A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Tomheasley

Day 24 – 10 June (Wednesday)

overcast

The last day of our trip! I was very happy to spend it in London – it is a great city.
It was a lot cooler in London and overcast. It was great weather for getting about.
We had stayed in the same B & B as we had at the start of our trip. After a basic but filling breakfast we packed and left our luggage with reception and went out to enjoy London for the day. We picked up bikes in Hyde Park and made our way to Harrods. However we found it does not open until 10.00am. So we had a coffee at a nearby café and then entered the great Temple to Materialism – called Harrods. We split up at this point and arranged to meet back at the B & B at 5.00pm. I strolled through Harrods – so much luxury!!! After this I went to the Natural History Museum. This was very interesting, especially the section on earth quakes and volcanos. Then on to the Science Museum which again had some great exhibits.
Bill was doing the rounds of the museums as well. He also went to the Victoria and Albert Museum which is in the same area. He thought it was very good. Andrew visited the Natural History Museum and then met Matthew for lunch.
I decided to visit the Imperial War Museum. On the way, I stopped at a very attractive cake and tea shop and had a delicious morning tea with a very tasty slice and tea. It was very elegant – an enjoyable interlude on my way to the Museum.
The Imperial War Museum is located in Lambeth on the south side of the Thames. It is a quick trip by tube. The museum is only a short walk from the station. I thoroughly enjoyed this museum. The presentation and exhibits were very well done – quite enlightening. I could have spent at least a day and a half in this museum. I had to content myself with a couple of hours. It was very absorbing and educative. Whilst I was in Lambeth I would have liked to see Lambeth Palace – the official London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury (and has been for 800 years). It has quite a history and figured a lot during the reign of King Henry VIII. Unfortunately I did not have time. I had an idea to buy all the grandchildren presents so I went back to Harrods for this purpose. On the way to Harrods I had a spot of lunch at Pret a Manger – a very nice sandwich and pastry.
After finishing shopping in Harrods it was getting towards 5.00pm so I picked up a bike and went back to the B & B. I still had a bit in UK coinage and was wondering what to do with it. There was a beggar sitting near the B & B so I dropped the coins in his hat – he must have thought he had hit the jackpot!
Andrew and Bill arrived shortly afterwards. We were going to order a taxi to Paddington Station but the receptionist at the B & B (a very vigorous Latvian lady) tutted tutted the idea and encouraged us to walk. So we did – and it was not a long walk – about 1 ½ kilometres. We cashed in our Oyster Cards (travel cards for the tube) and bought our tickets for the Heathrow Connect. Please note – when travelling to and from Heathrow Airport do not use the Heathrow Express as it is very expensive. Use the Heathrow Connect as it is much cheaper and only takes 15 minutes longer.
And so we arrived at the airport and our trip had come to an end except for the 24 hour flight home (this includes 4 hours in Singapore Airport).
It was a great holiday. We had wonderful weather, wonderful experiences, great food and great walks. I am very thankful it passed without any accidents, sickness or major incidents.

Posted by Tomheasley 16:48 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day 23 – 9 June (Tuesday)

sunny

Breakfast was provided in our accommodation. It was in an elegant dining area – but we noticed some people who had seats for breakfast overlooking Campo Santa Maria Formosa – we envied the outlook they enjoyed! However the breakfast was very nice and very filling. I enjoyed the coffee (I don’t know About Andrew) – I had three cups!
We then packed up and vacated the room leaving our suitcases at reception. Andrew and Bill wanted to shop – so we all went our separate ways. I just had one thing to get – so I went and got my purchase and then walked around Venice. The walk was totally enjoyable – there is just so much to see. I walked along the large canal (which is really the sea front) for about 2 or 3 kilometres and then returned and walked through various laneways. I even did some window shopping, bought an ice-cream and watched the theatre of the gondolas. Watching them is very entertaining. I think I could spend a few days doing this in Venice – it is very relaxing! Andrew and Bill did quite a bit of shopping.
We met up at lunch time at the bell tower in St Mark’s Square and then went for lunch in a restaurant in a narrow laneway. It was funny watching the tour groups go past. They are led by their tour leader who holds up a stick with a coloured ribbon (or some other unique identifier) – they all follow behind single file, due to the narrowness of the laneway. As they walk past they all invariably turn their heads to look into the cafes etc. It is almost like they are playing follow the leader!
It was time to leave Venice. We picked up our luggage and then went to get the ferry to the Marco Polo airport. We had to walk about 1 ½ kilometres and then we had trouble finding the ferry. But it all worked out in the end. The ferry takes you right to the airport but you still have a bit of a walk to get to the terminal. It is a very busy airport – no doubt due to all the tourists.
We left at just at about 6.30pm and arrived in Gatwick, London at about 7.30pm (there is an hour difference between Venice and London).
Bill got our train tickets after we got out of the airport. He found the automatic machines very confusing. It is the same in most places; unless you are familiar with the system at a particular place it is confusing. He then decided to join a long line to buy the tickets manually. While he was waiting a woman jumped the queue and went to a ticket officer. The officer said to her “Madam you did not join the queue, please go back and join the queue”. She begged him to sell her a ticket as she had to be somewhere at a certain time. He very firmly and politely refused. I thought good on him – there are so many people who think they have a more urgent need than anyone else and think that they are entitled to jump the queue.
We caught the train, but had to leave the train after it had finished half its journey, as the train did not have a guard. We caught the next train which stopped at just about every station and so was very slow. After we got to London Bridge we had to get the tube to our B & B. The tube was very efficient – no waiting at all. So, the plane landed at about 7.30pm but we did not get to the B & B until 10.00pm. This is often the problem with air travel – it takes so long to get to and from the airport. In our case the flight was 2 hours but the travel time in London from the airport to the B & B was 2 ½ hours.

Posted by Tomheasley 15:41 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Day 22 – 8 June (Monday)

sunny

I got up early and watched the clouds playing on the surrounding mountains. It is the first time I really understood the expression “clouds playing on the mountains”. That is what it seemed like – the clouds were changing their shape on the mountains continually. I think I could have stayed for hours and watched the sight. It was a beautiful sunny day. The hotel provided breakfast for us even though we left at 7.30am and breakfast starts at 8.00am. This was very good of them and a great start to the day.
We then drove to Cortina and then almost directly south towards Venice. People often assume that the Alps are in Switzerland. They are actually a large mountain range that runs from Slovenia to France and on the way take in Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Lake Como and the Dolomites are all part of the Alps. There was a lot of mist and this added to the scenery as we drove through Cortina. The road from Cortina to Venice follows the Boite River through rugged steep forested mountains (very scenic) and passes through numerous villages. Eventually we reached the freeway which took us to Mestre, which is the city on the mainland closest to Venice, where we dropped of the jeep (that was a bit of fun in itself) and caught a train into Venice.
When you exit the train station at Venice you are greeted with the wonderful sight of Venice and the Grand Canal. Venice is a place which sustains its great amazing impact. The Grand Canal was full of activity – ferries, water taxis and gondolas and of course the crowds of people. It is just such a unique city. There are no cars in Venice and I understand that bikes are not allowed either – at least we did not see any. Travel is by foot or by waterway!
We caught the ferry and travelled along the Grand Canal to Ponte di Rialto were we disembarked and commenced our walk through the narrow laneways, over canal bridges and through squares to our accommodation – “Residenza Ruga Giuffa”. It was a most fascinating walk. Apparently, very recently, Venice proposed passing a law that would forbid using the wheels on suitcases, because of the noise they make on the cobblestone streets. This would mean you would have to carry your suitcase. I am so glad the law did not pass. It was an easy walk as you could use the wheels on your suitcase (except going over the numerous canal bridges when you had to carry them).
Our accommodation is in an old building which backs unto a canal. We had a large room with very high ceilings which are painted with pictures (it was like a cube). It exceeded my expectations. I had looked at the room on the internet when I booked – but it was one of those occasions when the accommodation is better than the photo on the booking site.
We got a pizza lunch in a little café beside Campo Santa Maria Formosa (a delightful square which is named after an old church Santa Maria Formosa in the square) and ate our lunch in the square. Andrew then went back to the apartment, which is right next to the square, for a snooze, while Bill and I went to explore the city. We walked along narrow laneways until we came to the magnificent Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square). It contains the very famous Church – St Marks Basilica – and its bell tower close by. It is surrounded by classy restaurants and shops. It was a warm day (in the sun) and the bell tower cast a welcome shade over the square. The square was thronging with tourists. The square is L shaped and opens out onto a broad canal with islands on the other side. It was a hive of activity on the water. We walked along the canal for about a kilometre amidst the crowds of tourists. Canals run off this main canal into Venice and they a filled with gondolas which are very skilfully steered by their operators. It is quite a sight – very entertaining to watch but expensive to use! We thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our walk. It was warm in the sun – but once you get into the laneways they are very cool because they are shaded due to their narrowness. The laneways around the square are filled with little shops selling Morano glass (so called because it is made on the island of Morano), masks, all sorts of jewellery and a host of other things and then there are countless cafes.
After Bill and I returned we all went out again. This time we went into the Church of St Mark – it has a history dating back to 832. Its architecture and mosaics are different from other churches we had seen – it is classified as Byzantine. The mosaics on the ceiling were very beautiful. A statue of Mark stands on top of the Church. We then went for a walk through the laneways to look at shops (window shopping), see more of Venice and get some dinner. It is very hard to navigate these laneways even with a map. It is very easy to get lost – but you can never go too far wrong – it just means an extra bit of walking to get to where you want to go. Andrew had found a café on the internet and that’s where we were headed. It was beside the Grand Canal. We found the café and bought some refreshments and found out that for 2 euro each we could partake of a little smorgasbord of food. We ate up big (I don’t know if we were supposed to – but no one stopped us) – we ate so much we did not need any dinner. That was the cheapest meal we had on our whole trip!!
I was pretty tired when we came back to the apartment and decided to call it a day. Andrew and Bill went out again to see the city at night. They came back later exclaiming about the lighting in St Mark’s Square and the music in the various restaurants in the square (small ensembles playing classical music) and the number of tourists still up and about. They were most impressed.

Posted by Tomheasley 15:24 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 21 – 7 June (Sunday)

sunny

We had another crowded breakfast as the bus which came on Wednesday was still here. But there was plenty to eat and the coffee was very nice (Andrew may have a different opinion about the coffee). Andrew wanted to hire a bike in Cortina and do some riding in that area. So Bill and I dropped him at Cortina and then returned and drove up to Passo Falzerego (it is like the place we went to yesterday – a collection hotels/restaurants and of motor cyclists who stop here to relax and have refreshments).
The walk we did today was more rugged and rocky than yesterday. We started at 9.30am and walked along a grassy area with a gentle rise into quite rocky terrain. The views around here are stunning with a number of massive jagged limestone mountains rising out of the pine forests and grasslands. When we got to the top of this part of the walk we came to a sudden almost sheer drop down the other side of the mountain and there is nothing to stop you – the lesson is “don’t daydream while you are walking in this area”. We then skirted the side of a large rocky outcrop along a “mountain goat” track. We diverted to look at what we thought was a cave and discovered it was a manmade tunnel which went into the mountain. There was another entrance – but there was sheer drop at the mouth of this entrance – again the need to be careful in this area. Another tunnel branched off and went deeper into the mountain but it was pitch black so we did not go down it. I have a feeling the tunnels date from World War 1. The Italians were on the side of Britain and France and the war came to this area. There are a lot of World War 1 sites in the area and quite a history in this regard. We continued on our mountain goat track (quite risky in parts) and came to another bigger path that led up to a chair life (it is called Rifugio Averau) which was located in a saddle at 2,432 meters. There were a number of large snow drifts on the way up and some were quite deep so we avoided them. I found it quite a strenuous walk but the views are so rewarding that you are inspired to keep on going. At the top there was a great view down the other side of the mountain – we could see a bendy road in the valley below and could hear the motor cyclists driving along the road even though they were a long way away. Bill climbed up a large rocky peak beside the chair lift to get better photos – he found great views from this higher vantage point.
We then walked back – this was a lot easier. We got back at about 12.30pm and returned to the hotel.
Andrew asked to be picked up at 3.00pm (but he was having such a great time that he extended the pick-up time to 4.00pm). Bill and I drove to Cortina to meet Andrew. After we met him, Bill then went for a ride, going north of Cortina. I went along the same path for a walk and walked for about an hour or so. The streets in Cortina are very windy and narrow (typical of towns in Italy) but usually the stand out is the main Catholic Church spire. It is the tallest building in Cortina and you can always use it as your reference point and your meeting place. Andrew said that the Catholic Church had a huge congregation this morning (he saw the congregation as he set out for his ride). We think it was some special occasion.
We had dinner in very nice restaurant tonight. Andrew and Bill had the local specialty dish of tortellini with beetroot. I had another pizza (this time with onion). It was a great restaurant with very good service.
It was another great day.

Posted by Tomheasley 01:03 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day 20 – 6 June (Saturday)

semi-overcast

Our room includes breakfast which is continental and buffet style. The passengers from the tour bus were at breakfast – so it was quite a crowd. But we were well fed and after breakfast, Andrew suggested we go for our first walk at Passo Pordoi. This involved quite a drive (about 1 hour) on windy roads and because it was Saturday there were even more motor cyclists on the road. There were also a lot of cyclists. They all looked very lean and fit as the hills in the area are significant. I calculated that one very long hill involved a climb of 800 meters. With buses, cars (a lot of pricy sports cars), motor bikes and cyclists it required a lot of concentration for driving – Andrew drove again and Bill navigated.
We got to Passo Pordoi which is a collection of hotels, restaurants etc. There was a big collection of motor cyclists who had stopped at this point and have a break and exchange war stories about their driving adventures. We commenced our walk at about 10.00am. We climbed up an easy slope through grassland and got to the top of the rise. On the way we passed a little chapel perched on a little knoll – I wondered if it gets used much. At the crest we looked down a very deep valley with a little village at the bottom. The other side rose up steeply (in places almost vertically) to a mountain range – the tops still covered in snow. The view was quite stunning. We walked unto a little rocky knoll to get some photos – the drop on the other side of the knoll was almost sheer. The path then continued along the side of a steep grassy hill which went down to pine forest and then fell down to the valley. We were now at 2,500 meters. The grass on the side of the mountain was beautiful – it was tufty and very soft. Because there were no trees the view was unobstructed. It was a delightful mountain path cut into the side of the mountain. You looked up and the grass went up to a craggy top and then you looked down to the valley and at the mountains on the other side. To add to the scenery the grass was sprinkled with wild flowers. We just had our shirts on and whilst it was cool we did not feel cold – it was great walking weather. This was a walk Hope would have loved. We walked for quite a distance and then returned.
On the way we came across a snow drift. Bill had the idea of burying his water bottle in the snow and picking it up on the way back – so that he would have a cold drink. When we picked he retrieved the bottle on the way back he was disappointed that the water was not as cold as he thought it would be.
We got back at about 1.00pm and started our drive back. It started to rain just after we started our journey back. This did slow down most of the motor cyclists – but some kept to the same speed as before.
When we got back it had ceased raining so we walked to a little restaurant just down the road from our hotel. We had a spaghetti meal (as there were only two options – both spaghetti – so it wasn’t hard to make up our minds). The waitress was very pleasant and a very hard worker. The Italians try to speak English if they can – which is a nice feature about them.
We no sooner got back to our hotel and it started to rain heavily. The thing is about a place like London or Rome, is that even if it is raining, there is a still lot of places to go. However at a place like Pocol there is nothing else to do when it is raining. I went and sat in the lounge and engaged with the Bernese Mountain dog – he wandered in and out and checked out every one. A number of motor cyclists had come in to get out of the rain and also to have some refreshments, so the place was busy. They were all talking - but either in Italian or German or whatever.
Later in the afternoon we went into Cortina – about 5 kilometres of winding road. There is a vantage point on the way, which overlooks Cortina, and gives a great view. The town is in a valley surrounded by steep rocky mountains. Andrew and Bill wanted to shop in the Cortina “Harrods”. It is a poor imitation of Harrods – but suitable for a small town like Cortina. While Andrew and Bill shopped I had a coffee (Americano) and tart in the very friendly restaurant we used yesterday. There is a very friendly atmosphere in Italian restaurants.
We then had dinner in a very nice restaurant – we all had pizza.
It was a most enjoyable day.

Posted by Tomheasley 01:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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