A Travellerspoint blog

The Outrageous, The Lessons. The Final Days of Travel

.. How we loved it all!

sunny 22 °C

Naples: dirty, graffitied, festive

Almost every wall in every street is festooned with spray-can art, while a staggering amount of abandoned rubbish lay along every alley. We held our bags close to our chests as we wandered aimlessly through the alleys of the Old Town where we found the ugliest load of trinkets, gourdy grottos, and cheap souvenirs that anyone could wish for.. or not. We eventually found the ‘tourist area’ along the waterfront and watched the sunset over Mt Vesuvius
To give credit, it was lovely to see all the Neapolitan families out together as it was Saturday night. There would have been not a soul at home in front of the Tele.. even the elderly were promenading up and down the crazy busy streets, stepping over rubbish and having fun.
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Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast: Life styles of the rich and famous

After a morning marvelling at the immensity and grandeur that Pompeii was before Mt Vesuvius decided it need covering in AD69, we arrived at our Airbnb apartment in Sorrento. This has been the only accommodation that we were not totally satisfied with: no kettle, dodgy plumbing, scanty and mismatched kitchen supplies to name a few. This definitely shows an ‘end of the season’ attitude.
We did go for a nice drive however with ‘the Italian Mafia: Sal’.. his own description of himself!! That Amalfi Coast Road is to be seen to be believed. and I am not talking about the magnificent 1300 metre cliffs with houses dripping from the sides and the ‘famous’ villages”. The roads are so narrow and windy that it made the journey a bit like riding a roller coaster. We arrived home without a scratch on our car or anyone else’s... a miracle.
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By the way we popped past Sofia Loren’s little villa at Amalfi, shame she wasn’t home to greet us so we ended up having a Michelin Star lunch in Ravello in the hotel where D.H. Lawrence wrote ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ in 1926, The scenery was spectacular, the light lunch was not as expensive as you’d think!! We kept an eye out for ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley’ in Positano but no show either but we discovered that ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ ‘Love is all you Need’ so ‘That’s Amore!!’
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Most outrageous

:
1. We started with a major treat: Business class upgrade... what an absolute treat. Can you imagine actually sleeping for a few hours on a plane, eating with real cutlery, not having your elbows in the air as you eat. We were brought back to earth from Dubai to Dubrovnik: ‘Fly Dubai’ was a shocker!
2. Our first meal out in Dubrovnik: Soup and bread $150... we didn’t realise it was top class!
3. Phone sex by a man on the train (he kissed the phone and wiggled a lot): with a photo of his wife on the other side of the phone (he wasn’t talking to his wife!)
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4. Zebra crossings and Amalfi Coast roads: Crazy driving and drivers... Inches between passing cars, buses and motor bikes
5. The weather has been amazing, wet weather gear came out once. We didn’t swim in those pristine waters though.
6. Prices much more than expected.. Aussie dollar didn’t add up well.. except our last bottle of wine which cost €1.35 (about $2.10). Thank God for Andrea’s well-stocked cupboards in Assisi and Nona’s tart. Some of those supplies have kept us going!!
7. Height of the Amalfi Coastline: you’ve got to see it to believe it.. 1300 metres
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8. Chinese laundry in Wenice (Venice) apartment using the kitchen oven and broom handles can be used for many things
9. Shock value of Naples:mountains of stagnant, rotting, ripe rubbish and graffiti on every surface including trains, miasma of cigarette and motor exhaust everywhere
10. The line ups at the Doges Palace toilet in Venice and the attendant who protected the Men’s toilets with her life. We rarely went to a toilet where there wasn’t a long agonising line up. Jen’s experience of the first class train toilet was very different.. plush!
11. Little white lies. ‘So sorry! we’ve got a appointment at 1pm!’ Assisi’s most mind dumbing guide in history where we spent 3 hours of our lives that we will never get back!
12. The magnificent flower arrangements in the churches at the weddings we attended (gate-crashed). It was like being in a giant flower shop!
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13. The Gelato evaluation went very well... mainly on the hips!!
14. ‘My darlings!!’, ‘TatatAtera’(Come along!) from our wonderful guide,Irena in Croatia and Slovenia
15. ‘Alorrrrrrah!!’ What more needs to be said about the animated, loud, passionate Italians
16. ‘How to speak Italian’ by Eil should be a best seller..’ Esperanto style’
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Lessons we have learnt..

Some of these lessons you just had to be there..
Never step into a shower without checking the direction of the shower nozzle
Never lock a toilet door without checking that the lock actually works.. especially if you are in the Men’s
Always cross roads in a group.. makes for a bigger target
Cigarette smoke? ‘It just happens so get over it!’
Nobody wins wars
You CAN live on plastic cheese, tomatoes and stale bread rolls
Scanning for the WC sign and being the first to stop it can make a BIG difference to your day
Big plump green Italian olives are the best!!

Spend the inheritance and fly Business Class everywhere!!
Take good walking shoes.. those feet are made for walking!
Feed stray cats and dogs wherever you find them.. they have saved cities from ruin!
Have a day every week to do nothing but wash your undies and sleep!
Don’t go on an eating and wine tasting tour if you don’t want to gain weight!
Use ‘Packing Bags’ - and label them (you know: Pants, Tops, Undies, Warm Stuff) - keeps your port (suitcase) looking as neat as a pin and your socks
together
Enough! Enough! Thanks for reading.. we are lined up at the Rome International Airport about to spend the next 30 hours flying to our home and loved ones.. Ciao and Arrivaderchi Roma...
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Posted by TravellingLight 06:32 Archived in Italy Comments (4)

Smoke haze, LocationLocation, Tuscany

Italy.. mostly amazing

sunny 18 °C
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Just a few interesting observations and finds

Smoke Haze and recycling

We are not sure whether it’s the company we keep, the places we knock about or that Aussies have seen the light when it comes to the habit of smoking. BUT, we have definitely found the streets, byways and cafes in Croatia and Italy full of smoke sucking people of all ages. It would not be so offensive if these folk actually had a minuscule amount of consideration for the faces towards which they are blowing their smoke. Cigarette butts don’t seem to be considered to be ‘rubbish’ either with gutters, pavements and gardens strewn with these ugly things.
Lake Bled in Slovenia was really trying with zero tolerance on waste. Most places in Italy seem to have some recycling happening but it seems a bit hit and miss. Some councils have an array of different types of recycling in separate bins. not sure where it all goes though. We Aussies probably should pat ourselves on the back a bit more than we do but there is a long way to go to hold back and start to repair the damage the world’s people have done to the air, the sea, the land.
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Amazing Apartment Locations

When we planned our accommodation on Airbnb & Booking.com we did a lot of research and, boy, was it worth it. Each of our locations so far have been all that we could have hoped for and more. I think our apartment in Venice took the cake though. We could have reached out and poked the Rialto Bridge with a stick (almost!) Our Assisi Villa was a quaint two room cottage just inside the walls. It had a ‘10’ rating from guests! That’s an indication of the attention to detail the host had gone to, even down to a homemade tart on the table from his Mum.
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Making mention of the churches and steeples

You can’t come to Europe and not expect to visit a few churches. Assisi has taken the prize so far with a church around every corner, on every mound and with a bell tower in most. When they ring it’s like the gates of heaven are opening. We have some concerns about how St Francis, St Clare and all the other deeply faithful, humble servants of God end up with monstrous churches built over every spot where they had a sandwich or washed their hands or happened to die.
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Reminders of our loved ones at home..

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Tuscany...with Tours of Tuscany... the best bits..

We have been totally spoilt over the last week: a wonderful country villa to sleep in every night, a driver to pick us up every morning to take us to one of the many hilltop villages where we enjoyed coffee, treats, lunch and a drive back home. This was followed every night by a three course meal at one of the local restaurants.. Erica, Monique and Mickey.. great job!!

Daph

: Driving around the Tuscany countryside and seeing the landscape and it matches the image in my head and not hearing about (and seeing) St Francis, St Claire, St Margherita (and others).. no offence to them but.. bury your dead!!

Eil

: It has to be the rolling hills and the patterns made by the grapevines, the olive trees, the market gardens and the Tuscan cottages just like the images you see (as well as tasting the wines and food!)

Jen

: the uncovering of the centuries of life has been interesting, the cobbled streets, the autumn colours of Tuscany and how the artists have captured that, the colour and the texture of the terracotta roofs and the silver grey of the olive trees

Sharon

: the amazing weather, the towers at SAN Giminagno, the galleries of unusual art by locals, ancient history uncovered, capers growing out of walls

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Posted by TravellingLight 04:47 Archived in Italy Comments (5)

Sweet worries, Ladies’ Loos and Tito

Travelling with Irena

semi-overcast 20 °C
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Irena

Our Dalmation Sunshine Tour has ended. We have had a delightful experience of Croatia and Slovenia. We are sad to say good-bye to all our fellow passengers: all exceptionally lovely people. Our saddest loss is of our passionate, warm, funny, incredibly well-rounded guide, Irena. She filled our drives with, sometimes wonderful, sometimes tragic stories of these lands and her life. Her love of all things Slovenian was inspiring. She had our mouth watering at the food and ice cream suggestions.
Her sympathy for and support for Jen & I when we left our passports (in our security box at Plitvice Lakes made us want to cry. We held it together even when we paid out the dosh for the taxi to bring them to us... never spent so much on a taxi ride in our lives!! The driver (& his wife) then drove us another 100 kms through to catch up with the bus at Postojna Caves.. the main issue was that we had to cross a border into Slovenia to get to the Caves so we couldn’t just get them couriered!!
One of Irena’s most memorable sayings was, Sweet worries!! These are the things that we would call, First world problems! The fact that we are free and able to travel and have such rich experiences makes such ‘minor’ issues as paying out a fortune for our passports to catch us Sweet worries!

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Ladies’ Loos

Today’s world has progressed in so many ways. Women have opportunities that they never could have dreamed of once, but there is one area where men still reign: Time in the Loo Line. It has been addressed in Wynnum with Unisex Toilets on the waterfront but who would have thought that our humble local suburbs would be ahead of the forward thinking inventive Europeans. We have not yet come across such practical toilets yet. Travelling with a bus load of ladies (as well as some charming men) meant anxiety and annoyance at every loo stop as the line grew as other buses had the same needs. The fact that, in some locations, there was an attendant to take up to 7kuna from us for the privilege rubbed salt into the wound!!
Here we have a Ladies Loo Line as well as some more inventive waste management systems plus a nun:
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Tito

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“A man amongst men.. a legend.. a saviour... an idol.. a charismatic leader”. He only made one mistake in his whole 35 year reign (1945-1980) as leader of Yugoslavia (as far as Yugoslavs are concerned). He didn’t train up someone to follow him as leader and it all fell apart ending up with neighbour killing neighbour because of ethnic difference. Irena grew up as one of Tito’s Pioneer Children who swore allegiance to Yugoslavia and to brotherhood and loyalty to state and to each other. As she read the Motto to us she choked up. Living in Tito’s time might have been irksome to the capitalist world but they felt safe and unified.. a far cry from this region now.
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Over the hills and far away..

Amazing how far you can go in a day... from Zagreb (Capital of Croatia where we left our tour group) to Stuttgart (where we were stuck in a Passport control line, heard our next flight called and had to bustle our way forward, ran for the gate, jumped on the bus to get to the plane and had to sit for 20 minutes while the plane refuelled). Then over the spectacular Italian Alps to our ever so humble little apartment where we can almost jump into the Grand Canal from our balcony.. Venice awaits our devoted gaze... Shaza and Daza have already hit the pavement!!
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Posted by TravellingLight 02:24 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Taking a drive..

... Then on Tour

overcast 16 °C
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Some days are diamonds and then some days are more like the rare and beautiful Tanzanite..

We used an Uber driver to move from our delightful apartment near the Old Town of Dubrovnik over to the Hotel we thought we needed to be at for the start of our ‘Dalmation Sunshine 9 Day Tour’. He gave us his card after describing a mouthwatering drive along he Adriatic Sea and onto the long narrow Peninsula to Ston. After having to transfer to another hotel, we decided Jalyk’s offer sounded ok.. so off we went.. Croatians seem to be able to talk without drawing breath.. quite a feat considering English isn’t their first language. So it was with Jalyk!
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Divine little beaches tucked down below soaring rugged cliffs, Ston’s city wall which wouldn’t keep a cat out after the earthquake of 1979.. very authentic and a ‘real’ working town that has gathered the saltiest salt for 4000 years. Then there was the latest ‘lunch’ we have ever had but possibly the best feed of Mediterranean seafood we’ll ever taste.

Croats can definitely talk under water, no! Cement!.. we are privy to a minimum of three life stories from the guides we have had. Each of them could write a book on the turbulent lives they have led. Our Aussie tales of life are comparatively tame and plain sailing!!
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Clearest purest most inviting water I have ever seen & I’ve seen some water.. how does it stay clean?? High salt content, underground water flow from mountains? No! It’s the fact that the whole of the Mediterranean esp Adriatic Sea have little or no ‘food’ to support a massive growth of algae.. somehow! Whatever.. it has meant that through thousands of years of use and abuse from humans, this stunning water still takes your breath away with its pristine beauty..
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We are all familiar with the glorious Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Fraser Island: Beautiful stretches of sand and surf. BUT, the Adriatic experience is of CONTINUOUS dramatic cliffs looming up behind this pristine aqua blue water.. for hundreds of kilometres... astounding.

History lesson

It can be difficult engaging Aussie kids in our history: it all happened so long ago and so far away. The history of Croatia and this whole region is so real to everyone: it is centuries old and every child knows it backwards. There is an inbuilt fear of being forced into war again or being betrayed by neighbours or changing conditions.. they fear war in a way that our one nation on one continent can never understand.
No wonder it’s hard to get a smile out of people or engage (and we love engaging!). Each ethnic group has to stick together.. Don’t trust, don’t put your head up or stand out in any way, move away if you don’t like it, emigrate!
Australians lack for nothing yet still we whinge and want more. How blessed and spoilt we are! Our guide, Irena, is a very special person whose motto is: Live for Peace - work for brotherhood and unity.
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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

Bus Travel with 26 Fellow Tourists

We were in fear and trepidation about joining a tour but we didn’t want to hire a car nor find our own way around Croatia and Slovenia. Our fears were unnecessary as we are travelling with 26 warm, genuine people (mainly Americans, Canadians and Aussies). Our guide Erina is exceptional. Have a tiny peek at what we have seen.. From Split and the devilish Diocletian’s Palace, to the Plitvice Lakes and waterfalls and then to Lake Bled:
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“Travelling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

PS... coming in the next blog... the exciting adventure of the forgotten passports and the Uber driver and his wife who made a feeble attempt to catch the other up (we will not be mentioning the cost but if you are feeling benevolent, we have a suggestion for you!!) Until next time..

Posted by TravellingLight 11:27 Archived in Slovenia Comments (4)

Beside the Adriatic Sea..

Amazing scenery, sad history, great company!

sunny 28 °C
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From the Sublime to the NOT so Sublime!

You will all have been asking yourselves (I know I would have in your shoes) how could those girls afford Business Class travel from Brisbane to Dubai. Miracles do happen. We were offered an upgrade when we went to check-in online. It wasn’t free but it was worth every single cent we paid. The A380 has two levels, Business Class took over the entire upper level. The comfort, space, attention, choice of food and wine as well as the real crockery and cutlery made us giggle with sheer joy. We even had a lounge we could retire to for chatter, chips and choice of cocktails. Sharon and Daph have never flown Business before. Jen and I have snuck in a couple. Those 14 hours literally flew by!

We, however, are not wealthy so we will not be doing another upgrade this trip. Dubai to Dubrovnik was a solid reminder of life among the equally great unwashed and squashed. We even had to pay for a cup of tea on Fly Dubai!!
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Dubrovnik on the Adriatic Sea

When we talked about travelling to Croatia many reflected on the recent conflict which raged in the streets of this city and the whole area for over 4 years (1991 - 1995). We were more driven by the reports of magnificent scenery, crystal blue waters along the Adriatic coast and walled cities hanging over the edges of scraggy cliffs. We have NOT been disappointed. The only thing that has troubled us a bit is our miscalculation of the weather. We packed for mild October temps and low humidity, it has been hot and steamy .. needless to say the washing machine in our apartment is getting a beating as we only have two sets of summer clothes! There are those who know I was packed for months but still got it wrong!!
Dubrovnik has quickly pushed aside a few of the cities on the list of my favourites.

Roomies search for food

Jen and I were both a bit jet-lagged on our first day in Dubrovnik but Daph and Sharon were little ‘energiser bunnies’ so they set off to find the local supermarket for supplies. Hours went by - no Roomies, no food! We had decided to set off ourselves when two bedraggled walkers staggered up the hill. They had lost the supermarket but found Old Town and came back mesmerised by what they had seen... and they had food as well.

Mesmerising Dubrovnik

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It was an accident that we have ended up staying in Dubrovnik for over a week but we have not been unhappy. Absorbing the scenery, the culture, the history, the daily life of Croatia and the countries around has made our heads spin and our hearts glad that we live in one country on one continent and we are a long way from anywhere. It’s hard to comprehend the savagery that occurred during those years of ‘blood wars’. The walled city of Dubrovnik has had to be rebuilt after 2000 bombs and a seven month siege in 1991-92. Amazingly restored! The Game of Thrones series was largely filmed around these parts and the number of devotees was astounding.

Mostar - Bombed but Blooming

We all look at life from our own unique perspectives but when you can’t accept other perspectives, things can turn rather nasty. Travelling in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro are testament to that truth. We went through 6 border crossing on our long day trip to the medieval town of Mostar which was also under siege & destroyed during the ‘blood wars’. The magnificent 16th century ‘Stari Most’ Old Bridge and the surrounding cobble stone alleys have all had to be rebuilt. It really was beyond us as who fought who and why. It seems they are all trying to play nicely at the moment.
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Montenegro - Ring any bells?.

Daph is our greatest source of random knowledge on this trip. Even she was a bit hazy as to details about Montenegro. Jen linked the name with sailing boats, I linked it with stripey shirts and sailor hats. Sharon like the name. We are now informed and in wonder at this small country with magnificent coastal scenery (Norwegian fjord-style) and it’s dinky walled cities such as Kotor and Budva. Love those walled old towns with heaps of churches and steeples! This was another long day of driving from Dubrovnik but was so worth it.
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Have we mentioned the food and drinks?

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These are the days of miracle and wonder..

Paul Simon

Posted by TravellingLight 10:04 Archived in Croatia Comments (5)

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