A Travellerspoint blog

August 19th

Sienna - Sinalunga

sunny 33 °C

I got up and realised that time was closing for when the bus would arrive. I managed to squeeze in a quick shower, packed my gear and headed for the door. I had hardly finished the goodbye note to the Canadian couple who had joined us yesterday when the bus turned up. I slipped the note under their dorm door and ran out the front door. Charleson was on the bus already and held it for me. I took the bus with Charleson into La Spezia. Thankfully an older lady on the bus asked us in Italian where we were going and we tried to explain where we were going by saying "choo choo". She started getting very exited and signalling to the doors. Then she got up and rang the stop bell. The bus stopped and she signalled for us to get off. We thanked her and headed in the general direction she pointed toward. Five minutes later we were at the train station. I realised that I needed to change some money so I headed to the information office in the train station and waited in line while Charleson got his ticket. Eventually, and I mean eventually, my turn came... and I couldn't hear a word the woman was saying because the speaker seemed to be playing up. We realised that there was another tourisim office nearby so we headed over to it. Long story short. I managed to find a bank machine, get my cash, say goodbye to Charleson, buy my ticket and a mars bar before catching the next train with no time to spare. At the next stop I mangaed to fit a toilet break in before the next train arrived. At the next stop I purchased another chocolate bar and bottle of water before my next train and finally, at about three in the afternoon I arrived into Sienna. I hopped off and grabbed a real lunch. I called my host Ugo and was advised that it was too hot, i.e. seista time, for him to pick me up from Sinalunga so I headed into Sienna for a couple of hours.
I headed into the main square and then went to the Duomo. It is the most awesome church I have seen yet. The columns inside were mindblowing and art work painted on the floors, walls and ceilings were incredible! The heads of the popes along the top were cool too, even if they were the same three faces over and over again. My pictures cannot do it justice!
Eventually I caught a bus back to the train station and caught the next train to Sinalunga where Ugo was waiting for me. We headed to the supermarket and purchased some essentials including meat and wine. Then we headed to my temporary home.

Posted by classique 12:10 Archived in Italy Tagged travel train Comments (0)

August 18th

Cinque Terre - Five lands

overcast 25 °C

I awoke at about 9am, showered and changed in preperation of the gruelling 12 kilometre walk along the coast line seperating the five towns. I headed out with Charleson to await the arrival of our shuttle bus. It arrived at just after 10am. We were joined on the bus by a Canadain couple who were planning to hang out in Riomaggoire for the day. Before we arrived in Riomaggoire they had decided to join us for our walk. They purchased their passes for the national park part of the walk and as I had purchased my pass for the national park the day before for 5.50 euros I was set to go. We all headed into Riomaggoire for breakfast. We stopped in at a cafe for a pricey breakfast which for me consisted of bacon and eggs on toast with a coke to boot. After breaky we headed down to the waters edge to begin our 12 kilometre hike. And what a hike it was to be! Today we would walk from Riamagoire all the way to Monterosso al Mare passing through the towns of Manarola, Corniglia and Vernazza. 12 kilometres mightn't sound like much but wow.. it was one huge work out! Thankfully the skys were clouded over and threatening rain which was a nice reprieve after the last day of mid 30's. We began the hike by climbing many stairs to the beginning of the national park. We presented out passes as we walked by the check booth at the beginning of the trail and continued along a nice easy trail following the face of the cliffs on the water front. The paths were crowded with so many tourists that we had to walk single file in many places just to be able to go forward. We walked through a tunnel carved through the side of the cliff.
There were padlocks attached to everything and after asking I around I found out that this was the lovers trail. A couple would lock their padlock onto any part of the metal railings and throw away the key signifying ones eternal love for the other. I couldn't help but wonder if the snorkelers I had seen earlier were desperately searching for the key to their padlocks! We continued on at an easy pace pushing through the throngs of tourists to the next town, Manorola.
We arrived in the middle of the town and went for a wander down to the water front. There were many old wooden boats of different colours sprawled across the main walking area adding a very nice feel to the town. We then continued on the walk to Corniglia. The trail thus far had been basically flat and easy walking. Just before we reached Corniglia we met our first real staircase. We climbed and climbed and climbed. Eventually we reached the top with our leg muscles spassaming. Looking at the sign I realised that we had climbed 382 steps.
We went for a wander down one of the hills and after picking a handful of grapes continued into town to look for a place to eat. We ended up at a pizzarea where I bought a couple of small pizza's and a bottle of Corona. We eventually found a unused seat and sat down to eat. Charleson had decided to eat a mars bar for lunch! After lunch we climbed up to the highest place we could find to have a look at the coast line and the town. We then headed on our way to the next town. By now the tourists seemed to really thin out which should have been the first indication that the going was getting a lot tougher. I got to the point where i didn't enjoy going down hill that much as I knew that we would have another up hill climb. We climbed past terraces of gardens and olive groves.
Up and down countless stairs and eventually arrived at the fourth town, Vernazza. As we arrived you could see a cave right through the side of the mountain where the water went right through. We jogged the steep descent down into Vernazza. We found the other side of the cave/tunnell in one of the streets and saw some small dingies parked inside. We headed around to the water front and then climbed to the turret at the coast end of the town. The cost to climb the turret was one euro. I headed up to the top of the turrett and thoroughly enjoyed the view!
We then headed back dow to the water front where there was a break wall and people were swimming in front of it. I went over to have a look and a freak wave smashed into the breakwall drenching me with water from the waist down. After checking a te smallest hearse I have ever seen we continued on our way and towards the last town Monterosso al Mare where we would go for a well deserved swim. This stretch was the hardest. The walk from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare took somewhere between one and a half and two hours and was by far the hardest leg of the journey. I was pretty much exhausted before I had gotten half way there. There were ups and downs, downs and ups, ups and downs... on and on it went. I think a bee was trying to have pity on me when it sacrificed its own life to distract me from the ups and downs of our walk. I recieved a nice stinging welt right above my sock line.
About half an hour before reaching Monterosso al Mare we stumbled upon a little stall on the side of the pathway. There was a guy making and selling fresh homemade lemonade for two euro a glass, but by this stage we really didn't care and bought them anyway.
Finally, we lugged our aching bodies into Monterosso al Mare and looked for a nice beach. We walked down, changed and headed for the water. We were instantly reprimanded by a waiter and advised that this was a paying beach. We had to walk 50 metres to a our left past a big rock to swim at the free beach and this is what we did.
Sadly, Charleson went swimming with his glasses on and ended up losing them when he was hit by a rather decent wave. We searched for them but it was a lost cause. The water was freezing cold but it was still awesome to finally be swimming in the ocean again. We dried off and headed to a pizzaria ofr dinner and purchased and lttle bottle of wine. The pizza was good but not as good as I had hoped it would be. After dinner we headed ot the train station to find that the ticket office was closed and the automatic machines were off. WWe decided to chance the fifty euro fine and took the tran anyway. Thankfully we didn't see the conducter the whole time and got back to Riomaggoire in time to catch the train back to the hostel.

Posted by classique 08:14 Archived in Italy Tagged hiking Comments (0)

August 17th

Pisa - Riomaggoire

sunny 34 °C

After a shower I headed into Pisa with a couple of American guys that I had met at the hostel. I figured on spending around two hours or so to check out the leaning tower of Pisa and see what else was around. On the way in I grabbed a coke and we dropped in to a internet cafe to print a boarding pass they needed and the directions to my hostel for that afternoon. I was quite surprised when I came into the main square as I was expecting to see just the leaning tower of Pisa and that was all. There is also a Duomo and a baptistery and in the background there is the old city walls.
I walked up to the base of the tower only to find out that the strength competition to see who could push it straight again had just ended. (yes, that is a joke) But seriously, I had wanted to do a picture of me holding it in place with my hands but found that every man, woman and child was doing that pose. I headed over to the Duomo which looks like it might have sunk a bit in the past as well and then checked out the baptistery. As there was queues to go in and the fact that you had to buy tickets I decided not to go in. The American guys had to catch a plane so I headed back to the airport with them as I had left my classy jumper/sweater on the Ryan Air plane the night before. On our way we grabbed a feed from one of the Italian eateries lining the roads. I finally found the lost and found desk at the airport to find that my jumper had not been turned in. I headed back to the train station and bought my ticket to Riomaggoire. I jumped onto the next train to La Spezia, changed trains there and arrived into Riomaggiore at about 3pm. I almost missed my stop as the train stopped in a tunnel, and after finding out it was, I made a dive for the door. I walked down the tunnel toward the light and eventually came out to see the ocean below me.
It was flipping hot and I was wearing my jeans etc so I headed over to the tourism office to get directions. It was of course closed - they were probably having a siesta. I found out that the bus stop was at the top of the hill so I walked through tunnel and climbed the hill. I got to the top to find out that the next bus was at 6:30pm. I also found out there was a luggage storage room at the station, so I lugged my bag all the way back down again and checked my bag in. Shortly there after I found myself relaxing on a chair overlooking the Mediterranean ocean with a cold Corona filling my palm. I munched down on the provided olives and nuts enjoying the freedom from my bag, a cool breeze and the rolling ocean before me.
Time rolled by and it was time grab my gear and head for the bus. I pulled my 12.5 kg bag up the hill and arrived with a coat of sweat at a bus stop crowded with people. The bus turned up and everyone headed straight for it. A driver came out and yelled that it was going to Biasa.. two thirds of the people, much to my relief, moved back. I bought my ticket and stood at the back of the bus. Two guys standing by me were also heading to the same hostel so i out my directions away and enjoyed the scenery as we wound our way up the tight winding road skirting the hill side. We arrived after 15 minutes right outside the door of the hostel. I checked in and left my lugage in my room. I headed out to find some food. I discovered the tiniest supermarkert I have ever seen. I walked in and perused the limited stock. I eventually decided on an apple, a can of pop and two mini pizza's. I held out a handfull of coins for payment. As I headed out the door I atempted to say arrivederci and was promptly corrected. After a few more attempts I finally said it with the rolling r's much to the delight of the Italian shop keepers. I headed back to the hostel and downed the two pizza's with a cup of wine kindly provided by on of the Americans. Later int he evening we headed further up the hill to check out the view. After meeting my room mate I organized to do the Cinque Terre walk with him the next day and headed to sleep.

Posted by classique 08:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

August 16th

Ireland - Italy

sunny 17 °C

I got up... Phew, that was a good start! :-) I spent several hours trying to find a hostel in Pisa that had a spot for tonight. I was flying out at 7:30pm or so and I still hadn't organized anything. I finally found a hostel that was close to the airport that had a spot free. I booked it and then spent a while longer researching accommodation in Cinque Terre and ended up booking one just outside of Riomaggoire in a small town (if you can call it that) called Biasa. I managed to get reception at the hostel to print out my boarding pass and wrote down the details and directions for the hostel in Pisa. I shot out to Mc Donalds for lunch and then took a wander around.
I headed back to the hostel packed my bags and checked out. I also threw out a pair of old jeans and two t-shirts in anticipation of Ryan Air weighing my bags again. I headed down to the main street and caught the local bus for only 2 Euro instead of 7 Euro for the express bus. I got my visa check done headed upstairs and had dinner knowing that it would be cheaper to eat it now, even though i wasn't really that hungry, then to get it when I was hungry on the flight. I headed though the queue and went through the whole process of stripping my bag and clothes for the umpteenth time. I waited at the end of a huge queue to board the flight and watched intently to see if they would weigh the bags. The queue finally starting moving but it was so packed at the front i couldn't see if they were weighing them. Finally I got up the front and found that they weren't. I laughed at myself for throwing out the clothes at the hostel. I boarded the flight and sat right up the front of the plane. I clicked on my media player as sped down the runway. On came an episode of Top Gear and there i sat memorized for the next hour. We finally landed at 11:15pm Italy time. After getting directions from the tourism office i headed down to my hostel and found the guy running it was waiting for me. I paid my dues and settled down for what would turn out to be a long and sleepless night. I was in a room that was right next to the only road leading to the Pisa airport and as it didn't have air conditioning, and the fact that it was in the high 20's, the window was left open all night.

Posted by classique 07:20 Archived in Ireland Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

August 14th

Cliffs of Moher

overcast 17 °C

Got up early, had a shower and headed downstairs for an early breakfast. The hostel guy was still organising all the breakfast stuff so I had a play around on my netbook. Then breakfast was ready so I devoured a plate or two of cerial and a cup of juice. I headed down to the main meeting point for the tour to begin. The Paddywagon tours bus turned up and I ended up being one of the last people on the bus. All the window seats were taken until the bus driver shouted out that we were doing a one day tour of the moher cliffs etc and three chineese people got off the bus. I jumped into the window seat where they had been sitting and we headed on our way. We stopped at the next and last pickup point where four Spanish ladys got on and Rosa sat next to me . We headed on our jolly way. The bus driver and tour operator was an interesting guy who wore jeans and thongs/jandels/flip flops. He spent half his time on our trip up, on the phone trying to organise other busses etc. We stopped off at a servo at about 10am for a quick toilet and refreshment break.

We then headed onwards again and stopped at the 15th century Bunratty castle for a photo. Unfortunately there was no time to go in but it didn`t look quite as awesome as some I have already visited. Again we hit the road headed fior the famed cliffs of Moher. We arrived at about 12:30 or so and i was famished. I headed in for an over priced snack. I walked up with all the other tourisits and cheked out the views from the edge of the cliffs. As I was heading along the walking track I noticed it was blocked by a stone fence up ahead. So, well, I just did what every other self respecting tourist was doing and hopped over. If you could read the fine print at the bottom of this sign it says ``excepting Mr. Peter de Bruin`` So that was pretty awesome! :-)
There were even better views from further up this trail but you hadd to be a little careful as there were no guard rails and in some places it was around 120 metres above sea level. The time had come for luch so I headed back to the bus and took my seat. Unfortunately some other tourists weren`t so time focused and we ended up waiting another 20 minutes for the to join the bus. We headed to the next town for a shortened lunch break. Then it was time to head to our next attraction which was an old abbey. It was quite interesting but it did leave me wondering why the owner didn`t spent the money to have it rebuilt. There were old graves built into the floor in a couple of places and the old alter was still standing. Outside in the grave yard there were graves dating back to the 1800`s as well as recent graves from the 1990`s.
Here is a picture of our next attraction which is a Dolmen. Yep they really do exist. Apparantly they are a portal tomb. This is Poulnabrone dolmen in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland. To get to and from this dolmen we had to travel little winding roads and every time we passed a car the buss driver would sigh with relief. We headed back to Dublin and stopped one last time for a toilet break. You wouln`t believe what i saw... Here is a picture of Timmys in Ireland.
We got back and I had wings for dinner and a couple of pints with a fellow traveller.

Posted by classique 10:22 Archived in Ireland Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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