A Travellerspoint blog

Italy

Tuscany

sunny 27 °C

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Tuscany is everything that we imagined it would be! Fields of sunflowers, amazing food, friendly locals, classic villas and did I mention the great food! Easily our new favourite place. We're moving there and if we can't manage that then at the very least it is on the 'places to own a bach list'.

If you hadn't guessed by now we had a great holiday with Ness and Deac -The perfect mix of relaxing and touristing it.

We did have a bit of a rough start with shaz loosing it ginger style at the car rental guys who didn’t understand that giving us a dirty car with no fuel wasn’t acceptable and then lying about refunding the money. Long story short Shaz argued the point for about an hour before we ended up with the same car. Then we got to the villa to meet our host Boris who was drunk and offered to drive us to the market. Thankfully we said we would follow in our car as he spent a good deal of the time on the wrong side of the road. Welcome to Italy!

But things picked up the next day with a trip around Pisa. Our villa was only 30min from Pisa so very handy. Spent our first day wandering around the streets and of course checked out the leaning tower. It is quite funny as there are hundreds of tourists doing the same 'push the tower over' pose everywhere. So we made up some other options with Ness and Deac taking it to another level (and starting a trend).304__800x600_.jpg

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Highlights would have to be:

Volterra

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A great little hill town (where the second twilight book and movie is set). We hadn’t seen the movie or read the book but Ness' cuzie was mad keen and we soon all got into the re-enactment of the movie - especially where Bella (played by Fran) saves Edward (played by Gaz) in the exact spot where she does in the movie. Unfortunately the fountain isn’t really there so Bella couldn’t run through it.

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Vamphire Gaz in the actual ally that he is saved in the movie.

Also the best eats of the trip - and that is a hard call. Shaz won 'plate envy' for both courses and dish of the day - Yeah!!

Deac and Gaz either scared or entertained the locals when they got on a massive coffee high and danced bollywood styles in the street, as you can see Ness is more embarrassed than impressed:

Cinque Terre

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What a beautiful stretch of coast! But some extremely terrifying driving (even by Italian standards). Gaz had about 18 heart attacks and has aged 20 years. But we did survive and 'Jake (pronounced Yak) the Muse' was undamaged. Most common saying of the trip would have to be 'forget about it - its in the past' and it was usually in reference to the driving.

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This was one crazy carving - I didnt really notice it until I was swimming and looked up.

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Busti

For our last day we decided to chill around the villa and visit some of the local villages. Turned out to be one of the best days of the trip (tough compitition). We found a great little resurant overlooking the valley with an Irish waiter - Ian. After a great long lunch finished with some lemoncello (Ma Thorn and Till you would of loved it) we headed off to find Ian's recommended local deli. Unfortunately, following the directions werent as easy as expected, but we pulled into a roadside bar and outpoored the locals to help. One got in his lorrey and told us to follow him and he lead us right there - most helpful!

And it didnt disappoint! Have no idea how long we stayed trying out all the different meats, cheeses and wine. They didnt have a word of English but we got along with made up words and gestures. Some locals came in to watch the show. Ended up with a great feast and "we love the busti" was the quote of the night.

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Posted by Gaz n Shaz 09:20 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Christmas 08

France and Luxemburg

overcast -5 °C

20 December 08
First Stop - 3 nights in Paris!! What a city of contrasts amazingly beautiful yet so dirty... We loved wondering the streets window shopping, perusing the arts and tasting the vino in little street cafes.

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Stayed in a little hotel right near the Arc de Triomphe. What an ordeal finding accommodation in Paris that has good reviews. We were just off the Champs Elysées so handy to everything and easy to navigate. It was done up very pretty for xmas with markets and lights etc.

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Arc de Triomphe

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Champs Elysées

Visited the Louvre - massive! The building and grounds are as amazing as the art. Visited the Mona Lisa - nearly lost an eye when shaz turned round into a camera lens. There are just masses of people taking photos that you can’t even get close to look at it. Also visited the Venus de Milo - the two of them are the compulsory visits it seems - all the signs point to them.

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Also called into the Modern Art Gallery - would definitely recommend it! Much more our thing than the Louvre. Crazy seeing the originals of pictures we studied at school.

Didn't go up the Eiffel Tower but sat in the park and watched the lights come on - so romantic yet saw no proposals - maybe they only happen at the top...

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Mostly spent our time cruising round the streets, trying out a variety of vinos and people watching.

23 December 08
Spenny has arrived and we even managed to get out of Paris in the rental car. Bit stressful and witnessed an accident (then argument) between a bus and car before we had even left the airport. Spenny and Gaz did well driving on the right (most of the time) though Gaz did try to change gears and grabbed his left knee a couple of times and for a while there couldn't handle turning left.

But we made it to our Gite in the Loire Valley in one piece. And what a beautiful secluded spot we got.

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24 December 08
Yah Bridget has arrived!! And we managed (just) to do some shopping for Christmas dinner - shopping in France is one experience I don't think I will try to relive. The boys spent half an hour trying to decipher what type of bird was which and we couldn't find most of the ingredients for Spenny's desert.

25 December 08
Champagne and fresh French croissants - what a way to start the day. A lot of eating and drinking was had in front of the open fire. And a new game was invented - 'Scrabinary' (patent pending).

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26 December 08
Thought we should do a little more than eat and drink in the Gite so set out to explore a local chateau. It was built over the river - very fairy tale. Not surprisingly we found the kitchens to be the highlight - they (yes plural) were massive.

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Gaz and Spenny standing in just one of the ovens!

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the Loire Valley is Beautiful!

27 December 08
Have to leave our Gite and head north - probably for the best as we had run out of fire wood and it is freezing (and not just shaz thinks so). Our B&B in Reims is 'interesting' - lovely place but the owners were a little different. They started out by insulting Spenny about being a smoker and commenting that he will contaminate the air!!! They pretty much kept up this commentary for the entire stay. But the Champaign makes everything ok with the world. It is easily shaz's new favorite!! Jec joined us in Reims and we did a tour of Pommery Caves - 18km of caves packed with champs! amazing!

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Poor Spenny had to drive..

30 December 08
One night flying visit of Luxemburg on our way to Germany. Had a great night out followed by not such a great morning. Gaz got up to put more money in the meter and discovered the world was covered with half a centimeters of ICE! There had been an ice storm during the night and it coated everything. We skidded along the paths but no accidents. Jec was easily the most graceful. We tried to de-ice the car - discovered that we could wind the windows down and the sheet of ice would remain. Bloody cold! Shaz's sole has forgotten what it is like to be warm!

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Posted by Gaz n Shaz 10:44 Archived in France Comments (0)

Vietnam

Hue

sunny 34 °C
View OE on Gaz n Shaz's travel map.

Arrived in Hue from Hoi An in the ealry evening. Hue is the "Intellectual, cultural and spiritual heart in Viet Nam" so we fitted in well here :-) We managed to do some sight seeing in between multiple fairwell drinks with team Ireland. Cyclo drivers(the local transport - a push bike with a seat on the front) were the most annoying part of Hue. We had one follow us for 9 hours offering a ride. Even with constant declines he persisted. He constantly told us to remember him, to which we reply "how can we forget you, you're always right there?"

The next day we did get a cyclo and went of to see the Hue Citadel and imperial city built 200 years ago. Mostly destroyed in the American war but being rebuilt. An impressive sight and a huge area! We were pleased we didn't come in the mid day heat.

The lonely planet guide book recommended we take a look at the forbidden city within the citadel. We search high and low for it only to find out we were already in it. We blame our stupidity on the heat.

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Gaz even took some time out to dance with the local butterflies
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Leaving Hue for Hanoi. Have some final, final beers with the Irish (beer also is a local sleep aid for 12 hour bus trips).

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Posted by Gaz n Shaz 05:19 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam

Hoi An

sunny 35 °C
View OE on Gaz n Shaz's travel map.

After a night trip on a 'sleeper' bus we arrive in Hoi An at 6 am. Hunted for accommodation for a while and eventually find a place with a pool. Gaz lazes in the pool for a few hours then its nap time. The Irish were supposed to be in Danang but have ended up in Hoi An, in the same hotel again!! We meet some more Irish and head out for a beer and some food. We meet even more Irish, and they join us (Gaz and Shaz the collectors of the Irish - 6 at this point).

Hoi An has a few special dishes you can only get here. We find a nice restaurant and try some Chau Lao, white rose and local wantons. Chau Lao and wontons are great!!! We find a good place with cheap beer and settle in for a few. A little Vietnamese man tells us of his great bar with free drinks so we head over there. It was definitely “less the grand” (after hanging with lots of Irish you start to talk like them) especially since there are no free drinks - why do we continue to believe people that are selling stuff?? But we stay for a couple and leave at about 2. We had to go through the market on the way home and are pretty sure we will be mugged but as we walk through all the fishing boats are coming in so it is all action. To add to the relief a local shows us around - you have never seen so many fish!!! Sorting all the different squid, it was an amazing sight. We sit down with our new friend and have a coffee, tea, beer and a good old fashioned singalong - consisting of the one vietnamese song we know and a new one that didnt make much sense. We get a few sideways looks from the locals wondering why westerners are in the market at 2 am drinking coffee but it was great! (we curse the decision not to bring our camera out).

Next day we hire a bike and go exploring to the beach. For once we miss the tourist traps and find a beautiful beach with only 3 others on it for as far as we could see.

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We are loving Hoi An and could picture us staying here for a long long time. It is a lovely old town which goes at a very slow pace - in the four days we were there we probably saw 3 cars in total and as many push-bikes as motorbikes. Shaz loves the push-bikes everyone looks so elegant in there sit up straight lady bikes. There are lots of art shops but many more tailors - this is 'The Place' to get your clothes made so we had to join in - damn shame:) We each got a suit made and Shaz got a dress as well - very happy with the end product after some miraculous alterations....

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We signed up for a cooking class on our last day (as this also seems to be the 'foodie' capital). Course included a tour through the market with our chef who provided a running commentary on the different foods, a trip throuh a herb garden, boat trip, cooking demonstrations and then we are let loose. Great fun - especially mastering the rice paper making - will definitely be a dinner party trick when we get back to the real world. Was really more of a half day eating course than a cooking course as a four course lunch followed the cooking a sampling. Shaz thinks she would actually enjoy cooking if someone went before you and prepared everything and then cleaned it up after you.

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Unfortunately, we only have 10 more days in SE Asia so have to move on.

Posted by Gaz n Shaz 01:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam

Nha Trang

sunny 36 °C

Nha Trang and more beach action. Discover the Irish we did the Mekong tour have been staying in the same place in Dalat - crazy how you continue to run into the same travellers. We found a real good place to stay with a beautiful view, unfortunately it was on the 6th floor but paid someone to carry shaz' bag (felt only slightly guilty at pulling the girl card).

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(View from our room)

Lazy days on the beach, drinking and eating followed for the next few days - this is what holidays are about.

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Only disappointment in Nha Trang was that Gaz didnt find his 'all you can eat seafood' - maybe in Hoi An...

Posted by Gaz n Shaz 00:58 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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