Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Kefalonia. September 2010

A few images from my trip to Kefalonia in September. They are not in any particular order!

Me and my best friend at cocktail hour!

Agia Efemia, a pretty little village where we stopped for lunch on our tour of the island.
A view of Fiskardo, a resort where, apparently, the rich and famous moor their floating gin palaces!

The church of St Gerasimos, the patron saint of Kefalonia. Here followeth a brief history lesson!
When he first came to Kefalonia he spent 5 years living in a cave! This church was built around it, and the cave can still be seen, but it looks as if it's used more as a mini storeroom nowadays!

The body of St Gerasimos is guarded and protected in aglass and silver sarcophagus at the monastery he founded. The body has never decomposed! After his death he was exhumed twice and found to be intact, thus leading the church to ordain him as a saint. Apparently the body is actually displayed at certain times, but only to those of the Greek Orthodox persuasion.

The altar screen in the monastery church. The high altar in Greek Orthodox churches is so sacred that only priests are allowed to see it or go near it. Hence the highly ornate screen.

Myrtos beach, supposedly the most photographed beach in Europe. Access to it is via that zig-zag road that can be seen on the right.

Melissani lake. We were rowed around it and into the cave. It was once completely underground, till the roof caved in!

Finari lighthouse near Argostoli the island's capital.

And now just 3 pictures of where we stayed. As you can see it's quite high up... a half mile relatively steep hill down to the village!

Add Image The pool bar in the evening.

The view from our appartment.

The pool! Taken in the early evening, so no people to spoil the view!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Day Trip to Bath

A couple of weeks ago I decided to take myself off to Bath in Somerset. I'd been told it's a lovely city, steeped in history, and as it's only a 90 minute train ride from Paddington, I thought I'd treat myself!

A short walk from the train station brought me to the River Avon. The bridge in the background is called Pulteney Bridge and it's only one of four bridges left in the world with shops across the full span on both sides. I didn't get to see it any closer than this, so it's top of my list for the next trip!

My main reason for visiting bath was to see the Roman baths, built by the Romans on the site of the only hot springs in Britain. I like this view from inside the baths as you can also see the Cathedral. (Another thing on my list for next time.)

The bath is lined with 45 sheets of lead and filled withhot spa water.

This is the actual spring. Hot water at 46deg C rises here at the rate of 240,000 gallons (1,170,ooo litres) every day, and has been doing thisfor thousands of years. This is called the Sacred Pool as the Romans believed it was the work of the gods so they built a temple around the spring, dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva a deity they believed had healing powers.
In case you didn't know, the Roman name for Bath was Aquae Sulis!

This is a detail from the original temple.

This is the spring overflow. The Roman plumbing and drainage system is still largely in place. Lead pipes were used to carry the hot spa water around the site using gravity flow. Dam clever those Romans!
The spring overflow is where surplus water, not used in the baths flows out into a roman drain. The drain still carries all the spa water to the river Avon 400m away.

There was a lot more to the baths than I have pictures of, but was really interesting.
I wanted to see the famous Pump Room which was regarded as the social heart of Bath for more than 200 years. It figures heavily in most of Jane Austen's wonderful Regency novels. Unfortunately it's now a very expensive restaurant so I didn't get to look inside!

I headed instead to the Assembly Rooms which also feature in Jane Austen's works. They were used in Regency times for dancing, card playing, tea drinking, conversation and generally seeing and being seen. Now of course they are just big empty rooms, but I just liked this reflection of one of the beautiful chandeliers.
Last stop before finding food and coming home was the world famous Royal Crescent, a stunning piece of Georgian architecture. There are 30 houses in the Crescent, one of which is now the Royal Crescent Hotel (very expensive!), and Number 1 is open to the public. (another for next time!) I was just a bit disappointed with the Crescent cos it looks like it could do with a good clean, it looks a bit dingy!! Sorry the pic is so narrow... it's a panorama I stitched together from 4 individual shots.
That was my last stop, and I wandered back into the town centre doing a bit of window shopping along the way! The shops are gorgeous, little and boutique-y, and expensive!!
A nice meal on the terrace at Garfunkels completed my day! I shall go back again soon when hopefully there will be fewer tourists about!!

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Travels in Europe Part 2

Ok, to continue.....

A few more pics of Venice....

St Mark's square

The High altar in St Mark's Cathedral
St Mark's Cathedral was much smaller than I'd expected, and they made you keep walking round, you weren't allowed to sit down or explore at your leisure. Photography was not allowed, but as you see I sneaked one from waist level!

Grand Canal
Again, this was just how I'd pictured it! If you disregard the modern boats and shops etc, it's easy to imagine how it was when Canaletto painted it.

More gondolas awaiting customers!

Bridge of Sighs.
Much smaller and more insignificant looking than I'd expected, not helped by the fact that the buildings on either side are being renovated!
The trip back to the campsite was as relaxing as the outward journey. We stopped for a couple of beers in Chioggia and people-watched for a whilebefore going back to the campsite for the evening's entertainment and more beer!
Day 4 Saturday.
After all the sightseeing and beer drinking of yesterday, we decided to have a quiet day, so we wandered into Chioggia, had coffee and lunch and explored a bit, before going back for the Parade of Nations. This is where all the bikes gather behind their respective national flags and do a mass ride into and around the town.It's always great fun, much hooting of horns and waving of flags and all the townsfolk and tourists come out to watch and wave back! Unfortunately I didn't get any pics of it!! Sorry!
Day 5 Sunday.
It took us ages to get packed up and ready to roll! It was incredibly hot and humid even at 6 am and the slightest movement had us drenched in sweat!
Eventually we were sorted and said our goodbyes to friends old and new, some of whom we would see the following weekend in Austria.
Our original plan had been to ride straight to Austria, but we changed our minds and decided that it would be nice to visit Slovenia for a day or two
The first thing we noticed was how green a country it is! Despite the heat, nothing was turning brown and crispy like it does here! we found a terrific campsite just outside the capital, Ljubljana...lots of shade, a nice bar and restaurant and best of all a brilliant toilet block (no portaloos!!)
Days 6 and 7.
We spent the next 2 days exploring Ljubljana.....

River Sava

Ljubljana castle

Fantastic view from the Castle

Day 8. Lubljana to Salzburg.
A 4 hour ride took us through the mountains and into Austria. After a slight hiccup with directions we found the village of Hallwang and the Treffen site. Camping was in a huge field with not a shady tree in sight! The rest of the treffen sight, where the food, showers and entertainment were, was a 5 minute walk away!
We decided to walk into the village that evening as the Treffen didn't officially start till the following day. We found some friends from Italy there and hate a very pleasant dinner accompanied by plenty of beer and good "craic" as the irish call it!
Day 9.
Woke up feeling like I needed a new hip! Our airbed had completely deflated during the night, and the ground underneath it was decidedly lumpy! It was decided that it wasn't fixable, so we rode out into the local area to see if we could find ashop to get anew one. Luckily we found a camping shop not too far away and bought a new airbed, plus a new chair, as the one I'd been using had collapsed in Italy! (Remarks were made about the weight it had had to bear!!)
As it was such a hot day we spent the afternoon and evening in the bar area chatting with friends.
Day 10.
Spent the day in Salzburg. Saw as many of the sightsaswe could. My previous visit to that city was in 1963 but it was much as I remembered it!

River Salzach

An interesting sculpture! That's a statue on the top, not a
real person!

Salzburg's most famous son, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!

Ooops, posted same pic twice.... I'll remove it when I've figured out how!

Fortress Hohensalzburg
We took a ride on the funicular up to the fortress. Beautiful views from up there, and lots to see and do too.

View from the top!
Day 11.
Another very hot day, so we set off to find a lake for a swim! Over lunch in a lovely litlle Gasthof, we got talking to some people from Vienna and they said that the temperatures for the following week were going to be in the region of 38 to 40C! After hearing that we thought that maybe we wouldn't carry on to the Czech Treffen, as camping in that heat with no shade would be just a bit too much for both of us!
I had my swim, wonderfully refreshing, and a snooze under a shady tree!
The evening's entertainment proved to be great fun! A bit of traditional Austrian dancing, then 5 guys in traditional costume chopping logs in time to music!! The guy nearest us was very enthusiastic in his chopping and we got covered in wood chips!
Days 12 and 13.
Time to pack up and hit the road again! we motored on through Germany, and stopped for the night in a hotel near Ludwigshafen. it was a bit more expensive than we'd have liked, but after 2 weeks in a tent, a bit of luxury didn't go amiss!!
The last day saw us stopping in Luxembourg for cheap tobacco, and arriving in Calais by 6.30p. I wasn't too happy about having to fork out another €30 just cos we were changing our booking, especially as it was an open return!
Anyway, that's my travels in Europe by motorbike!!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

My travels in Europe

Quite a few people have asked about my recent travels with my bf on his motorbike, so I decided to do this blog! It was going to be quite a long one, but due to recent events over the last 3 weeks I got a bit disenchanted with it, so I decided to just cut it down to pictures and a bit less text!

Day 1. Dover to Mulhouse (France)

Our destination that first day was Mulhouse in the SW corner of France near the Swiss border. We made it by about 5pm, found our Formule 1 hotel tucked away on a trading estate, had avery welcome shower, something to eat, a couple of beers, and fell, somewhat knackered, into bed!

Day 2 Mulhouse to Chioggia.

We got underway about 9after a nice french brekky, and blasted ourway to the Swiss border. The frontier guards are not the most welcoming in the world! Asked if we had a ticket (ie a vignette), we said no and were told very sharply "Over there!" it was around £39 for a vignette allowing us to use the Swiss roads! It's valid for a full year, which is fine if you are intending to return, but I reckon it's a bit steep if you're just passing through!

Anyway off we set through lovely mountain scenery, and as we climbed it got thankfully a bit cooler!

Rest stop in Switzerland.

It would have been more spectacular to ride over the mountains rather than through them, but 1) Goldwings are not designed to cope with hairpin bends, especially when heavily loaded, and 2)Tony doesn't do heights! The AA route we'd planned took us through the Gotthard Tunnel, which is 17km long, and after about halfway it gets very hot and a bit claustrophobic, so we were glad to see the light at the end! Soon after that we crossed into Italy and found that it's true what they say about Italian drivers, they really are a bit crazy!

At one fuel stop we met a bunch of other bikers and had quite a jovial chat.

Fellow bikers!

The autostrada past Milan was a nightmare!
As we were having yet another cold drink at a service station, a small convoy of Wingers arrived, so we decided to tag along behind them as two of them had Sat-navs! We arrived in Chioggia via around trip of the town (blame the Sat-navs!), registered for the Treffen (which is what European Goldwing rallies are called, from the german word "treffen - to meet"), and set about finding a spot to pitch our tent. Unfortunately all the shady spots under trees were taken! that accomplished, it was food and beer time!

The whole Treffen area was very well organised... it was on a sports field on an island in the middle of the town! Thus it was very compact and everything waswithin easy reach... beer, food, entertainment, showers and portaloos (yuck!)

There was a live band on in the big tent that evening, more than a few beers were consumed and some old friends re-met. Slept like logs!

Day 3 Friday.

The day dawned very hot and humid! We decided to take ourselves off to Venice for the day. We sought advice on the best way to get there and off we went. The journey was very interesting.. first a boat, then a bus, then the bus went on a mini ferry, then a bit further on land to Venice Lido, then another boat! Very leisurely, and very well timed too, no waiting in between buses and boats!

View of Chioggia from the boat

First sight of Venice.

This was my first ever visit to Venice, so I had high hopes! I was not disappointed, it was everything I had expected and more! The only blot was the huge number of tourists in large groups in St Mark's Square, all following their guides! It wasalso very hot but we found shade by exploring all the little streets and canals. No gondola ride.. too expensive! The shops were brilliant and I was wishing I had a few thousand Euros to spare and the means of getting stuff home!! Handbags, clothes, shoes and above all the beautiful Murano glass!

Just one Cornetto!

Here endeth part one!