A Travellerspoint blog

Tuscany, Day Three

San Gimingniano and Siena

storm

I am writing this in the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 10th because we got back to the hotel so late last night. We were out partying! Yesterday we went to San Gimingniano and it poured so hard when we were there that there were rivers flowing down the streets. Much thunder and lightning! It is a beautiful ancient town that has walls all around it and is a UNESCO world heritage site. We bought ourselves umbrellas! It is an Etruscan town, meaning that it was established by the people who lived here before the Romans took over. After this we went to Siena, where we went to this amazing cathedral. There were mosaics on the floor there that are only uncovered for 2 months each year because they are being worn off by people walking over them. Last night we went to an olive and grape farm for a short tour and a long, very long dinner with many courses. Also dancing and much wine drinking was done. Have to go in for breakfast now. Neil is waiting. Breakfast at 7:30AM and on the bus again for Pisa at 9:00AM.

Posted by lineke.rich 22:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rome - Day Two

St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel

sunny 30 °C

This morning we put our suitcases outside in the hall at 7:00AM and went down to breakfast. The bus left at 8:00AM for our Rome tour of the day. Our tour guide, Heidi, gave us each a radio receiver box with an earbud. Our local guide was very lively and well informed. She spoke into a small microphone which was received only by the receiver boxes belonging to our group. No straining to hear! The Vatican was crowded with thousands of people and so our guide had a metal pointer with a scarf tied to the top so that we would be able to see her to keep up. Each of the tour guides in the place identified themselves this way. We first went to the Vatican Museum. Our tour company has an agreement with the powers that be and we got to go right to the head of the line and pass hundreds of people who were waiting. The museum was full of the most exquisit sculptures, tapestries and other works of art. We then went to the Sistine Chapel and St Peter's Basilica. Totally overwhelming! There is so much to see there and after awhile the brain just says, "Sorry, I'm full for the day. Take a rest." In one of the shops outside the Vatican, I was able to find some figurines for the Playroom. I would have bought more but I didn't want to spend all my money on the first day of the tour! We had lunch near the Coloseum and then began our trip to Montecatini. The bus ride was 4 hours long and the countryside around here is very beautiful. There are many villas and larger buildings on the hilltops. The meal at the hotel where we are staying was very delicious and people sure eat late here! We sat down for dinner at 8:00PM and now it's 10:00PM. We have trip starting at 9:00 AM in the morning and breakfast at 8:00AM. Time to check email and go upstairs to our room. In this hotel we have a nicer, bigger room but no WiFi. It costs 20 euros for the week and it is only available in the lobby of the hotel. We had a long day today and I think we will definitely need a rest when we get back to Kate and Robert's place in England.

Posted by lineke.rich 12:53 Archived in Italy Comments (1)

Day one Italian Holiday

Rome

overcast 29 °C

This morning we got up at 4:00AM, had our porridge and Kate drove us to Gatwyk Airport. We caught our Easy Jet flight and came to Rome. We were met at the airport by the shuttle which took us to our hotel. There we crashed for awhile and had a short nap. We are close to the centre of Rome and the traffic outside is busy. The Tour Director took attendance and gave a short talk about the tour, what to do, what not to do etc. Her name is Heidi and she is just a bundle of energy, very upbeat. She has a great sense of humour. After our talk, we went on the bus which took us to a great restaurant where we were served a 5 course meal. It was so delicious! After the meal we went on a short evening tour of Rome and saw the Vatican and some other famous landmarks which dated from the Roman times. There are approx. 40 people on this tour and we were seated at small tables in the restaurant so we could get to know each other a little. Most of the people are from the States with a smattering of people from Canada, the Phillipines, Australia etc. The people all seem very nice and are all around our age or older. We have to have our luggage outside our door at 7:00AM tomorrow and breakfast at that time too. We will see a few things here in Rome in the morning and then in the afternoon we will go to Montecatini in Tuscany. A great beginning to our time in italy!

Posted by lineke.rich 12:23 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Day Nine at Kate and Robert's House

Kate and Robert's House

sunny 19 °C

This morning we walked to the train station and went to London. When we got to Victoria Station I needed the washroom but they don't have free washrooms in the transit system. You have to pay 30pence at the turnstiles to get in to pee. At first I thought "I'm not paying to pee", but then I decided that it was more important to be comfortable and I found the money. We bought a GPS, called a SAT NAV here, to use when we rent the car when we come back to England in a week or so. Neil found a GPS that is exactly like the one he has in the MGB sports car at home. It should make our travels around England somewhat easier. While we were in the store, a woman and I bumped into each other and she dropped her heavy cell phone on my right foot. I didn't think much of it but tonight my foot is sore. We also went to the Portobello Road Market. It sure was crowded with people. I think 90% of the people there were tourists like Neil and me. There were lots of antiques for sale as well a lots of jewellery. I did see some toys but they were quite expensive because they were antique. We had a very delicious falafal wrap from a roadside stand. On our way back to the Tube station we passed a shop that showed fused glass in the window. We went inside and were blown away by the beauty and variety of the pieces. We bought a small tea light holder and I took lots of pictures. We had been planning on visiting the Tate Modern but my feet were sore and we were both tired from walking so we headed back to Beckenham. Tonight Robert made two kinds of homemade pizza and they were both delicious. Tomorrow morning we have to get up at 4:00AM to catch our flight to Rome. Gotta get to bed!

Posted by lineke.rich 13:45 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day Eight at Kate and Robert's House

Rest Day

semi-overcast

I wrote the other day that they don't have traffic lights here in England. WRONG! They have lots of traffic lights in the cities, and they show an amber light between green and red and also between red and green so you can get revved up to go!
This morning we did some more research into renting a car for the last leg of our stay in England, after we come back from Italy. It came down to a choice between a Peugeot and a Toyota Yaris. The Peugeot was less expensive and the size was roughly the same so we phoned and reserved one for the 17th of Oct. I also did 3 loads of laundry here at Kate's. Kate drove us to the High Street and we bought some groceries and a new set of suspenders for Neil. The ones he had brought had all of a sudden lost their elasticity. It took us approx. 25 min. to walk home. I have also been working at figuring out why I can't get this blog program to put my photos into my blog. I found out today that the reason it isn't working is that I'm trying to perform this function from my iPad. It doesn't work to use an iPad. There is another program that you can use but I downloaded it and couldn't get it to work for me yet. A steep learning curve, this!

Posted by lineke.rich 15:17 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day Seven at Kate and Robert's House

Winchester

overcast 13 °C

This morning we got up at 5:30AM to get a ride from Robert to Winchester. He had to head that way for a meeting and offered to drop us off there and pick us up on his way home. We left at 6:30AM and it took us approx. 2 hours to get to the Park and Ride where we caught the bus into Winchester. We found the famous cathedral without any difficulty and paid our admission. We were told that if we waited for a few minutes there would be a free tour of the cathedral. A woman named Elizabeth, who was about our age, came and asked us if we wanted a tour. Well, we had the most detailed and informative tour! We had her to ourselves and so were able to ask all sorts of questions and get detailed answers. The cathedral that stands there now is the second cathedral to be built on the site. They tore down the old one in the 12th century when the new larger one was built. Tradition states that the English kings Cnut and Alfred are buried here along with many other lesser known kings. Winchester was the capital city of England for centuries. During the Civil War 1642-1648, the cathedral was attacked and many of the beautiful leaded windows were destroyed. What the parishoners did then was gather up all the glass and make new windows out of the fragments. The result is quite pleasing and modern-looking. We also found out that Jane Austen lies buried in this cathedral. (We walked over her grave. It lies in the middle of the left-side aisle.) She died at the age of 41 of an unknown wasting disease. After the tour we went and looked at the ancient illuminated bible that is housed there. This bible was commissioned when the cathedral was built and looks like new. I'm sure that the pages that we saw were lovingly restored and they were beautiful. The text was written with quill by one of the Benedictine monks there and illustrated in gold leaf and lapis lazuli by various artists that passed through the town. If I recall correctly, it took him 11 years to complete the bible. At 12:00 approx. we went to the refectory and had a satisfying lunch. We walked around town a bit and went to the railway station to be picked up by Robert. I fell asleep in the back seat as the car hurtled through the countryside toward home.

Posted by lineke.rich 10:44 Archived in England Comments (1)

Day Six

Bletchley

all seasons in one day

Kate took us to Bletchley, a couple of hours drive north, to pick up her father-in-law, Arnold Hargreaves. Neil drove there and Kate guided him around all the various traffic circles. They don't have on ramps and off ramps on the freeways the way we do in Canada, nor do they have stop signs. Whenever two roads meet, there is a traffic circle that you have to negotiate. Arnold will stay at Beckenham for the next week or so. He told me that he was on the ship, in 1941, that picked up the survivors of the German submarine that had the Enigma Machine aboard. He was on the boarding party that examined the submarine. They towed it for 3 days until it sank. It was not until the black box was taken to Bletchley , and looked at by the code breakers, that they knew what they had. From then on, the Allies were able to read the German communications and this made a huge difference in the progress of the war. Arnold has a newspaper article that details what happened that day. He is now 95 years old and still fit as a fiddle.
We went to a very nice restaurant in Bletchley for lunch. And what a lunch! It was smorgasbord and the food on my plate looked like Thanksgiving dinner! Profiteroles for dessert.
Robert and Arnold have gone to the grocery store to buy ingredients for dinner. Most Britons have fridges the size of a bar fridge and go to the store every day to buy food. Robert is an excellent cook and we've eaten very well here. I've been doing research on the Net to find out where the street markets are, the best free museums and art galleries, and best places to buy women's clothes. This iPad has been so useful!

Posted by lineke.rich 13:08 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day Five

Our Day In London

overcast 15 °C

We spent the day in London and what a long day it was! Kate drove us to the train station this morning at 10:00AM and we just got home (11:45PM). We began the day at Liberty's - probably the most expensive and exclusive store in London. All the clothes, shoes, tableware, fabrics, you name it, there are designer labels. It was fun to poke around in all the various departments while Neil had a coffee and read his book at the cafe on the third floor. The cheapest scarf was $150.00Cdn. They were beautiful!
While walking in the direction of the National Gallery, we went by Hamley's, the 5 story toy store. I went immediately to the Schleich section and picked up about a dozen figurines of people, for my Playroom, that I hadn't ever seen in Canada. Neil bought a magic flying saucer.
Lunch was next on the agenda and we had a delicious pub lunch - Chicken curry sandwiches and fries.
We walked to the National Gallery after this and rented those electronic devices that tell you all about the painting and the painter at the touch of a button. We had a whirlwind tour of the Gallery because we had tickets to War Horse waiting for us at the theatre and we had to eat dinner first. Well, it seemed like a whirlwind tour but Neil assures me that we spent a good 3 hours there! It would take days to see and appreciate everything. And we didn't even make it to any of the 3 gift shops!
Neil was most impressed by the 15th century paintings with all the gold leaf and intricate details. We also saw a painting of a royal young woman from Europe who was being considered for marriage by Henry VIII. He didn't like her plain looks and rejected her as a candidate. Lucky her!
The water lilly and iris paintings by Manet were spectacular and of course I loved all of Van Gogh's paintings. Must be something about my Dutch birth.
We hoofed it over to the theatre to pick up our tickets and then had a lasagna dinner at a little restaurant called Canela in the theatre district. The play War Horse was just spectacular. It was about 3 hours long including the intermission. The stars of the show were the huge, life-size horse puppets operated by 3 men each. The story is emotionally powerful and there weren't many dry eyes in the theatre at the end of the show.
We walked to the Tube Station and when I went to get out my All Day Ticket, from my pocket, it had disappeared! Well, then I had to buy another ticket to get me home to Beckenham on the Tube and the train. That was a nasty surprise! Nevertheless, we had a wonderful day and an invigorating 20 minute walk back to Kate's from Beckenham train station.

Posted by lineke.rich 15:56 Archived in England Comments (0)

Fourth Day

Rye and Camber Sands

storm 16 °C

I was going to go into London today but changed my mind in favour of going to the beach with Neil and Kate. We went to Rye today and to Camber Sands. It was very stormy and rainy at the beach. It reminded me of Long Beach on Vancouver Island; huge rollers and lovely soft yellow sand. There were huge sand dunes. Neil's hat threatened to blow off so he had to wear it backwards. There were 4 guys out hopping the waves on their wind surfers. Neil pitched the tennis ball into the waves for the dogs to retrieve using one of those long-handled ball flinger things. Afterwards, we went into the ancient town of Rye and did some looking around in the shops. There are some very old buildings there and some streets that were still cobblestone. We both took lots of pictures. Neil found a couple of carved wooden ducks that he just had to have and I found a few things for my Playroom. Neil drove most of the way to Camber Sands so that he could get used to driving on the left side of the road. On the way there, Kate was tutoring him on the rules of the road in England. I was in the back seat with the 2 dogs. Squishy in a Toyota Yaris! On the way home, Kate drove and the dogs, Neil and I slept. I'm starting to relax into my holiday.

Posted by lineke.rich 10:08 Archived in England Comments (0)

Day Three

Kate's House

storm

Took a bit of a rest day today. Went for a lovely walk in a forest near here with Kate and the dogs. Did some research into buying tickets for the play
War Horse. Did some calling around re. renting a car later in the month. Kate is taking Neil for a practice drive tomorrow morning to see how he feels driving a car on the left side of the road. Figured out where to see some Monet paintings (National Gallery) Read some more of my book, The Kingmaker's Daughter. I have definitely decided that I'm a book person. Reading a book on an iPad gets tiring. I'm guessing that it may be because I'm looking at a screen all the time. Then there's the issue of needing to re-charge the iPad on a regular basis. The weather here was quite stormy in the afternoon. Sorry the pictures didn't make it onto the blog post yesterday. I'm going to have to figure it out, but not tonight. Going into the City of London tomorrow for the first time.

Posted by lineke.rich 12:21 Archived in England Comments (1)

Day Two

Kate's House

semi-overcast 19 °C

This morning Kate took us with her on her regular dog walk through the woods. She owns two lurchers who are mixed breed dogs that have one parent who is greyhound. They look like greyhounds with interesting markings.
The weather is quite pleasant at around 20C and we had a mix of sun and cloud today. After lunch, Kate, Robert and Neil went to Reigate and I stayed in Beckenham. I took a walk to the High Street to look in the stores. It took me about 2 hours. They have an overabundance of hair salons here! They also have quite a few second hand clothing shops that are run by various charities. I didn't find anything that suited me despite some very dedicated searching.
I was finally able to re-charge my iPad after trying 3 different methods. Robert found a universal charging device that worked just fine. I took some pictures of Kate and Robert's house and I hope I will be able to put them into this entry. I have not suffered any effects of jet lag and am feeling pretty pleased with myself for buying that homeopathic remedy from the pharmacy on Gabriola. The proof of the pudding will be if it works once I'm home again. One interesting thing I saw was a shop completely dedicated to renting out hats. Really stupendous hats too!
OK, I've asked the program to enter a few photos into my entry for today but I don't know how it will turn out. Here's hoping it looks OK

Posted by lineke.rich 15:45 Archived in England Comments (1)

Our first day in London

Kate's House

overcast 15 °C

Our day began when our friend Andy picked us up for the trip on the 12:35 ferry from Gabriola to Nanaimo. The airport shuttle took us to the airport. After 2 smooth and uneventful flights we arrived at Heathrow this morning and were picked up by Kate, Neil's sister. The time when we arrived was 11:40AM local time. We had been travelling for approx. 16 hours. We did get some sleep on the plane thanks to Gravol and a drink of Baileys after supper. My only complaint about the trip is that my feet have swollen up and I've spent the last 45 minutes on my back with my feet up the wall to get the fluids moving. Since we got there we've gone grocery shopping with Kate (they have a Kazillion varieties of apples for sale in the grocery store) and we've had lunch (Robert, my brother-in-law cooks a mean chicken curry with rice- left-overs were delicious!) We are now ensconced on the top floor of the ancestral home (Neil's grand-father had this house built one hundred years ago). Neil is snoring away peacefully as I write this. I want to stay up til my usual bedtime (local time) so that I will overcome any jet-lag. I'm also taking a naturopathic remedy for this. I have also bought 4 e-books to keep me amused while we are here. "Half Blood Blues", "Love Anthony", " The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" and " The Kingmaker's Daughter" Dinner was delicious and conversation lively. Time to go to bed. It is now 9:20 local time and I'm feeling kinda fried now.

Posted by lineke.rich 13:39 Archived in England Comments (0)

Our Trips

Our Trip to England and Italy

Hello Everyone, this is the first post on our trip blog just to see how the system works and to make sure that everyone can read my enteries. Lineke

Posted by lineke.rich 20:24 Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 28 of 28) « Page 1 [2]