A Travellerspoint blog

August 2010

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)

August 13th

Ireland - Dublin

sunny 21 °C

beep - beep, beep - beep, beep - beep... awoke to the sound of the alarm on my cell phone blaring. I jumped out of bed and shut it off as i didn't want to wake my room mate. Barely 4 hours of sleep had passed and it was time to get to the airport. I jumped into the shower for a quick refresh, packed the last articles into my bag, and woke Andy from his restful slumber. Minutes later we were out the door and rocketing toward the airport. I wasn't worried that we were a bit late as I always remember my first flight with Ryan Air. We arrived and said our goodbye's. I headed in through the main door and headed to the checkin desk for Ryan Air which was deserted. Just as I was getting to the counter a lady rushed in front of me and got a passport check. I found out that she was on the same flight as me and was really worried that she would miss the flight. I advised her no to worry and quoted past flights as proof. We headed to customs where i stepped to the side to perform my strip down. I seriously wonder how long it will be until we have to be naked to go through. I took off my belt, shoes, jacket, jumper and removed all metal from my pockets, took the toiletries and laptop from my carry on and filled two containers. I finally moved through the customs line and redressed which I find always takes much longer. The Canadian lady was having her bags searched by customs so I advised her that we still had plenty of time and waited for her. Eventually they were satisfied and let her go. We headed through to our boarding gate and as there is only two boarding gates in Glasgow Preswick airport it wasn't hard to find ours. As they were still boarding another plane I headed over to a restaurant for a big breakfast. As I sat down at a table with my mouth watering collection of bacon, eggs, toast and sausages, they began to board the Ryan Air flight. It is really quite a pleasure watching everyone line up and go through an entire queue of 150 plus people whilst just sitting and enjoying a full breakfast. By the time I had finished my plate the queue had almost been completely processed. I headed up to board and found that today they were not only size checking bags but weighing them too. There was no way of drastically loosing weight as the queue was gone so I ended up paying the 35 pound charge due to the fact that my bag was 12.6kg instead of 10kg. I didn't feel to worried as I had gotten away with it several times before. I climbed onboard the plane, being the last person, and found an empty seat. I pulled my video player out and after take off began to watch the next installment of Top Gear. Much to my dismay, I was soon asked to turn it off as it was time to land. I headed through to customs and met the Canadian women again. We chatted as we waited in the all passports line which seemed to take forever to process. We ended up chatting to a couple of different Americans. The American family i was chatting too were really nice but the older American woman the Canadian lady was taking too was painful. It wasn't long before we wished we had never opened our mouths to that women. Finally customs took her out of our lives and we headed through. I was given the all clear and met up with the Canadian women on the other side. We bought and all day pass and headed into Dublin city centre. After chatting a while we bided each other good bye and i headed off to check into my hostel. The real problem was that I didn't remember the name of my hostel. I found a internet cafe, not the details and headed over to the hostel. It was by this time already around midday and I couldn't check in until 2:30pm. I dropped my bags into a safety locker, grabbed my netbook and sat down in the hostel lounge. I wasn't sure what to to, but as i only had 3 or 4 days in Ireland I figured I better do something. After hunting around for awhile I remembered the free walking tour that I had taken in Poland. i looked up the website and found a tour starting just a few blocks over at 1pm. I packed away my netbook and headed out the door. I grabbed a sweet chili kebab for lunch and waited for the guide to start the tour. Just as I finished my kebab she called for everyone to join in. Wow, have you really read this far? I am amazed... most people just look at the pictures :-) We started on the tour which went for about 3 hours and were told details from Dublins past, lead through the eclectic Dublin castle to one of the fanciest helicopter landing pads I have seen. We also went through the Temple bar district. The tour was good but I was glad when it did end. I had met up with an Australian bird on the tour so we headed out for dinner at a recommended Irish bar. After a pint of beer, a plate of grub and a parting of ways, I headed back to my hostel and got my bags up to my room. I then headed out to listen to some authentic Irish music which included the banjo and accordion. The streets in the Temple Bar district are covered with buskers playing all sorts of instruments including one of my favorites which was a classical guitarist playing Asturias. I headed back to the hostel and found that everyone was still out. I booked a tour to check out the cliffs of Moher as the tour I really wanted to do was booked out. I got my stuff ready so I could leave early without waking everyone up and hit the sack.

Posted by classique 07:26 Archived in Ireland Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

August 12th

Talikser Distillery, Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Ness....

all seasons in one day 15 °C

Today I headed down to the bay to have a look at an old house that was falling apart. It was less then a 10 minute walk from the house where I was staying. When I got down to it i realized that it still had furniture in it. Some of the floors from the second story had fallen through but not all. With caution i wandered in and climbed the stairs to have a look around. There was rotting furniture, magazines, cashed cheques and clothes everywhere. After a thorough look around i headed back up to the house. James, Andrew and I headed out on the quad to see if we could catch a renegade lamb that Mr. Campbell wanted to treat. As James and I held on for dear life... Andrew accelerated up the eroded gravel roadway to the top of the hill. We finally located the lamb and tried to corner it. The lamb realized its plight and took off with several other sheep and lambs in hot pursuit. After a foot and quad pursuit we realized that the lamb had evaded us good and proper. We tracked down and munched on some wild berries before heading back home empty handed. At about 3pm, Andrew and I headed off. First stop was the famous Talisker Distillery which is also located on the Isle of Skye only 10 to 15 minutes drive from the house. The carpark was packed so we made one of our own and headed up to the ticket office. I walked up to the counter to over hear that the next available tour was at 4::15pm which would make it too late for our next stop. I asked the guy if we could have a wee dram of Talisker whiskey even though we weren't able to join a tour. Moments later we were supping on quality 10 year aged Talisker whisky and perusing the available info. Then the guy from the front counter called me over and asked if I wanted to take two cancellations for the 3:30pm tour. Too right mate! Andy and I set off on the 3:30pm tour camera at the ready only to be told "no camera's chaps". We were shown different ingredients that they start with and how it is heated up for fermentation by peat which is cut from the local hills and dried for burning. We were taken through to several other rooms to see the next stages of the fermentation and filtration process. Eventually we were taken into the cellar showing barrels of 10 year old whisky.
Apparently American whiskey distilleries cannot legally use a whisky barrel twice so after they have used it once they on sell it to Scotland. The tour ended and we flew through the door and out to the car. It was getting on to 4:30pm we still had places to go. Once out of town Andy opened up the throttle and hammered down the country roads passing nuisance tourists who had nothing better to do then look at the scenery and hold up people bent on getting to the next attraction. I tell you, these tourists can be a real pain in the butt! After some incredible pieces of overtaking and cornering we arrived at the next attraction at 5:15pm. I ran up to the ticket office to read that admission tickets ceased being sold at 5pm. I figured there was no harm in trying so i headed in and rang the bell. The lovely young lass behind the counter promptly sold me 2 tickets and advised i get to the main door of Eilean Donan castle as quickly as possible. I ran over to Andy, gave him a ticket and headed over the bridge to the castle. I didn't know much about the castle other then it starred in a tv show called Highlander and I knew someone who thought I should go. I will tell you more about it when i get back. We headed through the front gate just in time. Unfortunately, as we were so late we missed the first room which showed actual cannon balls fired from the Spanish armada many years ago in an attempt to over throw Eilean Donan castle. We headed into one of the bottom rooms and headed up the circular stairs to the main dining room.
We headed up another set of stairs to the sleeping quarters and went through several bedrooms. The walls were flippin thick in some places the would have been over 4 foot thick. There were 4 poster beds, bathrooms, cupboards etc. We headed down the staircase and came across the kitchen and a massive walk in pantry which included stuffed pheasants, ducks, rabbits and a few other animals. We found the main gate which was made of timber and steel. The timber was by memory about a foot thick. It was such a quick walk through that i actually can't remember everything and didn't have time to write about it for some time. Anyways, here are some great shots of the exterior.
We hit the road again headed for Inverness to pick up Andy's cousin. On the way we skirted Loch Ness, but as it was drizzling, really just a Huge Lake and the Ness monster didn't bother to make an appearance, we didn't bother to stop. We arrived into Inverness at some stage that night and had dinner with Andy's sister and brother in law. We hit the road again and arrived back into Glasgow at about 11:30pm. I packed bags for the early flight in the morning, set an alarm and hit the sack.

Posted by classique 15:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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