Amalfi Coast

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I have not yet become used to the fact that I can finish work in London, and fall asleep later than evening in Italy. On this occasion we landed in Rome and joyously sprouted out the little Italian we knew (courtesy Cromer Primary School) i.e. uno, due, tre and cosi cosi. It did the trick and we soon found ourselves cruising down the autostrade in our Fiat Panda. Our destination was the gorgeous Amalfi Coast which is a famous peninsula strutting out into the sea below Naples. The drive was breathtaking for two reasons 1. The exquisite views of villages perched and built into the cliffs 2. The fear of buses as we squeezed our Fiat around countless bends not made to accommodate two vehicles at once! Thankfully Joel was grinning ear to ear, probably imagining that he was a rally car driver, whilst I hyperventilated beside him.

In saying this, we drove the whole peninsula over the course of our visit, and by the end you have to admit that the roads are an attraction in and of themselves. The engineering is ingenious considering it wasn’t too long ago that the only way to reach the villages was by foot or sea. This poses a problem for parking and one downside of having a car is attributed to the impossibility of understanding the Italian parking system. It is a miracle of the Lord that we walked away without a single fine or scratch to our trusty Fiat. Continue reading “Amalfi Coast”

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Algarve

algave portugal

One downside to living in London is the persistently white skin (otherwise known as a lack of sun). The Algarve was added to the itinerary to rectify this pervasive problem quick-smart. The problem was, that we didn’t want to be two more pale ‘Brits’ swarming along the Portugese coastline with cameras in hand… we wanted something a bit more authentic.

Enter Bergau, the perfect solution to this endemic. Bergau is a small authentic Portuguese fishing village which has somehow escaped the mass tourism of nearby resort towns such as Lagos and Praia Da Luz. With its collection of white washed houses, vibrant fishing nets, welcoming local restaurants, slinking cats, all topped off with an expanse of sparkling blue sea and sandy beach – what is not to love? We took up residence in a spacious apartment, let to us by a local who cooked fresh fish each evening on an open grill in his doorway. Continue reading “Algarve”

Lisbon

Portugal Lisbon

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone ever utter a negative word about the Portugese. Within one hour of being in Portugal I understood why.

The Portugese are the most effusive, warm-hearted, humble and generous people we have met thus far in our travels. We found ourselves spilling out of the bus into the main square with glee, watching the mummas congregating for a bit of local gossip with their bebês in tow. Immediately we felt like we were in a country who had their arms wide open. We were about to find this to quite literally be true as we were swept into an encompassing embrace by our lovely host Susana. Before we could steady ourselves we had a fresh portugese tart in hand, and we were ushered down the narrow cobblestoned lanes of Alfama to meet the neighbourhood locals. Susana enthusiastically introduced us to the baker, her best friend, the owner of the local cafeteria, and anyone else she met along the way! Suffice to say, we felt like we were part of the furniture in no time. I don’t think I have been on any trip since where I have found myself walking back to accommodation waving to all the locals like we have shared a long and deep history.

Welcome to Portugal! Continue reading “Lisbon”

Tasmania

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Tasmania? I know, right!

You are probably wondering what I was doing on a tiny island off the coast of Australia when I am supposed to be in Europe. Valid question – and here is the answer.

Dad was supposed to join us for our anticipated trip through Hungary, Austria & Slovenia In April 2012. However, as detailed in previous posts, he suffered a Grand Mal seizure on the lead up to the trip and unfortunately was no longer able to fly. I am so grateful to my selfless and loving mother who recognised the importance of me spending this time with dad and arranged for me to come out to Aus in May. We figured if Dad couldn’t come to me, I would come to him. And if Dad couldn’t have a holiday in Europe, he would get one in Australia. With that, a plan was born to travel with Dad to one of his Bucket List destinations: Tasmania.

There was no time for jetlag! After the excitement of seeing the family, my gorgeous niece and brand new nephew… travel plans were in full swing! Dad got packed up (and somehow snuck a teddy bear into his travel allowance!) and we were touching down in Tassie. I didn’t know where I was, or what I was doing as my multitalented and splendid mother had booked the whole trip for us. So the two of us fumbled our way to a rental car and Dad comforted me as I had a mini freak out at the wheel (I had not driven a car for well over a year). There aren’t many roads leading out of Launceston airport, so we picked one, and suddenly we were starting our great adventure together. Continue reading “Tasmania”

Barcelona

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I am ashamed and horrified to admit that it has been almost one entire year since our last blog post! So much so, that it has taken me the better part of an hour to work out the new settings on WordPress so that I could actually start typing this! London life is pleasantly busy, but I think the reason our blog is lagging is because of the sheer volume of photos to sort through. This is a first-world problem that I avoid a) because it’s time consuming b) it drives home the reality that the trip, is in fact, over! The beauty of photos is that vivid memories come racing back to you, and for this I am incredibly grateful, but also terrified of the longing that creeps back in my heart to head straight to Heathrow for the next adventure. Despite the absence of travel blogging, I hope that you have been enjoying our more current photos on Instagram/Facebook which is a quick and easy way of sharing snapshots of our travels.

People often email me to ask how we afford to travel so much. The answer to that is because we prioritise it. We make sacrifices in our day-to-day lives to ensure that money is available for travel, and we have become experts on traveling cheap and booking in advance! Joel has a crazy amount of school holidays, and with my overtime, we have so far managed to squeeze a trip in each break. This is an art (and a discipline that I have become very good at), much to Joel’s bemusement. We have not even started one trip before I am booking the next, and poor Joel has spent many exhausted nights on the Easyjet, Ryanair and Airbnb websites trying to find the best flights and accommodation!

We actually visited the vibrant city of Barcelona in October 2011 so I am stretching the elasticity of my brain a little with this one….here goes! Continue reading “Barcelona”

Nice & Monaco

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Up until I moved to Europe I literally thought this vibrant seaside city was called ‘Nice’ (as in ‘that’s a nice blouse’). For anybody still in that camp, be warned, do not say that out loud, at least not when you are in France! You can use it to describe the capital of the Cote d’Azur i.e. Nice was nice – but stop there 🙂

I had low expectations of Nice, in fact it featured in the itinerary mainly as a base to fly back to London. I didn’t even bother myself trying to find accommodation and delegated that to Joel (who aced it by the way). I anticipated the beach to be rammed, the water to be murky and the city to be gritty. I need to apologise to Nice – you are none of those things. In fact, you are distinctly cosmopolitan, yet retain that beachside charm. You are full of sights which delight the senses and smells which thrill the appetite. The only thing I did not like about you was trying to navigate the maze of streets in order to drop off the rental car, something even a local might struggle with! Continue reading “Nice & Monaco”

The Côte d’Azur

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Often known as the French Riviera, you may associate this area with ritzy yachts, glamour, Cannes film festival, celebrities in Saint Tropez…. and you would be right. However the Cote d’Azur (or Azure Coast) has more to offer than it’s rather pretentious reputation would at first glance reveal.

Determined to avoid at all costs the unimaginable wealth and on the other hand tacky tourist packages, I had a fight on my hands. Firstly no holiday accommodation will entertain the thought of renting to you for any less than a week in August, and the undeniable popularity of the Cote d’Azure has meant that the prices charged are almost offensive for the quality of lodgings offered. If you are looking for something that screams ‘French’, look again.

Or look at Bormes-les-Mimosas. Continue reading “The Côte d’Azur”

Mallorca

"In the stillness you shall know that I am God"

Before we headed out on our adventure to this Spanish Isle, I made the unfortunate error of looking up the weather forecast for October. As uneducated Australians, our default setting is that the weather is always going to be wonderful no matter what month of the year. We hadn’t quite yet caught the gist of these things called ‘seasons’ that seem to govern Europe. So it was a slap in the face that the phrase “If you’re coming to Mallorca in October expecting sunny days lying on the beach and swimming, you will be extremely fortunate to fulfil such desires” dominated all weather forecasts. In fact, guides claimed it was a stormy and windy month to visit.

So with our expectations lowered we packed our suitcases with a fair share of summer and winter clothing with our fingers crossed for some sun. I am more than delighted to report that every single day we were blessed with the smiling sun, and we did indeed spend our time lying under the comforting rays and swimming in the crystal clear water. Take that, weather forecasters!! The knowledge that our relatives were on mainland Spain shivering their butts off made us feel even more fortunate (sorry Buncle & Dingle!)! That being said, we thanked our lucky stars and have since been very diligent in checking weather patterns before booking any future holidays!

One of the wonderful things about living in London, is that 1.5hrs on a plane and you can be pretty much anywhere in Europe. So we started the day cooking breakfast in our apartment…and we ended the day swimming under a blazing sunset on a mediterranean island. Absolutely mental. In that moment pinching myself wouldn’t have sufficed, I would have had to have knocked myself over the head with a cricket bat to have believed it! Oh and the sunset….divine, it was like heaven decided to show off. Continue reading “Mallorca”

Brighton

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If we cast our minds back a few months to September 2011, to the days when the sun enjoyed staying out for longer, we remember a little town known as Brighton.

Lauren and I decided that our lungs needed a good shellacking of salty air once again and to get acquainted with what the UK had to offer down by its seashore. It also happened to coincide with the London riots that were fast approaching our place, so we chained up our bikes and shot off out of London for the weekend.

It is safe to say that Brighton can be split into two parts. The ‘seaside’ and the ‘alleys’. Depending on who you ask you will get a very mixed response of answers as to what they prefer. In fact, even many Londoners when quizzed would say that they didn’t even know Brighton had something more to offer that the famous Pier. In my books, those people need to dig a little deeper. They have missed out. Continue reading “Brighton”

Piran

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Not an awful lot can be said for Piran in the wake of Rovinj, but we will try and dedicate a blog to its good points. I recently received an email from my tech-savvy grandma (Dukes) who warned against the dangers of becoming complacent in moving to the next place in your travels and it not meeting your expectations. This was one of those moments. Having stated such blasphemy whilst being in such a beautiful part in the world… I shall move on.

Piran is a tiny town jutting out into the Mediterranean. My history is sketchy but I am pretty sure the town changed hands a plethora of times before finally being claimed by the Slovens. It has not escaped Italian influence and as far as I’m concerned, Italy might as well just claim it back, because everyone speaks Italian, everything looks Italian, but it is in the “l love Slovenia” brochure. We have since comprehended the Slovens intense claim to this area of coast, having the rest of the nation inland. They have protected 2/3rds of their 60km of coastline and are fiercely green and protective of their ‘coastal gem’. Regardless, I’ll spare you more local sentiment (however this is the thing I enjoy about taking your time traveling through countries as opposed to a ‘fly by’, as you really discover what it is like to be a part of the culture).

The town of Piran is gorgeous, as the photos show. The sunsets were spectacular and feature heavily in our shots over the three days. Our cravings for a domestic life were revealed soon after we arrived. Upon being shown to our apartment (which was a great little loft right in the middle of the locals) our attention was drawn straight to one thing: the oven. We have not seen an oven since leaving London, with all accommodation offering a tiny stove at the most. Joel and I looked at each other, and without speaking our eyes swum with “roast”. One slight problem – Europe shuts down at midday on Saturdays. I claim that they are the only people who took the Sabbath seriously, plus some extra liberty. In english this means that all shops shut at 12:00pm on Saturday and re-open on Monday morning. Most frustrating when you have a roast swimming before your eyes. We were rescued by our main man – the local grocer in the town square who refuses to pack up and go home. How he stands there from 7am-7pm in the open air heat baffles me, but we were happy to see him. Everything is 50cents. “You want a string of tomatos, a garlic, leeks and some rocket?”…. “hmmm 50cents”. We were loving life.

Our roast progressed into the evening, and was a cause for celebration, well into the next day for leftovers, and the day after that. Highlight. So for those of you at home, appreciate your domestic lives! It’s something you miss on the road. We are looking forward to getting back to London in a few weeks and being able to enjoy such simple things. We are however dreading the lack of ocean in London. Our last day in Piran it hit me that this was it – no more ocean, no more open spaces. I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I actually cried. It was hard to let go of something that has been a part of you since your earliest memories.

There were two other things that deserve mentioning in Piran. One such thing was the bell tower which you can see in our photos. It was quite a mighty bell tower as Joel would say, and we had a ball climbing to the top via some quite dodgy wooden rickety stairs (which looked like they were built with the original tower). The views were spectacular, and I almost fell over the rail with fright when the clock chimed 2 o’clock at the top of it’s clock-lungs as I was busy posing for a photo and not prepared for such an occurrence!!

Lastly, and definitely worthy of a fond recall – Skocjan Caves. We took a bus ride and a hike out to these UNESCO heritage listed beauties, and it was worth the effort and expense because it was jaw dropping. If I remember correctly, these caves are the largest underground space, with ceilings measuring 200m at points. There was also a river rushing through the chasms, sounding like thunder and striking the fear of God in us all! I suppose words can only say so much, and photos perhaps even less, as it’s something you need to see to truly appreciate.

With all sorrow about leaving the coastline aside, we were both excited to move to the next stage of our adventures – inland Slovenia and the alps fast approaching on our itinerary. This is such a great blessing to have this experience with one another. I cannot believe we haven’t run out of things to talk about, it illustrates the strong friendship and bond we have with each other. At times it isn’t even about words, it’s about holding the hand of the one you love, and letting the moment speak for itself.

Until next time…

J&L xxx