A Travellerspoint blog

Tuscany to Nice

27 August 2015 Thursday

sunny 32 °C

Today was another hot sunny day, reaching 30 C.

Departed the hotel at 8:00am to get to Pisa by 9:00am and beat the crowds, including the cruise ships that generally get their passengers there by mid morning. Our coach parked in the coach parking lot, where we caught a road train (novelty train tractor and carriages) which moves coach passengers the 5 minute drive to the Leaning Tower site. We were immediately accosted by Africans selling fake designer watches and other souvenirs. Then had to negotiate a lane of souvenir stands before getting to the entrance gate. We only had 45 minutes at Pisa, but I got some good photos, and had my photo taken holding up the tower.

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After lunch, we stopped at the Fragonard Perfume factory and store for a 45 minute tour and sales experience. We then drove on to Nice, with a detour to look down on Monaco and the Cote D'Azure, which are beautiful. However, difficult to photograph from a moving bus, and we had a deadline to reach Nice at a certain tme. Tour coaches in Europe are strongly regulated, with onboard computers recording times, distances and breaks. The computer even calculates how long the driver needs to stop for before resuming the next leg of the drive. Arrived at our hotel in Nice at 4:40pm, and had an hour to freshen up and change before taking an optional Monaco tour and dinner.

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Monaco is not a large area, and land is expensive. As a result, there is a large underground road complex and parking areas for car and coaches. We saw the cathedral and had a quick look at Grace Kelly’s grave in the church (her Latin name appears on the grave). Then saw the palace, before having dinner at a local Monaco restaurant, which has been used by Prince Albert and his wife. After dinner, we drove to the casinos. The Monte Carlo casino is beautiful, and we had a quick look in the foyer, which is stunning. However, to get into the gaming rooms, you either need to be a yearly ticket holder (Euro25K per annum) or you can buy a day pass, or for Euro10-, you can buy a 1 hour pass to enter the rooms and watch. We moved to the public casino, which is electronic gaming machines, and free. We only had an hour at the Casino’s but I did have a win on the pokies. I beat the casino in Monaco!

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I didn't have my camera with me for the casino visit, but the cars out the front of the Monte Carlo Casino included a lot of Bentleys, Rolls Royce, Masserati, and Ferrari.

During the drive, we saw Elton John and Sophia Lorens homes.

Returned to our hotel at 9:30am. Tomorrow is a free day in Nice, but I have signed up for 2 optional tours.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 07:45 Archived in France Comments (0)

Rome to Tuscany

26 August 2015 Wednesday

sunny 33 °C

6:30 wake up call and 8:00am departure. An easy morning drive from Rome into the Tuscany country side which is beatiful country. Arrived at Florence at 11:30, where we had an early lunch before meeting our local tour guide at 12:30 for a walking tour of Florence.

Today was another hot and sunny day, reaching 33 C.

Florence was a bit of a dissapointment, but that may just be after the splendour of Rome yesterday. However, we saw some fine buildings, the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and an old version of the statue David (the original can be seen in a local museum where it is being repaired after being damaged, but the copy is almost as old as the original). because of the angle of the sun and the crowds, it was almost impossible to get a full shot of the cathedral and bell tower.

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The only bad event of our tour so far happened today when Sheila had her purse stollen whilst doing the city walk. Given the crowds, and the number of people trying to sell things to tourist (selfie sticks are a popular item), its surprising it hasn't happened earlier.

After a few hours in Florence, we drove another hour to our hotel in the town of Montecatini, an old world hotel and town. Had a group dinner at the hotel.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 13:39 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Rome in a day

25 August 2015, Tuesday

sunny 32 °C

how to see Rome in a day!

Weather was hot, sunny, and 32 C.

Wake up call 6:00am for 7:20am departure to Vatican. The Vatican opens to the public at 9:00am, but tour groups can commence from 8:00am if pre-booked.

Ou day was spilt ino 3 features. Ist was the culture bit being the tour of the Vatican museum, St Pauls Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. We saw the statues, tapestries and and map rooms, before moving into the Sistine Chapel for 15 minutes of contemplation. The chapel was smaller than I expected, but the art work was incredible. After leaving the chapel, whilst most people were having a rest break, I moved around to St Peters Square for some photos.

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The second was the historic bit being the Colloseum and Roman Forum. Impressive, but crowded.

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The 3rd bit was an optional walking tour, seeing the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and few other sights.

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The Pantheon is a strange sight from the outside, but is beautiful on the inside. The dome is open at the top, and there are drainage holes in the floor for when it rains.

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The Trevi Fountain was still closed for renovation, although as our guide said, at least the scaffolding is gone. The fountain should reopen by October.

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There are heaps of fountains and Egyptian obelisks in Rome.

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We got back to the hotel at 4:00pm, and everyone was too tired to consider further sight seeing today. A busy and tiring day, but Rome is impressive.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 09:26 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Sorrento to Rome

24 August 2015 Monday

overcast 30 °C

Weather today was hot, reaching 30 C, and whilst sunny this morning at Pompeii, became overcast with a brief shower this afternoon. Our tour director tells us that Northern Europe and UK are cold, wet, and in some instances, flooded. How lucky have we been on this tour?

Tody was a 6:30am wake up call, and departure at 8:00am, for an early tour of Pompeii (arrived at 9:00am, and our tour started at 9:20am). This meant that we were one of the first groups in, and were not crowded. The tour lasted for an hour, and we had a short period afterwards to buy souveniers or refreshments. Pompeii was amazing, although most of the figures have been removed. But I have now walked in Pompeii, and seen Mt Vesuvius.

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Afterwards, a a lunch stop at a roadside restaaurant, and continued on to Rome, arriving at our hotel at 3:30pm. Ver nice hotel, with apool, and a balcony (I look over the driveway).

After checking in and freshening up, had an optional tour being an orientation drive followed by a 4 course meal and unlimited drinks at a local restaurant. Unfortunately, our tour director wouldn;t let us stay to long, as we have an early start tomorrow to see Rome, starting with the Vatican. The dinner was a great event, and the Italian waiters know how to perform.

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However, on our way back to the hotel, we stopped in front of the Vatican at 8:30 for some quick photos of the Vatican, Amazing!

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Posted by HimalayanPeter 12:57 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

Sorrento - excursion to Isle of Capri

23 August 2015 Sunday

sunny 30 °C

Another beautiful day with blue sky, sun, and very hot.

Any early departure today (7:30am) to get to the harbour (using mini buses) to meet our local tour guide (Luigi) and catch the 7:55 ferry to Isle of Capri. The fery ride takes half an hour, and were there before the main rush arrived. Luigi immediately took us up the funicular to the upper part of the village for a 45 minute tour, after which we were on our own, until we met Luigi to catch the 1:55pm ferry back to Sorrento. Luigi suggested a food place we could get lunch and also suggested an hour boat tour of the island. We took him up on both options. The island is beautiful, and at 10:45 we made our way to the food place, where Luigi was waiting and enjoyed a nice early lunch and drinks at shaded tables beside the harbour, before taking the ferry ride around the island. Luigi arranged a large boat for the 20 of us from the Globus tour at a cost of Euro15 each, A bargain considering most of the tour boats were packed liked sardines in a can. The tour of the island was spectacular, and the cliffs are high with only the main harbour as a landing point. Lots of private boats and yachts moored around the island. After a short period back around the harbour area, we caught the fery back to Sorrento and mini buses back to the hotel.

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We are mid way through this European tour, and all feeling a bit exhausted, so this afternoon we had a quiet time, including a swim in the hotel pool. Tonight I have to arrange my first independent dinner of the tour (the optional trips have taken care of most other non provided dinners).

Tomorrow we are off to Pompeii and Rome.

Posted by HimalayanPeter 21:59 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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