A Travellerspoint blog

June 2018

New York City

A girls get away

sunny 18 °C

May 4th, 2018

Jane and I are off on another adventure, this time to New York! I have been to New York before with Doug around 8 years ago but this is Jane's first time

We booked Air Canada from Vancouver non stop to Newark and it was on time and a pleasant flight. We arranged Dial 7 to pick us up and so when we arrived we texted them we were here, they sent a text back with the drivers name, type of car and number and he would be there in a few minutes. He arrived shortly after and negotiated the very busy Friday night rush hour traffic to time square in just over an hour .

We realized we would have time to get to a play tonight so booked theatre tickets on the drive with ticketmaster on line

We checked into hotel Edison which was seamless and dropped our bags off in the room. We have a basic room with two queen beds, it is plain but clean and spacious. They have great pillows and towels and the location is 1/2 block off time square which is what we wanted. The only compliant was the internet which was terrible in the room but fine in the lobby.

We grabbed a quick bite next door at Pret a manger and made our way to see Kinky Boots, a 3 minute walk. This was the highlight of our trip so we were so glad our flight arrived on time and we could see this. I got tickets in row 6 for $129 with a ticketmaster discount code but I think almost any seat would have been fine. The music costumes and story was fantastic and it was hysterical. It ran from 8pm to around 1030.

We stopped on the way back at Juniors for some amazing New York cheesecake

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Day 2.

We decided to do the hop on hop off bus and Top View was outside our hotel so we used them There was so much construction in new York and a lot of buildings under scaffolding and netting it really took away from the tour. I have done this before and found it was not as good this time. We hopped off at little Italy and wandered around for a while and then spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to get back to hop on again. We found some great little delis for pecorino cheese, fruit etc to eat for lunch as we moved about. We really didn't stop to have a sit down meal at all this entire trip which I know is sacrilegious to many but we really just didn't want to spend the time

After a rest in the room we went to see Lion King, which we bought tickets for months ago. We had first row balcony which gave a great view of the stage. The costumes and sets were amazing and we enjoyed it. ( But enjoyed Kinky Boots more)

On the way back I saw a bunch of people lined up outside a doorway, so stopped to ask why and they were waiting for Denzel Washington to come out to his waiting car after his show. Eventually he came out smiling but didn't stop, he had just done two shows that day so I am sure he was tired. It was exciting all the same and I got a decent picture

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Another cheesecake at juniors but this time we split it and then to an Irish pub for a drink and met some great young people

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Day 3

Our second day of the hop on hop off bus ( we bought a two day ticket) so we decided to take it to Central Park but couldn’t get on the first one as it was too full and the next one looked doubtful so we decided on plan b.

Tried to figure out the subway system which to us seemed very confusing and not very tourist friendly. We asked many people who were all willing to help but everyone gave different directions. I read somewhere that if a train pulls up and all the cars are crowded except one, don't get in that one. Well I forgot and quickly found out why. There were s couple of men down on their luck and in desperate need of a shower. We changed cars at the next stop

We went to Central Park to try to get onto a bike tour but there wasn't one until 1PM and it was now just after 10. There was also a big bike rally or something in the park so made arrangement for another tour tomorrow at 10AM. We went to the stop for the bus tour and had to wait for two busses but eventually got on and did the uptown route. I can't say i was very impressed. If I were to do it again I would rather hire a car, convertible preferably, and driver to take us around and go down some of the side streets as that seemed to be the most interesting places.

At the “Frick museum” we got off and spent a couple hours there . It is a beautiful donated home, mansion, that has a large private collection of art including Rembrandt Vermeer and Matisse to name a few. The decor and architecture was beautiful and it was nice and small, perfect for a short museum stop. I have been to the MOMO, Natural history and metropolitan before , all of which are amazing, so this was just perfect as a short visit.

We decided to forget the hop on bus and took the subway and made our way to the world trade centre memorial. When I was here last time it was still a big hole in the ground, it now it is a beautiful waterfall sculpture in the ground. We met a young woman who was employed by the memorial and she was a wealth of information. It is really well worth a visit for sure, very moving and so well done in my opinion.

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We headed to the mall across the street to a food fair, but with great food stalls, and had some lunch

Back on the subway to East Village and the Orpheum theatre to see “Stomp”. We sat in the balcony, front row which offered a great view but not for the faint of heart. A very steep climb up and steep pitch . Front row is not the best choice in the balcony as your knees are right up against a railing and I am not that tall. Second row would be better as the pitch is so steep you will see right over whom ever is in front of you

This was a very enjoyable show and unlike the other two we saw. It was like watching street performers inside, a very clever high energy show.

We didn't realize that there are no plays on broadway on Sunday or Monday evenings, theatres are dark on those days so we were happy to hear of this one.

Grabbed the subway back to time square where we walked about and people watched for a while which is always interesting

Day 4. Our last day in New York

This is going to be a busy day so we took the subway to the bike rental and were there an hour early. In hind sight we should have just rented bikes on our own for a couple of hours, but we waited for the tour. We used the bike rental associated with top view bus tours. The bikes were great, staff was good, but our guide was terrible.

He showed up late, was unorganized, took us to the park and told us to be sure to stay on the bike lane and not the walker/runner lane and yet he rode in the middle of that lane the entire time, there were only five women on the tour which was great, but he took a liking to this young single woman and rode beside her and pointed out all the sights as we rode, which the rest of us didn't hear.

The ride though the park itself was beautiful with all the spring flowers in bloom and not too crowded being a Monday. As I said, in hind sight I wish we had done our own thing. At the end he asked for a tip. Not likely. I will report on trip advisor as the company seems great, just a bad employee.

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Back to the subway , getting the hang of it now, and straight to Battery park for Ellis island. I stood in this very long line up while my friend went to buy tickets. We tried to buy on line but couldn't seem to get any after 1PM departure so decided to take our chances.

It was about an hours wait, it was quite warm out but not the 39 degrees of the previous week, it was quite pleasant.

The Statue of Liberty is still as breathtaking as the first time I saw it. We did not get off but continued on to Ellis Island as they closed at 4. We used the included headphones and I enjoyed it just as much as I did on my first visit. It is quite a moving place and very well done.

Making our way back to our hotel by subway, ( wow we are pros now!) we stopped to see grand central station on the way which is impressive There was a great street performer in the subway which was nice, I was surprised this was the only one I saw the time we were here

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A quick rest at the hotel, my feet are killing me, and then we grabbed a cab to Macy's on 34 th. for last minute shopping

We are from small towns so felt like kids in a candy store, three floors of women’s clothing. OH MY!!! My energy level seemed to come back up again ha ha

I found a few great items, all at 30./. Off which would compensate for the exchange rate from Cdn to Usd.

We shopped until the 10 pm closing time, and could have stayed longer but my Visa card was burning up already.

Last day.

Home to Vancouver via Toronto, a few hiccups with our flights but it all worked out and we had to overnight in Vancouver anyhow as the ferries to the island don't run late. We live on Vancouver Island.

Overall New York was a great little get away. Our highlight was Kinky Boots, which we were afraid wouldn't happen but grateful it did. Loved Central Park, the Frick, 911 memorial.

I was agonizing what to pack, we just brought small carry on luggage, but it seems anything goes here. There were people in the theatre in gowns next to people in t shirts and shorts. What ever you are comfortable in is just fine. Most folks in the street seemed to go for comfort.

Our costs from Vancouver to New York including air and four nights at the Hotel Edison with two beds was $1100 CDN each all in, booked on Expedia together which saved us money.

Posted by debbep 20:55 Archived in USA Tagged new york Comments (0)

Baja Mexico and Arizona

Family and friends

sunny 26 °C

January 24, 2018.
Originally we were going to drive down south from Vancouver but a couple of weeks prior decided to fly to Palm Springs instead. We picked up a car at the airport and spent a couple of nights with friends who were renting a home there.

We drove north to Twenty Nine Palms to spend the night and explore Joshua tree park . That evening we went into the park to see the sunset but ended up at the wrong place, but it was still beautiful.

The following day we made a stop to the museum and walked around the little trails there and then made our way through the park, stopping now and then for hikes and eventually ending up in Blythe California

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The following day we made our way to Phoenix where we drooped the car and overnighted near the airport to catch our flight in the morning to San Jose Mexico.

BAJA MEXICO.

Our flight arrived shortly before our friends and then we all went to the rental car area to pick up our small sedan for the next 6 days. We chose MexCar upon recommendations form trip advisor forums and the total was $228 USD including insurance.

Our hotel for the one night in San Jose was Marisol Boutique hotel which we really liked and would have loved to stay longer. 1924 MEX per night double private bath. There was a great restaurant next door for dinner and then we went to La Comer to do some grocery shopping.

Driving north the next day to Los Cerritos, the following 4 nights were spent at Olas De Cerritos in Los Cerritos near Todos Santos. A really cute small place, block to the beach, communal kitchen and great pool. Four nights was $288USD per couple. There were a number a good cafes close by, spent lots of time at the beach. The beach was known as safe swimming but I was uncomfortable with the undertow. Jacki went in and had a blast. There were lots of surfing lessons on this beach

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One night we went up to the big beautiful hotel on the hill and had dinner on the terrace. The food and service was great and prices were no more than anywhere else.

Todos Santos for a day and then exploring the area around it as well. Of course a leamonaid in the Hotel California was in order.

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On Feb 1st we made our way back to the airport to switch the car for a seven seater van with the same company. A big grocery shop at La Comer again and we checked into our home for the next eight nights, a five bedroom condo at Marina Del Sol in Cabo San Lucas. $3071USD for the eight nights. We have a large pool and a short walk to a swimming beach while being close to the nightlife and shopping as well.
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The guys went to pick up our grown kids at the airport while Jacki and I unpacked and did food prep for dinner. My two boys Taylor and Reese were joining us as well as Jacki's daughter Alexa and we were very excited.

The week was spent on the beach, basking under umbrellas and having a dip now and then, going into town for dancing a few times, karaoke, shopping and just hanging out.

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One night we went into San Jose for an art walk which was fun.

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A whale watching tour had been prearranged for us so we drove to La Paz one morning and spent the day snorkelling with sea lions and then we each had two swims, two or three of us at a time, with a young whale shark. She was around seventeen feet long. It was very exciting.

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All too soon our kids have to fly back, we switch the van back to a sedan, and head to the east coast to El Pescadero. A studio each for four nights at Olas De Cerritos for $288USD per couple. It was a great place, good food, nice small pool. We explored the area, went on a crazy road to find this amazing snorkel beach, had some great meals and did a bit of shopping.

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Feb 15th we drove back to the airport to drop off the car and wait for our flights, our friends returning to Vancouver and we were heading back to Phoenix.

Our flight was late, we were tired, but picked up our rental car to drive north to Flagstaff. The fellow at Budget rent a car said it was snowing in Flagstaff and the roads were terrible we had to have an SUV. I had looked at the roads, weather etc and said, no we will be fine. He convinced my husband to upgrade and I was too tired to argue. For a large sum of money we were off in a vehicle that we did not know how to drive. We had to ask someone how to turn it on even! These new vehicles are so easy now that they make they complicated for us older folk ha ha.

We arrived in Flagstaff late at night, (no snow or ice in sight) and checked into the Americas Best Value motel for only $42. I wasn't expecting much but it was clean and nice and included a typical American continental breakfast.

We drove north to Page the next morning but veered off to see Monument Valley which was spectacular.

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Arriving late in Page we checked into La Quinta suites and got a great deal on booking.com for two nights at $188USD . A massive breakfast was included too. The staff was wonderful.

Upper Antelope Canyon was pre booked, which is necessary , so the next morning we met at the office and were transported with about 10 others by truck to the site just out of the centre of town.

This was a very easy walk though the canyon, and very crowded. The upper one is narrow at the top and wider at the bottom which is the opposite of the lower one. It was stunning!

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A picnic lunch was grabbed at the grocery store and we headed off to Horseshoe Bend. It was hot out and the park was packed. It is a long weekend in the USA, Presidents Day, plus Chinese new year so a lot of large Chinese groups here.

This park is scary. Steep drop offs, kids running around, women in heels near the edge and no guard rails. You have to get to the edge to see the river. If a big wind came up over you would go. I belly crawled along the rocks to the edge to get this picture. It was a bit of a slog up the hill to get back to the parking lot. It had been a long but very satisfying day.

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Lower Canyon was seen the next day. For this one you drive yourself there, it is across the highway from the Upper Canyon. There are two company offices here, brother and sister, we chose Dixie Ellis. We had booked this well in advance as well and glad we did and they were turning people away.

Different from the Upper you climbed down stairs to get to the bottom and slowly climb stairs over different areas to make your way to the top. It was not very physically challenging. More so that it was a narrow walkway than the stairs really. It was different from the upper but just , if not more, beautiful. We are glad we did both.
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A quick lunch and then we headed south, veering off to see the Grand Canyon for a short time. We are glad we did, it was a great view point

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After sunset we made our way to Sedona and stayed at the Green Tree Inn for $95USD per night. It was a fine room with included American Continental breakfast.

After checking out the next morning we explored Sedona and went for a couple of short hikes in the area before making our way south to see friends in Tuscon. We spent three nights visiting them before heading to Mesa to spend time with friends there for a few days.

SEDONA
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Around Mesa we explored a fair amount taking in the local sights.

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Another great trip

Posted by debbep 19:56 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach baja Comments (0)

Ireland

And a couple of days in Scotland

rain 12 °C

Day 1 (in Ireland). Monday Sept 18, 2017

Doug arrived the day prior but I figured he would be jet lagged so I stayed in Italy and extra day. I arrived at the hotel in Dublin and waited in the room for him to return from exploring. I was so surprised how expensive Dublin was when looking at rooms to book. Holy cow. We ended up with The Ripley Court hotel, double private bath, for 240E two nights. It was just fine. It also included a large English breakfast.
We went out for Thai food at a restaurant close by after Doug returned. He was disappointed as he wanted to go to the Museum but it was closed on Mondays.

Day 2 we made our way back to the airport by bus to pick up our rental car. We chose Budget booked on Expedia, for $114 CDN for the week and used our insurance from our ICBC at home and also the VISA card insurance. Quite a bargain really.

Heading East on the highway was not very exciting, but we wanted to get to Spiddal for our first night. The weather was rainy and not great, but we arrived at the coastal town around 5PM. Our little BandB, An Caladh Gearr Thatch cottage was so cute. The owner was a very charming friendly and helpful woman. We were greeted with some delicious scones and tea before being shown to our room She wanted to know what we wanted to do and would help with advice as much as she could. Doug and I had not booked any more rooms for this week, we are just going to see where we end up, but she gave us some great ideas. 78 Euros a night and a massive breakfast included. Irish breakfast are huge. We saw this outdoor laundromat which we thought was unique.

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Day 3. We decided to head south now. Still a rainy windy day. We stopped at Dunguaire castle and also Poulnaborne Dolmen and the Cliffs of Moher.

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We made our way down to Kilkee where we found a cute little BnB for the night in the countryside

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Day 4

The cliffs around Kilkee rivalled Moher and we loved exploring this area. We took the ferry across to the Dingle Peninsula and found a BnB on the main drag for two nights. We really liked Dingle as well. There are more pubs than people here. The weather was great the first day so we explored the Dingle peninsula which was beautiful. At night we ate at the pubs, met some nice young people and listened to local Irish music.
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Day 5. A very wet and rainy day. We did a bit of exploring but glad we did our drive yesterday. A small museum was close by and we spent some time there

Day 6.
Today we headed to Killarney as Doug wanted to see Ross Castle, wondering if it might be part of his heritage, but turned out not to be. Muckross is just outside Killarney and I was lucky to secure a BnB for two nights at the Friar Glens by far our favourite place on this trip. It was right outside the park and the red deer were so big with massive antlers I was sure they must have been elk. The hosts were fantastic, an outstanding breakfast (baileys irish cream on our oatmeal) and the grounds were superb. I felt like I was in the Queens country get away.

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Day 8 and 9 were spent exploring Muckross. Across the road was the old abby which was amazing and then we walked along a country road to get to the park and explore the castle and grounds.

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I was so tired after a day of walking about that we hired this horse and carriage to take us back to the car. Money well spent.

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We did two drives out to Ladies View. We decided not to do the full Ring of Kerry as the Dingle peninsula was so gorgeous . They had a great little restaurant at the viewpoint where we had soup twice. We find that Ireland has wonderful soups, and all are vegetarian too.

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A BnB from the 1800s was our home tonight, Abby House, across the road from the Jerpoint Abby. For dinner we went into town of Jerpoint to a new Indian Restaurant which had amazing food. Our room was very old, quaint and charming.

Day 11

Doug had fresh caught trout for breakfast. The included breakfasts in Ireland are amazing. We explored the old mill on site and then walked across the street to the Abby. It was amazing. We are so glad we stumbled on this quite by accident. The best kind of travels.
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Our last stop in Ireland was in Aughrim, county Wicklow. A very old BNB called Clone House from the 1600s. The new owners are from the US and they are spending a lot of time and money renovating this gorgeous home.
We had been to Wicklow in the early 80s as a newly married couple and so it was exciting to see if how we remembered it was the same or not. The main attraction here is the ruins at Glendalough . We explore upon arrival which I am so glad we did as it was not raining and the weather was actually quite pleasant.

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Day 12. Miserable windy rainy day. The worst one yet. We just hung around in the living room reading for most of the morning and then ventured into town to find some lunch. A very low key day on our last one in Ireland.

SCOTLAND

Thursday September 28, 2017. Up early to drive to Dublin to drop off the car and fly to Edinburg. We arrived at 1:45PM and took the bus into the main part of Princess Street to our rented apartment Inner City Lets. We chose a two bedroom apartment right in the centre of everything. Edinburgh is incredibly expensive for us, 337 GBP for two nights seemed like a lot for what we got, and that was a good deal. Doug and I explored the streets and found a middle eastern restaurant for dinner. We realized it was the same one we ate at ten years earlier when we were there.

Reese flew in from Krakow Poland and arrived at midnight.

Day 14. Breakfast in the apartment and then out to join a walking tour of Edinburgh which was enjoyable. We had some wonderful vegetarian meals and did a lot of walking and sight seeing.

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Day 15, We spent the day walking around until our 6PM flight to Gatwick. Overnight at an airport hotel
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Day 16, Sunday October 1, 2017. Flew home on Air Transat after a wonderful holiday and great family memories.

Posted by debbep 18:57 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

Italy

Travelling with my son.

sunny 25 °C

Day 1. London. September 10, 2017.

My son Reese and I decided to spend a week in Italy travelling from Vancouver to Gatwick on Air Transat . The flight was good and we spent time at the Yotel in the Gatwick airport for a few hours before our onward flight to Pisa. The Yotel was great, bunk room, tiny but dark and quiet and a great place for 40 winks to catch up on some missed sleep.

PISA
Arriving in Pisa we took the train into town and then lined up for a taxi which took quite a while. We had a map but found it quite confusing so decided to take the cab. Neither of us were in the mood to get lost, especially with suitcases.

Our little hotel is a block away from the Leaning tower and suits our needs. Casa San Tomasso was 69 Euros a nite for two beds and private bath. After dropping off our bags we walked around looking for somewhere to eat , getting lost in the twisting alleyways, but eventually finding a small family run pizza cafe crammed full of locals out for their Sunday evening meal. The Pizza was not bad but the atmosphere was great. We were the only tourists.

Day 2. A mediocre breakfast was included but before that we walked down to the Leaning Tower of Pisa to beat the crowds and get some of the iconic tourist photos.

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After breakfast we checked out and made our way to the bus stop and then the train back to the airport for our rental car pick up. A cute little Fiat will be perfect for these narrow roads.
We had a great system where I drove in the morning and Reese in the afternoon so that we both got a chance to see the scenery. Not long after leaving the airport we were pulled over by the police at a large round a bout
They asked for our ID and thankfully we both bought international drivers licences, as I am sure that is what they were looking for. A quick glance and they waved us on. Otherwise we would have been faced with a hefty fine.
Trying to get back into the fast paced traffic at this traffic circle was a real challenge but eventually we were on our way again.

First stop San Gimignano. Doug and I were here a few years ago and loved it. After parking the car outside the walls, (parking is always an exercise in patience in these walled cities) we walked the streets looking in shops and eventually sitting at an outdoor cafe for a great lunch.

This was followed by the best gelato either of us had ever had! None compared for the rest of the trip, and we tried many others.

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TUSCANY

Our destination was San Quirico d"Orcia, south of Siena, a small walled medieval town that Doug and I stayed at a couple of years ago and loved it. We rented a two bedroom apartment on the main drag ( walking road) above a restaurant. We agreed to meet the owners there at 5PM. We booked Casa Del Bernini on booking.com and the rate was 150 Euros for two nights.

It was a very old building that had been remodelled. But they tried to make it very modern and in my opinion it really lost a lot of its charm in doing so. A lot of the decor looked like it was from the 80s with brass fixtures and retro furnishings and you could tell they did a lot of the work themselves. They were very proud of it however and showed it off with pride. It was huge! Way more than we needed. A large living room kitchen and dining room as well as bathroom with laundry downstairs and bedrooms and another bathroom up stairs.

He showed me the bedroom with large queen bed and then looked like he was ready to go. I said " the other bedroom?" He looked confused. I said, we booked two bedrooms. He said, " there are only two people"
Yes, but this is my son and he's not going to sleep with me.
I guess there was some confusion with the booking. But in the end he graciously opened up the second bedroom for us. We loved the location and having the large space for the two days.

A great restaurant that we went to before was across the street and we enjoyed a delicious meal. I think Reese is a little shocked by the prices in Italy.

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Days 3 and 4 were spent exploring the area by car and some of the little towns nearby. We both loved Tuscany. One of my favourite memories is when we were driving past this building on the hill and Reese stopped to take a photo. A car drove up the driveway and we realized it was a winery so we went up to look around.
I bought a bottle of red wine, we stopped at a little cheese store beside our apartment and got some Pecorino ( sheep cheese), fresh bread from the bakery and olives from the deli both beside our apartment.

We sat in the kitchen, on our devices, not talking but enjoying the amazing feast before us. We both agree it is one of the best days.

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Day 5. We checked out and headed to Siena, stopping there for a pizza to go (yuck) and then sat to have a coffee beside the Duomo. It was very crowded and Siena is not my favourite. I prefer the smaller towns, but wanted Reese to see it.

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We took the scenic route to Florence and passed by some amazing wineries and wonderful scenery. Our GPS took us through a back way to get to the airport in Florence. I remember now. The signage for the car rental drop off in Florence is horrible. We drove around and around, the GPS taking us back to the airport terminal all the time. I knew it was off site, and there were tiny signs but they just kept disappearing. Reese was getting very frustrated, as he was driving.

Finally we saw a transfer van for the rental companies and we followed it. Yeah. We waited for a bus to take us into Florence and got dropped off near the Duomo.

I had booked a stay in a monastery, the Borgo Pinto which was a couple of blocks from the Duomo and so a short walk everywhere. Our rooms were on the same floor but opposite sides , (boys one side, girls the other) We could have shared a room but it was the same price for our own singles. Doug and I had a double in a monastery in Venice. This is a great way to save a lot of money and stay close to the centre. It is also a really unique experience. The rooms are very basic but just fine for us.

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FLORENCE

Days 6 and 7 were spent exploring Florence and seeing the Uffuzi museum as well as the inside of the Duomo and museum next door. Some great meals were had, shopping done, and a lot of walking. Florence is a great city

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VENICE

Day 8 we grabbed a cab to the train station for our 930AM train to Venice. We arrived at 11:30 and took the vaperato into the centre getting off at the Rialto bridge. Our hotel is Hotel Ala Fava who sent great instructions how to get there and we arrived without getting lost!!! A major accomplishment .

Our room is small but twin beds and private bath in a great location for 308 Euros for two nights. A great breakfast was included. We wandered about Venice visiting all the major sights but there was around four cruise ships in and it was so crowded. We decided to get off the beaten track and explore outside the main area and come back in the evening when most of the cruisers had left.

One night we went to a concert of Vivaldi by people dressed in period clothes which was fun. Music Veneziani . The weather was very warm and dry and we enjoyed some great meals in Venice.

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Day 10, September 18.

Reese flew to Budapest and I flew to Ireland to meet up with Doug.

Posted by debbep 20:42 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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