A Travellerspoint blog

The Spanish Saga.

Our first week in Spain

After our brief time spent in Andorran luxury we made our way to Barcelona for our first taste of Spain. Before I get into too much detail I'll start by saying that I absolutely loved Barcelona. Not only is there so many incredible buildings and things to see, but the whole city has a really fun and alive atmosphere. Even with just a quick afternoon stroll down La Rambla on our first day there was enough to show that the city has so much life to it.

After a settled night in our free car park we headed into the city to do what we do best; a free walking tour. Again we found ourselves immersed in the history of the city as well as becoming familiar with what life is like there now. The biggest thing that struck me about Barcelona was how much hosting the Olympic games in 1992 sky-rocketted the city from an unknown old harbour town to the 4th most visited city in Europe. Once you're there however, it's not hard to see why so many people flock there because the city is just amazing. After our walking tour we had a bit more of a stroll over to see La Sagrada Familia. Now this was the one slightly disappointing thing we saw in Barcelona. Yes the building was very large and imposing and impressive. But I honestly found the style a bit weird for my liking and on top of that, it's still not finished. The cranes and construction site really do detract from the whole experience. Despite this I'd still recommend any going to Barcelona definitely go and check it out and decide for yourself.
The next exciting part of our time in Barcelona was a tapas tour. Naturally, being somewhat interested in all things food, we couldn't wait to get our hands on some real Spanish tapas. The tour took us to 3 Tapas bars with some tapas included and the option to get additional if you so desired. Not only was the food fantastic but we also got to learn a little bit about the origin and tradition of tapas itself. We spent most of the evening chatting to and eating with 3 Aussie teenagers on their gap year around Europe and a Pommy man who had just been on a cruise with friends. Now our Pommy friend provided the most entertainment for the night when, at the end of the tour, we were required to attempt to drink out of a traditional Catalunyan drinking flask. It sounds easy enough but I assure you it was not, as a friend proved by pouring half a jug of red wine on his shirt during his first attempt of the night. By the end I think most of us pretty much had the hang of it, but I think I'll be sticking to regular cups in future.
Our last day in Barcelona we spent as relaxed as possible. We headed into the beach in the morning, lying on the sand and swimming in the cool waters for a couple of hours. Once we'd soaked up enough sun we caught ourselves a gondola ride up the mountain for an amazing view over the city and the beaches. We walked passed the Olympic stadium on the way back down to our train, and all too soon it was time for us to being leaving Barcelona to go North.
Our next stop was a little town that we had never heard of before called Estella. Now as far as we knew there was anything particularly exciting to see there but, Maddie's good friend Libby was in week 1 of a 40 day hike so we thought we'd stop off and give her some support. We had a great night chatting and catching up and examining Libby's blisters; so great that we forgot to get Libby back to her pilgrim house before lockout. In the end we had to boost her over a 2.5mt wall so she could sneak in the back door of the hostel. But as they say, all's well that ends well.
While Libby continued her Pilgrimage we aimed ourselves for the coastal city of San Sebastian. We'd been given this recommendation by our friend Hayley who we caught up with in Santorini, and we're glad we listened to her advice. We did have one minor worry when we first arrived though. We had a very cheap motorhome park picked out to stay at, however, when we arrived it was completely full with around 50 campers. So we drove on a little and found some street parking on a main road where there were another 20 or so motorhomes parked. We decided we didn't really want to stay on the main road as it would probably be a bit noisy so we went for a wander to find a nice back street. Well 15minutes of walking told us that every back street within a kilometer was packed with campers too. After watching at least 10 other campers circling the car parks at 8pm we were just happy to have a spot at all. The city of San Sebastian itself was amazing. Nestled in a calm bay with a huge sandy beach, beautiful buildings, and a castle on a hill, there's not much you could dislike about it. We were a little unfortunate however in that it was overcast for the 2 days we were there, which is apparently fairly normal for that area, but meant we weren't able to make full use of the amazing beaches.
Oh next stop took us back the way we had come to a town called Logrono. Our knowledge of Logrono was in a similar category to the previously mentioned Estella, but again we were there to see our little pilgrim friend. This time me made sure that we were prepared to get her back to her accommodation before lockout time, which we did successfully. Before we were able to send her on her way though we had to give her a big feed of protein to keep her going on her journey so we enjoyed a huge BBQ sharing plate of sausages, steaks, ribs, peppers, and fries.
With that short stint in Spain done we were already moving into a new country. The next stop on our journey was to be Portugal, which Maddie was very openly extremely excited for. And with Portugal being soon added to the list, we would also be adding country number 20 for our trip so far. Crazy how it's flown!

Posted by ScottGosling 14:44 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Oh so Nice!

After leaving Italy we headed into France to the city of Nice. While we were very excited to see the city which my aunty and cousin have raved about, we were also a little sad because we knew that this was where Amy would be leaving us. It was impossible to believe that 3 weeks was almost over. Nevertheless, we were determined to make the most of her final days abroad, so we settled into our campsite and had a quiet night at home.

The next day we headed into the city on the train, and I must say, this was the nicest train I think I have ever been on. Nice was making a good first impression. We spent the morning wandering around the city exploring castle hill, the old town, the beaches, and some parks. Altogether, I though Nice was one of the most liveable cities I’ve seen so far. Everything was just so clean and well maintained. Not only that, the beaches there are pretty incredible too. I think one of our highlights for the day, however, would have had to be lunch. We got a baguette, drink and pasty for 8euro and the lemon meringue was so good I thought Amy was going to cry. Despite all this, there is still one thing that I don’t really get about Nice. Constantly throughout the day we’d be walking through the streets and this wonderful sweet fragrance would waft over us, not like we were walking past a candy store or someone had put on to much perfume, but as if the city has installed little air fresheners on the street just to keep the place smelling great. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was incredible, but I still don’t understand how an entire city can smell that good!
We also decided that seeing as we were so close we had better pop over to Monaco for the day. So after having a looking around Nice itself we dedicated the next day to Monaco which was an easy 30 min train ride from Nice straight along the shoreline with an amazing view of the ocean for most of the time. Before I go any further I’ll say that we did enjoy our day in Monaco and we thought it was definitely beautiful and luxurious. That being said, one of the main things the 3 of us agreed on was that it did feel very sterile. Yes the place was very clean, but I mean that the seemed to be almost no life to the place. There were hundreds of amazing yachts in the harbour and not a person on board, beautiful paths along the ocean and no one using them. The only place we found the place alive was at the beach, which was really quite nice. But altogether we found the whole place lacked any sort of character or warmth to make it appealing to us. My favourite bit about Monaco was by far the Oceanographic Museum. Let’s be honest, if there’s something involving animals or fish then I want to see it. I made the girls come to the museum (not that they took any convincing) just so we could look at all the aquariums. And it’s a good thing we did, as Amy discovered, for the first time in her life, a fish which she thought was genuinely beautiful. Not only that, but we all got to pat sharks in the aquariums version of a petting zoo. By far the highlight of Monaco for me.
That evening we had decided to go out for dinner to celebrate Amy’s last night with us. After enjoying a nice free Italian buffet with our Mojito’s we asked our waiter for a restaurant recommendation and he pointed us to a resteraunt just around the corner. And boy are we glad we asked him. Being at a seaside city we obviously had to eat some seafood. Amy had a delightfully spicy fish dish, I had an amazing octopus and crispy potato salad, and Maddie had an unbelievably delicate plaited fish. We were truly in French heaven.
We grudgingly got ourselves into Nice again the next morning to farewell Amy, and after a quick brunch of deadly Nutella crepes we were waving goodbye as the train whisked her away to Milan. While Amy was riding the train we got ourselves on the road again and headed to the coastal town of St Tropez. We only spent the one day in St Tropez and honestly that was enough for me. It was really beautiful and seemed like it had a lot to offer, but after a day wading through an ocean of tourist and taking 30minutes to drive 5kms I think we were both ready to move on.
We spent the next 2 nights in south France avoiding bush fires. We spent both nights at free sites and both times we nearly weren’t able to get there due to the fires. It was crazy seeing all the smoke in the sky and the flames racing up the sides of cliffs. We even got to watch some planes collecting water from the lake and dumping it on the fires. Thankfully we were safe the whole time and from what we could see they had managed to get the first under control without too much damage.
After leaving St Tropez we had been heading toward Spain. However, we had one little stop along the way. Andorra. Now i’m going to be honest, I knew absolutely nothing about Andorra before we went there. For those of you who don’t know, Andorra is a small, but quite wealthy, micro country between France and Spain which is particularly known for it’s snowfields. Unfortunately for us we arrived right in the middle of Summer. Not so good for skiing. Despite this we really liked Andorra. It was really quite a beautiful place and everything was in immaculate condition. You could tell there definitely was money around. We grabbed some lunch and strolled around the capital for the afternoon before making our way to a carpark next to a river for the night.
With Andorra checked of our list and south France behind us we crossed another border, this time into Spain, and aimed ourselves for Barcelona.

Posted by ScottGosling 15:15 Archived in France Comments (0)

When In Rome...

The end of our time in the amazing Italy

I am very sad to report that this post brings an end to our Italian adventures. We did spent a total of 18 days in Italy, but I’ve just been hopeless at providing regular updates so we’ve had to cram it all into just 2 posts. The last stretch of our time in Italy took us up the west coast through Rome, Cinque Terre and Portofino.

From Pompeii we made our way to Rome. Our choices for camping sites around Rome were average at best, being far from the city centre and very pricey. Luckily, Maddie found a secure bus park that allows motorhomes to stay. So we ended up a 10min walk from the train station and 15min train ride from the Centre of Rome. Perfect! After getting ourselves set up in the parking we heading into Rome for a walking tour. We thoroughly enjoyed walking around seeing the sights and learning a bit of the very long and turbulent history of Rome. This was dampened a little when our tour guide got into a heated religious debate with a passer by. After standing there listening for a couple of minutes we slipped away to find our train.

The next day we headed into the city again for some more sightseeing. However, it wasn’t the city of Rome we were interested in, it was the Vatican City. We made our way to the entrance in the morning and quickly got ourselves into a walking tour. For anyone that’s been to the Vatican City you know that it is absolutely amazing. The Vatican Museum is by far the best art museum I have ever seen in my life. With amazing sculptures, paintings, and rooms it really was an incredible experience. This all culminated at the end of the tour with a walk through the Sistine Chapel. Incredible! After the tour we had one last stop on our Vatican visit, St Peter’s Basilica. The pinnacle of the Vatican. Not only is the architecture and decoration incredible, but the sheer enormity inside absolutely blew us away.
After a delicious pizza lunch we headed home to get ready for the evening. We had big plans for the evening too. Maddie had seen pictures from a friend of a restaurant that they had tried when they we in Rome not log before us. The restaurant is run by an adorable Italian nona who serves her guests a set menu and kisses them on the cheeks. Naturally, we were unable to resist the temptation to check that out. So we arrived at the restaurant at 8pm and hadn’t even pulled our chairs in before a jug of wine and the first course was placed on the table. And that’s pretty much how the night went. As soon a a plate or jug was empty it was replaced with a full one. There is no menu at the restaurant so you just have whatever is being cooked that night. I thought it might be a bit average not being able to decide what you wanted to eat, but it was surprisingly very fun and made the whole experience out more enjoyable. We ate tomatoes, lentils, prosciutto, mini arancini balls, pasta, roast meat, bocconcini, bread, beans, salad, and nona’s apple tart. It was incredible! And to top of the night Maddie scored herself a big hug and kiss off the nona herself (which I think was her favourite part of the meal). Truly an amazing experience. We also had a chat to our waiter and found out that the restaurant has been here for 120 years and passed from grandfather to father to son, and now his wife. Unfortunately, there is no-one to take over the restaurant when the time comes so everyone needs to get themselves to Rome now to share in our experience.
Day 3 in Rome took us to the old Roman Forum. We got ourselves tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus so we rode this for a while first, hopped off at the monument to Victor Emmanuel II (which is an incredible monument to the kings of Italy and the unification of the nation), and then walked to the forum entrance. The old Roman forum was amazing. Everywhere you look there are ruins of temples and tombs and incredible columns. The forum has, unfortunately, be much more heavily destroyed than the likes of Pompeii, which we saw earlier that week. But that made it quite cool for us to see the contrast. To end our Roman forum experience we headed to the crowning jewel of the ancient Roman world, the Colosseum. It’s crazy to think sometimes of the centuries of history that have played out on the very spot that you’re standing. That’s the feeling that you get when you enter the Colosseum. Not only does the magnificent design impress and amaze, but it’s easy to imagine all the spectacles that the amphitheatre has witnessed throughout it’s history. With so much to see, the Roman Forum is a must for anyone visiting Rome. A couple of highlights for me in Rome would definitely be the Pantheon, the Colosseum and Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and of course, Nona's restaurant.
The next day we sadly bid farewell to the incredible city of Rome. Our sadness, however, was soon overtaken by our excitement about getting to our next destination. Cinque Terre. Before leaving for our trip we had seen hundreds of photo’s of Cinque Terre and heard numerous people raving about how amazing it is, so we were naturally very keen to see it for ourselves. Naturally we had a stop off on the way to get our classic tourist picture at the leaning tower of Pisa, and then continued on our way. Unfortunately, our first order of business on arrival at Cinque Terre, finding somewhere to stay, didn’t go exactly as planned. We had found a spot specifically for motor homes that looked really good so we headed there first, and after an arduous journey up a winding mountain road we were dismayed to find that the site was completely full. So we turned around and headed back down the mountain to the town we had driven through, Levanto. On we way we were google searching and calling campsites. We found a total of 6 sites including the one we had just tried. We were starting to get a bit worried, however, as we were noticing numerous other vans driving around the town. And after calling 3 of the 5 remaining sites we realised that they also were looking for somewhere to stay. Needless to say, we were getting worried. We arrived at site number 5 of 6 and Maddie and Amy walked in to ask the question. As they returned to Frankie I looked at them and Amy just gave me a thumbs down. Oh dear. Site number 6 of 6 was just around the corner so we headed there and started to discuss our options. Maddie wandered in alone this time, leaving Amy and I feeling very nervous. As she return a giant smile lit her face and she let out a big cheer. To our amazement, we had gotten the last spot in the site. With a feeling of sheer relief we settled into our site and prepared ourselves for what was to come the next morning.

We faced the next morning with a feeling of both excitement and dread. We had planned to do the Blue Path hike which, by all accounts, was quite difficult. Nevertheless we set out to see what we could find. We started the path at the town of Monterosso heading to the end point at Riomaggiore. Setting out on what was supposedly the most difficult section of the path we quickly discovered that this was not going to be a nice easy stroll. Unlike our nice gentle downhill hike at Amalfi, this was hundreds of stairs, up then down, then up again. All of the aches and pains were beyond worth it for the incredible view we were met by as we approached the town of Vernazza. Absolutely amazing! We took a drink break on the breakwall to recuperate, and after losing and recovering my GoPro in the rocks, we were on our way again. Now this next section supposedly got easier than the first section. We would like to thoroughly disagree with whoever said that! I think it was just as hard as the first section, only that we were already exhausted, but we soldiered on anyway, and again were met with an amazing view of the town of Corniglia where we had another drinks break. To our absolute devastation (but my secret relief) the path from there on had be blocked by landslides, so we were forced to take the train for the final 2 stops. How terrible!. But I think by that point we were happy to sit for a bit. At the end of the train line we found my favourite of the 5 towns we saw, Riomaggiore. An amazing little town on a steep cove with brightly coloured houses lining the cliffs and the most incredible clear water. That being said all the towns there are amazing in their own right. Despite the difficulty of the walk I would strongly recommend it to anyone going to Cinque Terre and would definitely do it again one day.
The next day we opted for the train and spent a lazy day lounging by the beach at Monterosso and snorkelling at Riomaggiore. Absolute relaxation. But the night is what brought the highlight for that day. We went looking for a restaurant for dinner and got a recommendation of the receptionist at our camp. Unfortunately her suggestion was closed that night so we had to choose one for ourselves. We had a wander around and remembered a restaurant we had walked past the night before that looked really good. And it was! I realise that a lot of my highlights are being food related but when Maddie says she had the best fish of her life how could I not mention it. Safe to say we're loving our food tour of Europe.
Again we were sad to be farewelling another amazing place, but also again we were soon to be amazed. This time we were headed for the town of Portofino. We found ourselves an amazing free camp spot hidden under the trees with a view of the coastline, then, with much difficulty, caught the bus to Portofino. Now if Cinque Terre is the classic Cadillac convertible of Italian towns, Portofino is the Rolls Royce. With exclusive waterfront dining, expensive shopping, amazing waterfront, and immaculate yachts it's safe to say that's where I'll be holidaying once I get rich and famous. Unfortunately we only had the one afternoon there but Portofino really left quite the impression on us Absolutely amazing!
The next day was sad indeed as it saw an end to our time in Italy. It was time for us to head the the French city of Nice. Oh how nice!

Posted by ScottGosling 03:08 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

The Italian Incident

We've been exploring Italy with our guest!

It would appear that I have once again fallen drastically behind in my updates. It’s been over a week since we crossed into Italy and picked up our current guest. I guess I’ve just been enjoying myself too much to think about sitting down and writing it all down. So with that it mind, I’m going to try to cram a weeks worth of adventure into one moderately sized entry. So strap yourself in and here we go!

Our first stop on our Italian road trip was Milan. Maddie and I had decided to arrive a couple of days early so that we could give Frankie a bit of a freshen up, and also have time to look around Milan before Amy arrived. Now I’l be honest, the centre square of Milan was nice, but I definitely wouldn’t say I was overwhelmed with it’s grandeur. There was however 1 exception, the Duomo (cathedral) in the centre square. It was really very impressive and imposing and is, in my opinion, by far the most worthwhile thing to see in Milan. Unfortunately, other than this Milan seemed to us a nice enough city, but I personally wouldn’t be rushing back to see it again.
Now I forgot to pre-warn you that this post would contain a nice portion of drama to keep you on the edge of your seat. And this time it was not Frankie’s fault, although it is about Frankie that we’ll be talking. So strap yourselves in and here we go. On the morning after exploring Milan we had to be at the airport at around 6am to pick Amy up. So we got ourselves up nice and early and made our way to the airport. We arrived with plenty of time so we took our time finding the right car park to leave Frankie in, driving past a few that were sign posted 'bus' or ‘long-term’. We eventually found one that looked pretty good. And it was uncovered so we knew Frankie would fit easy enough. So we approached the boom gate and realised that there was a fairly low roof over just the gates. Nevertheless I was pretty sure we’d still fit. So we took a ticket and crept ever so slowly forward. Inch by painful inch we proceeded until… we emerged safely from the other side! Phew! Unfortunately, that's just me hopelessly wishing that that’s how the story went. As we crept forward we were halfway under the roof and I thought, “we’re ok” and began to accelerate out. That was when we heard the gut wrenching crack with a clap of thunder. Our hatch and 2 air vents, which sat about 2 inches higher than the roof, all hit and snapped cleanly off. By that stage we were already emerging from the other side of the gate so there was nothing to do by grit our teeth and pick up the pieces.

We decided the best thing to do at this stage would be to park, go get Amy, and deal with the rest later. We went into the airport and it wasn’t long before Amy was emerging from the arrivals gate. We sat down for a coffee and chatted for a little while before making the dreaded journey back to Frankie. We had warned Amy of our earlier incident so she wasn’t completely oblivious. Now here comes problem number 2. On our way out we thought to ourselves, “well if those items are no longer attached we should fit out fine”. That was not the case! For some reason that God only knows, the exit gate was even shorter than the entry gate. Go figure. There was no way we were getting out there. So after much difficulty Maddie managed to find someone who worked there. They go us to 4 wheel drive Frankie over some curbs and grass patches until we arrived at an entry gate that didn’t have a roof. At last we were home free!

We were on the road again and headed for our first stop, Lake Como. This was one of the places on Amy's list of things to see, and I'm glad it was. I personally hadn;t heard of Lake Como before so we had a quick google search and found a town called Varenna that we thought looked pretty nice. We didn't spend too much time in Varenna, but what we did we made count. We explored the most amazing little lakeside village, ate some incredible gelato, and even (unknowingly) helped ourselves to someone's private wharf for a swim. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before we had to get going for a big day of driving.
We had decided earlier that once we had Amy with us we'd head straight to Venice and then traverse Italy in a clockwise direction. We arrived at Venice in the evening, got Frankie set up then hit the hay pretty early (Amy's jetlag had hit). The next day we had decided to introduce Amy to our European adventure the only way we knew how. A walking tour of course! Naturally she loved it, as did we, and we really got to see parts of Venice that most tourist would miss. On the whole tour I think we only saw one or 2 busy streets. THis all changed after the tour had finished and we headed to the tourist epicentre of Venice, Saint Marks square. Now I'll be honest. The square and the area around it are all amazing, but it is absolutely impossible to escape the tourists in those areas. I think I enjoyed walking through the back streets and residential districts, and looking at the canals and hidden squares even more than seeing the famous areas. I think I speak for both Maddie and Amy though when I say our favourite part of Venice was definitely the Gondola ride. While it was quite pricey, it is for sure the most peaceful (and romantic) way to see the city and canals. All in all, Venice was a pretty incredible start to our Italian escapades.
Next stop on the Italian road trip was Florence. There wasn't a whole lot that we had planned to see in Florence but we thought we'd check it out anyway. We spent the first afternoon just lounging in the park reading our books and generally doing a whole lot of not much really. The next morning we had planned the one thing that I was really excited for, Michelangelo's statue of David. Unfortunately we did have to wait for a bit over an hour to get into the museum to see it, but it was definitely worth the wait. Now none of us are particularly interested in art as such, but we all found ourselves staring at the 5 meter tall statue with a sense of wonder. Although I wouldn't necessarily say I loved Florence, if you're in the area I would definitely recommend going to see that statue. For the rest of the afternoon we wandered around the streets, had a look at the leather markets, and then hit the road for the wine regions of Tuscany. We figured seeing we were passing through it would be rude if we didn't sample some local wines. And it was honestly one of the most enjoyable things we've done on this trip. Sitting on a balcony, overlooking some Tuscan wineries, sipping on a glass of the most delicious red wine I have ever tasted. Absolutely the best way to end the day.
The next day saw us doing quite a lot of driving. I think we ended up on the road for around 8 or 9 hours. And what a drive it was. We were headed for the town of Sorrento, on the Amalfi coast. I would have to say that is some of the sketchiest driving I have even done in my life. Not only was the road between Naples and Amalfi barely wide enough for 2 cars to pass comfortably, but there were full sized buses passing us a frequent intervals, and in Frankie that we next to impossible. To top that all off the road winds it's way around the cliffs with motorbikes and scooters weaving across the road everywhere and people parking in the middle of the lane to capture the view. As you can imagine, we thought we were done for many times. By some miracle we made it to our camp site for the night and got ourselves settled in for an early night.

The next day we had big plans. We were going to hike the Path of the Gods. So after an hour and a half of bus rides we arrived at the starting point in Agerola at around 10:30, and off we went. To be honest this hike wasn't all that difficult even for those of us who are particularly used to strenuous physical activity. If you start at the point we did it's pretty much downhill the whole way as the path winds it's way from the mountains above Amalfi down to the coast at Positano. The one difficult bit (although it looks easy) was the final descent. From the town of Nochelle we took the 1,700 steps straight down into Positano. By the time we'd reached the bottom all our legs we shaking from the constant steep descent. The hike itself was absolutely incredible giving panoramic views of the breathtaking Amalfi coast. Naturally, after our strenuous hike we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the beach.
The next day we had the pleasure of meeting up with Tasha and Mandi, 2 of my friends from highschool, who just so happened to be floating around Italy at the same time as us. The group of 8 of us caught the ferry to the island Ischia for the day. Now we had big plans for the day, some sun baking, some hot springs, and maybe some shopping and sightseeing. Let's just say we didn't get past the first item on the list. We started with around 3 hours of lying on the beach under our beach umbrellas, then, after a brief and failed attempt to find the hot springs, we hit up the beach for another 2 or so hours. Despite the fact the we didn't really achieve much, we thoroughly enjoyed have a nice relaxed day on the beach and catching up with some old friends.
The one last thing I must mention about Sorrento was the gelato. We had already experience a number of excellent gelato's while in Italy so when Tasha and Mandi mentioned that they had found the most amazing gelateria we were a little sceptical. Nevertheless we found our way the Raki's gelato in the centre of Sorrento despite all 3 of us being full and not really needing anything else to eat. I went first and ordered a small coconut gelato and the second the girls tasted it they were both in line debating how many scoops they would each be able to fit in. The gelato there was so good that I ended up standing with an American family try each others flavours while the girls were in line. Needless to say, we went back. And with the memories of the amazing gelato fresh in our minds, we left Sorrento the next morning, bound for the ancient city of Pompeii.
Now I wish I was able to adequately describe how amazing Pompeii is, but I simply can't. When you're there it's so easy to imagine how life would have been for them. It's just one of those places that if you're in the area, you have to go and see. We spent around 3 hours on a walking tour and just exploring the city by ourselves.
Altogether we are loving Italy so far and can't wait to see more of it.

Posted by ScottGosling 14:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Filling Time.

We "killed" a week in Austria, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

With Frankie fixed and rearing to go it was time for us to return to our much loved Austria! We had a little bit of time to kill before we welcomed our next visitor into Frankie, so we thought we’d cover a little more ground in Austria, and maybe even sneak in some of Switzerland if we could manage it.

Our aim in Austria was Innsbruck. We’d heard that it was a hub for white water rafting and we were pretty keen to give it a go. So after one very long day of driving, and passing through 4 countries, we arrived in Innsbruck. We’d had a little look and found a couple of camping spots that we thought looked good. Well the first one would have wanted to be a 5 star campground being 41euro for just 1 night, and nowhere near the centre of Innsbruck. Being on a budget, we decided to move on to campsite number 2. When we arrived at this one we quickly found out that the site had shut for the night around an hour before we arrived. By this stage we were getting quite tired. Nevertheless, we persevered. We arrived at the next campsite at around 9pm to find the restaurant/reception closed and barricades across the entrance. Strike three, we thought. Despite this, Maddie wandered in while I waiting in the van. Thankfully, the owner saw me parked there and came out to show me where to come in. And, we’re glad he did. by that stage I’m not sure I could have handled driving around any longer. So after a quick dinner we crashed for the night, back in the brisk alpine air of Austria.

The next day we had a bit of sorting to do. First thing on our to-do list was to sort out Frankie’s battery issue. When we were in Croatia the mechanic had mentioned that our starter battery was pretty stuffed so we thought we should probably get ourselves a new one. After driving to a couple of places with no luck, we eventually arrived in the industrial area and found a mechanic that was able to replace it for us. Now naturally, being in Austria, we thought it was best that we went and had a schnitzel while we waited. We also did a spot of grocery shopping and a quick stop into the hardware store. We were ticking things of the list white quickly.

So with a new battery and a dent in the budget we drove Frankie back to the campsite and mounted our bikes to ride into Innsbruck. We spent the afternoon strolling through the streets, looking in shops, and generally relaxing after the strenuous activities of the previous days. While we were there we also booked ourselves into some white water rafting for the next day, which we were very excited for.

After a slow start the next day we packed up Frankie and headed toward the starting point of our white water adventure. After collecting our equipment we were off with our 2 guides, and 3 Germans. We arrived at the river, had some quick safety and paddling instructions, then hit the water. The water was icy cold on first touch but it didn’t take long for the neoprene suits to start working to keep us nice and comfortable. We were on a Grade III river and loved every minute of it. It was too strenuous at all and we had plenty of flat water to practice falling in and saving each others lives. All in all it was really fun and we’d definitely go again.
Once we’d dried off and changed our clothes we headed out toward Switzerland. We had however decided that, since we were passing by, we might as well drop in to Liechtenstein for the night. Now neither of us had any idea of what to expect from Liechtenstein as we’d never really head much about it and we hadn’t done much research, so we thought the capital city would be a good choice. Now I use the word “city” here pretty loosely as Vaduz is more an average sized town, taking us approximately 10-15mins to ride our bikes across it. In the first hour of being there I think we saw around 10 people and 5 cars. That being said it is a very nice town. We also took a walk up the Vaduz Castle the next morning which had a really nice feel to it. It was like looking at what a castle would have looked like when fully intact in medieval times. Unfortunately we could go in as it’s the private residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein.
After our stroll around the castle we headed toward Zurich which was only a stones throw away from Vaduz. Unfortunately, Red Bull had inconveniently planned one of their home made flying machine events for that day and there was absolutely no room at the caravan park we wanted to stay at. So we went a little further afield and found on that felt like we were driving into and American trailer park. Nevertheless, there was room for us so we took it happily. we went for a ride through Zurich that afternoon and even watched a few homemade contraptions fail miserably in their attempts at flight.
The next day we did a walking tour of Zurich. Now I’ll be honest. Zurich (and all of Switzerland) was absolutely stunning. The city and clean and well kept. Their trams are so quiet you can’t even hear them coming. But it is expensive! I had always hear that but when I saw just how bd it is I was shocked. We just about had to sell a kidney each to eat the Cheese fondue we had for lunch. Aside from the prices we really liked Switzerland and our time there was over all too soon as we were on a schedule.
We drove that afternoon south through Switzerland, dropping by a couple of nice lake cities, until we reached the mountains where Switzerland meets Italy. And there, after scaling a mountain that we thought unconquerable for Frankie, we found one of m favourite camp spots so far. Nestled at the top of Gotthard Pass is a little group of building best a lake. It was free for campers to park there for the night and there was a line up for good reason. It was stunning high up there in the mountains, some with ice still on them, and the lake in the middle. We went for a walk up one to see in we could reach the ice on it’s side. We did, and all was going well, until the way down. Getting a little confident in my mountaineering skills I was proceeding fairly quickly. Until I hit a rock covered in a thin layer of dead grass. Naturally, the grass gave way under my foot, and down I went. Twisting at an unnatural angle I managed to protect everything except my right knee, which came down heavily onto the vicious top of a gravelly rock. As you can imagine, I left quite the chunk of skin on that mountain, but luckily I was otherwise unhurt. Despite that little slip up, I still loved that camp site. And with that we headed into Italy.

Posted by ScottGosling 13:48 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

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