Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ein, zwei, drei, bier!

Perhaps it will be one of the last chances for us to have a weekend apart before the wedding (except for the fact that we are flying to australia on different dates!), as Tom has kindly headed east with his trusty sidekick Maarten for the biggest beer party in the world. I wouldn't have minded going, just for the novelty factor, but beer isn't really my thing, plus, my final piece of assessment is due on Friday next week, and I need to send it on Monday, still with too much to do! So now, I have found all possible nooks and crannies needing to be cleaned, all clothes have been washed, I will probably start vacuuming and mopping later, all in the good name of procrastination. I don't think I will quite make it to the ironing - so when this is all that remains, perhaps the review will be the lesser of two evils...

I hope not to get any drunken phonecalls in the following few evenings, but look forward to the photos which he will bring back with him!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Dové é toilette?

First Pizza of our trip

The Grand Canale of Venice

Cycling through Ravenna (UNESCO world heritage site)

Tom and David: spot the difference

Shortly after our last post, we wandled back to our hotel, only to have one of the most wonderful evenings of our trip. It's funny how you can see all the cathedrals, castles, statues, architecture etc. you like, yet you don't really experience a truly memorious time until you chat with a local for hours!

The guy working on reception happened to be fantastic in English, and as we entered the hotel, we asked him about a rally happening down the street. He mentioned that there was a left-wing activist rally occurring, which got us onto politics, Italy, Berlusconi, Alitalia and life in general. An hour or so later, we found ourselves in the hotel bar chatting like old buddies. It almost felt a shame to leave him and head up to bed. I wish we had a photo of him, or spent more time in Bologna, but he has given us his card, so we will definitely go back to visit.

The following day, we drove up to Garda Lake (largest lake in Italy) along with the rest of Germany and Holland and their toddler children. While we had a fantastic deal in the most massive camping ground I had ever seen, and some glorious warm weather, I don't think I would go back again, purely because it was a catchment for young families, with small kids screaming at 7am. Yes, I sound selfish, but I enjoyed more of the real Italy. We went for a few drives around the lake, with some beautiful sites, but after some time, you become used to the old buildings and sick of the crowds. After two nights, we found ourselves heading back towards Venice via Verona.

Made famous via Shakespear, Verona also appeared to be a tourist magnet - disgustingly just around Juliet's house, while the rest of the city was quite vacant (a little like the Mona Lisa at the louvre). Our last night was back at the original camping, this time we asked for a discount in  larger cabin, away from the school and contiki groups! This however worked against us once again... after meeting some fantastic Aussie guys at 4pm touring the world over 6 months, and 7 hours later, we crashed in our beds, only to be awaken an hour or so later by the couple in the other half of the cabin: First having a blue, then the make-up pounding, drunken sex, then the toilet trips, then the showers, then the movie on their laptop (turned up full-blast). By the time this was done, we had around an hour or two sleep before our 5am wakeup... not happy campers...

Had a great trip, but the highlights were:
* Sitting down in Venice, dangling legs in the ocean. Who knows how long venice will still be there?
* Getting free bikes in Ravenna and cycling through the streets
* Having our one classy dinner in Marina Di Ravenna and being waited on hand and foot by an Indian guy with broken english/italian/indian in the most gorgeous seafood restaurant we'd ever seen.
* Playing on the beach
* The old Italian hospitality in Florence: Very old couple in the two star hotel who fell over backwards to help us
* Our friend at Hotel Maxim in Bologna
* Meeting Ben and Rod at Fusina Camping grounds on our last night

Strange how nothing includes the sites, but from my small amount of experience, I have found that the people I meet are far more interesting than the aesthetic beauty. Perhaps I haven't been to the most beautiful places though...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quanto Costa Per Favore?

Next checkpoints in Italy: Florence (+ Tuscany) and Bologna...

As we drove out of lovely sunny Ravenna, the rain clouds started gathering over the ENTIRE Italy, only to hit on us just as we entered the A1 heading south to the absolutely picturesque area of Tuscany. We arrived in Florence just as the rain cleared, but the GPS decided to direct us through the city centre (we punched in the name of a hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet), so we must have looked like absolute wankers driving through the pedestrian filled streets! Finally we just found a random park and checked into the nearest 2-star (very good in my books) and talked them down from a whopping 70 euros to 55. Florence turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous city, but the "holiday" idea was short lived when the predominant language heard was English (and American at that). I for one was quite happy just to stay a day and head off somewhere quieter.

This morning we drove around Tuscany a little and wound up in a small Chianti producing region nestled in mountainous landscapes known as Rufina. We managed to have our own personal wine tasting, and are now naturally 3 bottles of Chianti heavier... to store in our wine cellar....erhm!

We are now in Bologna, so have naturally had the bolognese for dinner while marvelling at the redness of the city! Of course, more photos will follow just to demonstrate how red it actually is! Once again, tom managed to talk the hotel receptionist down 30euros from the original price, but this time we are in a 3 star hotel! Perhaps by the time we leave, we will be staying in a 5 star for only 50euros... Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow we are heading to the city state of Verona, staying at lake Garda, so fingers crossed that the weather finally clears up! We do want to have a tiny bit more colour when we head back to Belgium on Thursday...

ciao until next time!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Venice and Ravenna

No photos just yet, however our vacation has officially begun! We flew into Treviso, found our hire car and headed off to the small coastal port of Fusina (25 min boat ride from Venice) to be greeted by our worst nightmare: Loads of Contiki travellers and an italian school trip. So, whilst the camping ground was lovely, quaint etc. VERY little sleep was achieved on our first two nights...

Venice was spectacular - I know everyone will probably say the same thing, but there is something unbelievably charming about an entire village (?city) on water. All the canals have street names and the only means of transport is via the water! Just out of curiosity, I asked a handsome young gondolier (very distinguished in their stripy tops and straw hats) how much it was to take a lovely ride in a gondola - BUT 80 euros was a teensy bit out of our budget. Next time maybe..

We are now staying in Ravenna (actually, the seaside hideaway approx 10km away) and it is so lovely. An UNESCO world heritage listed site, we found our way around with the "complementary bikes" the tourist office had to offer. Not the top quality sort (toms chain fell off twice, mine once) but enough to keep us smiling.

Tomorrow off to Florence, although a little hesitant to leave the glorious seaside behind; More to follow... stay tuned!