Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Dubai

Dubai is unbelievably hot. The air is so thick and moist it is like breathing soup.

We are waiting at the airport for the long flight home. Yesterday we went to see the biggest hotel and then went to the biggest shopping mall - it was huge.

Last day in Venice


Today we were up and away on a tour to the Islands Murano, Burano and Torcello

The first stop was the island of Murano famous for Venetian Glass.We watched some glass making and toured the showroom and it was back on the boat again and off to Burano



Burano is famous for Lace. It is also a colourful fishing village. We loved this island and we only had 30 minutes here. We went back to the boat to tell the tour guide that we weren’t going on with the tour and that we wanted to stay there. She said that was fine she was bring another tour through there at 4:00pm so we could catch the boat again then. Great.


We wandered around the island, watched them making the lace (well I did), and generally enjoyed the slower pace. Had a very enjoyable day.

We rejoined the tour and went on to Torcello. This was a basically deserted island (only 15 residents) but with a big bascillica and bell tower. Then we were back to the hustle and bustle of Venice.

We had a lovely last Italian dinner and are now waiting to go to the airport and on to Dubai.

Saturday, 30 June 2007

Venice

We arrived to a beautiful day in Venice. We got a boat from the Train Station to our hotel. Our room is tiny. Below our window is a major Gondola point and we hear them taking passengers and singing as they go past our window – very nice.



Today we went to the Cathedral in St Marco square. It is awesome with lots of gold mosaics and the mosaic floor is really interesting.


Trevor went to the top of the bell tower and had amazing views of Venice from there.


Venice is extremely busy with people – it has been the busiest place we have been to by far. Tomorrow we are going for a tour to three Islands Murano (where they make the beautiful glass), Burano (where they make lace) and Torcello.

It is quite humid here but it cools a bit at night. We are ready to get away from all the people.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Last Day in Florence


Today Trevor and I went our separate ways – I went to the Galleries and he went walking to find motorbike shops.







I was up early to queue for the Uffizi Gallery. At 8:15 in the morning there was already a large queue. It was an hour and a half before I got in. But it was well worth the wait – it is totally mind blowing. The Rembrandt room was closed for renovation but I still got to see many other famous artists – Michaelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli to name a few very, very impressive. This collection belonged to the Medici Family (Florence’s royalty) They built the Uffizi Gallery to house their collection. The building is three floor and U shaped – its huge.
I then went to the Pitti Palace – which was the home of the Medici Family. The Pitti Palace is at one end of the Ponte Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery is at the other – the family built a corridor on top of the Ponte Vecchio (bridge) so they could walk between the two without having to mix with the commoners!

The palace is extremely opulent and is also full of art. The ceilings, doors etc are all very decorated. There are five different museums in the palace – art, some of the rooms of the Medici family, costume, modern art, porcelain, silver and treasures from around the world – this family was seriously mega rich!

The Palace also has extensive gardens – here is a small part of them.
That was my day filled in well and truly. Trevor said the motorbike shops were crap – not much in them. He did heaps of walking a even a wee bit of shopping!!!

We went more into the centre of Florence tonight for dinner and came across some students doing street art and musicians playing – lovely atmosphere.
We were a packed up now and heading to Venice.

Siena


We got up early this morning to go to Siena. Trevor decided to navigate the way to the train station to get the train there. Well after about 20 minutes of walking I decided that I would navigate with the map. We got to the station with minutes to spare thank goodness there weren’t any queues for tickets.
One and a half hours of train journey through Tuscany was lovely. Have I mentioned that so far where ever we have been you have to pay to use the toilet! And they are few and far between. It was a bit cooler today (about 18 degrees) and in Siena it was spitting.
Siena is a hilly gothic style, town with walls around the inner part. Lovely narrow streets and it seems that motor vehicles are not allowed in the centre most part. The shops appear to be larger than Rome and very very nice – it seemed a bit like Queenstown in that it was bustling with tourists but there is only 50,000 people that live there. They were getting ready for a big festival- Il Palio – some pageantry and a horse race around the centre square, which is on next week.

Had a lovely lunch – have I mentioned that the Italian food is very nice – simple and fresh – very tasty.

Got back to Florence around 5:00pm and went to the Uffizi Gallery to see if I could get tickets to visit tomorrow – they had sold all the reservations so I have to get up early to queue – it opens at 8:15 – so another early day tomorrow.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Sightseeing and Shopping


This morning we got the open topped bus around the area of Florence on the other side of the Arno River. Very beautiful. The city centre itself is quite compact and outside the city the houses seem to have good sized gardens.


Then we went to find the markets – lots of leather – bagsw, handbags, belts etc very exciting – made a couple of purchases!!

All the galleries and museums are closed in Florence on a Monday but we found the Cezanne exhibition was open so we visited that – Trevor really enjoyed it :)












Not far from our hotel are THE SHOPS – all the label ones – I wasn’t allowed in those – although I sneaked into Save the Queen.

Then it was time for more mundane stuff – laundry – it is way too expensive to have it done at the Hotel.
Today it was 36 degrees – very hot – thank god for our air conditioned hotel.



Here is a shopping basket to carry home all the purchases! It is about the size of those “Little Tykes” cars for toddlers.
Tomorrow we are off to Siena for a day trip.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Pisa


We left Monterosso this morning and headed for Pisa – about a hour by train. Upon arrival we stored our bags and set off. On all the maps we have been given – what looks like a really long way turns out to be about ten minutes – its very encouraging. We walked to the Leaning Tower. You have to book to go up the Tower – we had about an hour and a half to fill in so we had a look around the other buildings there. The Tower was originally built as the Bell Tower to the Cathedral and was started in 1173! There are approximately 300 steps to climb. Our bodies were still sore from the big walk yesterday.

Then we went on to Florence about another hour by train. Our hotel room is quite roomy by European standards and the bed is big and comfy. We set off for a walk from our Hotel. We are staying not far from the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
This bridge is lined with Jewellery shops (Teresa you would love it). I get the feeling that Florence is a shopping mecca. We had a look around – there was a special madri gras type night where the streets were closed off and the restaurants put their tables out into the street, there was live music playing very nice and festive
There was a lovely sunset and we stood on the bridge listening to a great guy singing and watched the sun go down. Very beautiful









Firenze

Or Florence as we call it. Today (Sunday) we went for a walk near our hotel and came across a local Flea Market. Here is Trevor in front of one of the antique iron stands.

We found lots of treasures we would have loved to have brought home but the airline probably wouldn’t like it

We walked to the Duomo (Large Cathedral) in the middle of Florence – the queue was so huge we didn’t go in, might try again another day. We had lunch in a little Café (they call them Bars here) where you buy slabs of pizza, panini, fruit salad etc.



This afternoon we took an open bus tour up to one of the exclusive hill suburbs Fiesole. Very nice – all the paintings you see of Tuscany (or Toscana as they call it here) are so true they paint it as you see it.

Tonight was another special night – The Feast of St John. Outside our Hotel the street was blocked off. We are on the edge of the Arno River. Directly opposite us there are some gardens and there was an amazing fireworks display there tonight that went for 40 minutes – it just kept going the streets were packed with people out to watch it. The loud bangs echoed off all the buildings and the fireworks were reflected in the river – it was fantastic.

Sorry guys blogger has published these out of order and I dont know how to change it.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Walking the Cinque Terre






Today we decided to get up early and walk the track between the five villages estimated to take about 6 hours. There was a train strike here today until 9pm in the evening. But that didn’t matter because we could get the boat back to Monterosso.
Off we set – the track between Monterosso and Vernazza – the next village is very steep and narrow. That took about 1 and a half hours to walk very hot and sweaty although it is a bit cooler today and overcast – thank goodness.


This is Vernazza – a beautiful village built into the cliffs. We then set off for Corneglia which didn’t have a port and is set high in the cliff. This took one and a half hours also – more sweat and puffing. We had a lovely lunch here. After that were the villages of Manorola and Riomaggiore which were only about half an hour apart and a little more easier to walk.
On arrival at Riomaggiore we went straight to the office to book the boat trip back because by this time we were buggered and didn’t want to miss the boat. The boat wasn’t operating because of "rough seas" – well the sea was as calm as a good day in NZ!!!! So we thought we had to muck around in this tiny village until 9pm tonight. We thought about hitch hiking but decided not to. There were no taxis or buses. We went back to the train station after lots of mooching around and they said that there might be a train at about 6:00. We went to a bar and had a couple of beers with a nice Australian couple to fill in the time. We were so pleased to get back to Monterosso and have a shower – very hot, tired and sweaty – not a relaxing day at all but glad we did it.

Monterosso




We left Rome – reluctantly – we really enjoyed it. Our train was delayed and whilst we were waiting we had a cappuccino at the Station – it was nice although they seem to drink their cappuccinos tepid here. Trevor went for a walk to find the Gents and after following about nine signs found it underground but there was a large queue and it was coin operated to enter so he didn’t worry about it – he was away for ages. When he came back he informed me that there was a mega shopping mall under the station but because we only had five minutes or so before our train arrived I couldn’t get to go and see it – bummer!.
The train journey took about four hours – the country side is similar to New Zealand but with lots of Bamboo.

Monterosso is the largest village in the Cinque Terre (pronounced chenkway tear) group of five villages. Our hotel room is considerably bigger than our last one and is back from the beach but very nice. The temperature is cooler here than Rome – feels like about 28.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Pantheon

Trevor was up and away for a walk at 5:30. There were lots of people heading to work. Today we didn’t have anything planned so asked the nice young gentlemen on reception where he thought we should go. He recommended we get a bus to see the Pantheon and the Castel Saint Angelo (for those coming to Rome you take the number 64 bus). That was fun – we weren’t quite sure where to get off and the bus was so crowded, Trevor was standing separate from me. We were on the right street and I motioned to Trevor that we should get off at the next stop. A lovely elderly gentleman said to me that we should get off at this stop so I got off but Trevor didn’t see me get off until I was on the pavement and the bus was starting to move away! Trevor’s lack of Italian made it difficult to tell the driver to stop, some nice woman helped him to stop the bus.

Beside the Pantheon there was a lovely café where Trevor decided to taste the Italian cappuccino and I had a gelato ice cream – sorry girls too hot to drink coffees

Then we set off to find the Piazza Navona – one of the largest Piazzas in Italy. This was beautiful and is known for its delicious eateries in the evening (more about this later).
A short walk (everything thing here is not far from each other – even though on the map it looks like miles its really a short distance) across the Tiber River and we were at the Castel Saint Angelo. This is near the Vatican and is a huge fortress type castle in very original condition. The statue on the top is the Archangel Michael sheathing his sword after the end of a plague (without looking up my guidebook I can’t remember when this was). There is a secrete tunnel from the Castel to the Vatican. The age of things and the beauty of them doesn’t stop amazing us at every turn.
Just down the street from our hotel is this fantastic store, a cross between diary, liquor store and deli – it is fantastic – we could learn so much from the Italians. They don’t seem to have as much bureauocracy here and the place is better for it – OSH would have a field day here and maybe it should be compulsory for them to visit Rome to see how anal they are at home.



Trevor is fascinated by the amount of scooters and how they are used here

This is just around the corner from our hotel.

We booked a Tour “Rome Illuminated” which was to be a tour of Rome at night. The only problem was that for the first hour and twenty minutes it was still daylight! As part of the tour we went back to the Piazza Navona – it was packed with people and buskers – really crowded – such a contrast to when we were there earlier in the day. Trevor had a look at the prices at the Restaurants – they averaged between 30-40 euros for a main ($60-$80nz approx).
We are off to Cinque Terre today not sure if there will be internet access there so may be a few days before I can do any posts.







Wednesday, 20 June 2007

The Vatican



We decided to book a tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Bascilica. Thank goodness we did this was the queue into the Vatican. These walls are all around the Vatican City and this was only one side we saw the queue go around three of these walls – not sure how much further it went after that. Our guide estimated that they would have approx 3 hours wait in the 31 degree heat – We just walked straight in. Although being with a tour you didn’t get to wander wherever you wanted he was very informative and we got the best vantage points and explanations of things. The Sistine Chapel was amazing (we weren’t able to take any photos in there though

This is a photo of one of the many ceilings in the Vatican Museum

Trevor standing in St Peter’s Square in front of the building where the Pope gives his speeches – On a Wednesday. We went on Tuesday to avoid the crowds! Sometimes you are unable to get into some parts of the Vatican on a Wednesday

After we got back to our hotel we walked to the Trevi Fountain – absolutely amazing – thousands of people there and very hot. Got back to Hotel for a wee sleep and woke up at 4:00am!

We are just mucking around today – we leave Rome for Cinque Terre tomorrow – will be very educational figuring out which train we are on.