Archive for October, 2012

Octoberfestivus Day 18

Posted: October 21, 2012 in Travel

Versailles

What is it with Europeans and no clocks?? We have yet to find one in the bedroom and when it stays dark until midday it can be a concern. We were in no rush today so it was not an issue that we did not stumble out of bed until around 0800. While our apartment is fine it is on ground floor with 2 more above and of course not only do these clowns clip clop around in high heels at midnight they also decided to do a wash at the same frigging time! Woke, eventually, to a gloomy day and let me just give a Yay to the European weather forecasters who seem pretty spot on compared to the dartboard approach used in Australia. The weather app even said it would fine up a little later and I did -disappointed it has not been very cool yet though . Europeans are like Melbourians though – they rug up if it looks a bit grey even if still 25 degrees

So today’s snooze fest event was a trip to Versailles to see the palace yada yada yada. Once again the Metro worked very well and we soon off on our 45 minute trip to Versailles – where it was still dull and grey (but not cold ya clowns!). The train was tres crowded. The masses alighted and as one migrated towards to some gold gates far off in the distance. As we approached we already saw 73 buses parked in bus bay. This was looking ugly. It wasn’t. The online reservation prints off got us in easy ( Memo to Italians – it works well ya gooses). The place is so massive that once inside it never seems crowded. Inside the palace was of course spectacular but then nothing we had not seen before from royalty. The gardens themselves were probably more impressive and massive – I know, I walked them all! We saw where Marie Antoinette lived – about 3 k from the king – good deal,I say. So after a brisk 3 hours it was back on the train again to return to Bersey and a slow walk home. We will go out for dinner later as the weather has cleared quite nicely.

Octoberfestivus Day 17

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Travel

Paris

Well the sparseness of our sleeper on the night train was well matched by the breakfast we got once we trudged down to the “restaurant” car. Luckily the train arrived on time and better still no wait for a taxi. A €5 cab fare quickly became 10 due to 4 bags. Welcome to Paris. And of course it was raining. The apartment was fine if a little snug and then the owner Pascale arrived to fill us in. By about now the first signs of the dreaded lurgy that CLP had endured for last week were starting to appear so quickly off for a hearty lunch of Beef Burguignon while the taste buds still worked – superb. Some grocery shopping to stock us up for the week and then we had a stroll around Notre Dame in the drizzle. We have been to Paris before and seen all the sites so this was more of a relaxing week ahead with just a couple of special treats planned. We ventured out later for a Crepe meal but it was rather crap with service and ambience to match. A fairly long and non eventful day drew to a close – let’s hope weather picks up for trip to Versailles tomorrow

Octoberfestivus Day 16

Posted: October 20, 2012 in Travel

Venice

We caught another train from Florence this morning to Venice for an 8 hour layover before the night train to Paris. It was a smooth trip and all went well and arrived on time in Venice. First joy was leaving 4 bags of luggage in storage for the 8 hours and with the 20 kg limit things were looking a little dire but for once the Italian service guy simply gave us a knowing smile. Then out into the masses on a rather warm and humid day. First impressions were not good. It seemed dirty and over crowded. We had organised tickets for the Vaporetta Dell’arte but of course first had to line up to actually redeem the tickets for online reservation. We then lined up with the tourists and wondered why we had paid €25 each to be jammed into a boat that would,look fine shipping live cattle to the abattoirs. It was a slow boat but not to China – we mad every stop along the way until we hit San Marco – and then it got really crowded. It was impressive though and we then used our iPad rather well with the GPS to find a recommended little restaurant down a few back alleys and across a few bridges. It was the Veccio Fritolin and it was a superb seafood place with simply the friendliest waiter we had seen in all of Italy. From there the day improved considerably. A little bit of souvenir purchasing before some investigation into the 2 levels of Vaporetta that operate on the Grand Canal – cattle class and the actual Dell’Arte that we had paid for but only stop s at some points and is much more relaxing on board.,we hopped on this one at last and simply went up and down the canal over the next 90 minutes as the sun started to set. Beautiful. Then we hopped off near the train station for one last beer and watched as the sun set and the lightest started to shine

We had no dramas getting our luggage back and when our platform was no,inmates 30 minutes before departure we thought we had it made. Then the shit hit the fan. Our carriage we were sent to was not configured for first class – you can stay here sir but we would rather move you to a first class carriage. Shit yeah Signora. Well fark me I would hate to see second class on Thello because first was a dive. No private washroom or even a bench to eat at. Bunk beds and a bottle of water was about it. You simply folded out your bed and lay there hoping like hell the next 13 hours went by in a blur.

It didn’t

Octoberfestivus Day 15

Posted: October 18, 2012 in Travel

Florence Finale

In our rather superb location there is a church bell that dongs on the hour ,every hour. I must be sleeping well as it is not keeping me awake at night but when you do rouse and it is still quite dark it is handy to hear 6 or 7 chimes, and preferably the latter. This was basically our last day in Florence as we catch a morning train tomorrow for 8 hour layover in Venice before overnight train to Paris. All we had booked for the day was the midday snooze fest at Galleria de Academie to see my statue. The only thing I will ever regret about our wine tour the previous day was that the hostess with the mostess gave CLP a couple more churches to check out in our area. Yay. Trudge trudge bless bless and then time for a coffee before a look inside Il Duomo. Once again very impressive ceilings and domes. As it was approaching 1130 we thought we would head to the Academia as not sure if the Uffizzi deal was in place again. Once again we did have to go to another area to get our tickets first and then it was a relatively short wait. Inside we quickly followed the masses to the statue of David which was very impressive and dominated the area. As with most of these museums photography is strictly forbidden. As with most of these museums that does not stop about 20% of the clowns. I would suggest until one of the “guards” takes your camera off you and smashes it on the floor the warnings are largely pointless. After the main attraction the rest was pretty boring really even for a museum fan like moi.

We rushed out into the bright day in search of lunch – or as quick as you can rush when there is literally a sea of people around. And these are tourists remember, so your basic ignorant moron. We settled in for yet another pizza and beer and then slowly meandered our way home with just another 2 or 3 essential souvenirs to grab. I probably should have passed on the Antipasto as entree – too much protein for this little black duck. We will head out for one last dinner tonight before sadly bidding farewell to Florence. It really was everything I expected and more

Octoberfestivus Day 14

Posted: October 18, 2012 in Travel

Cruising through Chianti Country

What a magic day. Woke up to beautiful weather for a relaxing stroll to our meeting point about 20 minutes along the river. As usual we were about 30 minutes early for the 10 am start time but the rest of the gang were there as well. – except 2 ! Now these are small escorted wine tours for maximum of 8 plus the host. The other 4 people there were great and we were talking easily but as it passed 10 am expected the late comers to arrive and be a nuisance all day. They didn’t show and we left at 1010 – with extra room in the van! Knob kiss. Ilaria our hostess was fantastic with that winning combination of knowledge, charm and wit. I would need to check her birth certificate to confirm she was actually Italian! The drive up through the hills was great even on the ridiculously narrow roads. After about 45 minutes we stopped for our first wine tasting . The wine villas in Tuscanny are exactly what you expect – magnificent structures set amongst a jaw dropping scenery. We had a tour of the rather small winery before sampling 3 reds – no surprises the most expensive tasted the best. Then onto Panzano for lunch with the Mad Butcher. Very interesting place and lunch was basically more meat then you could poke a stick at – and I did poke mine because some of it was raw! Great group we had to socialise with so all too quickly the day was passing. Then it was onto a larger vineyard and even more stunning villa. Another tour and another 4 wines to taste – and chocolates. At both places we also got to sample some great olive oil. Our final stop on way home was in Greve for a Gelato and then back into Florence where we asked to be dropped off at the Palazzo de Michealangelo or something like that which had yet another, though slightly different, stunning vista of Florence, just on sunset. Judging by the hordes this was a well know fact!

The tour was organised by the Tuscan Wine Society @ 100€ each, great value. There are some things you can’t put a value on though and this was simply one of the best ever organised tours I have been on. I don’t play we’ll with others usually. Florence was fast becoming a firm favourite and we still had one more day to go

Octoberfestivus Day 13

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Travel

Florence Day 2

As has happened with every place we have visited so far it rains when we arrive and clears the next day. So we headed off up the hill to the Bardini Gardens. This was a tip from our host – there are several towers you can climb eg Il Duomo with its 400 steps but these gardens offer a superb view of Florence including Il Duomo! 10 € to actually see the gardens may have been a bit rich but it was worth it for the view on this glorious morning. From there we travelled a bit further up the hill to the Boboli Gardens which were a more impressive gardens but less impressive views of Florence. However there were still some spectacular views and beautiful statues on site. We had the midday snooze fest booked for Uffizi Gallery so a slow wander downtown and a coffee and lo and behold I actually got some toast at last. We had booked our time online and were instructed not to arrive until 15 minutes before scheduled start of midday. We got there about 1130 and the usual Italian inefficiency kicked in. No sir you have to line up at door 3 with your online confirmation so you can get your tickets to line up at door 1! Ok , so we finally got in about 5 minutes after midday and after that all smooth sailing and rather impressive. Guess the highlight was the exit on level 1 – seriously though the Botticelli was pretty impressive along with some Leonardo works. The Madonna and child appeared in about 80% of the works. Once again there were some stunning views from the third floor of the gallery

So then it was time to buy some genuine leather products – specifically some wallets for the kids back home and a thong for me. In my usual efficient way I got them all in the first shop I went to thus leaving plenty of time for lunch! A slow walk back over Ponte Vecchio to our home away from home to drool over some photos and do some social networking. We will then head back out for leisurely meal as the sun sets on what has been a beautiful day. Tomorrow is the all day wine tour , so better get me some sleep .

Octoberfestivus Day 12

Posted: October 16, 2012 in Travel

Florence

Our last morning in Rome looked threatening so we did the walk to Termini in plenty of time. We need not have bothered. Train due to leave at 1015 when we saw the “delayed” message pop up – new departure time 1035. Ok these things happen. What was very frustrating though was it was 1050 and they were still showing departing at 1035 when a train finally arrived at a platform and they gave us a number. Epic fail Trenitalia. The train itself was fine as we were in first class but in keeping with the day so far 4 loud Yanks got on in the seats in front of us and talked and laughed the whole train trip. The trifecta was completed when we arrived in Florence and it was pissing down. However we got a taxi easily and our apartment was ready for us on arrival – Cassetta Bonsi and the ever helpful Maurizio was on hand to show us the ins and outs. It looks a great apartment but will not be as quiet as Rome unfortunately . We unpacked and strolled down the road to nearest supermarket. Now this is a superbly equipped place – the only thing missing was a płeasant staff member. Honestly Italian “service” people have been the least helpful of any I have encountered in my moderately extensive travels. Anyhoo rain was at bay a bit so we dropped off the groceries and headed back out with camera and galoshes. We were very close to the river and also the Ponte Vecchio bridge which surprisingly was full of jewellery stores. Who knew. We were on the lookout for some genuine leather goods but by now the skies were threatening again so off for a quick peak at Il Duoma which was rather impressive. A couple of T shirts later and the skies opened so it was home for some chianti and cheese and hopefully a good nights sleep. A full day beckons tomorrow

I cannot upload photos at present withbthebcrap wifi in Florence apartment

Octoberfestivus Day 11

Posted: October 14, 2012 in Travel

Arrivaderci Roma

Our last full day in Rome dawned bright and clear and so we headed of nice and early to the Piazza Navona to beat the crowds. The streets were remarkably quiet at 0830 on a Sunday morning and there were only about 20 people as we passed the Trevi Fountain and then onto the Piazza. Then we had our first problem of the day – very difficult to get an actual breakfast in Rome let alone at 0900 in the morning. When they suggested a coffee and Cornetto I thought it an odd combination until I realised in Italian a cornetto is a croissant ! Lock that one away in the memory bank. Then wasted 20 minutes trying to hook into the “free” wifi and maybe it is the HTC android but in reality I have found free wifi and a phone is hopeless in Italy. The iPad works a treat with the wifi in the apartments though. A short stroll from the Piazza found us at the Tiber river and on this glorious morning St Peters Basilica looked a treat framed against the river and bridges. On crossing the river it was a short stroll to the Castel Santangelo which we strolled around – for once we did not feel the need to go inside on such a beautiful day. Then we walked to the Metro to catch a subway to our last official sight to see – Church of San Giovanni in Laterano. Another stunning interior but then they have all been have they not? This just left some souvenir hunting to do and a bite of lunch back near the Trevi Fountain so we used our Roma Pass one last time and looked for a typical Italian Caffe for our last lunch in Roma. And yes we had beer and pizza. A slow walk home back up 6 of the 7 hills apparently left us gasping for a Gelato. Hey there is one just around the corner. Sweet!

So tonight we will stroll the 20 feet across the road to our favourite little restaurant Il Sissori for some Spaghetti and Chianti to toast Roma goodbye. Tomorrow morning we walk down to Termini dragging our slightly heavier bags and certainly heavier stomachs with us for the short train trip to Florence. We suspect our apartment may not be so quiet and peaceful.

Octoberfestivus Day 11

Posted: October 13, 2012 in Travel

And on the Seventh Day

Ok, it’s only Day 5 in Rome but I am only a mere mortal after all. After a very busy few days with lots of walking and lots of craning of neck looking at wondrous things above its as time for a quiet day and so it was rather thoughtful of the big fella to let it rain so didn’t feel guilty sitting indoor watching 007 on the dedicated HD channel. Time for some reflections of Roma

People. They have that familiar arrogance of the French but with a bit more charm. No real effort is made with speaking English but most service people have an acceptable grasp. The women are well maintained but stern bordering on sad. The men are the flash ones here in their fancy suits.

Food. Very reasonably priced once again along with alcohol. They like their beers in big bottles here – 650ml – but despite being 4.7% don’t seem to knock you around like Aussie beer. Very tasty pale ales. The pizzas are rather good and thin but the range of food is limited in most Ristorantes – no doubt there are posh places around that serve a more extensive menus. As with all European cities so far you get plenty of bread – but you do pay for it. Smoking in restaurants is very prevalent and not really appreciated but when in Rome…..

Traffic. The driving is crazy, the roads too narrow and parking rules non existent. “Zebra” crossings are a lottery and honking a popular pastime. The metro works well though very crowded and the stations are fairly spaced out requiring a lot of walking cf NYC for example. Aren’t I the little name dropper?? Plenty of buses around but never had that pleasure. The trains run on time

Sites. Plenty to see and most are rather stunning but of course overcrowded. Do yourself a favour and get the Roma Pass for 30€ – great value. Colloseum is awesome especially from inside . Trevi Fountain impressive and crowded. Vittorio Emmanuelle monument has a superb viewing platform on top. Sistine Chapel is the standout around the whole Vatican shebang. Plenty of impressive churches and museums fill in the gaps.

It’s a town for tourists and so has the negatives that go with that. We were very fortunate to have a quiet and spacious apartment away from the hustle and bustle. You can walk most places but is a hilly town and warm especially after Prague and Vienna. It has some unique attractions and a truckload of history naturally but will be ready to leave in 2 days. Should have maybe spent an extra day in Prague and one less here but am certainly glad finally got to get up close and personal with such famous sites.

And we braved the rain for a great lunch

Octoberfestivus Day 8

Posted: October 13, 2012 in Travel

Rome Day 2

A solid nights sleep after the previous long day ensured we bounded out of bed at 0630 to catch up on our social media commitments . A light home made breakfast and then the short walk to The Gallery Borghese to get me sum cultcha. We had prebooked as one must but still the obligatory line up followed by security checks and handing over phones and cameras etc. ok that is fine this is history but man was I pissed off while walking a round to see every gawky teenager around pulling out cameras and taking pictures. Major fail security inside. The gallery itself was awesome although my limit of stunning murals and ceilings is about 3 – and there we 27 to go! CLP even forked over 5 € for an audie guide and then they demanded she hand over her drivers license!

From there we opted for our first experience of Rome metro and it was rather impressive if crowded. We headed down towards Collosseum only for an outside gawk as are visiting proper later in week. There were crowds. Then on past the Circus Maximus which though basically a large hole in the ground you can imagine it in its day. Hey I’ve seen Sparatcus! A few more hills and dales and then the Mouth of Truth. At this stage should mention that CLP has a certain fondness for Roman Holiday and Audrey in particular. There was a line up once more and ” only one photo per person” but it all worked rather smoothly. We could see The Vatican in the distance but CLP knew of a special keyhole – and yes it was up another hill. But the view through the keyhole – of said Vatican – was simply memorable and could not be captured on film, or at least not by this little black duck. Back down some hills and around some corners , a few metro rids later and we were on way home – but first time for a pizza and beer. Man that beer tasted good – all 65cl of it.