Sunset hunting in Greece

We flew directly from Palermo, Sicily to Santorini, Greece eager to fulfil my white cliffside sunset, wine tasting dreams – but sadly it was not to be – or at least not for as long as we had planned. Disaster struck in the form of an ominous email warning that the ferry workers were on strike on the very day we had been planning to travel onwards. Logistically, unfortunately, this meant we had to cut our two nights in paradise to merely 24 hours.

So it was action packed – we arrived late in the afternoon and spent the afternoon exploring the narrow streets of Oia. That evening, we found a spot to watch that famed sunset (happily from the terrace of our own accommodation). The next morning we woke early to see the sunrise. It was a delight to have the streets to ourselves, the white streets bathed in golden morning sunlight.

After breakfast, we donned our running shoes and walked the 11km trek along the caldera from Oia to Thira. On the way back I spied a bookshop that sold English books (the loss of the Kindle was really being felt).

Then we showed up at the port ready for our 525pm ferry…which promptly arrived at 830pm.
So it turned out we had more time than expected in Santorini, just a pity we spent it waiting at the port with a packet of chips rather than wine tasting on the cliffside. We did see the sunset again though.

Heraklion was unexpectedly great. Our itinerary change meant we had an extra night in the Cretan capital. This gave us an opportunity to catch up on some travel admin (laundry). But we also had a look around the fortress port, and had the most gigantic gyros you’ve ever seen.

The following day we picked up a wee hire car and set off to the very north west of the island. Stopping for a lunch of spinach and ricotta pies, fried zucchini, and tzatziki (tzatziki in Crete is the best – have it on everything) we made it to Kissamos ready to spend the afternoon by the pool.

Day two saw us driving a further half hour, as far north west as was possible to drive, before descending down the cliffs another 1 km on foot to the stunning Balos Beach. Accessible by foot or boat (or donkey, but don’t do that, those poor tiny donkeys), the lagoon was quiet, the water warm, and the view amazing. The walk back up was tough, but at least you can pretend to be simply stopping to admire the view when you’re gasping for air.

It was so pretty we decided to go back to see whether it was a good spot to see the sunset (Santorini had given us a case of sunset hunting it appears).

The following day we jumped back into our tiny car and drove an hour south, still on the West coast, to Elafonissi beach – the pink beach. Crystal clear water, deep and refreshing, I’m going to be daydreaming about Elafonissi once I’m back at my desk again for sure.

Our ferry woes continued when we showed up at the port bright and early for our 730am ferry from Heraklion to Paros. Sadly, our ferry had been cancelled (thanks for the update guys) and instead we’d been shoved onto another ferry going an hour later, and another route. Our anticipated 2 1/2 hour ferry suddenly turned into a 6 1/2 hour one. Lucky I bought that book.

But when we arrived, it was all worth it. Crystal clear water, a pool at our accommodation, and adorable white narrow streets. We spent four days in Naoussa, Paros blissed out by the pool, strolling past brightly coloured fishing boats lined up next to the restaurants, or exploring the tiny streets. We tracked down Greek frozen yoghurt, and ate seafood next to the Mediterranean Sea. One day, we hired an ATV and roared around the dusty roads in search of historic villages and isolated beaches. Paros was an absolute treat, so far topping our favourites list.

Now we take a bit of time to get to the next destination, leaving the European continent for Africa. See you soon!

 

 

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Smiley faces in Oia

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Sunrise in Santorini

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That view though

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The walk to Balos Beach, Crete

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Making friends

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Elafonissi Beach, Crete

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Giant Gyros

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Tzatziki, fried zucchini and spinach and feta pies

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Paros, Greece

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Frozen Greek yoghurt – so good

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Oh Sicilia! (You’re breaking my heart)

As our bus wound around the hairpin bends from Catania, we caught a glimpse of our destination, Taormina: bougainvillea covered, perched on the cliffs, over looking the Mediterranean Sea, and the dreamy atoll of Isola Bella.

Our accomodation turned out to be perfect. Reminiscent of a Fijian bungalow (think cane furniture, ceiling fans) it had the most incredible view of Isola Bella directly below. Only there for three nights, I immediately regretted not booking to stay longer.

Our first full day took us on a tour up Mt Etna. Layered in leggings, jumpers and jackets, amongst the clouds of Mt Etna, we seemed a world away from the heat of the beach below.

Our tour guide took us over the black gravel of the mountain, exploring the craters left by one of the worlds most active volcanoes.

On the way back down, we donned blue hard hats and headlamps and descended into a cave below the road. Previously a lava tube, the cave wound approximately 60m underground, in some places the ceiling metres above, in some places, poor Kelly scrunched over to fit. The hard hats, obviously useless in an actual emergency, required to protect our heads from the razor sharp rock formations covering the walls and ceiling.

Our second full day found us exploring the adorable streets of Taormina, seeking out Sicilian granita (a kind of slushy they eat with brioche and apparently a breakfast food). Later we climbed to the Greek Theatre, hoping for the clouds to clear so we could capture the iconic view of Mt Etna rising above the ancient stage.

Leaving Taormina, we trained around the coast to our brightly coloured accommodation in sleepy Agrigento, a base to explore the impressive Valley of the Temples, including the Temple of Concordia, one of the most well preserved Greek temples. After a lunch of tomato, ham and cheese sandwiches (so much more delightful when it’s fresh mozzarella and prosciutto) we bussed as close as we could, before walking the 2.5kms along the beach to the beautiful Scala dei Turchi – the Turkish Steps. A huge limestone rockface, carved into steps by the elements, and startlingly white against a bright blue sky.

Next, we visited Palermo, where we hunted out Sicilian treats – Aranchino, Riccota-cream filled cannoli, and my favourite, Settevelli – a cake made of seven layers of chocolate heaven.

Stomachs full and pants a little bit tighter, we bid farewell to Italy for a while – next stop, Greece! X

 

 

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Isola Bella – as seen from our terrace

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From Mt Etna

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That’s a barely roped off 5m fall

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The lava tube

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Streets of Taormina

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Mt Etna from the Greek Theatre

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Beach day

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Off we go – carry on only!

Sorrento and surrounds

Now that you’re caught up on why I’m so late with the blogging, I can fill you in on what else we’ve been up while we’ve been here.

So first things first, we started in Rome after a very long trip here. 11 hours to Hong Kong, a 4 hour layover, followed by a 13 hour flight to Rome, we were relieved to emerge blinking into the early morning, blue skies of Rome. Pleased, laden down as we were, that it was May and the midsummer heat we remembered from our last trip not yet in force. Our accomodation, Testaccio village Guesthouse was bright white, clean and spacious – just what we needed. After freshening up, we set out to explore the neighbour, with a visit to the Testaccio market which we remembered from our previous visit to Rome. After a slice of pizza, we hunted down a gelato place and then went home for a nap.

The next day, we woke early and decided to cross the river Tiber to walk to the top of the botanic gardens to the Girabaldi Piazza for a beautiful view back across Rome. We were able to pick out the Roman Forum and Palentine Hill as landmarks.

We hired bikes and followed the Appian Way to the San Sebastián catacombs. We descended down amongst the acres of ancient burial grounds following closely behind the tour guide for fear of being lost forever amongst the subterranean maze.

We got back on our bikes and headed in the direction of the acquaducts, finding a field of poppies at the base like a pot of gold.

Later, we joined a food tour whose us through the jasmine scented streets of Trastevere to find the tastiest Roman treats.

And that brings us to day three, when we packed up our belongings and set out for Sorrento, our destination to explore the Amalfi Coast, but which by necessity took us through Naples..

Despite having heard the stories and knowing we needed to be careful, we were, in hindsight, the perfect targets. Carrying all of our belongings, trying to squeeze ourselves on to trains so full there was no room to breathe, my attention clearly distracted. In the mayhem, a stranger’s hand unzipped my handbag, took my iPhone and kindle and zipped it back up again. Even I can’t find my phone in my handbag most of the time – it would be impressive if it wasn’t so frustrating.

We didn’t let it deter us, and after sorting ourselves out sans iPhone as best we could, we headed off to Pompeii for a tour of the preserved city. Incredibly large, we spent two hours with a guide, and a further hour on our own to see a mere fraction of the site. But it was fascinating, seeing everything from original villas and theatres to ancient street art (yes, even 2000 years ago they were drawing dicks on walls).

For the next adventure, we boarded a small boat to explore Capri. Prosecco in hand, we were propelled across the waves to first the Blue Grotto, our skipper cleverly avoiding the crowds that descend as the day goes on, and then dropping us off at Marina Grande to allow us several hours to explore Capri. For us, this meant a walk to reach Villa Jovis, high above the harbour. Once we reached it, I was more enthused about the wee goats sunbathing outside than paying the expensive entrance fee, so we turned back content at the enthralling views from above instead.

We wandered back to the harbour to sit with lemon slushies (okay one slushy – $10 NZD is a fair bit) and people watch, probably one of my favourite touristing activities. It appears heeled sneakers are a bit of a thing right now. One poor vendor lost the lottery with her job – no one wants to buy a bell alright?!

Our trip back took us around the island, the boat driving right into the green and white grottos, stopping for a dip into the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea, and Roberto, the crewman, pointing out Gucci and Dolce & Gabana’s…. cabanas (sorry).

Our last full day in Sorrento saw us boarding a bus to Positano. We were sadly one of the last to get on and spent the hair raising trip standing in the aisle, white knuckled, trying not to fall over as we rounded hairpin bend after hair pin bend, winding down the cliffs. But it was worth it, when we found ourselves lazing on the beach, looking up at that iconic view of the brightly coloured houses terracing the cliffs high above.

Next stop, Sicily! Xx

 

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Sorrento

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Pompeii – Mt Vesuvius

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Can you see the graffiti?

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Capri

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Our boat for the day

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Positano

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Buongiorno!

Welcome to our Europe trip 2.0! My blog post is a little bit more delayed than anticipated. Unfortunately, three days in I managed to get my iPhone and kindle stolen from a crowded train platform (now to be referred to by the term “pick-pocket packed”) in Naples, Italy. Needless to say, that placed a bit of an embargo on my ability to do much of anything online except frantically try to change passwords for anything connected to my iPhone. You forget how much you rely on the little guys. We certainly did, until we found ourselves deposited on the platform at Sorrento with no clue where to go to find our AirBnB sans trusted iPhone.

Poor Sorrento’s first impression included a detailed tour of the Polizia so I could make a police report, and hunting down data SIM card/free wifi to contact our host, now several hours later than anticipated. Fortunately, despite the thieves somehow, and for some reason, managing to close down my Facebook account (if anyone knows why/how, I’d love to know) nothing else appeared to have been taken, and we got on with having a great time!

We’ve squeezed in a boat tour to Capri, a visit to Pompeii, and today braving the hairpin turns of the Amalfi Coast on a packed bus (but not pick-pocket packed) for a day trip to Positano.

I’ll update about our few days in lovely Rome, and more about our activities in Sorrento and surrounds soon, but for now, here’s some snaps, and Ciao!

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The view from our AirBnB..once we found it!

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Sorrento – a city on the cliffs

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Pompeii

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Selling his wares

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Positano

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Boats waiting to go into the Blue Grotto at Capri

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From San Seb beach days to rain, pastries, rugby and wine in France

After farewelling pretty Portugal, we boarded our next overnight train with bated breath, the memory of the last overnight train persisting..
However, this time we had fortunately remembered to book a cabin with actual beds. In fact, things went so smoothly on the 12 hour trip to San Sebastián that we slept right the way through, waking up only 15 minutes before our destination station!
We found ourselves on the banks of the river winding through the city to the coastline, and experiencing a distinctly chillier climate than we had so far been enjoying. We managed to duck into a cafe seconds before the heavens opened and drenched the sidewalks. Luckily our next air BnB host took pity on us and collected us in his car to save us lugging our stuff up the very steep streets in the rain.
Eventually the rain stopped, and we set out to explore to beautiful city which, as we discovered, was not the rustic surfer town I had expected (we had clearly over estimated our abilities to learn how to surf) but a sophisticated, chic city, encompassing beautiful beaches, excellent food, (shopping), and Parisian architecture – I quickly decided that if I was moving overseas, this would be the spot!
So to my favourite topic: the food! San Sebastián is famous for pintxos – or tapas. Eaten as an aperitif from 830pm to tide over famished Spainards from their very late (3-4pm) lunch to their extremely late (10-12pm) dinners, bars and restaurants of the Old City set out plates filled with tiny, beautifully constructed morsels. It’s typical to take one or two from one place before moving on and trying some thing new at a different place, pairing everything with some delicious Spanish wine. By the time we were done though, there was no way we were going to be able to stay for a dinner, so tempting did everything look!
In a city with everything, the beaches are obviously beautiful. There are two, a surf beach to the right of the city, and a sandy swimming beach to the left. A promenade flanks the entire beach, and we strolled to the end and caught the funicular to the top to check out the view, discovering on arrival that it was a prime location to watch the boat race that was going on.
By then, the day had heated up and we lay out our towels for our last beach day of the trip.
From San Sebastián we crossed the border into France. Our first stop was an impossibly short stay in Bordeaux, where the highlight was a half day wine tour to the Entre-Deux-Mers wine region. We visited two Chateaus that had been in their families for generations. One in particular was built in the 17th century and included an incredible limestone cave that served as a cellar – the limestone interior naturally maintaining a consistent temperature perfect for ageing the wine.
Next on the agenda was Lyon, the so called culinary capital of France, and therefore a must do for this hungry couple!
We booked a market tour and cooking class with @chef_lyon who taught us how deceivingly difficult those light, crispy (buttery!) croissants and brioche are to make. But we persevered and the next day we enjoyed our very own homemade pain au chocolates and croissants for breakfast!
Also fabulous was the recommendations for where to go for traditional Lyonnaise and French food in Lyon, which did not disappoint! Kelly and I entered an unassuming restaurant with a multitude of mural painted rooms, and an extensive French menu. The star was the Lyon croquette – described as a soufflé crossed with gnocchi – served in a lobster sauce. This came piping hot and exquisite – quickly becoming the highlight of trip!
After three nights exploring Lyon, we trained on to Chambery to visit my cousin who is currently ensconced in the adorable French village with a rugby contract. Despite arriving on the first rainy weekend he had seen (something of a theme me for this leg of the trip – we also got drenched in Bordeaux!) we had a fabulous time watching his team play (and win!), experiencing a taste of the local nightlife, and exploring the winding streets and history of the village. I almost came home alone, such was Kelly’s height, the fact he was from NZ and acquainted with David, that a rugby contract was seemingly imminent! Nevertheless, it was such a treat to catch up with family abroad.

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San Sebastián, you doll!

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A very busy Sunday at the beach

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The boat race action 

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Pinxtos!

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Bordeaux – the lights came on and the heavens opened

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Cheese choosing at the local market 

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The speciality in Lyon – praline!

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The finished product 💯

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Visiting the vineyards

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Hey there Lyon!

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It doesn’t look like much, but the croquette was soo good!

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Chambery! 

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Rainy day exploring

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It sure was rainy!

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Portu-pals!

After the la Tomatina festival, we recovered in Valencia for the night, making the most of the comfortable hotel room before what we knew was going to be a horror night train experience.
Unfortunately for us we failed to book a compartment for the 10 hour journey and instead settled into our average train seats for the night. Snoring, coughing passengers, loud 2am conversations between the train conductor and sleepless children, undimmed lights and stops all through the night were not particularly conducive to a goods night sleep, and we stumbled bleary eyed into Lagos, Portugal the next afternoon, blinking at the sunsoaked coastline.
But one thing was obvious, even to our sleep deprived minds – Lagos was stunning. Beautiful limestone cliffs carved out private swimming coves, and turned the waves of the Atlantic Ocean buffering the golden sand a delicious green. We walked along the headland exploring this beautiful coast line, and sunbathed and swam all of the days we had there.
A highlight was also meeting up with pals from Croatia, who arrived in Lagos on our last night. We were adopted by their hostel mates and went out to relive our sailing tour days, lethal Long Island iced teas in hand!
We then travelled up the coast, an hour north of Lisbon to meet our free spirited university friend Hamish Lee. He kindly offered up the double bed in his converted van and we set off in search of the surf, travelling back down towards Lisbon. Lee even attempted to teach us to surf – some of us more successful than others (While Kelly claimed the easy beginners board and showed real promise, I mostly spent the time paddling around and/or getting dunked under the waves). After sadly realising I did not harbour an undiscovered talent for surfing, we made it to Lisbon where we spent the afternoon exploring the beautiful old town and gorging ourselves on the famed Pasteis de Belem – a variation of the Portugese pastel de nada, a type of custard tart that is seriously good!
Below are some of our photos from stunning Portugal!

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Pastels and palm trees in pretty Lagos

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Amazing cliffs of Ponta da Piedade

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Beaches and beers with Lee

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We 💜 Bertha

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Lisbon

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Catching some culture in Lisbon

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..then well deserved pastries! As you can see from the photo of the line above, they were very popular!

 

French pastries and Spanish tomatoes

Our early morning train took us along the French Riviera, where we spied the pastel sunrise as we zipped past Cannes, stopped for our first French pastries in Marseilles and finally arrived some 7 hours later at Argeles-sur-mer. A town near the French and Spanish border – having traversed nearly the entire French coastline.
Argeles-sur-mer was again a destination chosen more for its location en route to our fixed plan of attending La Tomatina festival, than for any real knowledge about the place. It turned out to be a resort town bordered by a long sweeping beach and promenade, well serviced by a festive summer marketplace.
We stayed here for a few days, lazing on the beach, catching up on some exercise and eating some veggies – having a bit of a rest from the full time travelling we had been doing – (a break from the break if you will!).
Revitalised, we boarded another train (you’re sending a pattern here, I’m sure!) and crossed over the Spanish border to spend two nights in Valencia, our base for the long awaited La Tomatina festival.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it (and indeed many Spanish didn’t know what we were talking about) it’s the worlds largest food fight. Thousands of people descend on the small town of Buñol one day at the end of August each year, to spend an hour pelting each other with tomatoes. It was as insane and amazing as that sounds.
We started at 6am, hurrying through the quiet streets to the bus depot to meet our 200 strong tour group. We were bussed to the scene of action and let loose on vats of sangria before cramming into the narrow main streets, sensibly lined with tarpaulins to protect the store fronts.
The starting point was either a cannon at 11am, or upon the reaching of the ham strung from the top of a greased pole in the centre of the town square. Notwithstanding the attempts made, the ham was not grabbed and at 11am, at the cannon fire, the trucks descended on the town, filled to the brim with tomatoes.. How it went next, see for yourself in Kelly’s GoPro video – click the link to view! (Note – click the words below it, not the picture as its only a picture and I’m not fancy enough to make it work!)
Needless to say, washing my hair afterwards was essentially tomato soup, our clothes were quickly abandoned as lost causes, and the disgusting smell of warm tomatoes that seemed to permeate everything meant we were firmly sworn off tomatoes!

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Click for the video

Under the Tuscan sun

After bidding bon voyage to our new Croatian sailing pals, Kelly and I boarded a ship bound for Ancona – back to the gelato and pizza filled shores of Italy!
Having just spent a week on board a boat, (and also recalling the endless journey from Italy to Greece) we embarked with a trepidation that (as we were to discover) was not unfounded.
Our 10 hour trip turned into 14 (two of which were spent standing in line for a bottle of water!!), our cabin was windowless, bathroom-less, definitely not cat swing-able, and two floors below the car parks. Safe to say my first order of business was finding out where the life boats were!
After a night spent rocking and rolling in our povo cabin (not helped by my imagination replaying those scenes from Titanic where the cattle class passengers were locked in lost causes) we finally made it to Italy and onto our train to Florence. After ditching our bags we ventured straight out on our first order of business – finding gelato!
The food tour didn’t stop there as the next day we joined an Italian market tour and cooking class. First we explored the two storied Mercado Centrale, learning the difference between Tuscan and Parma prosciutto, what Chianti wine is, what type of meat works best in bolognaise, and the efficiency and importance the Italians place on knowing where their food came from.
After purchasing ingredients, we made our way to the kitchen, where the awesome chefs and hosts showed us how to make first bolognaise and tomato sauces before we moved on to the main event – pasta!

Kelly’s technique earned him much praise from the chefs (which of course went straight to his head, but has meant I’ve managed to get out of cooking a lot since!). After we cut up the tagliatelle and squared off the ravioli, we were shown how to layer up a perfect tiramisu – again with praise for teachers pet Kelly- but best of all was getting to eat it all at the end!
We used Florence as a base to do a day trip to beautiful Venice. We took a gondola trip through the canals, strolled across the sinking bridges to admire the views, marvelled at the sinking streets and of course visited the market for lunch!
After the ease of visiting Venice, we also decided to train to Cinque Terre hoping that the limited time we had was going to be enough to enjoy it. On the way, our trains changed in Pisa with just enough time for us to pose in front of the tower, keeping an eye out for surprise hail storms as we did..
Back on the train, the first glimpse of the beautiful coast of Cinque Terre piqued our excitement, the cliffs and azure water zipping by below. We hopped off in Riomaggiore and wandered the tiny, colourful fishing village, before jumping back on the train intending to go to second village – me thinking that was all time would allow. To our despair, we zipped by all but the last village (and that was a relief – suddenly we saw ourselves arriving in Genoa some hours later!) a more developed resort town than Riomaggiore, Monterosso was a long umbrella filled beach, bound by dramatic cliffs at each end. We climbed down to dip into the beautiful deep water and sun ourselves on the rocks, before reluctantly boarding the train(s) back to Florence.
Our whirlwind tour of Italy gave us one more night, in a town on the border between France. Planned more as a break between train journeys as we travelled ultimately to Spain for the La Tomatina festival (more on that next time), Ventimiglia was an unexpected paradise. A stunning beach, backed by dramatic and unique cliffs, with a restaurant lined promenade that was packed for Friday night festivities, including an extremely impressive fireworks display! I was very sad leave – particularly given we had to get up before 5am to catch our first train of the day (an entirely unsatisfactory hour when on holiday!).
So that concluded our Italian chapter – with waistlines definitely expanded, tans topped up, and a new appreciation for high speed trains!

Apologies for the limited photos – we have had a travel casualty in the form of a missing camera cable! Hopefully  it will be replaced soon so we can show beautiful Cinque Terre and Ventimiglia.

Kelly’s pro travel tip:

Travelling through Europe can be expensive. Especially when one of the best bakeries in Florence is sat directly outside your apartment. Best croissants ever. So when you find some activity that you can do for free, it really pays to check it out. One such activity I can recommend: People watching. Whilst more than often this does not pay off, sometimes you stumble upon some absolute gems.

Whilst on the 2nd floor of AirBnB apartment in Florence getting ready for another day exploring, we notice a commotion outside on the street below. “Trelise!” I yell. “Come hither. There’s a hubbub at our local Pasteria”. Outside our newly acquired bakery there was a scene unfolding. A wailing Italian woman was in hysterics, being comforted by some locals. However as she was yelling in Italian I had no idea what she was saying. She was cursing and yelling, gesticulating wildly. All in the direction of our bakery. How could this be?! Maybe she’s unhappy with the pain au chocolat? Madness. Oh shit. Here comes an old lady with the broom. Said old lady lines up the wailing woman. In the nick of time a baker comes out of the store to restrain her (damn you baker boy). Wailing woman has had enough and throws her handbag. Old lady ain’t having none of that and try’s to rip it open and throw it away. At this stage I’ve got my iPad in hand and am leaning halfway out the window, google translate working in overtime trying to figure out the the fuck is going on. Hold my feet Trelise I need to get closer. I look up and every window in the street is full of people. All showing a high degree of nonchalence to the whole scene unfolding below, one guy is just chowing down on a bowl of cereal. I can only gather this is a common thing in the streets of Italy.

Oh lord, here comes a new player to the game in the street below. A nun! What the hell is going on here?! The Nun saunters right into the mire (oh shit here we go!), the gathered crowd thinks it’s all over and the nun is about to dole out some of the lords gospel. Don’t hold your breath Jesus. Nun pushes right through everyone and enters the bakery. Move heathens! the lord demandeth his croissants. Step into her way and he shall be smite you from this world. Jesus must love his pastry. The nun then returned with a full bag of pastries under one arm, not even sparing the peasants  tussling on the street the slightest of glares. Y’all need Jesus.

In this time the old woman had returned after being foiled with the broom, with a bucket of water. Classic move to snap a woman out of histeria right? But again foiled at the last minute. God damn it baker boy! Go cook something, that nun must have cleaned you out anyway. Historical woman tries to fight some ransom guy. Siri can’t keep up with the translation and has refused to go any further. After another ten minutes of wailing most of the residents have had enough and the crowds disperse. What a morning! I’m worn out already.

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First order of business after arriving in Florence

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Kelly impressing the chefs with his pasta skill

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Touristing in Pisa

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We 💜 Venice

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Stunning Florence sunsets

Sailing Croatia

I fear I may have painted our Croatia sailing adventure in a poor light last week – the truth however is that while there is a lot of alcohol involved, so too did it involve an amazing group of people, a beautiful coast line, swimming, sunbathing and simply being on holiday!

We started in Dubrovnik where we were able to meet up with lovely Dana (you will remember as our London tour guide) who was just finishing her own Croatia sailing trip and was able to once again impart words of wisdom over dinner and drinks with her sailing companions.

We explored the walled city, including seeking out the setting for iconic Game of Thrones scenes (fan girl!) before heading to the nearby port to meet our own sailing group. We had a bit of time to kill, so sat in the park near the port surreptitiously checking out other likely looking candidates and crossing our fingers we weren’t the only couple/the oldest/the least party-partyers.

Luckily our fears went unfounded and we met what turned out to be an amazing group of kiwis and Aussies (one token Brit also) – and also our awesome guide Mon – ready to swim, sunbathe, enjoy beautiful Croatia and party the nights away!

Our first group activity was heading back to Dubrovnik old town where we were given a tour of the city by a permanent resident. She was adorable and hilarious and who told us about her own harrowing experiences of the war which I was ashamed to say I had never even realised had occurred, despite it being during my lifetime.

That night was our first dinner as a group where, much to the disapproval of the other diners, our newly elected ‘captain’ tried out the ‘rules’ of the boat. These included (but were not limited to) ‘earthquake’ – which involved everyone dropping to the ground – last person to do so being subjected to progressively more interesting punishments as the week wore on! This proved endlessly hilarious while walking through streets, in restaurants, clubs. Variations became ‘man overboard’ where everyone had to jump into the water (not as fun as you would think three times in a row when you really just want to go back to sleep), and ‘Ducks’ where we had to follow the captain in line, waddling and quacking. Again, hilarious.

Our first full day took us to the Island of Mljet where we anchored for a swim, boated ashore to check out the beautiful national park lakes, before a pirate party of such magnitude that I slept through breakfast until half an hour before the three course lunch that we were fed every day.. Something that became something of a pattern as the week wore on!

The tour took us to Korcula which has a mini walled city similar to Dubrovnik, where we had cocktails at sunset, before on to the famous Hvar. After our morning swim spot, we walked up to the fortress for a view of the city. After, seeking out one of the daytime bars that line the beach front. Later, we drank Long Island iced teas and danced in the street before water taxiing to amazing party Island to continue the night!

The next night Kelly had been nominated captain for his stellar (and hilarious) pole dancing performance in Korcula (one of the clubs featured novelty stripper poles, which naturally became part of the antics) with a big job ahead of him of motivating the team for a third night, this time for the rave in a cave at Makarska.

By this stage, breakfast had become something of a myth, jumping off the upper deck of the boat was replaced with gingerly plonking into the water to float on inflatables and everyone was thoroughly ready for a quiet night. Pity then that 3/4 of the boat woke up more sick than ever, having either obtained some sort of virus, or succumbed to food poisoning from the burgers at an (apparently) dodgy sandwich shop! One of the Croatian crew members recommended a shot of vodka to cure them – alcohol to kill the bugs! While this was laughed off, it didnt escape my notice that that has been the only night alcohol had not been consumed.. Maybe there was some truth in it!

I fortunately didn’t succumb to the lurgy sweeping the boat and while the others (Kelly included – I wasn’t very nurse-like) I walked up the trail to the pirate fortress with two others who had managed to escape illness to catch a view of the bay.

That afternoon we docked in Split, our last night of the sail. Unfortunately, things had still not improved much, with some seeking beds in hotels with proper bathrooms and showers and air conditioning to assist their recovery. While it was a rather miserable end to a fantastic week, we have hopes to catch up with some of those we might be crossing paths with further on our travels!

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Dubrovnik

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Game of Thrones scenes

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Our home away from home

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Stunning swimming spots in Mljet

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The crew being active in Hvar

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Makarska

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Omis

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The rave cave

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The pirate fortress in Omis

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Outside the city walls in Split

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Fabul-Ios, Amazing Athens and Heavenly Hydra!

I write this from the decks of the Jerkic (say Yerk-ich) from Omis on the Dalmation coastline, where we are currently in the midst of a sailing tour. A town that has a long pirate history that I am unfortunately not discovering, due to the week long hangover that is the Croatia sailing tours! But that’s a whole separate post, for I have yet to tell you about our Greek escapades on the beautiful Mediterranean island Ios and our Athens adventure..
Getting to Ios turned out to be a drama in itself – the six hour ferry from Athens scheduled to depart at 330pm did not leave until 6pm, the huge almost galactic-looking catamaran not berthing until after midnight. We found a bench each under a tree in an unkept park near the port in Athens and spent a couple of hours looking for all the world like a pair of homeless people. Luckily our very kind host was there to meet us when we finally showed up in Ios as we were far too tired and cranky to attempt finding our way in the dark! Making us feel even more welcomed was the adorable homemade cookies and a jar of local oregano which grows in abundance over the island.
The first day we took in the beautiful white towns and explored along with the stunning beaches.
The second day saw us hiring an ATV which we used to explore the furtherest beaches of the island, poor Matilda as we dubbed her working like a Trojan to haul our not particularly petite selves up the mountains at 5km an hour!
This showed us views of the dramatic blue coast, the dust from the barren hillsides rendering the horizon hazy.
That night we drank far more than we (I) should and checked out the infamous bars and clubs. As it turns out a very poor idea as I then spent the rocking ferry ride back to Athens in misery.
Luckily we arrived at our Airbnb apartment in Athens with little trouble, the comfy couch, Tv with Netflix and efficient air conditioning a savour!
The next day, recovered and ready for action we wandered through the streets of Athens towards the Acropolis. Passing through the central market which was fantastic (Oh how I love a market!) and stopping along the way for sandals from a handmade leather shop (the first blow out of the trip was in Ios when my current sandals gave up the ghost – never mind! Any excuse for shopping!)
When we finally reached the Acropolis and saw the endless line stretching to the ticket booth it became clear that we were not organised nearly as well as we had been in Rome, and we had a several hour wait in the heat ahead of us if we wanted to enter. Daunted, we climbed a hill with a good view of it, declared it seen and traced our steps back to the market to buy fresh olives, bread, vegetables, feta and houlumi cheese, avocado and capsicum and tomatoes for lunch!
The next day we again headed to the port, this time bound for Hydra, an adorable island just off the coast of the mainland, a two hour journey from Athens. Instantly we were in love. Terracotta roofs clustered along the hillsides above the port, restaurants and bars and shops lining the promenade. Best of all is that vehicles are essentially prohibited, so the islanders employ mules to carry guests luggage and other loads to and from the port. Although I did start to feel sorry for them as the day wore on and the sun beat down.
After hunting out pastries at a bakery (line was out the door – always a good sign!) we started walking around the coastline, rounding the corner to views of the cliffs, dropping into azure sea. Shortly, it got too much to bear and we scurried down the steps to the tempting waves to join the others splashing around.
We later walked to another beach where you could hire sunbeds and umbrellas and order food, which we did for a while, before wandering back to look around town, finding gyzo for lunch (hard to believe we hadn’t tracked them down before!!) and setting off the other way around the island.
Unfortunately, the swimming spots on this side of the island proved elusive, and after my newly purchased jandals had worn away an excruciating blister on my toe we turned back in desperation to find one last swimming spot before the ferry returned to take us back.

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Ios

 

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Swim perfection in Ios

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Excellent Athens market!

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The Acropolis – tick!

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Hydra taxi service

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Kelly making friends with the locals

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Irresistible swim spots