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Siena, Florence and Cinque Terre

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>;;Oops I’ve neglected my blog for a bit!
After Rome, we travelled to Siena and Florence, where I’ve been before but was just as enchanted the 2nd time. As a last minute decision we changed our accommodation and decided to stay at the Busabout drop off point, which was a camping park about 3 km out of Siena. This turned out to be a good decision as we had our own little cabin with a fridge and a wonderful pool to wallow in. A bus trip to Siena saw us exploring the town and ( of course) lots of hills and steps to climb, plus the mandatory gelato!
Florence seemed more beautiful than last time I saw it but much hotter. We haven’t s a cloud or a day much less than 35 degrees for weeks now. With the heat in mind, we a more gelato and climbed up the Biblio gardens and walked around the town, with one day spent in Ufizzi gallery looking at art work by the masters.
Our trip from Florence to Cinque Terre (where we stay for a week) included a photo stop at Pisa and a competition to see who could take the most clever photo. The handstand won but ours got an honourable mention:)
Our accommodation in Cinque Terre, where we stay for 6 nights, is at Riomaggiore, the first of the 5 cliff hanger Italian villages on the coast. I can’t even begin to describe the trip to our accommodation. Our backpacks are now HEAVY, and there so many steps and ridiculous narrow dangerous paths which have to be seen to be believed. When we found our accommodation ( in a narrow back alley) there is a door, 2 flights of stairs and the key is in a little basket ( which the owner called a jar) . The light kept going off and plunging us into darkness but we managed to get our bags up, the door unlocked and into the building. The accommodation is gorgeous with a kitchen on the bottom floor, a spiral staircase which is about 50cm wide takes us to the next floor to Sophie’s room and the bath room, and up another spiral staircase to my room at the top (5th floor in total). I have a window and a double door which opens out to the sea and a view of the village. It’s spectacular!!!! I haven’t closed the door once so far and go to sleep to the sound of the sea and with the breeze drifting in, mind you, it’s still very very hot all night.
Sophie, on the other hand, has a window which opens onto a neighbours balcony where an Italian family frolic noisily. Complete with Mama, Papa, Nona, a singing Grandfather and a toddler with a very high squeal who party on the balcony til all hours. There are no fans or air con so the decision is always is to be hot or to have the noise. This is often the case when travelling Europe. . I did offer to swap rooms but don’t think I sounded very convincing.
All that aside, the villages are gorgeous and the views are breathtaking. Last night we walked along Via del Amore, which is the coastal path of ‘love’ across the top of the cliffs to Manarola and saw the sun set and many tourists drunk with love during our walk, ending it with a gelato. Today we are going to hike across a couple of other very steep trails in the peak of heat and catch a train back I’m sure it will be worth it as it is a wold famous walking path and apparently spectacular.
Wifi is like hens teeth here so Barcelona will probably be the next posting. After 7 weeks of travelling and one left, I will return home to Melbournes winter and Sophie will go to the USA. *sigh*,
If you use Instagram, my photos are mostly there… User name jennywood
The train photos are for my Dad:)

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Running with pizza

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What is the definition of an optimist? The 5000th Roman hat seller for the day asking if I want to buy a hat when I have one on my head!
Our day in Pompeii and Naples began by a 6.45 pick up from our hotel in Rome. In true Italian style, we were shunted around from bus to bus and to several hosts and ended up in Naples with a small Italian man who barely spoke English and addressed his commentary quietly to one person in the group while the rest of us strained to hear and the children became restless. Apart from getting the giggles and nodding and smiling at what we hoped was the right places we discovered that nobody else could understand him either. Even so, we were whisked around Naples in 45 minutes and I have no idea what anything was apart from the ‘ mermaids’ he promised to show us on the beach…. The mermaids turned out to be a pile of enormous rocks with Italian men perched on them in their speedos sunbathing! At least he had a sense of humour. Naples seemed to have a few lovely historic buildings, scattered amongst the squalor and rubbish which spread for many kilometres towards Pompeii. It was a little reminiscent of Cairo, with it’s high density housing with washing hanging out the windows.
After a visit to the cameo making factory and lunch, we arrived at Pompeii in time for the the peak of afternoon heat and explored the wonderful city and all of the amazing relics. It was incredible to be scrambling over a 2000 year old city and see the condition to which it has been preserved in.
We arrived back at Rome at 9.30 pm, very tired but with the knowledge that we had to move camp to Siena early the next morning. Our bus stop at Orvieto was eventful as we all caught the fernicula up the mountain to the village and ordered a late breakfast. Sophie and I got a very slow chef and we ended up having to run back to the meeting point as we were late, with a pizza folded in half in a paper bag! Running across cobblestones with pizza in hand for 15 minutes in the heat was not a pretty sight I’m sure but I’m not sure how we would have got to Siena had we been left behind.
On arrival at Siena we made a snap decision to stay at the Busabout drop off joint and cancel our hotel. Ahhh! A swimming pool, refrigerator in our cabin and peace and quiet. We didn’t go into Siena on our first day but sat around the pool and outside our cabin reading in the cool (ish) air. Tomorrow we will go explore… or ‘re explore’ in my case!
2 weeks to go but lots of adventures to be had. We are looking forward to a rest in Cinque Terre providing the “key in the little jar by the door” can be found, as described by the Italian woman who owns the flat, but doesn’t live there. Hmmm. That could be interesting.

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Venice to Rome

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Our time in Venice was enhanced by staying with my Twitter friend @monicacassaro who owns a B&B there. Monica and Chris made us very welcome and gave us the ‘home away from home’ treatment which was really appreciated. The B &B is not on the island part so we had to walk and catch a bus each morning which gave us the opportunity to experience real Italy, including a kind man who was pruning a plum tree and threw some to us. Or perhaps he was throwing them at us?
We spent our two days walking the islands and hopping on and off the water buses from island to island, choosing not to have a gondola ride and save ourselves the $$. The weather was HOT and in the 30s so the days were long and tiring.
Our trip to Rome was on a 40 degree day and a. 10.5 hour journey which felt more like a rest for us weary travellers. We arrived at our ‘ hotel’ to find varying degrees of European hotel discomfort. The rooms are less than 3 meters long not as wide and HOT so we chose to pay the extra for air con except that my air con doesnt work and Sophie’s does. The rooms are also extremely noisy but earplugs muffle it nicely. Trip advisor will have a nice long spiel for this one. Not that we are princesses at all but this one is beyond a joke and we are here for 5 days. It’s the first ‘ separate rooms’ we have had for weeks so it feels quite odd. Nobody from Melbourne cares about our hot rooms of course, since they are all suffering in the cold at home, but I’m playing my own violin here!
The next 2 days were 38+C and we had ‘ hip on hop off bus’ tickets for 2 days so there we were on the top of the open buses in the direct sun and heat getting sizzled. This morning Sophie had a tumble down the stairs and bruised herself badly and we are both sunburnt but all the same we are having an AWESOME time and really loving Rome. When I was in Rome in 2009 I had jetlag and I think I didn’t appreciate it very well.
We are eating so much gelato its become the new vegetable replacement. Who needs veges?
Tomorrow we are off to Pompeii and Naples for a day trip so it’s an early night for us!

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Fail whale castle

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The trip to Neuschwanstein castle from Munich took 2 hours one way on in the train, and the whole day to negotiate the travel and explorations. Being the inspiration for the Disneyland castle, it’s something I’ve always wanted to see. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was covered in scaffolding and wrapped in plastic! Ive attached a photo of what it should look like and what it DID look like. Only the front of the caste was unwrapped for inspection. It was a little disappointing from a photographic perspective but the tour through it and the walk down into the waterfalls and rainforest type gardens below was beautiful. The tour guide was concerned about the climb up to the castle but our hostel in Munich had a broken elevator and we were on the 5th floor (102 stairs) so the climb was no problem to us billy goats.

After Munich we arrived back to Austria to Innsbruck, which is a mall village surrounded by enormous snow capped mountains. Sophie had found a special deal on the Hilton hotel so it was pretty exciting and a nice break to stay there and eat a REAL breakfast. We even had TV WITH English speaking channels and movies woohoo! We ate so much breakfast that we didn’t need lunch and had an early tea at 4 pm instead.

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It rained for the whole day we were at Innsbruck but we walked up the mountain to the Alpine zoo regardless. Being a weekday and raining meant we pretty much had the zoo to ourselves and the boundaries between the people and the animals were almost non-existent compared the the Melbourne Zoo so we got some terrific photos.

Goodbye to Germany and Austria. We have conquered 7 countries now in 4 weeks and are about to explore our 8th, starting with Venice in Italy where the temperatures are soaring higher up the 30s and we will stay with my Twitter friend in her B&B.

I'm writing this in the bus on the way to Venice. Already the contrast from Austria is huge. Apart from the magnificent scenery across the mountains, the roadstop along the motorway was very different to the 'orderly' German and Austrian ones. It was hot, messy, loud and confusing. Bring on the new culture I say:)

High on the hills is a soaking goat herd

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Salzburg has raindrops on roses tonight as the run of weather over 32 degrees ended in a huge storm. Unfortunately Sophie and I got absolutely drenched in it but it cooled us down nicely if there is positive side.
We started the day with The ‘Sound of music’ tour, which was full of cheesy jokes and a well worn dialogue but we really enjoyed the scenery and the thought of the movie being filmed here. Our dreams were shattered when the home truths of the movie were revealed with the apparent help of Hollywood and its tendency to fabricate and glorify the truth. Who would have thought that Rolf the Nazi postman never really existed? We saw the gazebo, the lake, the home, inside the church they married in and the gardens where do-re-me was filmed.
After our ‘Sound of Music’ tour we ventured up to the fortress high up on the hill.. The clouds looked rather worrying but we ignored them as it was 32 degrees and the fort was terrific. Of course we got absolutely drowned once the storm hit and had to walk back to the hotel. I was the laughing stock when I arrived in the foyer looking like a drowned rat. We then watched the circus out our window where the flooded roads were causing chaos. Cars were driving through water up to their headlights and one had to be pushed out. An Ambulance almost floated away and eventually they closed the road.
Off to Munich tomorrow for more adventures!

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Getting in touch with our Krumlovs

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Here we are in Cesky Kromlov which is an adorable little town where the sun is shining and the chill factor is only evident in the relaxation department. It’s more of the ‘quaint European village’ style that I know and love and we have spent our time walking and exploring the village as well as a bit of relaxation. Today we went to the castle, which is apparently the 2nd oldest in Czech. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Český_Krumlov
We are staying in Krumlov House which is about as cute as it sounds. We are in the deluxe Appartment, which may give you a vision of a sparkling palace but it’s more like a character filled bear cave. It’s a little ramshackle ‘house’ by the river with a herbal garden and rickety wooden chairs and a good old cozy feel to it. The people are really friendly too. If we go missing… Come and look for us;)

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Last day in Prague

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Prague is every bit as gorgeous as everyone says it is and not as packed with tourists as the narrow streets in Italy. We spent most of our time walking and walking and walking, looking over the castle and admiring the view from the bridges. Sophie managed to eat a chocolate ice-cream each day because apparently its the best she has ever had in her life! Apart from a bad experience with my credit card (fully loaded with all my travel money) which ‘went missing’, it’s been a lovely 3 days here. Its looking like Sophie will have to fully fund the holiday now. Lucky she is so rich with savings..
We are off to Cesky Krumlov tomorrow which is apparently a smaller version of Prague and every bit as pretty.

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