A Travellerspoint blog

Loire Valley

1st-3rd May

-17 °C

Hi, its the old fella's turn.
When we arrived in Paris on our way to the Valley, once again another challenge arrived when we became aware that out train to Tours departed from a different station. Rather than have an hour and a half for a coffee etc, we had to catch two different Metro lines to get to Mountparnasse station. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare!!!!! ( This is becoming a daily event). We travelled for about an hour then caught a 5 minute trf train to Tours, waited about an hour then travelled for a further 50 mins to Saumur. We arrived at the station with no-one to collect us. Yes I received some grief. After a few minutes Michaela appeared with a sign and we were off. The accom was about 20k's from Saumur in the valley. Michaela and Sue had elected for a sea change, and decided to start a b&b, accom with wine tours. Michaela ran her own software company in the UK and Sue was in the Wine Industry. La Grande Maison, was a beautiful old small winery, surrounded by a stone wall, with a number of small buildings that had been converted into accom etc. We settled in then went for a walk through the vineyards to a small village, with dogs barking and chickens making the only noise.
That evening we were joined by another couple from London staying for about 5 days, in a special dinner accompanied by local wines. Experience was wonderful, except for the first course of baked egg in a cheese sauce, which took a while to get over!!!
The next morning we cycled into another larger village, visited the church which is linked to the Notre Dame in other regions. We then bought bread, cheese and wine and cycled back for lunch. Later in the afternoon Michaela & Sue were heading into Saumur, so offered us the opportunity to visit the shops and Castle for about 90 mins.It was the first REAL castle that we had seen with moat, bridge etc. Village was full of shops, of course. That evening we walked back to the village (approx 2 km's) for dinner at the only restaurant. George and Sal joined us, and we enjoyed another beautiful local meal. Luckily they had a car, as when we left to go home, there were no street lights, moon or stars to guide us if we had to walk.
Unfortunately we had to leave the next day, so had a lazy start, had a tour of the cellars:caves which we did not know existed at La Grande Maison, then onto the station heading for 5 days in Paris.
Au Revoir for now.

Posted by sparscott 02:58 Comments (0)

Nice - Monaco - Marseille

29th April - 1st May

-17 °C

Bonjour,
My patience is being tested today on a French keyboard. I have typed this 5 times as keep losing it because I am pressing the wrong key!! Slow learner.
We spent the afternoon doing a hop on hop off tour and really enjoyed this one. We got to go up the hill and have a great view of Nice. We were also taken into the residential area and saw some great villas! After the tour we went for a walk down the promenade and could not get over the beach. It is not until you come away that you really appreciate what we take for granted in Australia. People were sunbaking on what we thought was a cool day. They were lying on rocks and pebbles! The beach was crowded. We ate in the busy part and had an enjoyable meal.
The next day we were up early to catch a train to Monaco. We had to be back by 2pm as our train was leaving for Marseille at 3.50pm.
Monaco is very pretty. They have a new train station and it is very elaborate. We walked to the palace and as only we could, we walked the long way. We saw the changing of the guards and did an audio tour of the palace. As to be expected it was very beautiful. We had lunch outside the palace taking in the beautiful view of the harbour. We also did a train tour of the city. We did not get to visit inside the casino as was on the other side and to walk would have made us late for the train.
Walking back to the train once again we saw more of Monaco than planned. It is very hilly and we kept going up and couldn't find a road to take us down. We new we were close, it didn't help that the railway station from the outside doesn't look like a railway station!
A big problem when we arrived because we found out their was a rail strike and our train to Nice had being cancelled and the next one was not due until 4.00pm. Quick thinking got us on a bus that arrived at the good old bus station an hour before our train left but then we had the task of getting a taxi. No easy feat in Nice! We got to the train station 5 mins before our train left.
We arrived in Marseille and caught a taxi to the hotel. Thanks to the girls we were not staying around the train station. Marseille reminded us of Naples. We ate at a great little French restaurant a short walk from the hotel and really enjoyed the atmosphere. french music playing in the background and lots of fun ordering as the menu was all in French! We left Marseille early the next day for the Loire Valley. Interesting our taxi to the hotel was 20euro and 10euro from the hotel to the station!!

Posted by sparscott 02:27 Comments (0)

Venice

26..27th April.

-17 °C

Departed Florence by train, arrived Venice approx 1pm, without incident. As you walk out of the station, you are greeted by the magnificent view of the main canal, with its many ferries and gondolas. After asking directions, we boarded a ferry which travelled along the main canal, to our hotel. After alighting we climbed many steps up then down, luggage in hand. Sandra remained with the luggage and I endeavoured to locate the hotel. It turned out that it was directly across the canal, so after a few more steps, we arrived.
The hotel was small, but very venetian in its decor. Only issue no lift and we were on the 3rd floor. After booking in, headed out to discover what was on offer. Located in the various lanes were the most shops that I have seen outside of Roma, focus upon local glass creations and leather. We had dinner close to our hotel, right on the waterfront, watching the world go by...beautiful.
Next day we headed off to book our passage to Nice, as system broken the first day. We were informed that all trains full on the 28th from Milan to Nice. Plan b....plane, all booked. Plan C..bus. After some frustration we had to discover where to book the bus, eventually having to travel back into Venice mainland to book. A story in itself. Result being travel to Milan by train, then a 5 hr bus ride to Nice. Only problem, is that the bus did not leave until 7pm. Once booked we headed off by ferry to St Marks Square, to enjoy the magnificent Cathedral and Palace. Enjoyed some lunch and drinks in the sunny square, people watching then travelled back to hotel to get luggage and move to our next hotel. Back on the ferry to the central area, then a 30 min Gondola ride. very enjoyable and scenic.
Dinner then back to next hotel, which was closer to the station as we had a very tight timetable.
The trip continues.......

Posted by sparscott 02:52 Comments (6)

Nice (getting there).

29/4/07

-17 °C

The story continues.
We caught the train from Venice to Milan without incident.(First time that we had to share our cabin, train was completely full).
Arrived at Milan station, huge building, massive actually and extremely busy.
Again asked directions, finally understanding that we had to go downstairs to the underground, and travel on one line for about 7 stops, then change to another line for a further 7 stops to reach our bus terminal.
No problems quite straightforward in the end.
Arrived at bus station at 2.30 with bus leaving at 7.00pm.
Luckily we had lunch at the main station, as not much on offer.
Bus Ok but seats not very comfy, stopped at Genova for 45 mins , so had something to eat.
Encountered the French Police at the border checking passengers and passports, no issues. Finally arriving in Nice at 12.30, with the help of a local obtained a taxi, and found hotel.
Hotel in a very good location, in between the sea and station.
No trains to Monaco today only buses, but fully booked with many tourists, due to long weekend, so we will go tomorrow.
Weather beautiful, clear blue sky, lovely city.
Heading for lunch and some local sightseeing.
Bye for now......

Posted by sparscott 02:50 Comments (0)

Florence

25/04/2007.

-17 °C

Hi again,
The last page should obviously have been titled Napoli. Silly me jumped ahead. Anyway to finish off in Napoli, we arose early on the 23rd and caught a taxi to the station, although my better half at a moment of weakness suggested that we walk with our luggage. (Yeah right). We caught train, however was late departing and had to change at Roma, making our arrival in Firenze an hour late. Luckily with the assistance of our booking office in Glen Osmond, (SJ & Jenna) our hotel was within a hundred metres of the station. Upon arrival we were initially informed that we did not have a booking. However the desk staff were helpful and advised that a room was available and that we could sought out the $$ later. By the time we completed the paperwork, confirmation of our booking appeared.
Room was comfortable and much larger than Roma, however we dont think that it makes the 4 star grade.
After dropping luggage we headed off to do the proverbial on/off bus trip to familiarise ourselves with the city. What a beautiful place with the tour taking in the narrow streets full of tourists and then over the bridge to the more scenic larger historical gardens and buildings. We then alighted and booked for a Tuscany Tour the next day. Many shops were then visited (predominately shoe shops for you know who), with a purchase being made. We then enjoyed a beautiful dinner in a piazza, walked home past markets markets markets.
A small sleep in, followed by a satisfactory Italian breakfast, then into the I`Net cafe and attempted further acc bookings. Then followed the bus tour to Tusacany...Chianti.
There were approx 50 on the tour / double decker bus, and a guide providing much information re the history of the area. We stopped at a castle which produces its own wine and olive oil. We toured the underground cellars and then enjoyed a wine tasting of 4 varieties.
Following a scenic route and more information, we alighted to walk up a very steep drive to a church with magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
At this point we were all ready to eat, and our next stop was a family restaurant, where we enjoyed various pastas, pork, beans and sausages...with a terimi sui ???? for desert. This was aided by some red wine from the region.
An hour more and we were back in town, many asleep on the way. A very enjoyable outing.
This morning, breakfast, then onto the train destined for PISA.
The trip took approx 1hr 15 minutes, followed by about a 30 min walk to the "Tower" and surrounding historical buildings..one of course being a church of the large variety.
Mandatory photo`s taken of holding/pushing the tower although the tower must have moved as ours did not quite work out.!!
Back on the train, phone call to the girls (accom booking office), then went looking for the Museum to see the Statue of David.
After another long walk we located the non-descript building and I must say a very impressive statue indeed. There were many other works by Michelangelo both finished and unfinished, apparently he is on leave.
We then tried to make our way back to update our "blog", but yes I got us semi-lost again. Nevermind we are still ...speaking.
Many more markets along the way.
Dinner next, then off to Venice in the morning.
Catch you later with more snit bits. Ciao.

Posted by sparscott 10:06 Comments (2)

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