A Travellerspoint blog

Cinque Terre, Italy

Italian Riviera

sunny 26 °C
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We travelled by train from Arles - our first train left at 5:08 and took us to Marseille and then to Nice. From Nice we travelled to Genoa and finally Monterosso. Monterosso is the first of five towns of the Cinque Terre along an incredibly craggy coastline in the Italian Riviera. The whole area is a National Park and each of the towns are connected by hiking trails and railroads. Most areas of the towns are pedestrian only. When we arrived in Monterosso we were very thirsty but not hungry as we lunched all the way (10 hours) on our market purchases from Arles. We stopped for drinks before starting the 138 step climb to our room. At the top we found a terrace complete with beer and red and white wine on tap! We met a young couple from New York and stayed right there for the evening and ate the rest of our picnic lunch. About the time our train arrived a forest fire started in the hills between two of the towns. And from our terrace we could watch a plane swooping down to pick up water from the sea and circle around to dump it on the fire. We couldn't actually see the fire (just smoke) but when the plane would appear over the mountain in front of us it looked like it was going to fly right at us. Before we went to bed (very early) it looked like they may be getting it under control but over night it really got raging and they were still fighting it all the next day. We are pretty sure that it was under control before we left. The next morning we set out nice and early and got train tickets to explore the other four villages: Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The only one we didn't really get a good look at was Corniglia - I was a little intimidated by the 350 steps to the top plus a fairly long uphill grade before the steps. Apparently there is a shuttle bus but after a 35 minute wait we just moved on to Manarola where we had a great pizza lunch. When we returned to Monterroso we explored and shopped for food supplies to take home for another picnic on the terrace. Had a great time after meeting two more couples from USA. This was another great place and many people return. The place is not fancy but we were very comfortable and enjoyed visiting Manuel's dogs Nuit and Chico and Lorenzo even did our laundry!

Posted by 60somethin 06:28 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Arles France

French Riviera

sunny 26 °C
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Two flights and a train ride with only 2 surprises from Ryanair to the tune of 80 Euros we arrived in Arles fairly exhausted and starving to death. We found a restaurant and had a rib steak dinner that tasted fabulous. We found enough energy to walk to a local laundromat with a little fortification in our water bottles and actually had a blast talking to one of the locals. The next morning a huge street market set up right outside our hotel so we spent the entire morning taking in the sights and smells. We purchased lots of food and drink for our next journey. In the afternoon and evening we explored Arles. There are incredible Roman ruins. The amphitheatre or arena is well preserved, and ellipse shaped, with a 136 m long main axis and a 107 m smaller one. It was built between the 1st and 2nd century and could seat 20000 to 30000 people. It was used for gladiatorial events. Today the two lower tiers of 60 arches remain - the upper attic has disappeared but the arena is still used for festivals and bull fights. There is also a Roman Theatre which is the oldest monument in the town - started during the reign of Augustus and finished under Antony. There were many other 12th to 14th century buildings. Arles is where Van Gogh spent his most productive painting years and it is also where he cut off his ear and became very ill. The yellow house which he lived in and painted is right at the bottom of the ancient steps to the amphitheatre. This was another great destination and the French really know how to serve breakfast!

Posted by 60somethin 14:23 Archived in France Comments (0)

Barcelona (Catalunya)

sunny 32 °C
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We made our way from Acros to Jerez by bus to travel to Barcelona only to discover that my black berry had the correct flight schedule and our plane had already left! Oh boy. This 'little' mistake cost us 280 Euros and a missed sailing trip in Barcelona. Anyway we travelled by Spanair and made it to our hotel in Barcelona about 5:00 PM. Not much time to look around but we went tapas bar hopping in the Bari Gottic section (thanks to Rick Steves) and made it back to our room feeling pretty good and then decided to drink more of the bargain wine which we had found on our journey (too much). This morning we were off to our 4 hour bicycle tour to take in all the sights. We learned quite a bit of history about Catalonia which is a nation within Barcelona. The square where we started our bike tour had goverment defense buildings on two side - one for Catalonia and the other for Barcelona. They have their own language and a very long history. Both Spanish and Catalonian are recognized as official languages. We got a great look at most of the sights including Gaudi's famous Sagrada Famillia which has been under construction for over 100 years. He spent the last 40 years of his life on this project and living in the building and no one knows when (if ever) it will be finished but there is active construction ongoing at this time. We also travelled in the Eixample which mean extension. This area was designed after the city walls were taken down 5x. The walls were rebuilt each time to expand the city after 50-60% of the population of Barcelona died of the plague. Finally the walls were left down and this new area was designed to be open an airy with wide streets and containing blocks of housing sections that were fully self sufficient with parkland for each. We visited the port and had lunch and sangria on the beach in an area called Barceloneta - it is manmade beach that was created for the Olympics in 1992?? While we were having lunch a man we met from San Francisco was choking and Leigh had to give him the heimlic (sp) manoeuver. He was the hero of the day!! The guy looked terrified! After the bicycle tour we walked the Rambla which is a wide street that used to be the drainage ditch for the old city. It now has a huge pedestrian walkway down the middle and flower markets, living statues which move if you drop a coin in their bucket, street entainers, food, etc. etc. This is apparently the worst place in all of Europe for scam artists and pick pockets. We had no problem but did see some very shady looking characters especially in the giant outdoor market La Boqueria. We did a little grocery shopping their and we are now back at the hotel where we will have a room picnic and maybe a swim on the rooftop pool before going to bed for an early night. We leave tomorrow morning to catch a bus to the airport at 3:45 (and first we have to take a taxi to the station). On to the sunny south of France.

Posted by 60somethin 17:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

More About Arcos

Our favourite destination so far

sunny 30 °C
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We have never seen such beautiful views as we enjoyed in Acros. The old town is incredible and literally straight uphill (or down) with no level ground whatsoever. There is architecture there dating back to at least the 12th century and the partial town wall and entrance tower are even older. Our host Nick was excellent and accomodations breathtaking. I sought out physiotherapy in the new town on our last night and received a theraputic massage, ultrasound, and some kind of electronic therapy with heat lamp - immediately felt much worse! This continued throughout the next day BUT today I have had some relief!!!! While packing up for our departure the following morning we noticed a discrepancy between the itinerary in my black berry and the printed voucher for the flight. I tried to telephone Veuling but received no answer so we decided to trust the paperwork since I just printed it at the end of July. Mistake number 1!!! More about that later. Nick had invited us to share a glass of wine and visit once we were packed so since we were flying a couple of hours later than we initially thought we joined he and his friend Jurgen who had just arrived from Munich that evening. We had a great time and didn't go to bed until after 2:00 - that is a record for the trip. Usually we are so exhausted after our busy days that we are in bed quite early.

Posted by 60somethin 08:29 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Arcos de la Frontera

sunny 34 °C
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We are staying in the ancient part of the city high above.the new part of the town. This site was selected for its natural security from invasion by the Moors in the 12 and 13th century. Many of the original buildings are still here and everything is on a steep incline. The view is unbelievable from our room. Leigh is out to the market so we can have a picnic on the rooftop patio tonight. More later - missing everyone and love to all. Happy Birthday Ted!.

Posted by 60somethin 08:42 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

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