July - August 2017
  • Day15

    Genoa

    August 11, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    After breakfast at the hotel we walked down the hill through the historic centre to the waterfront area. We purchased a pass to the Aquarium. That proved to be a mistake. There were big crowds making it uncomfortable getting around. Touted as one of the best aquariums in the world this one was overall a disappointment.

    Lunch was at McDonalds our first fast food for the trip. There is only so much Italian food you can take. Impressive electronic ordering system which also extended to the toilets which required receipt to enter. Garbage was automatically separated within garbage collector.

    After lunch we visited the biosphere and Antarctic museum which were included within the aquarium pass.

    We then ventured back into town. We visited a shop where we bought truffle products. We got to see and hold real truffles. We then bought another bag to put all of our accumulated stuff in. John had his hair cut. It was amusing translating instructions to the hairdresser.

    We made a booking for dinner at Ristorante Al Giardino Idoratori and returned to the Hotel via Carrefour to get cleaned up.

    We returned to the same bar for Spritz and then to our final dinner for the trip. The sky had been threatening to rain all afternoon. Finally there were just a few drops.

    The next day we would be getting up early and travelling to Milan to catch our flight back to Bangkok Saturday afternoon. Another family holiday over and another 5 kg heavier. All a lot of fun.
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  • Day14

    Genoa

    August 10, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We checked out of our apartment before 10 am and then walked to the Verona Porta Vescova station. From there it was a 10 minute train ride to the central station Vercona Porta Nuova. We had 2 hours to wait before our train to Genoa transferring in Milan. We had coffee and did some clothes shopping. Shorts were on special.

    We were finally on our way at 12.32pm. The train travelled quite fast. We had a 20 minute change of trains in Milan. We arrived in Genoa at 3.45 pm. The weather was the coolest it had been for the whole trip.

    After catching a taxi to our hotel. Our hotel was well located in the old part of the city close by to all the main sites. After checking in we ventured out to explore the city

    Genoa (Genova) is a port city and the capital of northwest Italy's Liguria region. It's known for its central role in maritime trade over many centuries. In the old town stands the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, with its black-and-white-striped facade and frescoed interior. Narrow lanes open onto monumental squares like Piazza de Ferrari, site of an iconic bronze fountain and Teatro Carlo Felice opera house.

    After exploring the very narrow alley ways and back streets we stopped for an aperitif for happy hour. We both had a Spritz at a sidewalk bar. The drink is prepared with prosecco wine, a dash of some bitter liqueur such as Aperol and is commonly drunk in north eastern Italy.

    After that we had dinner at Icuochi. Located in a narrow side alley they specialised in seafood. We had the mixed seafood platter which had oysters and raw fish carpaccio. It was very good value meal set in a nice interior.
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  • Day13

    Verona

    August 9, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    We made a reasonably early start and headed into town - a 30 minute walk away from the apartment. We passed through the Porta Vescovo gate which is the entry through the outer wall of Verona.

    We then crossed the Fiume Adige. The river was flowing very fast due to recent heavy rains in the Alps. From there we walked toward the Piazza Erbe passing next to Casa di Giulietta and Casa di Romeo. There were big crowds there. Nearby is the Torre dei Lamberti which we ascended later in the day from where you get a great view out over the city. Fortunately it has a lift.

    We stopped for coffee and a snack and then made our way to the tourist office where we purchased the "Verona" card which allowed for entry into a number of the historic monuments. With the card in hand we headed to the Anfiteatro Arena. The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheatre in Piazza Bra in Verona built in the first century. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances given there. That night there would be a performance of Aida.

    After that we stopped for Pizza and beer. After that we visited San Fermo Maggiore - a church built in Romanesque style in central Verona that had both an upper and underground lower church beneath.

    We caught taxi back to the apartment and freshened up.

    Just after 7 pm we were met by work colleagues of Jeed from her time in London 14 years ago at Travel 2 -Laura Perbelini and her English partner Jonathon. They drove us to her parents house in the village of Bovolone about 30 minutes outside of Verona in the country side. Laura's parents who between the 2 of them could barely speak any English were very kind and had prepared a home cooked family meal for us. Before then we had a tour through their pastries shop and factory downstairs from their apartment above. The meal was superb. Before going home we were given a tour of Laura's father personal art gallery. He is a very keen painter and teaches traditional painting in the Byzantine religious style using tempura paints on wood.Laura gave us several beautifully packed samples from their shop before they drove us back to our apartment at midnight. Altogether it was a delightful evening.
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  • Day12

    Verona

    August 8, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    We got up early. I made coffee. However what we thought was milk turned out to be drinking yoghurt. Disgusting. Checked emails and caught up with some work. Fortunately the guys were doing well to hold the fort in my absence. We left the apartment at 11 am and made our way to the railway station. Queued twice to reserve onward tickets. The Italians have a habit of having long chats with the attendants st the counters. Some take ages to do what should be a simple procedure taking 2 minutes. Met some other Aussies in the queue who were catching the same train to Venice. With only 2 minutes to spare we boarded the train.

    We passed through Monfalcone home to Fincantieri - Cantieri Navali an Italian shipbuilding company based in Trieste, Italy. It was formed in 1959 and is owned by the Italian state. It is the largest shipbuilder in Europe. Several large cruise ships could be seen under construction.

    We arrived at Verona Porta Vescovo station late afternoon. From there it was a 10 minute walk to our apartment crossing a busy road on route. The apartment was about 2 km from the historic centre in the "Muno" quarter of town. It was very much the poorer area of town. There were a lot of South Asian and Africans around. Nevertheless the apartment was neat and tidy.

    After checking in we ventured out to the nearest supermarket a 1 km walk away to get happy hour supplies. There was a fairly limited choice.

    For the evening meal we ate at Cangrande Restorante and Enoteca in the historic heart of Verona. Another superb meal. The duck confit was particularly good.
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  • Day11

    Udine

    August 7, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and walked to near the railway station to catch the "Flix" bus to Trieste at 9.50 am. We had pre-purchased tickets. The almost 2 hour bus ride from Ljubljana was comfortable. There was wifi on board. We arrived in Trieste shortly before noon. We left our bags at the luggage storage and then changed some money. We bought some baguettes to share on the train for lunch. With a minute to spare we managed to board the train in time to Udine.

    We arrived in Udine 1.5 hours later. From the railway station it is a short walk into the historic centre.

    Udine is a city in northeastern Italy. Although it is a large city it is rarely visited by tourists. Surprising, given its splendid buildings. It was early afternoon. Most of the shops were closed and the streets practically deserted. We walked up to the hilltop Udine Castle which is home to several museums and an art gallery with works by Tiepolo and Caravaggio. From there we enjoyed the views of the city and surrounding mountains. The central Piazza della Libertà has Renaissance buildings, including the pink-and-white-marble Loggia del Lionello and a clock tower. We passed by several churches including the Udine Cathedral which has a baroque exterior.

    It was only to be a quick visit. We headed back to the train station to catch the 3.08 express train back to Trieste.

    From the railway station it was a 10 minute walk to our overnight accommodation. After settling we headed out for supplies including washing powder. Upon our return we loaded up what we thought was the washing machine with our dirty laundry only to discover in fact it was a dryer. Jeed spent over an hour cleaning up the mess and cleaned clothes by hand. Not a happy bunny. After happy hour we went to a nearby restaurant "ristorante pepenero pepebianci". It was a lovely restaurant in a restored 19th century horse stable. Food and wine were superb. The complimentary Prosecco was a nice touch.
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  • Day10

    Ljubljana

    August 6, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    We awoke on the outskirts of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. Another sleepless night. The train was running 45 minutes late, so our changeover at Zagreb was swift. With 5 minutes to spare we boarded the train to Ljubljana.

    The countryside between Zagreb and Ljubljana is quite stunning. The train travelled mostly along a river valley. We passed several pictureque villages on route. At the Croatian/Slovenian border we were checked by the police who came aboard the train to check our passports.

    We arrived in Ljubljana - pronounced La Jubble Jana shortly after 9 am. We walked to the hotel where we left our bags.

    Ljubljana is Slovenia's capital and largest city. It's known for its university population and green spaces. The curving Ljubljanica River, lined in outdoor cafes, divides the city's old town from its commercial hub. Ljubljana has many museums.

    We walked toward the rover where we had breakfast. We then caught a river boat cruise. From there we headed toward the castle. We bought postcards on the way which the kids filled out and we posted. After that we caught the Funicular up to the Ljubljana Castle. The castle complex stands on Castle Hill above downtown Ljubljana. It is a key landmark of the town. Although there have been extensive renovations done and attempts to put together a interesting story behind its history, altogether we found the castle rather uninteresting.

    Just as it had started to rain we headed back to the hotel where we checked in. We had some rest and caught up on emails and this blog.

    We headed to a restaurant near the river for dinner. We sat outdoors under a large canvas umbrella at "Most" just in time for the heavens to open up. We managed to stay dry although we had to. E moved to another table. It was the first rain in 2 weeks - which is apparently a long time in Slovenia - which is one of the wettest countries in Europe. The food was excellent as was the service.

    After that we headed back to the hotel for a well earns rest. Unfortunately the aircon was warm - so it was another restless night.
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  • Day9

    Split

    August 5, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    We got up late. We had a simple breakfast of pastries bought from the nearby bakery. After packing our bags we checked out of the apartment at 11 am and headed to see Anna at the City Museum where she kindly allowed us to leave our luggage for the day.

    We toured the small museum for free as her guest. In the museum we spotted the new UN secretary General Antonio Guterres. There was a lot of security.

    We then headed to a nearby Resturant for lunch where we had mostly mussels and salad.

    After lunch we had a look at the 2000 year old sub-structures below the old palace. After that it was off to the beach. This time we swam near Ovcice beach a 30 minute walk from the down town area. The water here was very clear. The kids and I swan between several rock outcrops. The water here was quite deep.

    We then returned into town and had home made ice cream at "Luka". We had earlier been informed that most icecream sold in Croatia is made from powder imported from Italy. From there we walked back toward the museum and ate an early dinner (having skipped lunch) at a nice courtyard restaurant called O-Zlalta. We then collected our bags and made our way to the train station 20 minutes away.

    We killed the time waiting for our 9.44 pm departing train to Zagreb playing Uno and charging our phones. Eventually the train arrived and we were able to board.

    Although the cabins were well appointed, they had no air conditioning. Croatia had been having its worst heat wave in years. It was very hot on board. As we left Split we were boiling. Fortunately it soon cooled off as we climbed up into the mountains. The train was on route to Zagreb where we were to make a very brief change of trains to or next destination Ljubljana.
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  • Day8

    Dubrovnik

    August 4, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    We set off early to meet up with our coach tour for the day that would take us to Dubrovnik. Dubrovnik is a city in southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea. It has recently gained much notoriety due to it being used for filming of many scenes in "Game of Thrones' including "Kings Landing".

    The small bus was full with other tourists of various nationalities. Getting to Dubrovnik takes 4 hours and requires passing through Bosnia Herzegovina each way. Passports are inspected at both border crossings. Our tour guide Igor explained that the highway between Split and Dubrovnik was one of the most expensive roads to be built in Europe. Consisting of mostly bridges and tunnels, it passes through a very mountainous region referred to as the Dinaric Alps. The mountains are quite nude with low bushes and visible outcrops of limestone. Enroute we passed Croatia's tallest mountain Mt Dinara which is 1831 m high.

    We arrived in Dubrovnik just after 12 noon. The down town area is extremely crowded with tourists, many of whom arrive via the massive cruise ships which are moored nearby in the harbor.

    Dubrovnik is known for its distinctive Old Town, encircled with massive stone walls completed in the 16th century. Its well-preserved buildings range from baroque St. Blaise Church to Renaissance Sponza Palace and Gothic Rector’s Palace, now a history museum. Paved with limestone, the pedestrianized Stradun (or Placa) is lined with shops and restaurants.

    After a short tour of the city by the guide we set off on our own to explore this amazing city. First though we had some lunch at a Sushi Resturant that also served the locally grown oysters. From there we found our way to the city walls with 2 rather contancorous children in tow. It was very hot so it was understandable that the 2 youngest in our group were a bit put out by the 1.9 km walk around the top of the fortified stone walls that surround the old town. The views afforded however are spectacular. It was worth the tension.

    After that we found our way back to the meeting point to catch the bus at 4.15 pm. On the way we had ice cream.

    We arrived back in Split at 8 pm. After getting cleaned up we headed out at 9.30 pm in search of some food. Every Resturant was packed. Perhaps not surprising given the fact it was Friday night. We decided to get take away fish and chips instead. That was a good move. We headed back to our comfortable and very cool apartment to eat that before a well deserved rest. Another long day with a longer day ahead.
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  • Day7

    Going banannas in Split

    August 3, 2017 in Croatia ⋅ ☀️ 31 °C

    We awoke early at 5.30 am. The ferry was approaching Split. We endured a sleepless night in a stuffy cabin with poor air conditioning. We had a quick breakfast before disembarking the ferry at 6.45 am.

    We were met by large crowds in Split. The promenade area that runs along the foreshore is crowded with open air restaurants and souvenir shops. There are many youngsters about. Split on first impression seems quite the party town.

    Located on Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast, Spit is known for its beaches and the fortresslike complex at its center, Diocletian's Palace, erected by the Roman emperor in the 4th century. Once home to thousands, its sprawling remains include more than 200 buildings. Within its white stone walls and under its courtyards are a cathedral and numerous shops, bars, cafes, hotels and houses.

    We found a nice Resturant for breakfast just outside the walls of the Diocletian's Palace where we relaxed drinking coffee until 9.30 am. We headed to our apartment nearby. We were met by the owner. She was very friendly. The apartment was lovely. 2 bedrooms with a large central kitchen and small lounge area. Most importantly it had air conditioning and a washing machine. We were just about running out of clean clothes after a week on the road. As the previous guests had just checked out we were asked to return in 2 hours time. We left our bags at the apartment.

    We wandered around the nearby shops until 11.30 am. We returned to the apartment and did the formal check in with Anna. Anna was a friend of the owner and works at the nearby Museum. She had plenty of tips including the best beaches to swim at.

    After several loads of washing in the afternoon we caught the bus to Kasjuni beach. It was a pebble beach. The beach was very crowded. The water is refreshing and quite clear due to the presence of limestone and favorable currents. Stewart cut his foot on the sharp rocks.

    We caught the bus and returned to town. We headed back to the apartment where we got cleaned up. For dinner that evening we ate at "Augubbio". The food, service and atmosphere were great only ruined by the poor air-conditioning in the Resturant. In defense it was swelteringly hot day. We would have stayed longer but it was insufferable. Of particular interest in the restaurant was the stone floor which was original Roman.
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  • Day6

    Ancona

    August 2, 2017 in Slovenia ⋅ ☀️ 32 °C

    After breakfast we returned the rental car to Avis. We had planned to walk back to the hotel, but after walking 20 minutes eventually caught the bus as there was no footpath to continue on.

    We returned to the hotel where we checked out, putting our bags into storage. We then caught a taxi into the down town area of Ancona getting dropped off at Pinots del Passetto. We decided not to walk down to the beach below which is reached by a long flight of steps. It was another very hotel day in Ancona. We decided to walk back into the central down town area and the historic city.

    We had lunch at Trattoria all Tredici Cannelle. It served simple food street side. The fish was particularly good here.

    After lunch we suffered through the heat exploring the down town area. We went into a few shops. We then had gelato.After that we caught a taxi back to the hotel to collect our left luggage. From there we went by taxi to the Port where we checked in. With our boarding passes in hand we caught a bus to the ferry. After clearing immigration, we boarded the ferry. There were many uniformed staff to greet us. We found our way to our cabin. The cabin was quite small but well equipped. It had its own small bathroom. There were 2 sets of bunk beds.

    We then headed upstairs to the bar. We had one drink there and then decided to try out the Resturant. We were some of the first to arrive and were seated at a table near the windows. The food was basic and reasonably priced. By the time the ferry departed the Resturant was quite full. The ferry left about 1 hour after its scheduled departure at sunset. It was very exciting to finally be away.

    Shortly after setting of we returned to our cabin.
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