Wednesday, August 23, 2006
So after the big trip around the eastern part of the MED it was time to take in some MED vs Atlantic sunshine and I was lucky enough to be invited along to spend a few days taking advantage of a hotel room that my friend was using whilst at a conference.
The weather was quite cool but the sun quite fierce - similar to NZ with a high burntime around 10mins. The resort was filled with the usual corporate types and their families but well worth the trip.
The local town FARO was a let down. The most interesting residents were the Pelicans - see on the tower below.
The town is used as a start point to explore the coast and the old ruins around the place.
At the resort the woodpeckers spent their time knocking holes in trees and flying around like miniature teradactyls. The feathers on the back of their heads raise up like a teradactyl when they land.
They are also very cunning and it was almost impossible to get a photo of them in this pose.
The beaches are long golden sand beaches and the resort was aptly named Sheraton Pine Cliffs. This pretty much explained how the place looked. The cliffs tower above the beach and provide interesting colours at different times of the day as the sun strikes the rock.
The water was significantly less salty than the Adriatic and also a lot chillier - very refreshing after sitting in the hot sun all day.
Onto Rhodes next!
The island of Hvar provided us with a couple of days rest and sunshine before we headed to Vis and the famous blue grotto etc.
The town is spread right on the coast so from our apartment we could see the Island of Vis where we headed to next.
Whilst on Hvar we saw the Croatia World Cup game and feeling that we had to be part of the local populous we purchased some Croatia colours to wear to show our solidarity.
There was no cheese to be had at the Gromit Cafe!
Hvar's main attractions are the huge well preserved castle overlooking the town and the interesting Church right in the town square
Not too much to say about Hvar as all we did was loiter, drink and walk around the place, however Vis was a different matter.
We took a late night ferry to Vis and as soon as we arrived on the speedy little catamaran we were set upon by the locals offering us rooms and apartments (this is std practise). We chose a place just up the hillside and made our way to our new lodgings.
Our hosts then invited us down for drinks with some other Kiwis who were staying in one of the other rooms.
The 1st day in Vis consisted of a scooter ride all round the island exploring the beaches, Komiza town and ruins. During our riding advenutres we travelled the length of the island to the open sea coast where Komiza was. Just coming into Komiza is a fortified church.
The scooter crew with the town of Komiza in the background.
That evening in need of some home cooking a large pasta dish with lots of fresh goodies was created and scoffed accompanied with some local red wine that was very palatable.
The next day we took a boat ride to see the famous blue grotto and visit different beaches. The boat made a complete circumnavigation of the island. Not long after setting of one of the gang decided to investigate the effect of carbonated drink acting like a rocket so we lost a fair portion of our coke- very funny experiment albeit totally unintentional!
The blue grotto is so called as upon entering it sunlight is reflected into the grotto from a underwater cave. it is a very tranquil place to visit with lots of interesting reflections and the clarity of the water is quite amazing.
The locals operate a little shuttle service from the wharf to the grotto and back. the boats are old but quite fitting and have a nosiy engine that shunts them thru the water.
The controls are quite heath robinson. A piece of string for the throttle and a lever for forwards and backwards.
From the Island of Vis we woke up before the town and boarded the ferry for Split to begin the leg of the mainland adventure.
Friday, August 18, 2006
The first full day at Bol beach (on the island of Brac) meant the beginning of the beach lounging section of the holiday. We migrated down to the beach and settled in for a morning of sun and water. The water was a mite chilly but very refreshing after sitting in the sun.
The island is set up with resorts, apartments, restaurants, cafes etc. It is very popular with Germans and Italians who travel down and come across on the ferries with their cars for a holiday of several weeks.
Day 2 saw us decide to try something new. We sought the assistance of the local specialists and took a lesson on how to windsurf. Bol beach is apparently the best area for windsurfing in the islands. The first hour was taken up with basics - getting to know the board and equipment. The weather played the game and did not provide too much wind to begin with. Then right when we were confident the wind picked up so we could try out our new skills.
Feeling very confident we finished our lessons and spent some time sitting in the cafe discussing our form and skill with the only member of our group who is an accomplished windsurfer. Grant stroked our egos suitably and we all agreed its a great sport.
As always time marches on and soon it was time to collect our kit from our apartment and head for the ferry to catch the cat from Brac to Hvar. Strangely however you have to go into another port on the island and then catch a taxi or bus to get to Hvar.
This overland segment afforded us a quick tour of the island and provided us with an excellent vista as we arrived into the town of Hvar.
The castle on top of the hill overlooking the harbour is very impressive and worth a visit.
More on Hvar and Vis in the next post
Monday, August 07, 2006
Having completed the cultural aspects of the holiday in fine form it was time to hit the beach for rest and relaxation.
We boarded the catamaran in Split and headed for the Island of Brac with the fab beach of Bol on it. No sooner had the cat pulled away from split than we all got a good 1hr shut eye. the trip on the cat was amazingly cheap so dont stress too much about the cost of public transport.
Arrival into Brac was different on the pier were lots of locals with various placards advertising their apartments for rent. The apartments are self contained within the owners house usually on a different level and come with all the amenities that you would need to live for 1 day or 3 months.
Once you got used to the way of doing business here then it was easy to go with the flow and get an apartment. Approx cost of £8 PPPN
Once settled into our new place it was time to hit the town and get a drink or 3 and partake of the vista.
From Reijka we hired a car from our good friends at avis and zoomed down the coast towards Split. After consulting the travel notes we decided to stay in Trogir which is about 20ks to the north of Split and at the same time tick off another UNESCO site from the list. During the drive down we passed by Zadar with its airport and sea port. The coast road is well worth the drive or bus trip as it follows various types of terrain and sea scape and the islands just of the coast are always visible.
A wee blurb stolen from wikipedia (picture is mine tho!)
Trogir has a fascinating 2300 years of continuous urban tradition. Its rich culture was created under the influence of old Greeks, Romans, and Venetians. Trogir has a high concentration of palaces, churches, and towers, as well as a fortress on a small island, and in 1997 was inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. "The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period", says UNESCO report.
Trogir is the best-preserved Romanesque-Gothic complex not only in the Adriatic, but in all of Central Europe. Trogir's medieval core, surrounded by walls, comprises a preserved castle and tower and a series of dwellings and palaces from the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods. Trogir's grandest building is the church of St. Lawrence, whose main west portal is a masterpiece by Radovan, and the most significant work of the Romanesque-Gothic style in Croatia.
The most important sites:
- Historical city core, with about 10 churches and numeous buildings from 13th century
- The city gate (17th cent.) and city walls (15th cent.)
- The Fortress Kamerlengo (15th century)
- The Duke's Palace (13th century)
- The cathedral of St. John from the 13th century with the Portal of Master Radovan, the unique work of this great Croatian artist
- The big and small palaces Cipiko from the 15th century
- The city loggia from 15th century
Walking along you can go down any number of side steets and come across all sorts of different shops and resturants.
The town is totally set up to cater for tourism and the number of boats which park up along the pier reinforce this. It is very difficult to get accommodation in the old town however all around in the new town there are plenty of different pensions, apartments, B&B etc. We all stayed in a very nice apartment about 5mins walk from the old city.
We stayed on night in Trogir and then headed to Split to drop the car off and then go across to Brac to the awesome beach of Bol.
Split is worth a visit but only for a day or two and we chose to spend our time getting across to the Islands on the catamarans.
Dropping the car off to avis proved to be a major drama - they somehow decided that the only place to have an avis office was at the marina - not near all the other car rental offices. So after searching for a while we found the drop off and then hitched up our stuff and headed for the port to get our tickets.
So next post will be the Islands
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
We arrived into Piran after spending the afternoon at the caves. On the way to the old town we passed through Koper and Portoroz.
Koper is the major
We drove the car into Piran only to find that unless you are a registered Piran Car owner you must park your car outside the town gates. So a quick unload was carried out and the car positioned to its rightful slot, banished from view out near the main road out of the town.
Grant, Karen and Jane
Mediterranean town situated at the tip of the Piran peninsula along the Piran Bay. The town resembles a large open-air museum, with medieval architecture and a rich culture heritage. Narrow streets and compact houses give the town its special charm. Piran is the administrative centre of the local area and one of
We had booked accommodation at the Piran Youth Hostel which was right the heart of the town and in a few windy streets. It was signposted right the town gates. The accommodation was excellent and location brilliant.
From this point on it marked the beginning of Calamari eating,– being so close to the sea meant that nearly every meal was to be fish and preferably Calamari,– fried, grilled, risotto, chowder etc etc. Reminds me of Bubba and his shrimp in Forest Gump.The 9th of June saw us deliver the rental car back to Koper and take advantage of the bus services for the first time. Bus service is regular and reasonably cheap and definitely recommended.
Returning to Piran we wandered along the water front to find the girls who had commandeered a piece of free grass to indulge in a spot of serious, by the sea, sunbathing. Job done afternoon sorted sunbathing it was.
The evening saw a small bar on the water front with a look out towards Italy becoming a favourite hide out. Pivo (beer) was poured and ensured that our exertions of the day were well rewarded. Then out to a recommended restaurant for Calamari!
Transport to Split to catch the ferry to Brac was the next thing we needed to sort. This caused some interesting discussions with Avis. We booked a car from Piran to Split and when we arrived at the Avis store we were told that we had not made clear it was a one way rental so there would be a ginormous charge added to the car hire. Very convenient as we had specifically said a number of times during the booking that the car would be left in Split.
The bus had already left so an innovative solution was called for.
The Avis man was going to Reijka and offered to take us for a fee to cover his gas money. Deal done off we went Split here we come.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Setting out from the picturesque beauty of the lakes we headed for the mountains and stopped to visit numerous waterfalls, gorges, forests etc that are dotted around the parks.
The roads are well looked after and we traveled through some very impressive valleys in the car. We stopped of at a few villages, some with medieval history and some with more modern events.
Slovenia has quite a few earthquakes and a number of towns have rebuilt significant portions of their buildings across the ages and in quite recent decades.
We visited the UNESCO site of the Skocjanske Jame Caves as well as the Postojna Caves. Both cave systems are part of the same river complex. The Postojana system is very well catered for the tourists with a electric train that takes tourists down into the caves. This place is totally worth a visit.
From the caves we headed for Piran on the coast not far from Koper as the place to stay. Piran is an amazing port town with virtually no traffic allowed in - more in the next posting
Thursday, June 29, 2006
So the intrepid adventurers set of from Ljub in a wee rental car and set out for Lake Bled with a few diversions on the way.
The most amazing thing about Slovenia is that it is so small (20,000 sq km) that you can do most things in a day trip from Ljub should you choose to.
Most of the villages are worth a visit to see the amazing scenery and view historic buildings, castles, etc as well as get a feel for local life.
The weather was cool but sunny - perfect for exploring mountains, waterfalls, caves etc.
Lake Bled is truly the stuff of Romantic fiction. A small lake set in the north of the Country with a Chapel sitting on an island in the middle of the lake.
A couple of hours after arrival we sat back and supped beers at the castle - overlooking the lake from a strategic position.
The next day was taken up with mountain biking and lake antics
The chapel has set of stairs leading up from the boat ramp to the building. Local legend - should a future husband carry his bride to be up the stairs then they are guaranteed of a happy life - nice legend but its a lots of stair I guess love should overcome all including climbing 99 odd stairs!!
Once you get to the top you can go into the church and ring the bell - its a wishing bell, so be careful what you wish for as youre in a church.
From visiting the chapel the team zoomed around the lake a couple of times on mountain bikes and then decided to bike up the hill opposite the castle to take a view across the lake to the castle on the other side. A very steep hill, it has a luge that rockets down it.
The next day saw us head to Lake Bohinj to climb a gorge to see a waterfall. The guide book showed swimming in the waterfall - this is however not the case - 553 steps later we arrived at the look out and were beseiged by mossies and could not access the pool.
From this stunning lake we set of for the next step of our adventure - and a night in Kobraid.
Friday, June 23, 2006
The First four days of June saw me in Slovenia but more specifically in Ljubjana. Taking a low fare airline (www.wizzair.com) from Luton with a total unbelievable price of Â£5 plus the ever present taxes, arrive into Ljub was pleasant and on time. A short bus ride to the city and then a wee stroll to the Hostel.
The rest of the group arrived and we all stayed at the Hotel Celica - a converted jail which is now a youth Hostel (www.hostelcelica.com). Each of the old jail rooms has been converted into different works of art with different room set up etc. Make sure you have a good look at the website.
Ljub is a very interesting city to wander around and the castle is quite imposing overlooking the city. The history of the city is impressive as well. A walking tour is certainly recommended. The museum is interesting but you can complete it in a few short minutes so more of a time filler rather than anything else.
Shopping is as you would expect and cafes are all over the place for stopping in for a coffee.
Food and drink is not as cheap as it may once have been given that Slovnia is part of the EU and set to join the Euro soon. Quality of food is good however with seafood, meats and salads everywhere. The local beer or PIVO is very drinkable and does not leave you feeling bloated after a few evening pints.
From Ljub we hired a car and set of to Lake Bled ... what a fab place to go to
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The last weekend in May is traditionally the start of the summer season in London and it is kicked off with a bank holiday - the second one in the month. Now starts the long haul thru the next few months until August when the next bank holiday occurs on the 28th of August.
Friday began as a lazy day in Portorose Slovenia. The hotel overlooked the Adriatic and only the occasional rumble of passing ferries caused one to stir from restful mid morning slumber.
Breakfast was taken on the terrace in a balmy 22 deg C with the sun shining thru a light haze layer making it even more difficult to do anything other tan sit around and enjoy the dose of solar radiation.
A ride to Ljubljana to catch the light in the afternoon and a few hours were freed up to spend wandering about the city. An interesting blend of old and new and everywhere cyclicists and roller bladers moved about the place. As I will be back again in a week I did not explore too much rather just wanted to get a layout and idea of prices in the pub for the return!
From here delivery back to the UK from Slovenia courtesy of Lufthansa. Efficient as always with only a 30 min layover in Hamburg that required a change of terminal and plane. Slight apprehension that the bags would not make it an then into LHR. Should not have worried as Germanic efficiency ensured that my bags arrived before I was able to clear customs.
I recovered my car from the long term park and headed into Fulham High St to meet some friends who were hosting at the Pitcher and Piano, a couple of pre China departure drinks. Looking forward to hearing about their travels in the new mega economy. Although word on the street is that the Chinese economy is going to soon implode - perhaps cheaper oil and steel prices will once again come our way for a short period of time until the Barons find another valid excuse to put up the price.
Saturday was spent organising my far flung belongings in preparation for packing and shipping back to Godzone. A quiet night in with a good English Indian Curry.
Sunday however was a different story. It was time to relive my early days of being in London and join the faithful at The Church. It is a significant improvement on the old Kings Cross venue and you can even wear normal clothes without worrying about throwing them out as soon as you get home.
The congregation paid homage to the God of Decadence and Alcohol for 3hrs straight and then the service and sermons were over. Time to head out into the daylight blinking like young vampires who have arisen too early and are caught out by the sunlight.
Needless to say the train ride home was a blur as was the walk to the flat, getting onto the bed (not in it) and sleeping till 6am Monday. Monday arrived with a thud - poorly drawn curtains allowed the sun to peek in and penetrate the eyelids in the in escapable way that causes you to get up no matter how bad you feel. 1.5l of water and several panadol later and my head was beginning to feel connected again.
More packing and final boxing ahead of the movers arriving Tuesday morning. A slow day but thankfully 12hrs of sleep was definitely required.
More soon as the week progresses towards departure day on Tursday
Friday, May 26, 2006
So after the big party weekend I headed to Belgrade, Serbia to meet up with my best friends and see their wee fella who is growing like a proverbial weed, especially in the 34 deg sunshine that Belgrade was experiencing.
How is it possible to leave London at 12 deg C, land in Zurich at 12 Deg C and then land 1 hr later in Belgrade at 34 Deg C. Travel courtesy of Swiss Air - and for an Economy seat / flight it was pretty good. Purchased using some of those millions of airmiles that I seem to have accumulated.
Beware of British Airways - you must book award travel with them at least 7 days in advance not so with United, booked and paid the evening before. Ahh the benefits of a good CRM solution!
Belgrade - this being my third visit I was most happy that it was during summer, unlike the previous two which were in the depths of winter. What a difference sunshine and greenery makes to the place.
Being good entrepreneurs, my friends had managed to get a free dinner from a very nice restaurant in return for writing a review for the local ex-pat magazine. If you ever get to Belgrade then make sure you goto Rustiko - more food than you cold shake a stick at!
The next days were spent in the company of my old employers and in return for the bit of work I did for them I was rewarded with yet more food and a trip to Slovenia to stay by the coast for a day.
On the way to Slovenia we stopped at a fabulous castle and had an amazing lunch. If you are driving through Slovenia on the way to Belgrade then stop at Hotel Otocec - it is very good and apparently the rooms etc are very conducive for a get away.
Back to London today and whatever adventures that brings.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The weekend was very welcoming to returning travelers albeit it viewed perhaps a little skewed by the amount of alcohol that was consumed at different parties.
Friday saw the adventure of using public transport again - Thameslink has changed to First Capital Connect but the trains still look the same just with new logo on them. The underground had a number of tube lines down due to engineering works etc etc - those of you who have experienced this phenomena will know what I'm talking about.
Friday nights party was a 40th Birthday held in the city at City Limits bar right by Liverpool street station. The only order of the day was to drink champagne. As famously quoted in Cocktail - "Champagne is perfume going in, sewerage coming out"
The new hours for bar opening make a huge difference in the UK. We were able to stay safe and sound in our new found local until 1am and then the staff kindly called taxis for all the hard core people left over. Emerging into the night there were no large crowds, no hassles and no taxi!
The black cabs have obviously not caught onto the new state of the nation.
Saturday morning was greeted with copious amounts of tea and nurofen. Gingerly moving around for a period of time before heading to the local market to buy some Chav gear for a Chav party on Saturday.
Whats a Chav - well here is the offical word from wikipedia
Chav (pronunciation: /tʃæv/) (also Chavette (female chav), Charv or Charva) is a slang term in wide use throughout the United Kingdom since 2004. It refers to a subcultural stereotype of a person with fashions such as flashy "bling" jewellery, Burberry clothing items and counterfeit designer clothing; an uneducated and uncultured background; a tendency to congregate around places such as fast-food outlets, bus stops, or other shopping areas; and a culture of antisocial behaviour and violence. Chavs often listen to dance/trance, RnB, rap, and hip hop music. Response to the term has ranged from amusement to criticism that it is a new manifestation of classism.
Generally you will know them as Soccer louts and burberry cap wearing shell suiters usually from Essex
The most amazing thing about being a chav - its possible to buy a complete outfit for £20.00
The Chav party was a complete hit - the prodigious amounts of bottles and glass in the morning testamont to a excellent night.
Sunday was a day of puffy eyes and de toxing with Tea and Orange juice and a large dinner of the freshest veges possible - beware as they may contain some GM after all we are in he land of GM and irradiated foods.
So onto the working week. Monday will be a day of inventoring household effects and then Tuesay to Friday will be spent in Serbia helping out a friend with some project work.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Arrival Back into the UK 18 May 2006
So I've returned to he
A stroke of luck - my good friends who own a shipping company have agreed to repack everything so now i have some spare time to myself before heading off on the 1st of June to begin the travel adventure around
A long ride on ANZ to Ol'Blighty landing at 11am. Returning to the land of sometimes summer, water shortages and no deputy prime minister!
Somehow I missed the fact that the A380 was also in LHR so a missed opportunity I feel. Never mind with the return to good UK news casting I had a minute by minute walk around the aircraft with the crew following the esteemed chancellor
The weather was fine to start with some sunshine and then deteriorated into blustery winds and rain overnight.
The weekend holds promise of some parties but more likely lots of dust and packing tape as the flat is slowly reduced to a series of boxes.
More news as it comes
A challenge for the brain - http://www.websudoku.com/