A Travellerspoint blog

Back in England

One more week to go

sunny 12 °C

Being back in England has been so fast and stressful, we haven't even had a chance to think. It's just been a case of packing, saying goodbye and couch crashing at various people's homes.

We are definitely going to miss living here, and we are already missing our fabulous travels around Europe. It was such an eye opener it feels weird to come back to some form of real life. Saying that though, we are completely excited by the thought of going home to NZ and seeing our families after more than 2 years.

Will keep the blog updated until our travels are completely done. But will they ever be done? At the moment it feels like we'll be doing this forever!

Posted by SAkiwis 11:09 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Week 6 & week 7

Salzburg, Romantic Route (Bavaria) Luxembourg & Amsterdam

overcast 12 °C

We have had a severe lack of internet, hence the lack of blog, but here is the last installment!

Salzburg, days 35-38

The saying “dynamite comes in small packages” is REALLY applicable to Salzburg. It’s tiny, but there’s so much to do! We got a 2 day Salzburg card which gives you free entry to EVERYTHING plus public transport. At €33 it was well worth it as we saved over €100 over the 2 days.
Day 1 we went up the Untersberg Cable Car, a steep ride with the most breathtaking view over Salzburg and the surrounding area. Truly shows what a beautiful country Austria is. The weather was crystal clear and hot, absolutely stunning. After that we went to Hellbrunn, a palace built by a mad old Archbishop, with trick fountains and ponds. Hilarious to watch people jump and scream as they get sneakily soaked! They are 400 hundred years old and work only with gravity and water pressure.

We caught the bus back to the centre of town to do a Salzach river cruise. A bit boring, but a nice outing nonetheless on a good day. We caught the lift to the top of the hill to check out the Salzburg view, and wandered around town checking out shops.

Day 2 we went up the funicular to the Hohensalzburg fortress, perched on top of the hill and parts of it over a 1000 years old. Inside there are torture rooms, museums and a marionette exhibition. Sadlky the weather was a bit sucky, but we still managed to see loads. We next went off to the Stiegl beer museum & tastings, which really good. The museum itself is a bit dull, and most of the signs are in German, but the tasting at the end is well worth it! 3 2/3 pints which was all included in the museum price (free for us thanks to our cards) plus a free gift of 2 glasses.

We still had some time so decided to check out the Natural History Museum. One of the beat museums I have ever been in. Really interactive, with varied displays, plus a lovely aquarium and (squee!) reptile zoo, where I could check out lizards, snakes, turtles and alligators to my heart’s content! (yes, 2 live alligators INSIDE the museum)
There was still so much we could do there, but on to Germany next.

Germany, days 38-40

We decided to do only the Romantic Road, as there is just so much of Germany that we wanted to see, which we just didn’t have time (or money) for. We started in Rottenbuch/Fussen, the very south of the route, where the castles Hohenschwangau & Neuschwanstein are located. This was a big disappointment for us. We had been so looking forward to seeing Neuschwanstein, indeed it was a bit of a highlight. The day we arrived, not realising how close we were, we spent exploring Rottenbuch, and it was hot & sunny. The next day we had planned to spent the whole day touring the castles. The next day it was so foggy you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. This made us mad as the weather report everywhere said it was due to be sunny. Well, the fog never cleared, so we never got to see the breathtaking sight of the so-called “fairy tale castle”, only bits of were to be seen peeking out of the mist. We still went through Neuschwanstein, which is one of the coolest castles I’ve been through, and we had a good time checking out the little towns.

Next day it was still foggy, even worse, so we decided to give up and head to Rothenburg ob de Tauber, which was of course, sunny & hot. And amazing!!! It’s just like a fairytale, something you would read about in the Brothers Grimm, with gingerbread buildings and little squares with tiny shops and restaurants, sooooo quaint and cute!

Saarburg/Luxembourg Days 40-41

On impulse we decided to head to the Moselle Valley to treat ourselves by staying in a little bed & breakfast near Saarburg. It was very basic but absolute heaven for me & Stu as we’ve been on an airbed with sleeping bags for the last 6 weeks. The duvets were about 10 inches deep, the shower was hot, and the included breakfast was huge and delicious and worth every penny.

Unfortunately we left our fridge on in the car and the battery went flat. While the alarm was set. :) Luckily we got it sorted but it was a bit stressful. We went off to have a lightning flash tour of Luxembourg which is a very funky wee town with loads of medieval walls and bridges with the old town in the middle of the gorge. Petrol is also stupidly cheap in Luxembourg and people are very friendly.

Amsterdam, days 41-44

Amsterdam is such a funky place. There are so many streets which remind me of Wellington, but the canals make it feel really European. We bought the I Amsterdam card, which was just like the Salzburg Card, but slightly more expensive & included free drinks and gifts. We managed to go through the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, The Hermitage, the Canal boat museum, the Handbag Museum, and we did a diamond tour where I held a €34,000 diamond in my hand!!! We also had amazing dutch pancakes, scouted out the dodgy red light district, wandered amongst the markets and did a canal cruise. It was a very busy few days and I had achy, achy feet & legs but sadly my camera was stolen so I have no pics of Amsterdam to show anyone.

Arcen, Antwerp, Calais, days 44-45

Our last stop was the spa resort of Klein Vink in Arcen, which has thermal baths, saunas and beauty spas. We spent half a day there just relaxing and enjoying our last days. We enjoyed warm thermal baths with Jacuzzi bubbles, and a deliciously hot Finnish Sauna.
Our last day was cold and grey. We had lunch in Antwerp which is a very cool place, crossed between old and new with loads of vintage & designer shops.

Our last stop was Calais & Dunkirk, we decided to leave a day early due to the heavy, pitch black clouds pulling in over the ocean. We did a bit of shopping, then before we knew it we were on the Ferry!

Posted by SAkiwis 05:10 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Week 6 begins tomorrow!

So far - Venice, Slovenia, Vienna...

overcast 11 °C

Venice, days 29-32

We have had to stay an extra day here as this morning was pelting down with rain so we decided to take a day off and just chill out. We went to a small mall to do some shopping, watched the Godfather, had a coffee at the camp cafe and tidied up all our bags. Tomorrow the weather is looking to be loads better and we will spend the day in Venice.
Venice was amazing, everything we expected it to be. The day was a little cold and grey, but the sun soon came out. We caught a water taxi & bus from our campsite to the city and first off went up the Campanile for a view over the whole area which was stunning. We spent the rest of the day meandering around the alleys and canals, shopping for gifts and looking at interesting things. At midday the tide came in, and they put up board walks for everyone to walk on. It was only a couple of inches, but we were very happy that we wore flip flops so we were free to roam off the boards!

Slovenia days 32-33

This has probably been our favourite place so far. Slovenia is so much like NZ, clean, green and beautiful, with charming people. The only difference is the history and architecture! We stayed in Bohinjka Bistrica, just down the road from Lake Bled, probably the most well known part of Slovenia. On the way we also went through Ljubjana, the Capital, and Lipica, where the breed the Lippizaner horses. Lake Bled is a breathtaking lake with an island in the middle where there nestles a small church, cafe and shop. We took a boat ride (called a Plent) to the island. There are no outboards allowed, only rowboats, so it remains peaceful and quiet. After lunch we went to Vingar gorge, a dramatic hike set mostly on boardwalks that criss-cross a raging river, so clear you can see right through it. Amazing scenery, and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the Sounds or the Abel Tasman.

We treated ourselves to Bled Cake – NOT to be missed! It’s similar to a custard square, but a million times better. Layers of soft, sweet custard and whipped cream sandwiched between sweet fluffy pastry. It was a 5 star restaurant, above the lake - €10 for 2 cakes and 2 hot drinks. Slovenia is very cheap. Paris cost €18 for 1 cake and 2 drinks.

We had our first experience with real cold in Slovenia, as we were about 500mtres above sea level, in the mountains. You can tell by the pitched roofs it snows a LOT! Lake Bled freezes over and you can walk to the island. We wished we could just stay there for ever!

Vienna days 33- 35

Vienna is a lovely city, old but still sophisticated feeling. In the morning we went to Schonbrunn, the beautiful palace of the Habsburg kings & queens. The palace and gardens are beautiful and very different to other garden we’ve seen so far.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around Vienna. We saw the Spanish riding school – where they train the above-mentioned Lippzaner horses to perform the most amazing dressage & ‘horse ballet’. Ironically, the Spanish Riding School is in Vienna, with horse from Slovenia! Truly multicultural. We also went on to Huntertwasser Village & Haus, we both fell in love with the work of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona, so we had to see the work of the artist/architect who was so inspired by him. We will be visiting the Huntertwasser loos in Kawakawa no doubt!

The rest of the evening was spent whizzing around looking for a heater as it has gotten so cold in the tent that we were looking for any excuse not to be in it! We managed to find one and it is worth it’s weight in gold. Next to our camp is a heated swim centre, where we spent the last night swimming and relaxing before heading off to Salzburg. The lady at reception gave us free vouchers for it since she thought we were mad for staying in a tent this time of year!

I think the day count might be slightly off, but hey, it's more or less right. Can't believe we start our 6th week tomorrow, and we've only got 13 days left.

Posted by SAkiwis 09:36 Archived in Slovenia Comments (1)

Beginning Week 5 now...

Rome, Amalfi, Sorrento, starting Venice

storm 20 °C

Rome, days 22-24

Rome was very interesting. It’s very dirty and crowded, and it’s sad to see so many majestic buildings full of graffiti and rubbish. We stayed out of the city in a really lovely campground, but to get into Rome we had to catch a train in from a seriously dodgy area called Prima Porta. Wow, very scummy. We got to do loads in Rome though, the Spanigh Steps, the Trevi fountain, the Forum, and of course the Coloseum, which was so amazing! We spent hours wandering around. On day 2 we decided to do the Vatican, which turned out to be mental because the Pope was speaking. So we decided to be clever and go through the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel while the Pope was speaking as all the people would be there. We were wrong, it was still busy but not as bad. We had lunch near the Piazza Navona & the Pantheon, then went back in the afternoon to go through the Basilica. The queue stretched the entire way across St Peter’s Square, but luckily only took about 35 minutes to get in. Rome is definitely so different to what we expected, but fascinating nonetheless. It’s quite small as well, so you can pretty much walk everything which helps with cost as well.

Sorrento, Naples, Amalfi, days 25-28

Next stop, Naples. We actually stayed out of Naples, in a suburb of Sorrento called Seiano. Tiny, tiny, tiny village, right by the sea, with a tiny little harbour, a church, 4 restaurants and 2 campsites. The couple who owned it were so delightful, and it was 6 days before they were due to close for the season, so it was lovely and quiet.

We took a boat trip out to Amalfi the first day, it is the most spectacular coast. Huge, towering cliffs, then tiny villages perched on top of them, or squeezed into tiny bays on the shore. Amalfi itself is a fabulous little village, loads of shops for just about everything, and lots of pizzerias and restaurants squeezed into tiny little alleyways. The Cathedral is amazing, vast contrast to say St Peter’s Basilica, and sadly not as well taken care of, but more beautiful in its own way. St Andrew is buried there and every year on St Andrew’s holiday, a vial is placed on the tomb which fills up with a mysterious liquid, and has done so for the last 750 years. Very cool. As usual we had bad luck getting back, as the ferry was cancelled (nobody lets you know, you have to figure it out for yourself) and then we had to get the bus (2 hours to go 30kms) and then the train back to Seiano. Wow, what a crap way to end an awesome day. That and I got hit in the bum by a freak wave to was wet for the trip back.

The next day the heavens opened but as time was running short we decided to carry on and go to Pompei as planned. It was so interesting, but unfortunately we couldn’t really appreciate it as we were drowning most of the time we were there. Luckily it was free entry for the day, so we didn’t feel too bad that we couldn’t see everything. It’s so hard to get your head around the fact that people were doing such similar things to what we do today, going out to ‘cafes’, decorating homes, but just 2000 years ago.

After lunch (when it finally stopped raining) we went into Naples for about 20 minutes. It is the most disgusting place I’ve been in in a long time. It makes a South African squatter camp look like a posh suburb. We just had a quick look round and while we were there were warned by a lady who had been robbed there that morning, which was noty surprising as we felt very unsafe. So we thought ‘not worth it’ and went back to pretty, peaceful Seiano. We went for a walk to find a restaurant for dinner and met the sweetest lady who couldn’t speak a word but was so cute, and could say ‘Nuevo Zealanda!!!!’ so we came back for dinner. She grabbed my hand and led us to a gorgeous table overlooking the stormy sea. We could feel the waves breaking underneath us. We had the most fantastic (and cheap!!!) pizza ever, they don’t lie when they say that’s the best area for pizza.

Venice, days 29-?

We have had to stay an extra day here as this morning was pelting down with rain so we decided to take a day off and just chill out. We went to a small mall to do some shopping, watched the Godfather, had a coffee at the camp cafe and tidied up all our bags. Tomorrow the weather is looking to be loads better and we will spend the day in Venice.

Posted by SAkiwis 10:15 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Week 4, carrying on!

Provence, French Riviera, Monaco, Florence and Pisa (ok, we've been busy)

overcast 25 °C

Provence, days 17-18

Just a short stop in Provence on our way to Cannes, Nice & St Tropez. We stayed in Mt Saint Victoire, a beautiful, rocky mountain, just outside of Aix. It was such a beautiful, peaceful camp, it almost had the feeling of a hippie commune. Aix itself is a very pretty, cultural town, lots of small alleys filled with cafes and shops, there was a gorgeous market the morning we were there, with actual, nice things rather than the Chinese stuff one tends to see everywhere.

Next stop, Marseilles. A lovely harbour town with a beautiful and huge marina, loads, and loads of boats. The harbour is surrounded with shops and restaurants, although they are a bit pricey. The local fishmongers were selling, right there, couldn’t get fresher than that (that is actually literal since some fish were still alive).

We drove on after that towards St Tropez.

French Riviera, days 18-20

We stayed in Port Grimaud, just the next bay along from St Tropez. We were totally agape at our campsite, we thought we had come to the wrong place. Giant, flash gates, portfolio given as you sign in, 5 restaurants, nightclub etc etc. And the beach was amazing! Like out of a travel brochure. Unfortunately the day we went to St Tropez & Cannes it was a bit rainy, but still warm.

I really enjoyed St Tropez, although Stu was quite disappointed. Huge luxury yachts in the marina, worth millions, but the town was quite shabby looking. Till you looked at the names in the shops. Louis Vuitton, Gucci, you name it, and the number of stars who have gone to the bars & restaurants there!

Cannes was a real disappointment though. Grubby, lots of construction, and very small. We didn’t stay long there, but the shopping was slightly cheaper than St Tropez which was a good thing.

The drive up to Florence was through Monaco, where we decided to have lunch. We drove through the most spectacular coastline, turquoise seas, rugged cliffs, homes perched so close they look like falling, interspersed with white sand beaches. Sooooo lovely.

Monaco itself was fantastic. Squashed between the sea and the cliff, it mostly consists of high rises, exclusive-brand shops, and of course the stunning Monte Carlo Casino & Hotel. It was very quiet, few people about, but you can tell it’s a place with money. You barely saw anything other than BMWs, Roll Royces, Maseratis and Ferraris. Plus the giant yachts in the picturesque bay.

Florence, days 20-22

We arrived in Florence about 8 or 9pm, in a RAGING storm the likes that we have not seen in years. Torrential rain, thunder and lightning that rocked the ground, it was horrendous. We managed to just pitch our tent before the full force hit, and actually managed to not wash down the hill. I had very little sleep as every time lightning flashed it would wake me up. That and the sound of the rain battering our poor tent.

The next day dawned warm and wet but the clouds rapidly cleared. Off we went to Florence (Firenze) where we could go and absorb some culture. We walked the city, exploring the sights, including Michaelangelo’s David, the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo & various other buildings. We walked up to the Michaelangelo Piazzale (monument) which was a crazy climb up through parks but well worth the view at the top. An icecream was a treat for us as it’s very expensive in Europe.

We made a lightning visit to the leaning Tower, which incidentally is a really pretty building, and the privilege of paying protection money to some dodgy looking Nigerians NOT to break into our car. Probably the most nervous I have felt leaving our stuff alone since we got to Europe, but worth a look for sure.

Posted by SAkiwis 10:22 Archived in France Comments (0)

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