunderstorm, so I had to stay here :)  It gave me time to organise the last week of our travels in this part of Europe which was good.  The campsites can be a bit tricky, as some won't take bookings at all unless you are staying a week (you just have to hope they aren't full when you arrive for the night), and others get booked out online.  I'd be more comfortable taking chances if it was just Jon and I, but with the kids I want more certainty!  In any case after a few changes of mind our next 10 days are all sorted out now.

So tomorrow we have quite a big day - we have to check out of this apartment, go orienteering, then make a dent in our journey to Croatia. 

  

 

Euro Day 19 - Dolomites 3 Day - Day 1

Thursday, 11 July 2019

An early blog post today as judging by the silence in this apartment, and the absence of any bodies in a vertical position, I don't think there's going to be much to tell for the rest of the day!

Today the Dolomites 3-day officially started. Race one was high up in a ski field. There were hardly any trees, and the ones that were there were marked individually on the map which was handy at times!  It was rocky though - very rocky and there were lots of little ups and downs making controls very easy to hide!  The ground was soft and energy sapping to run through. Aside from all of that it was absolutely stunning orienteering terrain.   

 I'm glad we could get the chair lift to the arena, as it would have been a long walk up from the car park!  

 

 

 

We all had ok runs. I am just in 3rd but its a mile to first place on my course so I won't be bothering them this event! The rest of the family are solidly midish field.   

It was quite cold up so high, so we finally wore all the winter woolies we packed for the Mont Blanc trip.

 

 

 

Tomorrow we will be back on the same area.  There's no shortage of control sites on this A3 sized map! 

 

Euro Day 18 - Venice to Predazza, Sea to Mountains

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Jon and I loved having Venice almost to ourselves so much yesterday that we got up early again and went for a final stroll before packing up the house and catching the 8:30 am ferry back to the mainland..

 

 

We didn't have a lot of time to spare, none actually, so once in the car I slavishly followed Google's instructions (and only once drove into a bus interchange) and drove us the 2.45 minutes to Val Venegia - right in the heart of the Dolomites.  The mountains started to grow and grow from one hour away from Venice - by the time we arrived they were stunning..

 

We had to start before 12:30 so we only had time to put on our shoes, fight over the few biscuits we had in the car, then start. It's the first time I've been orienteering in Europe since 1992 so it went fine considering. The terrain was delightful!  Zali made one big mistake, the rest of us made lots of smaller ones. 

  

 

The download station was in some old stables:

  

After we'd all finished we headed on to Predazzo, a very pretty ski-ing & hiking town.

 

 

 

We have a very lovely AirBNB apartment here which feels like a bit of a bargain after the Venice prices! Our apartment is up the top at the far end of this building above.

After the fairly hectic pace we've been keeping, the next 3 days of orienteering will feel like a bit of a break!  The weather is going to change tomorrow so we might actually be bringing out the warm jackets as the start is a chairlift and 2000m above sea level! 

Euro Day 16 & 17 - Part 2 - Venice

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Our journey from Florence to Venice didn't start out that well. First we had a failed attempt at a hike that I'd researched the night before.  It looked like it started outside of Bologna but we couldn't really find the start, or at least when we did, it just looked like streets rather than forest (despite the photos of the hike looking foresty). We didn't have extra time to stuff around so we abandoned that plan and went to a Bologna supermarket instead to buy supplies for lunch and our coming time in Venice.  Note - We didn't buy bolognaise but we did buy this massive jellyfish shaped loaf of bread that I was really looking foward to eating.  They weigh the bread here - I think the lady behind the bread counter wasn't expecting me to buy the whole thing.

After shopping we had another 90 minutes of driving so we could only stop for a quick lunch at a roadside stop (A Servizia).  It was the least pleasant place imaginable - and that was before we realised that we'd somehow failed to purchase the delicious looking bread we'd chosen in the supermarket! Disaster!

 

Luckily we had breadsticks, so we wrapped them with our roll fillings and made the most of it. Then it was onwards to Venice where we arrived at our parking place with about 10 minutes to spare before the ferry. Perfect timing in the end! 

 

 

The ferry journey to Venice was about 25 minutes long, and then we had 10 minute walk to meet the person who was checking us into our Airbnb apartment.  

 

 

The view from the stairwell of our 4th story apartment. Sometimes there are om-pah-pah musicians on board as well (my worst nightmare)

After unpacking and enjoying the A/C of the apartment for a little while (and stroking the fridge lovingly - don't judge us, we've had a hot few days and nights), we headed out for a walk around our local neighbourhood. We're staying just a few minutes from St Marks Square so we went out in that direction and just kept walking.  

  

 

 

 

marzipan things seem to be a big thing here 


It was all amazing. The canals, the sea, the buildings, the shops and the piazzas and statues.  It was busy with people, but it's all so huge that it's easy to get off the main thoroughfares and wander down other alley ways and cross other bridges.  It goes on forever.  We walked for ages and only covered a small part of it.  

Back in our apartment we cooked dinner then watched a movie, intending to go out a bit later but the next thing we knew the windows were being lit up by fireworks which turned out to be lighting, followed by torrential rain, so aside from a quick trip out to get drenched, we spent the rest of the evening inside and slept in comfortable beds while our washing hung from every possible area of the apartment.  

The next morning, Jon and I went for a run (as previously blogged), then Zali decided it would be cool to visit Murano, one of the outer islands - so we walked to the waterbus stop and took the 30 minute trip around our part of Venice, then over to Murano. 

 

 

Murano is the original glass production area - in fact all the glass makers were sent from the main part of Venice to Murano in 1291 to reduce the risk of fire to Venice from their furnaces.  On Maruno they enjoyed a high status with certain priveliges such as being able to wear swords and being immune from prosecution from the state. However they also weren't allowed to leave the island (and take with them their glassmaking secrets). If they tried and were caught they would loose their hands, and sometimes their lives as well. So swings and roundabouts really!  One of the interesting things we learnt about in the museum was that they kept their secrets sooo secret that they actually lost the secret, and had to go about trying to re-invent their secret techniques - ha! I bet the handless former glass workers had the last laugh there then!

Today Murano still has lots of glass places, and a glass museum which we visited. It's much quieter than Venice so was nice to walk around as well.  

   

 

We had lunch on the island in a little park and then took the ferry back to a different part of Venice and walked the 2ish k home via a completely different route. It was great.

 

This is outside the hospital - these are the ambulances and ambulance drivers.  A different type of 'ramping' goes on here! 

   

 

After a bit of siesta and snack time we headed out again for a Gondola ride and dinner. Although the gondola was cool it probably would have been better to do it when we first arrived, as it felt like we'd sort of already had the wow factor from running and walking around all the canals. Still it was good fun.

 

Dinner was really expensive for not very fancy food. Back to home cooking for a while I think!

Tomorrow we have to leave early for the Dolomites.  Venice has been great - it exceeded my expectations and I'd happily spend a week here so there was time to visit the museums and palaces and learn a bit more about the history, and see the Biennale.  Another time hopefully.

Euro Day 16 - Part 1 - O-Nerding in Venice

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

 


This morning Jon and I got up at 5.30 to do something we'd been planning ever since we included Venice on our itinerary  - re-running a street orienteering course that was run last year and happened to have the maps online.  Starting early meant that the only people around were the street sweepers and the delivery people.

 

The course took us all over town,  In fact we visited four of the five'boroughs' of Venice - San Paulo, San Marco, Dorsoduro & Castello.

 

 It was great fun. Exhausting though - as almost all the bridges have steps up and down! We ended up running around 13ks for the course that was marked as 6k in a straight line!

 

 

 

The scenery was amazing - as we were orienteering rather than touristing we visited backstreets and dead ends and generally heaps of places you wouldn't normally go. It was fantastic fun! 

 

 

 

Euro Day 16 - Thunder and Lightning in Venice

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Just one photo today - I'll do a bigger Venice post tomorrow, but our first impressions from the 1/4 of the day that we have been here is that Venice is amazing.  It's way way bigger than I imagined - we walked for 80 minutes from our tiny apartment and only covered a tiny portion of it.

After a sunny afternoon there is now thunder and lightning and torrential rain outside the window. Jon, Jett and I went out to check it all out only to get soaked by the rain cascading down from the roofs on both sides of the very narrow alley our tiny apartment is above.  After about 30 seconds we were drenched from rain above and the deep puddles forming on the ground. It was very dramatic - especially as it was dark in the alley and hard to get the key into the heavy wooden door! We'll all remember that experience for a while! 

Euro Day 15 - Thunder and Lightning in Florence

Monday, 8 July 2019

Thankfully, after a hot night,  we woke up to overcast skies and comfortable temperatures this morning. We had plans for a self guided walking tour of Florence with about 10 stops so we cajoled the kids into getting up and we took the early-ish shuttle bus from the camping ground into town. 

The first stop was the Accademia Gallery where the Statue of David is housed. We joined the back of the line as it was growing at a pretty rapid rate, and it had already wound it's way down the street from the entrance and halfway down the next block.  Still it didn't look too bad so we stuck with our plans. If we had known that the line would be 2.5 hours long, we might have changed our minds though!  Luckily we had the internet so I borrowed and read a library book on my phone and we followed the Australian runners as they competed at JWOC.

After finally getting in we were surprised that the Gallery was so small, and dissapointed that it was a bit crappy - it had amazing stuff but it was organsied strangely and the audio tour that Jon had was pretty hopeless.  I'd say we spent maybe 45 minutes there all up! David was impressive though.

 

Back in the outside world the skies were darkening further and by the time we go to the Basilica it was pissing down and the lightening was cracking right over head - it was very dramatic! We scuttled off with everyone for shelter while the normally sunglasses selling street touts quickly changed their product range to ponchos and umbrellas.

 


 

 

 

We made it to Ponte Vecchio just as the sun was starting to come out.  The bridge is supposed to be an iconic Florence attraction, but it seemed to me that it was just another chance for more touristy shops - this time it was jewellery themed. The city seems to be stuffed full of markets selling leather stuff that looks suspiciously like it might have come from China,  and they are all selling the same crap - one stall is the same as the next.  I shouldn't have been surprised but it did make me wonder what the point was.

 

After the river the kids got gelato and while I waited I took a photo of some more ancient street sculptures

   

 

Then we wandered towards the Piazzale Michelangelo which was quite nice as it was quieter than everywhere else.

 

 We had lunch in the gardens  looking over the city (it was about 2pm by then), then strolled over the shuttle bus to catch it home.

 

 

 

So Florence didn't wow me.  I've never been a fan of big cities anyway, and the markets full of tacky stuff took away from the overall ambiance. The big long wait for the first gallery didn't help but I had already noticed that during the 20 minute walk through the 'normal' non-tourist streets to that first stop that the streets were pretty dirty with rubbish bins overflowing and generally run down. I think it would maybe be impressive if you came in winter and visited all the galleries but unless you are willing to book your exact entry hour weeks in advance and pay heaps for the 'skip-the-line' tickets, then it's too hard to really appreciate all the art and stuff.  In anycase I'd much rather visit some mountains or a forest park somewhere than a big city. 

Having said all that we're off to Venice tomorrow! I'm hoping it will be different enough from Florence that we'll really appreciate it - as this is one of the stops I've been really looking forward to. Having an apartment will help I think as we'll be able to get out early in the day before the boatloads of other visitors arrive. 

Anyway - back at the campsite the kids read their books in the shade while Jon and I braved the crowded pool a few times to cool off.  It was a pleasant afternoon.

 

Euro Day 14 - Pisa and San Gimignano

Sunday, 7 July 2019

After a late night washing and spreading our stuff around the lovely little apartment in La Spezia we were up earlyish in the morning reversing the process and getting ready to go. With the continued hot weather we're already missing the fridge and air conditioning!

Our first stop today was at Pisa, 50 minutes away. We weren't keen to do much more than take a quick look at the tower so we did that. It was hot and crowded but ok.  These are the people doing their typical Pisa photo thing..actually I was so interested in taking photos of them, I didn't get a decent one of the tower itself - doh! I'm sure Jon did!

 

 

 

Then it was onto a place recommended by Paul, San Gimignano, a walled village on the top of the hill. Aside from the destination the journey through the Tuscan country side to reach the place was fantastic. 

 

 

 

San Gimignano was really cool too, although very touristy. 

Strangely it seemed to be the location of not one but two competing torture museums. I couldn't stomach them but Zali and Jett were keen so we sent them in while we wandered around the rest of it. This photo is of Zali retelling the highlights:

 

  

 

    

We checked it out for a few hours then headed towards the campsite we booked in Florence.  By the time we arrived it was after four which seems to be the very hottest part of these hot days - well into the 30s, so it was a relief to get all the camping setup out of the way and cool down in the very very crowded pool.  It really isn't easy camping when it's so hot!


Euro Day 13 - Cinque Terre

Saturday, 6 July 2019

  

Sometimes when you have been looking forward to something for ages, you run the risk that the reality doesn't quite live up to your expectations.  This was not the case ast all with our visit to the Cinque Terre - the five towns perched on the edge of impossibly steep hillsides and cliffs on the Amalfi Coast of Italy.

We started our Cinque Terre day pretty early and after parking close to La Spezia station we were on the train to the first town at 7:55.  We had purchased Cinque Terre 'passes' which gave us unlimited train travel, free access the  public toilets (instead of 1 euro), and most importantly, access to the trails in between the towns. When we arrived a few minutes later we checked out the town of Riomaggiore. As it was early the tiny streets were full of delivery people wheeling supplies to the zillions of small shops tthat lined the alleys. There were already people swimming in the tiny harbour and it was really tempting to join them but we had a big day ahead so we had to save swimming for later. 

 

The path between Riomaggiore and its next door neighbour Manarola fell into the sea a few years ago and hasn't been restored, so we jumped back on the train for a 3 minute tunnel journey to Manarola.  After checking out the streets and laneways we started our hike, one of the attractons for me was that you could walk between the towns.  There used to be a flattish walk between Manarola and Corniglia but it too was destroyed a few years ago so we took the alternative 'high' route which went straight up and up and up through terraced vine yards and vegetable patches, then contoured around the hillsides through even smaller townships before descending straight down again into Corniglia. The 5.5km walk took us about 2 hours minutes and was hot, dusty and hard hiking.  We passed a few people coming the other way out of Corniglia who really didn't look like they were going to make it - there were parts of the walk which were steeper and rougher than sections of the TMB we'd done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Down in Corniglia it was getting on to 11:30 so after looking around the town we got some gelato fron one of the zillion gelato sellers and ate it in the shade before setting off to town number four, Venazza.  This was the town that we'd actually done a jigsaw puzzle of last year, so we already knew that it wss beautiful.  The journey between these towns was a bit shorter and a lot easier and much much busier. 

It was interesting that on the TMB the most common non-french-or-italian nationality was Australian, followed maybe by British.  While in the Cinque Terre area the place was absolutely heaving with Americans and Scandinavians.  By the time we reached Vernazia (after an extra stop to deal with one of Zali's quite commen heat-related bleeding noses) it was about 1pm and it was really really busy - the tiny laneways filled with people chosing a place to eat and the little beaches and areas of water access were filling up as well. 

  


I regret we didn't spend longer there but we did spend long enough to get some lunch and cool our feet in the sea.  We were pretty worn out and dusty and the kids were keen to get to the alleged best town for swimming - Monterosso - as Zali had researched that it was possible to hire paddle boats from there. So we took the train rather than hike the final 3.5k section of the path.

 

In Monterosso the first thing we noticed that the 'beach' was of course pebbles, and the 2nd was that it was the sort of place that you were expected to pay for a deckchair and umbrella which were laid out in rows over 75% of the beach space, or squish into the free area, which was much more colourful. 

 

 

We decided to walk 10 minutes through a pedestrian tunnel and around the corner to the next section of beach and we were rewarded by finding the place which hired out the paddle boats with water slides.  We wasted no time heading to sea to cool ourselves down and we spent the next few hours floating around and sliding into the water. It was fantastic.

 

After our rental finished we had another gelato (they are really small here - really!) and jumped aboard the ferry heading back to La Spezia, so we could see the towns from the sea.  It was a pretty long trip (1hr45) but it was really lovely and we got to see another famous town Portovenera on the way back which had a castle and really narrow (sometimes just 1 window wide) houses lining the waterfront. 

  

 

 

Back in La Spezia we had about a 30 minute walk back to the car and we stopped at our first large italian supermarket on the way to get supplies for dinner.  I bought the most delicious gnocchi and pesto sauce - it was so good!

We then spent a late night trying to get through all our sweaty dirty washing (With a washing machine that took about 3 hours per cycle!) and planning our next few days of camping as we head to Florence, then on to Venice.  


Euro Day 12 - Transition Day

Friday, 5 July 2019

At least that's what they'd call it in the Tour Du France.  Today we left France behind for real this time, and our only goal was to get to our accommodation in La Spezia at the end of the Cinque Terre. It was a 450 km drive and I think we passed through at least 10 toll stations (you stop and pay in cash or card like ye-olde-Sydney-Harbour-Bridge days), and we would have gone through 30 tunnels. The prices of the tolls ranged from 1.50 Euro to a whopping 46 Euro for a 13 km tunnel that we had no idea existed until we got to it.  I hate to think what the final total was!

Before we left Albertville we went for a short run to confirm our suspicions that it probably wasn't an amazing place in 1992, and that they hadn't spent a euro cent on it since - it seemed pretty run down.  It had signs up for the tour coming through in a few weeks which I guess will breathe at least a small puff of life into the place. I mean it was ok, but I was expecting somewhere Lillehammer-ish I guess.  The former accommodation looked like soviet era blocks of flats.

 

Right now we are in a lovely little apartment in La Spezia. I was wondering if this place would be ok as it was hard to tell from the photos and compared to French accommodation it's really quite cheap.  Luckily it is also really delightful and looks over the city of La Spezia and the sea.  And in exciting news we have a fridge for the first time in almost 2 weeks, and.. air conditioning! And even better, there is a table and chair - so I haven't had to sit on my camping chair using the gas cooker box as a mouse mat to update this blog - yay!

 

The kids have been excited as we've had a proper Italian washing line where you string your washing out the kitchen window! 

 

Jon and I just went for a walk up the impossibly steep streets behind the apartment which has tonnes of terraced gardens and olive trees everywhere with vegetable patches crammed into any space left over. It feels very Italian!

Tomorrow we're off to spend the day fighting crowds and exploring the Cinque Terre. 

 

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