Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My friends, Jack & Chris...

They are such lovely people and I'm glad I have them in my life!  I've always wanted to put a picture or two or three ... (you get the drift) of their humble abode in London.

So cozy and very homely.  I've only managed to stay for a couple of nights at their place this time, but seriously, how cool is their pad??

I love the sitting area.. and Jack tends to change (remove or add) more cushions or different furnitures or more ornaments ;)

I miss you, London =(

Just came back from a week in London.  Boy!  It's been a while since my last visit, and I can't believe how much I've actually missed her.

Mind you, I do not miss the people, the crowded tube nor the 'smell'.  What I do miss is definitely the cheap eats (and good food to boot!), the sun (I can't believe I'm saying this about London!!  SUN!!) and the crowd.  I know, weird right?  I actually enjoyed wandering around on Oxford Street, manuevering around the many many people wandering lost around Oxford Street.

You know what the difference is between the people there and those in Sweden?  Here, if you are walking, people will purposefully walk into you.  No apologies, nothing!  They'll just walk straight at you, and it's you who have to move around them, which annoys me, as I'm quite small and when I'm not quick enough, I get hit quite often.  *ouch*

At least in London, people will tend to move around you, but please, I hate how lost tourists tend to stop in the middle of the street and get angry when they get pushed about. - especially during peak hour!  I remembered getting really annoyed with them when I was working back in London.  MOVE IT and don't just stop in the middle of the underground or in the middle of the street!

We'll be off to Uto this coming weekend for a few days.  Hopefully should be fun.  I think it's going to be dreadful weather here ;(


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Doing the Cinque Terre Trails

We managed to squeeze in a tour during our 3 days, 4 nights trip to Tuscany.  I have to say, this was quite an active holiday compared to our usual getaway.  It was a struggle climbing up those steps in the dome and bell tower when in Florence, and also climbing up more steps again in the bell tower in Siena.

So much walking, and to be honest, I was really worried as we were doing the Cinque Terre Trails the next day, when my legs were slightly wobbly.  But, you know what, I'm glad we did a more active holiday - climbing up stairs (instead of having a nice stroll around), wandering around and grabbing food at any cafes/restaurants (instead of booking into a michelin restaurant and dining in there with 8 - 10 taster course).  and no shopping at all!!  except for some glorious Italian food e.g. pasta, cured sausages, biscottis and what not, which we lugged home on the plane =)

Cinque Terre trail was quite beautiful as we had to hike through 5 little villages on the rugged part of the Italian Riviera coastline in the region of Liguria.  It has been declared a World Heritage by the UNESCO.  The only way to go through them is via those rustic trails and boats.  There is also a train now which was installed about a century ago, which connects the five villages, but seriously, why sit in the train when you could walk from one village to the next and admire the beauty, both natural and manmade.

Unfortunately, there was a really bad flood back in October 2011, and although most of the villages have since recovered, I found the village most devastated by the flood and is still recovering is Vernazza.  Cognilia on the other hand is the only one of the village which is unaffected as it sits on a promontory about 100 meters high from the sea and getting to it, you have to climb a total of 382 steps..

Anyhow, The 7am wake up call was not too nice, but we did not want to miss the tour a second time.  We did our tour with Walkabout Florence.  There were about 20 something people in our tour and our tour guide was Stefano, who was charming and funny throughout the whole trip.  Let's not forget the "Hello, my name is Stefano.  I'm 29 years old" line he kept repeating ;)  There were quite a few one liners he used which were hilarious!  But seriously, I couldn't recommend Walkabout Florence highly enough!  If you need a tour when you are in Florence, seriously use them!!

Our guide, Stefano.  Not too shabby right?!

It takes 2hours or so to drive from Florence (with 1 pit stop) to get to Manarola (where we end the tour at) .. The bus drove us high up to the cliff, through winding cliffs, where we saw some spectacular scenery from inside the bus.    It finally drops us at the National Park where we had to hike to Cognilia

Hiking through Manarola

Passing through the town

Walking along the rugged paths


Gorgeous view of the coastal line..

High above...

Walking Trails
Finally arriving to Corniglia (where we'll come back to later to catch the train to the next village)
Climbing up the 382 steps to get to the top (I wasn't too bad... Wasn't the last one to arrive, so, it's all good ;) )

Looking down

Further up and looking down (we'll be taking the same pathways after lunch!)

Yay!  Made it!!  It wasn't too hard to be honest.. =)


I think it was about 2 hours hike from Manarola to Cognilia

Cognilia is world famous for their pesto where it first originated

Walking towards lunch...

Beautiful view...

Our restaurant for lunch

Starter was seafood (where these were freshly caught from the town!)  There's mussels, squids, octopus, and even potato and mashed potato and some fried bread.  Was a tasty combination

Our main was pesto pasta - the 'best' pesto pasta you'll ever eat (Stefano's line).  but they were delicious.  We were told this is the only place where they have potatoes and green beans in their pasta.

from Cognilia, we caught the train to Vernazza and continue our hike

The village is still badly affected by the flood

Lots of constructions everywhere, but these steps still look pretty servicable

Constructions everywhere

As we continue our journey to the next town..

Vernazza is known as one of the prettiest villages in Italy and it is the only natural harbour in the Cinque Terre

Love the view from above..

Rugged steps.. but still steps nonetheless!

We continue to the next town

Our next town is Monterosso Al Mare - where we spent most of our spare time exploring the little town

That's Monterosso al Mare (from far far away.. I had to zoooom in with my lense)

Continuing our journey, walk walk walk..

Monterosso Al Mare is famous for wines or lemon drinks

Narrow path ways

After a few hours hiking, we finally arrived at our destination..

Playing with our shadows

Looking back

The town

Enoteca Internazionale - The oldest wine shop here in Monterosso

Afternoon tea..  Loads of cheeses and meat!

and finally running off to our next transportation - ferry, which will take us all the way back to Riomaggiore

Leaving the town behind

One last look back
Vernazza - where we drop off passengers and pick up more passengers onto the ferry

Vernazza from the sea

The line waiting to get on the ferry

Our next stop was Corniglia... View from the ferry

Notice how the town is the only one which sits at the top.

Manarola is to the left, and is connected to Riomaggiore (right) by the Via dell'Amore ("Lover's Lane")


Disembarked from the ferry and off we go again

Looking back and down at people disembarking

Walking through Riomaggiore to our next destination

Lover's Lane signs =)

The start of Via dell'Amore - Lovers Lane

You'll notice lots of padlocks everywhere

Looking down...

Further ahead

Lovers lane...

Passing by a coffee shop on the way

Approaching Manarola

Manarola Station

Where we caught the train back to where our bus was waiting... and onwards to our journey home..

The tour was really enjoyable but quite tiring.  It went from 8am and when we finally arrived into Florence it was nearly 9pm.

Where we had to rush to get back to the hotel and grab our car and drove all the way to Pisa (which was nearly 1.5hours drive) to return our car at the airport before crashing at our B&B in Pisa..

That's it for the day! =)