28 Sep
03
 

This morning I woke up in Florence only to hear a young lady in my room complaining about The lack of water. We soon found out there was no power either and all of Italy was affected. This meant nothing was going except buses, so I got to town but couldn't do anything because you can't see in an art gallery without the lights on. At 10.15am the power came back on and stuff started to open but the queue were worse and all the trains have their own timetable now (some were stuck in the middle of nowhere). I gave up on the Uffizi after a queue of an hour and a half and this was because the reservations queue needed police control! Otherwise I saw David and He was really, really impressive and I have an exciting night planned of laundry ahead :).


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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Cinque Terre

Craig
Italy
September 27, 2003

   Cinque Terre is a national park in northern Italy based around five towns on the coast, some perched on cliffs, all built up steep hills. Bronwyn and I have heard about this place from quite a number of travellers along the route and we are really glad we listened. The Lonely Planet (which has been our bible through out this trip) hardly mentions the place at all, which thankfully keeps the tourist numbers down a bit.

   We found a cool hostel/hotel called Mar-Mar and I spent the afternoon jumping in and out of the little harbour, snorkeling around and frightening the fish. Bronwyn didn't intend to get wet, but when a freak wave washed across the jetty she was sitting on, she figured it was time for an ice cream and to go dry off elsewhere. I continued splashing about, scrambling up the little rock walls and diving (badly) back into the water. I wouldn't say the water was as clear as the greek islands, and it was rocks at the bottom rather than sand, but it was beautiful. That night we cooked in the hotel and watched the sunset across the ocean. The sun got a lot closer to the horizon this time, but still went behind clouds before hitting the sea. Lots of photos taken of course.

Riomaggorie Harbour
The harbour of Riomaggorie, the water is at least 10ft deep
Diving in Riomaggorie
Me diving into the harbour of Riomaggorie
   This morning we took the train to Montorosso, once we figured out the system and that in Italy 'weekdays' includes Saturdays. From there the walk went up pretty steeply and I was back in the alps 100 days ago, my travelling friend didn't seem quite as keen on the up hill parts as I. Each town has its charm, and its tourists. In the second one we went swimming again, and I performed the same embarassing display of diving like a tonne of bricks, but loved every minute of it, even if I left it a little late to dry off and was still dripping in the queue for the train (towns 2 and 3 were cut off due to work on the path). A pleasant afternoon visiting each town and then picking up our bags from Riomaggorie before heading to La Speiza to get our seperate trains.
Old Bridge
An old bridge between Montorosso and Vernazza
Diving at Vernazza
Me diving into the water at Vernazza
Manorola
Manorola, the 4th village on our walk


best wishes from
   Craig
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  20 Sep
03
 

You can now see a photo of us on the pub crawl in Rome. Cool.


best wishes from
   Craig
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Julie and Bronwyn go sightseeing

Bronwyn
Italy
September 14, 2003

Craig left Julie, Nina and I to fend for ourselves and we decided to go to McDonalds. Craig is avoiding McDonalds while travelling and as a consequence so was I until then. The three of us had just conquered the roman metro and we were hungry and we entered the slowest McDonalds queue in existence, and I am not exaggerating it took about 20 minutes to get served in a queue of about 4 people. We then ate Big Macs with italian soap operas playing very loudly in the restaurant and the servers giving out free ice cream. Quite different from NZ and it was really, really good. After the McDonalds Nina felt tired and decided to go to the Vatican later. Julie (barely sober) and I went to St Peters Basilica.

You need to cover your shoulders and midrift top go in. No shorts and tiny skirts either. They searched our bags (well glanced at mine and hunted through Julie's) and then we joined another queue for clothes inspection. Julie's chest was showing too much so she had to hold her cardigan tightly around her neck while we were inside the church. I don't think that the guards were really qualified to give fashion tips. One set had pillows on their heads and blue costumes like they had come out of a dress up box. Another set of guards had a stripy version with those hats that the PhD people wear at graduation with a feather. The rest of the guards are Swiss!

The basilica is huge and you wander around and the whole place is like a giant work of art. The roof, the walls and the dome are all sculptured and works by Raphael and Michaelangelo are just sitting in there. The Vatican has it's own postal service and it is meant to be much better than the italian one so Julie and I sent postcards. We missed the Sistine Chapel because it closed at 15:20. After that Julie and I started our trip back to the hostel. We went via the Spanish steps which looked different in the day free of denim clad italian fellows. We did take a wrong turn in the metro though and came out of the metro next to some sort of equestrian showjumping area (????) we had to turn around and go back.

That night after salad and fruit salad for dinner we chatted to the beauty therapist from Mt Eden, a greek Australian and Star the hostel organiser and then slept. Nina got stuck in the loo because she can't use a key properly but with some prompting from the 8 people in the dorm she freed herself and the next morning Craig and I left for Greece. We had a train at 09:37 then a ferry at 13:30 (we barely made it as the train was late and we had to get a taxi) and then arrived in Patras at 12:15 today again late and had to get a bus to Athens (that took 3 hours, faster than the train!!). Athens is a bit grotty but the hostel is cool (we ended up in one by chance as we met the guy as we came out of the big, full HI one) and the people running it are friendly, the bartender is called George and feels that Craig and I really need some Ouzo. So off I go, if you hear no more the Ouzo got me.



best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  14 Sep
03
 

   So, what about that pubcrawl then? Well it went down something like this. We'd been sitting around at the hostel for what little of the afternoon remained, comparing stories with Nina, Zoe and Julie. We nipped out for dinner and then got to the meeting point for Rome(ing) Tours. Sam the tour guide took us on an entertaining trip around the area, including the Trevi fountain which was very cool and the Spanish Steps. Then came the bars. The were very crowded just from the tour members, and all had a good friendly atmosphere going on. I took a few photos but they won't get uploaded until I get back to England. We met many cool people, including a lovely welsh girl who translated Bronwyn's name for the rest of us, and Karen from Cork. But things went rapidly down hill in the last bar when Nina discovered her wallet was missing. This sucked big time, especially considering it was her birthday :-(

   The following morning Bronwyn, Nina, Julie and I headed back to the Trevi fountain and then on through the Roman Forum and Colosseum. I've been here before with Stacey an Brie about 5 weeks ago, so I did a little tour guide thing just like Stacey did back then. The girls then left to see the Vatican while I went wandering to the park around Villa Borghese. If you ever have the good fortune to come to Rome I highly recommend this park as a way to escape the madness and heat of the city below. I took photos I relaxed and then headed back to find the ladies.


best wishes from
   Craig
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  12 Sep
03
 

   I have spent a little while adding photos and videos to old posts dating back to Amsterdam, so if you have spare time, and the boss isn't watching (or you are the boss, or have no boss or whatever) go back and re-read them, see if our descriptions really fit what we have been seeing.

    I am in easyInternet in Rome right now, waiting for Bronwyn and Julie to come join Nina and I, then we are off to tour the old things that just pop up all over the place. Last night we all went out on a pub crawl, so some of us are moving a little slowly this morning :-)


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   Craig
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  11 Sep
03
 

   We have come now to Pisa, and posed with the tower in all the cliche ways we could think of, and show people afterwards. It really is remarkable that it is standing at all, the Italians must be very proud.



   In other news I have uploaded a video and attached it to the beerhall post. There will be more to follow, but we are on the clock right now.


best wishes from
   Craig
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  11 Sep
03
 

   We travelled to Florence by train for a change and when we got there we got attacked by the usual accomodation people. One particularly persistent fellow asked us 3 times. We went to the nearest hostel and it was full, but he knew a place. It was across town but still had space. We went there, it too was full. The guy asked us where we were from and then turned us away (I suspect it was because we picked up and Australian who looked like a skinny Tom Cruise) but the hostel owner also knew a place that still had space. It was across town but he was sure. We made him call and they gave us beds. The hostel was some guy's apartment that he had decorated with bunks and let people sleep in. There was 1 toilet and 1 shower and they were both in the same room, you can imagine the morning queues. The people were nice enough and we had a nice time.

   We saw a fancy bridge and Piazza (?) Michaelangelo and climbed to the top of the Duomo past the paintings on the ceiling.

Florence from Piazza Michael Angelo
Florence from Piazza Michael Angelo

   It was cool and we climbed 463 stairs to get the close up view of heaven and hell. This morning however we were trapped in the hostel because Stephano (flat owner) had taken people out last night (he does every night) and had 1 too many. We could not wake him up to check out. He even had his stereo taken by some guy and wasn't worried. So today we are running late but at the Tower of Pisa. It leans a lot.


best wishes from
   Bronwyn
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  10 Sep
03
 

   When travelling in Switzerland, way back at the start of this trip, there was discussion about the various meanings of 'Gondola'. When I hear the word I think of the water based ones, not the cable-car things, nor the shop shelves. And now when I think of gondolas, I will think of Venice, in the rain. After a crappy day of not being able to bungy jump we got into Venice at about 8pm and caught bus 82 from right outside the station. 'Bus' 82 is actually a boat (they all are of course) and it gave us a great tour of the city before crossing San Marco's bay to the hostel. Despite the Full sign in the window they gavce us room and we went off to seperate dorms (girls and guys shouldn't mix in Venice apparently).

   It rained during the night, and continued to drizzle during the day. But It is still a totally unique city and still very beautiful place. I've taken a metric truckload of photos and need to find a CD burning place pronto. San Marco's square was impressive, but not to the extent that the Lonely Planet claimed. We crossed the famous Ponte Rialto and really liked it. A few hours later after wandering around and eating pizza it got dark and I took even more photos before crossing the bay and heading back to the hostel.


best wishes from
   Craig
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New friends from the rails

Craig
Italy
July 31, 2003

   Just after my previous post Stacey and Brie (here after referred to as 'them', 'they', or 'the girls') and spent over an hour just trying to leave my bags at the train station. We were all glad for the air conditioning because outside it was stuffy and sweaty. Stacey guided us through the metro system (after Brie haggled with a street urchin for a ticket from the automatic machine) and we popped out right in front of the Colosseum. Although the caretakers between the Romans and modern day Italians really let the place fall apart it is a really impressive building. Naturally I took plenty of photos but they can't do the thing justice (though the night shot I have of it is pretty cool).

   Next on the list was the place where the chariot races were held. There is a funny photo in the works titled 'Something Racey'. The girls will email it to me once it has been developed :-). The Roman Forum was the heart of ancient Rome, and it is a very interesting place to walk around. So many integral parts of their society, and now it's just ruins. We threw coins at the ledge that other people have been doing for quite some time, none managed to stay on though, I don't know if that means we are going to be cursed or something, judging from the rest of the day we are pretty well blessed actully.

   From there we walked to the Pantheon and again were suitably amazed by the huge buildings that those clever Roman people could build. This particular one used to have copper roof tiles, but they were removed and melted down to make part of St Peter's church and 80 cannons! Keen to investigate this grand copper theft we continued our tour and came to none other than the center of the Catholic church, St Peter's. I had to put on the leg parts of my trousers/shorts and the girls covered their shoulders because thats the dress code in there. As Brie mentioned, nothing in America (or NZ for that matter) has had the attention devoted to it that was spent even on the floor of this place, let alone the acres of detailed wall paintings, marble sculptures and other incredible pieces of art. The Pope Crypt was kinda eerie but refreshingly cold.

   The Sistine Chapel was closed for the day, but I understand the girls will be back to see it another time, I will when Bronwyn, Nina and I roll through town some time later in the year. Stacey has been here before (hence the designation as tour guide) and she took us to Piazza Navona, a lovely city square with a fountain, street performers and restaurants. It was there that we watched as day turned into night and food and wine came and went. A very special evening there in Rome with my two new road friends. Everything on this trip has been brilliant and this is the sort of thing I hope to reminisce about for years and years to come.

   By now I had very little time to get my baggage and train but with a bit of a power walk and humming along to 'Eye of the Tiger' we made it with time to spare. I bid the girls good bye, hoping that it was just a 'see you later'. There is a chance that we will cross paths in Holland, and I am getting more determined to go back home via the states. The train ride that night was ok, but in the morning I woke to the news that there had been a landslide in the Monte Carlo tunnel (actually it happened on July 3rd and the guy in Rome neglected to mention it) and there was some complicated plan to get us all around it. I missed my planned connection but managed to rework it, and modify the ticket that the silly guy in Rome sold me. Despite showing him a piece of paper clearly printed with Barcelona, he only gave me a ticket to Cerebere which is in France. Either way, I got to Barcelona last night and finally connected with Bronwyn and Nina. Yay! They are supposed to be writing up today's events so I sign off now and let them take over.

photos added August 20th

Brie telling off a giant!
Inside St Peter's Church








Stacey, Brie and I after dinner






The Colosseum at night



best wishes from
   Craig
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  29 Jul
03
 

   I arrived in Rome last night, and from the moment I stepped off the train it has been swelteringly hot and sticky. I wanted to stay in Faulty Towers, a small hotel near the train station, but it was fully booked. They called the YHA across town. There were 10 spaces left and they wouldn't take bookings. With that in mind I raced across the metro system and then spent 30mins waiting for a bus. The bus stops directly opposite the hostel, but for some reason the Romans don't like to tell you it is a hostel from that side, so I asked some locals who sent me in completely the wrong direction. 20 mins later I was at reception booking a bed. I think the limit of 10 was for women coz there were 7 more beds in the room I went into. It stayed ridiculously hot all night and I was looking forward to my morning shower, until I got there. It smelled like a dirty toilet on bonfire night, half of them didn't have curtains and those that did only had half a curtain anyway. Tiles were missing from the floor and I'll be lucky if I didn't catch something in there.

    Right now I am sitting in the internet room of the Freedom Traveller Hostel, hoping that this is the one that Stacey and Brie are in and that I'll have some people to share Rome with. Tonight I am on the train to Barcelona and I will meet up with Bronwyn and Nina. I hope they don't need too much sleep coz I have lot to tell them about. See you both soon :-)

P.S. I updated the San Fermines entry to have a link to some bull running photos, it was made on July 10th, click the date on the right of your screen to go back to it.


best wishes from
   Craig
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Art work and site design by Craig Stanton. Entries written by Craig Stanton, Bronwyn Leak and Nina Lindsay. All rights reserved. © 2003