Saturday, May 14, 2016

Florence

We travelled to Florence via a luxurious high speed train. We spent three short nights in an apartment within a stone’s throw of the train station and within spitting distance (literally) of two lovely restaurants and an amazing historical pharmacy. We walked and walked and walked. I think we must have been walking about 10km each day.
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Tour of Turkey

The last phase of our journey - two weeks in Turkey on an Intrepid tour. So many of our friends have visited Turkey and raved about it. We chose to tour with Intrepid as we have enjoyed a few tours with the company before:

Intrepid Best of Turkey - 15 days
1,2: Istanbul
3: Bursa
4,5: Selçuk
6: Pamukkale
7,8: Kayakoy
9,10: Kaş
11: Konya
12: Goreme
13: Goreme (Balloon ride)
14: Stay extra night in Goreme
15: Fly Home!

After a day sightseeing in Istanbul we ventured down to Bursa where we wandered innocently around in the markets surrounding the Grand Mosque for a few hours. These are just across the road from our hotel. At 5pm we met at our hotel to go to a nearby tea house. At 5:30 we were sitting in the tea house listening to Turkish folk music when there was a loud explosion that reverberated through the ground. We suspected it was a suicide bomber but continued with our planned activities for the evening. The explosion was just across the road from the hotel so we could not return until things settled down. When we returned to our hotel I was able to sneak upstairs and take some photos. By morning the site was completely sanitised. We were very glad to have a tour guide to tell us what we should do in such circumstances.
From Bursa we travelled down the coast to Antalya and then inland to Cappadocia. The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. The towns on the coast and the views of the islands and ocean were spectacular. We spent one relaxing day on a boat visiting a few islands.
We were so lucky with the weather for our entire trip. Whilst it was not hot enough for swimming, most days were sunny and there were only a few times when we felt a little chilly or needed an umbrella.
Rather than tell you the details of the last two weeks I'll just show you some photos!
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Saturday, May 7, 2016

Rome

Rome was our last stop in Italy.
Our train ride from Cinque Terre took us past the extraordinary marble quarries of Carrara and allowed us to stop in Pisa for a few hors. We had not planned to stay in Pisa for long because we'd read so many reviews saying there was not much there. That was NOT the case! On our arrival in Rome we caught a taxi rom the train station to our apartment. Our driver was nothing short of crazy and was too tall to see out the windscreen without ducking down. We sat terrified in the back seat as he swore at all the other drivers at the road and ducked around the traffic. Thank goodness we did arrive safely and laghed ourself silly about the whole experience on our way to the apartment.
We stayed in near Camp de Fiori which was a great place to purchase vegetables, fruit and cheese during the day and a great place to dine at night which meant that we bouught stuff that we never used because we were too tempted to eat out each night! We were only 10 to 15 minutes away from the major sights and we walked every day for hours! It was nice to have a few extra days here so we could take our time and relax a little more. Of course we saw the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Colosseum (where we took a guided tour that was terrific), the Forum, Circus Maximus, etc, etc. We spent the entire last day watching the Natale de Roma festivities celebrating Rome's birthday. There was a long parade in the morning and then performances in the afternoon.
At the end of this segment of our trip we said "arrivederci" to our travel companions Heather and Shayne as we left to return to Turkey.
(If there are no pics below, view my flickr gallery)

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Cinque Terre

Isn't it everyone's aim to walk along these clifftops between these magical villages?! We timed our visit here for the very beginning of the season when the weather was unreliable but the tourists fewer. Well our visit here was everything we had hoped it would be. We stayed at a B&B in Monterosso that Allan's sister Deborah had recommended. Our host was terrific and the accommodation was actually quite new and very comfortable. We walked two of the national park trails: Monterosso to Vernazza and then to Corniglia. The subsequent two sections are still closed from landslides a number of years ago. We also took a trail from Riamaggiore up into the hills and down again which was very picturesque. Of course all the trails were a bit rugged and challenging but the weather was absolutely perfect; about 19 degrees Celcius and sunny, and the towns were not too crowded so we had no trouble finding seats at cafes and restaurants. We also visited a nearby winery which was absolutely idyllic. We did not want to leave!
 (If there are no pics below, view my flickr gallery)
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Monday, May 2, 2016

Venice

When we first disembarked in Venice we were surrounded by thick fog and we were worried that we would have a repeat of our bleak visit back of 30 years ago. We were delighted to see the fog lift as we struggled our way to our Airbnb apartment. We spent a very pleasant few days there. We took a walking tour and took our tour guide’s sage advice to not worry about where we were, to just wander around and enjoy it! Allan and I went to a wonderful performance of The Barber of Seville in an old Palace. By the end of the visit we decided that two and a half days was long enough. Our first stop at the end of our cruise was Venice where we spent two nights.
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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mediterranean cruise

Well… where to begin?! We were expecting something special because of the reviews and the price we paid (!) but special it certainly was! It was the first voyage of the new ship Viking Star. It arrived in Istanbul after its “shake down” cruise from Vienna.
Our cabin was lovely, the food was varied and irresistible (with consequences!) and I am not used to being treated like royalty every day! The staff always said a cheery “Hello” even if they were in the midst of sorting out a crisis such as insufficient sushi left on a tray in the buffet.
We mostly selected the included tours and they were all very informative and interesting. Every port we called in to was an enjoyable stop and the weather was incredibly mild! We did have one wet day in Kotor when it bucketed down in the morning. Unfortunately we had a walking tour scheduled in the rain. But with the help of the Viking-issued red umbrellas all was well.
We enjoyed it so much we have booked a Scandinavian cruise that we plan to take in 2018. Our cruise was "Empires of the Mediterranean" from Istanbul to Venice.
Itinerary:
1-3: Ephesus & Istanbul, Turkey
4: Athens, Greece
5: Santorini, Greece (6: at sea)
7: Kotor, Montenegro
8,9: Pula & Dubrovnik, Croatia
10: Venice, Italy
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Istanbul

Just as we were waiting at the airport to fly to Istanbul we read that the Australian Government’s advice was to reconsider travel to Turkey. Too late, our luggage was already checked in!
At Istanbul we were met by online friend Heather. It was terrific to meet her and find out about her interesting life in Istanbul. She showed us around a little.
Over the next few days we explored all of the sights. There were so few tourists around that our hotel was almost empty, there were no queues or crowds, and we had our pick of tables at empty restaurants for each meal. It was actually quite sad. These people don’t deserve to suffer in this way.
Our Bendigo friend Heather joined us whilst we were there. We were so lucky with the weather which was mild and sunny.
(If there are no pics below, view my flickr gallery)


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