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Wed 27 Feb 2013

We're off!!

Left on early train from Brisbane down to the Gold Coast airport, this was an easy trip as the bus meets the train at Varsity Lakes & then goes to the airport.


Amazing it cost us half of what the 20 min trip to Brisbane airport would have been on the airport train!

Checked in with Scoot airlines the new economy arm of Singapore airlines then sat & enjoyed banana & blueberry muffin for brekky, before the intrepid bag check & immigration process begins.


Once again Sylvia gets pulled out for drug protection wand check, after a close shave with a beagle drug sniffer dog who was sniffing for oranges at our last return trip in Brisbane Airport


Sylvia asked the guy if they were on Border Patrol & he laughed & said "I hope not as I haven't put my makeup on today!', I think they thought that Sylva didn''t look that suspicious and wanted an easy day!!!


It gave us both a giggle & as usual Syl took it in her stride 2nd time around.


Finally ready to board our Scoot plane named Barry

Here is a pic of Barry.


would you believe Syl met up with a frequent shopper to Big W in the boarding line up, who had just had a new baby & was on her way to Singapore with Aus husband to meet with her family.

Syl stopped short of checking her bag though, ha ha.


Finally onboard our $199 to Singapore flight,we did pay for bag & meal upgrade which added another few $'s on.


We were keen to try this new airline and had read lots of reviews on it some good some very critical. We were really impressed, staff were cheerful & friendly, seats & cabin same as any other airline,, drinking water on tap.


The only difference was there was no free onflight entertainment.

You could pay extra for online streaming facility on your device.


We chose not to as we had recorded hours of stuff already for this trip, so had plenty to listen to & books to read.

The meals we had pre-ordered came around & I can honestly say it was the best airline meal I had ever eaten.


So really enjoyed our Scoot experience & have more money to spend on those wonderful coffees round Europe!


Arrived in Singapore caught $2 swish metro from airport to corner near our hotel & hey bingo enjoying cuppa in hotel room in no time.


Walked out for stroll & had yummy meal then back to room for early night as both pretty tired and as we have gone 2 hours younger in timezone here weF have had a very long day.

Sat 1 Mar

Stataue of a baby seems to float above the ground in Singapore park

A plaque details information about this amazing baby statue

Singapore Shopping plaza is huge with its own boating lake and river in the middle!

Singapore football stadium, floating in the sea!

Statues of merchants discuss the days business

Baking cakes is really technical in Singapore!


Great day around Singapore, lots of walking around the refurbished Waterfront & enjoyed the best Biryani we have had in a long time for $4 each at a lovely eatery by an ice skating rink. So easy to get around on metro & very cheap too. Back to hotel to pack bags for early flight Friday to Hanoi.


Up early & caught metro straight to airport for 8am flight to Hanoi, only 3hr flight so there by 11am.


Usual time to get through airport with more here as had to collect our entry visa at immigration. Hotel car picked us up at airport & enjoyed the amazing ride with car weaving in & around the numerous scooters on the road, loaded up with entire families & shopping!

Hanoi town

Life in your hands in Hanoi traffic

The Lake in the centre of Hanoi

view of the lake Pagoda


The hotel was delightful, just as we had seen on the website & there was a team of 6 people to welcome us.


We were served welcome chilled juice & fruit in the foyer & then taken up to our room. We were only paying $37 Aus per night but we were treated like the king & queen. Anyone coming to Hanoi should definitely stay here. Made ourself a cuppa & freshened up then out & about to explore.


We are 5 min walk from Hanoi lake so went there & along to French Quarter to enjoy late lunch. More walkabout round lake stopping late afternoon at nice lakeside cafe, had 2 teas & yummy cake each for $3 each!


Walked back to main centre & wow, so many eateries, shops & nonstop flow of scooters on the narrow streets. We had no idea where we were going but is was great just to be amongst it all. The marketeers were beginning to take over the streets ready for the night markets, we were leaving browsing them until tomorrow night as we were feeling tired after another long day, as we had gone back onother hour in time.


Found a lovely Indian restaurant & had very yummy meal for $4 each.


Woke up Sat morning to lovely sound of stringed instrument being played somewhere in streets below. We normally have the church bells for our alarm clock in Europe so this is another great way to wake up. Down for hotel brekky, lovely spread of goodies with nice choice of hot dishes they cooked to order, all included

10 Mar 2013

Our hotel was down this tiny lane somewhere!

All but the kitchen sink on this bicycle!

Even more than the kitchen sink on their shoulders!

The water puppet theatre in Hanoi


Really enjoyed our 5 days in Hanoi, got braver with the traffic as the days went by.

Went to performance of the famous Water Puppets, lovely theatre with reserved seats for $5 each. The show was great & gave us a lot of Vietnam's history in its storytelling.


Visited historical sites of Hanoi & did lots of walking with the occasional tut tut ride now & again when we were weary.


The people are really nice & we enjoyed lots of hand gestures with cafe owners to try & understand each other.


When we walked out each morning we seemed to always meet a little man who proceeded to point at our feet & shake a squeegy at us. We still don't know what he wanted, but decided he didn't want to wash our feet but wash our funny.


We left Hanoi hoping to return again there one day.

Our train pulls in

The seating crush

Great bathroom facilities, note the handy shower attachment on the right (not for showering where you think).


We decided we would try & do the journey South by train. so a couple of days before we left Hanoi we walked to the train station to book our tickets. We decided we would do a short stint to see how it all went & booked to a place called Ninh Binh & booked a 2 nights stay there as we read it was known as  "Halong Bay on Rice Paddies".


The train trip went well, only 3hr run with reserved seats for $3 each, the challenging thing was getting off! As we were in carriage 9 near the end of the train our door didn't make the platform & the drop down was about 1.5 metres. Sylvia still can't remamber how she got down but we laughed a lot about it later.


Ninh Binh was a small town with a few hotels, ours was a tour agency as well so after unloading bags & before going out to find food we arranged for a tour the next morning.



Our driver picked us up after brekky & drove us to "100 step Pagoda" where after climbing steps I decided to climb higher up rugged terrain for 20 min, Syl played safe & sat & enjoyed the view waiting for my return.


He then drove us to river where we got on small boat with lady in back to do rowing......2hr trip through tranquil rice paddies & 3 caves, it was amazing we really enjoyed it.


Driver asked if we wanted to go to "500 step Pagoda" next but we decided not to as it was getting hot & returned back to town for late lunch. Great trip $15 each.


Did 2 more 3hr train hops over next few days staying at small towns that were off the tourist beat. Met with many locals who were all vying for us to try their food, fortunately they don't get upset when you can't eat at them all.


Arrived in Hue yesterday for a 3 night stop after another leg on the train, have enjoyed each journey & found it a great way to see countryside.


Have met with many travellers along the way, great to swap stories as lots are going South to North so we can glean from each other.


One thing I forgot to mention is when we walking in Hanoi we met up with a lady from US who we had a good chat with . For some reason she asked my profession & as soon as I said IT she said "can you help me with my Ipad". So there on street corner IT Eric was helping her out, she was overjoyed & has invited us to go & see her in Cape Cod where she runs an art gallery.

22 Mar 2013

Hops off his Bike and dived into the river for a quick free lunch in the lily pads! breakfast on the run?

The Citadel at Hue

Inside the citadel

Sylvia enjoys Eric's great bargaining deal, for a ride to the other side of the perfume river.

But on the other side of the river in the middle of nowhere came the famous words . "Eric, I don't like this one litle bit!"

Inside the Market at Hue


Really enjoyed our time in Hue, popular riverside town filled with lots of shops & eating places. The busiest place we have seen for tourists so far. We did lots of walkabout & rivertrips to see amazing Citadel & other great sights.


Once again the locals are so friendly & wanting to help wherever thay can. We were staying at a guesthouse here, recommended on the net. They make their own jam which is delicious with the brekky goodies. On one of our walkabouts we went to the train station to book our next ticket to our next stop Hoi An, a coastel run renowned to be very spectacular as the train followed the coastline South.


On the morning we left our Hue guesthouse the lady presented us each with a gift & a big goodbye special.


Our 3hr train trip to Hoi An was a lovely run & as spectacular as promised. We have got used to the trains now & realise the rush to board is just what they seem to do. Not really necessary for us to join it as everyone has reserved seat & they won't leave until everyone is on board.


On arrival at Denang, the nearest station to Hoi An ,we knew we had a 30min cab ride to do. We were chatting with a French couple on the station before we had boarded the train who were also going to Hoi An, so they offered to share a taxi with us. Worked out at $10 per couple which we agreed was fair for the 30 min trip.


We really liked Hoi An which is another popular tourist spot. There is the Old Town area & 2 lovely beaches nearby.

Playing Bingo Vietnamese style

Our new passenger friend on the train to Hoi An

Vietnamese national dress walking by .

The Japanese bridge in the old town



The Old town was only 10 min walk from our hotel & the beaches about 10 min in cab for $2,


Views from the restuarant as we while away the hours on mango ice-cream yum!

Cost me 50c for the photograph, but well worth it for this 500 year old street seller. pic

Delivering smoko to the cycle taxi drivers

Outside a Vitnamese temple in old city.


Once again very friendly & happy people, in our hotel which had several rooms & 4 floors, their claim to fame was remembering everryone by name. So whenever you walked in or out they shouted "Hello Eri & Sylv ", it was great.


Fishing in the old style in Hoi An. The net is lowered into the water with a pulley system and lays flat in a rectangle on the bottom of the river.

The net is then pulled up by a clever system of bamboo poles all connected to the main pulley.

Street cafes and restuarants in the old city by the river.

Boating on the river in a very wobbly row boat

Hoi An Old city


We went to the beach most days, lots of relaxing under the many palm trees, the sea was quite cool but many tourists went for a dip.On one of the days we decided to walk back, it took about an hour but a bit too far to do each day in the $2 taxi rides to the rescue.


On one of our mornings there a group of about 100 schoolchildren arrived for a beach excursion. They were all in school uniform & had several teachers in tow. They were not far from us & after they had all eaten their lunches the games began. Amazing the same games we have, tug of war, sack racing, badminton etc.


 Lovely shop in Old City

Old City shopfront

Japanese bridge

    English lesson on beach

The beach games are about to begin


We were enjoying watching, they were 10-11yr olds, so true to form some of them were not too interested in the games & began wandering.


They kept shouting "hello" each time they passed & it wasn't too long before we had a little crowd around us wanting to have a chat. It was great, Syl was in her element of course & it wasn't too long before  the "Learning to speak English class on beach" began. They were with us for 20min or so before whistle blew & they had to move on.


They were learning English at school but most could only say one word here and there. The main speaker was a boy 11yr old who told us he had been top student for English & Maths for the past 2 years.


He wants to be a doctor so we applauded him for his dream & hopefully that is what he will achieve.

He was asking many questions about where we lived etc, so he learnt a lot about Australia & was excited about givng the class a lesson on it when he got back to school. Most of the group were feeding him with questions & he was translating as best he could.


We had lots of laughter when things got :"lost in translation" but we really enjoyed our time with them.


The old town area was really nice. lots of small streets full of stuff to buy & huge variety of eateries to choose from. We had extended our stay from 3 nights to 6 at the hotel so it gave us plenty of opportunity to try many of them. There was also a huge open market nearby where you could finf some weird & wonderful things to eat.


At night the Old Town was lit by coloured hanging lanterns which made the place look so special. It was set on a river so the colours reflected on the water.


Once again when it came time to move on we both agreed we would love to come back again one day.


We'd decided our next stop in Vietnam was going to be Ho Chi Minh & as the trip by train or bus was going to be 18+ hrs that it would be best take a flight.


Only 1hr flight over so we booked Jetstar for $50 each & arrived in Ho Chi Minh just after midnight for 3 night stay there. Fortunately the hotel cab was there to meet us as the flight was delayed an hour hence our late arrival/


Wow, massive city, such a change after the smaller places we had been to & traffic, traffic traffic! Mind you we did find crossing the road much easier than Hanoi as they did seem to have some road rules here & traffic lights. Mind you we had got very courageous in Hanoi even though Syl did admit at times she closed her eyes & trusted being led by me across the road!


Quay at Ho Chi Minh

City Hall Ho Chi Minh

Operatic performer

       Opera House Ho Chi Minh


On our 1st morning we did walkabout & ended up at the Zoo & Botanical gardens. A lovely big area , lovely gardens & of course the animals. They had elephants, tigers, bears, lions. hippos. giraffes, apes etc all in their own open spaces. We spent a few hrs there as it was such a peaceful retreat from the city Amazing  place & only $2 each to go in.


Maybe you are wondering why we keep mentioning the cost of things so much, but as you know we are travelling on a budget so just giving you tips on the  how to do it.


Over the next couple of days we did lots of walkabout to see amazing sights of the city & also to book our bus ticket to go North to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. No trainline through Cambodia but we hear they could be getting it up & running in the next couple of years.


One thing we had noticed on our travels through Vietnam is they were actively building hotels, shops, cafes so they do seem to be a country on the move.More & more tourists are visiting from all corners of the earth as the country gets more prepared for them.


As we prepare to leave Vietnam we are filled with so many special memories of our time here & we both really hope to come back again.

07 April 2013

Journey North to Canbodia went well, caught Limousine Express Bus which we had booked seats on. 7hr total journey but we stopped for 30min lunch at restaurant on route where we had nice lunch. When we boarded the bus we were given cold towels, bottled water & croissant each, bus was aircond,movie running & free wifi which we thought was great as ticket was only $13 each.

Riverfront Phnom Penh

Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Royal Palace Phnom Penh

       Royal Palace Phnom Penh

A couple of hours into the journey we arrived at Cambodia border, the hostess on the bus had collected all our passports, money for visa & filled out entry form. Very organised & they get preferential treatment so they escape queues of solo travellers. We all had to get off bus & as they called our name go through passport control where we got our passport back including attached visa. Meanwhile the driver took bus to Cambodia side so was waiting for us all to board again. All aboard & we were on our way again.


After another couple of hours we drove onto large, old ferry & crossed river all still on the bus, old,noisy ferry but we made it! So we felt as though we had quite an eventful journey by the time we got to Phnom Penh.

Royal Palace interior Phnom Penh

Crossing the Mekong on the Bus!

On the bus on the rickety old ferry

will we make it!!

       Blue Pumpkin Cafe time in Phnom Penh

Arrived in Phnom Penh early afternoon & tuk tuks were waiting at bus station to take us all to our hotels. We were staying round the corner from the Grand Palace so nice & central to walk there & riverfront only minutes away.


Spent 4 nts in P Penh & did lots of walkabout & seeing sites, very hot & dry so lots of stopping to cool off in the many cafes around.


We found one called "Blue Pumpkin" which everyone going to P Penh must visit. They do assortment of meals, amazing cakes & icecream, so ofcourse we went there at some point everyday. Around the sides of the large cafe they had amazing, soft, comfy seating, you had to take your shoes off, climb up & just recline! They put small tables across your outstretched legs & served your goodies to you. It certainly was an experience!


We then caught another bus  for our journey North to Siem Reap, minibus picked us up after brekky & took us to the bus station, where once again we were given cold towel, bottled water & cake. We stopped on route for eats & total journey was only 5hr.


Once again tuk tuk to hotel from bus station, greeted as usual by very attentive staff who immediately sat us down & brought chilled fruit juice & nibbles to us while they took luggage to the room. The hotel had free tuk tuk to & fro town which was only 10 min away but far too hot to walk.


Amazing town centre, we loved it, so many eating outlets, alleyways full of goodies to buy, so much to see. Syl had her 1st try of "Dr Feet" here, I thought she was being very brave when she wanted to do it. Anyway up she jumped, plunged her feet into tank full of fish that supposedly nibble your feet.


But couple of screams later & few attempts at keeping her feet in she gave up & the girl offered her a pedicure & nail polish instead.  We had such a laugh & at least she gace it a go.

Going in for the live fish foot massage and foot cleaning fish in Siem Reap.

Immediately out for Syl as there must have been a few pirahna fish in there!!

Relaxing in the Tuk Tuk in Siem Reap

      Approaching Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

We explored many sites of Siem Reap, all so wonderful, lots of walking & plenty of ancient steps to climb. We spent the day round Angkor Wat, so much to see. booked a tuk tuk for the whole day & he was great dropping us off at each site then he drove to other end of it & he then relaxed in his hammock hanging from tuk tuk roof until we reappeared.


So the whole day was at our pace, he had coolbox full of water for us. so we were never thirsty.When we were ready for lunch he took us to really nice restaurant where we had a great meal.

Tomb Raiders site near Angkor Wat


Is the tree holding up the ruin, or the ruin holding up the tree??



Dancers in the grounds if Angkor Wat


Angkor Wat Temple nearly sundown

As the weather was really hot we decided to extend our stay & have easy days intersperced with busier ones. So we stayed here for 10 days in total as we spent time deciding where to fly to from Bangkok & book flights, as we had to show immigration our onward travel info to be able to enter Thailand.


Really enjoyed Siem Reap & felt really sad when the time came for us to move on. Just as in Vietnam the people are really very friendly & kind & we had lots of fun with them.


We took a 2hr taxi ride to the border to go over into Thailand, we had read the bus made several stops which were not really necessary. Arrived at the border just after lunch as we had read getting there earlier it could be busy with all the buses that had left Siem Reap at 8am. We couldn't have timed it better, no one was there so after leaving taxi we walked out of Cambodia up the road for


100 metres & entered Thailand, all done in about 15min, they had said you could be queueing for long time in hot sun if you got there when it was busy.

We had booked 1 night stay at Thailand border town just to wind down before train North to Bangkok. After checking in hotel did walkabout, found a bank open, amazing 4pm Sat aft. Changed our $US into Thai Baht, had been using US in Cambodia as they use that alongside there own currency.


Had early dinner as decided to get 6am train to Bangkok rather than wait for the later 1pm one.

21 April 2013

Started our journey North on 6am train to Bangkok. Short tuk tuk ride to station & there in plenty of time to choose our seats.

Boarding the train was easy on this leg, no 10ft drop!

look like comfy seats, but they are hard plastic, no cushions here!

The Thai border

We had a couple of places where we thought we might break the


Journey, but as we were not sure we bought ticket all the way to Bangkok in case we changed our minds. Ticket $1-50 each for 6hr journey!

We ended up doing the full journey in one stint as when we reached places we thought we might stay they looked far too remote from anywhere.The train experience was great, we knew the seats were hard so we had plenty to sit on at the ready. From the start the train resembled an indoor market, lots of lively chatter & lots of goodies on sale. It was hilarious to see, ladies going up & down the train singing their wares! Anything from cooked goodies with fried egg on top, drinks & fesh fruit & veg,


We had chosen the last carriage on purpose as fewer seats so more roomier, but we didn't know it was where the marketeers sorted their wares.We were enthralled & thoroughly entertained by their industry & had so much fun with them. Different ones jumped off at diiferent stops & more got on.

When the train guard came down to check our $1-50 tickets they immediately tried to sell him stuff. It looked so funny as he was in very smart officious looking uniform in amongst the buckets full of cold drinks & other stuff.


They had hooks on ceiling of train for them to put their bamboo poles on which they carried their stuff on when leaving the train.


The scenery was good, passing through lots of country areas, seeing Shaolin monks on way to daily prayer in lots of places.


Another thing we found interesting was everyone on train chatted together, they included us but we sometimes got :"lost in translation", but we still had lots of laughs. No mobile phones were in sight, so good to see the interaction with them all.


We arrived in bustling Bangkok & an information lady at the station actually walked with us to a tourist place to book hotel, as we crossed the road she just walked out amongst the traffic & held her hand up for them to stop & let us cross. What power! We might still have been there trying to cross the unbelievably busy road!


Got hotel in nearby location so just had to barter with tuk tuk for ride. Syl stayed with bags & I walked across road to do the tuk tuk deal, or so I thought.

After Eric feeling very pleased with himself bargaining and agreeing on a price, the guy he was bargaining with pointed to a nearby motorbike!.that was his transport. He burst out laughing when I pointed to Syl & bags across street, so Eric got a good price with his mate for us complete with tuktuk!


After couple of nights in nice quiet location we decided to take the plunge & move nearer to centre of Bangkok. We had enjoyed the R & R but were once again ready for some hustle & bustle & delights of Bangkok.

Thai Dancers

Thai flower market

Thai flower market

Thai flower market

Thai flower market

Famous Khao San Road Market

Famous Chatuchak market, really cheap!!

Famous Chatuchak market, really cheap and trendy

On the river Ferry

On the river Ferry  lots of junks and atmosphere

Don't go to Thailand during SongKran water festival

They shoot you all day for 3 days with soak em water guns

And drench you with buckets whilkst you are in the tuk tuk

Thai Temple

Thai Palace

Thai Palace

We chose place near to skytrain which runs all over Bangkok above city streets, very quick, cheap & easy to get to all the sites.

Did all major sites of Bangkok after seeing them many years ago plus many we hadn't been to on our last visit. Had many trips up & down the river stopping off at different places each time we went.


Once again we found the Thai people really friendly & helpful & of course the food is unbelievable.


During our stay we had Thai New Year, which means everyone can spray you with water. We were amazed, all adults bearing water guns! Seemingly it started out as a New Year Blessing when the monks shook a little water over you.


Of course unfortunately it has got out of hand with water guns everywhere. It was over 4 days so we were well armed & at the ready to try & avoid them. Didn't always succeed but as it was hot weather we dried off quickly.The locals were relieved when it was all over as some of them refuse to go out during that time including our hotel owner.


So after 2 wonderful weeks in Thailand we are now moving on to Greece for some adventures there.


We leave Bangkok tomorrow night for 7hr flight to Cairo, 4hr transit then 2 hr flight to Athens. Both really excited, long time since we have been there, last visit was when Syl was pregnant with Ivan, we stayed on a Greek Island & just visited Athens for the day.

20 June 2013

Arrived in Athens after good flight from Bangkok. Expected to feel tired but we were both so excited that after checking in at our hotel we were out & about to check out some eats as by now it was late afternoon.


Found a nice restaurant & then back for early bed to try & catch up on lost sleep after long flight & to be ready for day of exploring tomorrow.


After good hotel brekky we hit the road & found are way to the Acropolis, wow it was amazing & well worth the many steps in and around the site.Spent all day around Acropolis as so much to see,after dinner we walked back to see it all lit up..fantastic.


Acropolis at night



The next morning we caught a bus over to Napflio, a 2hr bus ride West of Athens, where we had booked into a pensione for 4 nights. The journey was good & great scenery on route.


When we arrived in Napflio we were thrilled to find the attic room we had booked was easily as good as we had read on the internet. The pensione only had 4 bedrooms over 3 floors, we were on the top floor in the attic room. The 1st challenge we had was getting up the stairs with our bags, they were so narrow & really steep. After lots of giggling we finally made it up there & it was amazing how we seemed to adjust to them as soon we were sprinting up them!


The owner had a delightful shop round the corner & everyday his Mum made cakes & left them in the kitchen for us to enjoy. One day when we got back there was a bag of oranges freshly picked for us to use, they were so juicy.

Our cute attic had its own little patio where we enjoyed our brekky each morning & sat out again in the long, sunny evenings. The sun went down about 10pm so we had plenty of time to enjoy our lovely spot.


We really enjoyed Nafplio, very pretty coastal town, lovely cobbled streets & so much to see. We did long walks around the area & decided to extend our stay as we liked it so much.

The attic room with a view

Nafplio Loverly

Cruise to Hydra

        On Hydra

We did a 1 day cruise to 2 islands, Hydra & Stsesis, spending 3hr on each & 3hr cruising time.


Hydra was one of the islands we had visited before & it was exactly how we remembered, cute tiered houses built into the hillside, so delightful & just like a pcture postcard. We did walkabout on both islands enjoying goodies & icecream on route. The cruise was fabulous, water was so clear & blue & as calm as could be.

We found a friend on Hydra

They make bread the old fashioned way on Hydra!

Dropping a pin at the Epidravos Amphi-theatre

Five tourists appreciated my speech at the Amphi-theatre

Visited other sites from Nafplio...amphitheatre at Epidavros,the best preserved in Greece, it really was amazing & well worth the 40min walk from the bus stop to reach it.


We were sad to move on from Nafplio & our little attic room, when we were leaving we were given a jar of their homemade Marmelade, made from their lovely oranges.


We then moved to Loutraki where we had a 3nt stay to explore the area. Another little seaside town & a great base to get to places we wanted to go.


We had a day trip to Ancient Numea exploring ruins there. Next day we went to Ancient Corinth which was also amazing. Near the site there was an ancient fort on the top of mountainside, as we had gone on the bus we had no intention of trying to get up there. As it happened a young man from Bulgaria got chatting to us & offered to take us in his car.

Old Corinth

The old Corinthian way

The Isthmus canal at Corinth

The organ grinder with no monkey business

We were delighted & the road up was very steep & narrow with amazing views down.


When we were ready to go back down he invited us to join his family who were waiting for him at cafe down below. They were all in from Bulgaria for the week & only 10hr drive for them to Greece.We got off  the bus at Istmus Canal on way back, amazing to see.

Blowing bubbles in Athens square

The old way of selling bread

Wire trees!!

Say goodnight Gracie!

After Loutraki we moved back to Athens again for 2nt stay before our flight to Barcelona, Spain. We couldn't resist another stay there & went back to view Acropolis from different sides, walking up very steep paths in local park we had been told about. Certainly steep but view was well worth the climb.

Ministry of Silly Soldiers, change guard in front of Athens Parliament building

Also saw changing of the guard several times as they change every hr & as it is so good to watch we couldn't resist.


Stayed & watched their Easter Parade through the main square then wandered home to hotel to pack for tomorrows flight to Spain.


Sad to leave Greece, had a fabulous time but hope to get back again one day.

02 July 2013

Arrived in Barcelona & as we knew we were going to be coming back to visit later,  we decided to first start our journey South.

We booked 4 nights in Sitges, a coastal medieval town 1hr south of Barcelona airport.


Enjoyed our time there with lots of exploring around the cobbled street town plus long walks along the seashore.


Good to be in Spain again after many years & we managed with the little Spanish we knew & learnt more words along the way.

Sitges Main square

Sitges Lovely streets

One of the Sitges locals, that's a live chicken in the box on the back!

The Church in Sitges

We then moved  on to Tarragona just a 2hr train journey South, we had prebooked 4nt accom in the University there where they offered tourist rooms.


It was great & the room was really nice, all mod cons & we really enjoyed having breakfasts with the few students who were still on campus.

We felt like teenagers again & they were all very friendly.


Tarragona is another coastal town with an amphitheatre almost on the beach..amazing to see.


The old city area was full of great sites & we spent many hours wandering through there.


We loved Tarragona & would certainly put it high on our favourites list.


Valencia was next on our list as we were meeting up with a niece & her husband & baby who were over from Scotland & staying South of Valencia.


Our 4hr journey there was by an enjoyable & scenic one by bus.

Tarragona 'Tower of men'

Eric can't resist joining in with the Tarragona 'Tower of men

The Tarragona Amphitheatre was spectacular

Must be the oldest coffee shop in the world with ancient roman columns!

Valencia was a fabulous city with an amazing centre full of very spectacular buildings.


We were very impressed with the apartment we had prebooked & it was only short ride on the metro to the city centre.


Our 1st venture there we inevitable got lost in the maze of cobbled streets in the city heart but it was great & as always we inevitably found our way.


Susie, Del & baby Mikey arrived the next day & it was great to show them the sites of Valencia without getting lost!

Mikey Loved Valencia'

Most of all he loved the park and all the swings and climbing frames.

Inside the Valencia Market

Lots of goodies in the market!

The indoor food market is world renowned & it really has to be seen to be believed.


We all spent an enjoyable time in there tasting delicious treats as we went.


Susie & Del bought a haul of goodies to take back to Scotland with them.


As they were staying  overnight with us we were able to watch a parade that was taking place that night in the city.

The Valencia street parade

The Valencia street parade

The Valencia street parade

The Valencia street parade

We had a great Valencian Paella lunch at a very nice restaurant & Mikey was so good he slept through the couple of hours we were there.


The parade was excellent & wound its way from the Cathedral throughout the city heart.


At the end we were showered with fresh rose petals from the rooftops, an amazing end to a fabulous day.

Bocairent is a lovely medieval town

Exploring Bocairent town streets

Goudi's Church in Barcelona!

Inside Goudi's Church in Barcelona!

We extended our stay for an extra 4nts we were enjoying Valencia so much.


We also visited a hillside medieval town Bocairent for the day which was 2hr bus ride South of Valencia.

Barcelona busker

Barcelona magic fountain

Barcelona Arc de Triomphe

Goudi designed house in Barcelona!

Next move was train ride North to Barcelona an enjoyable 3hr trip.


Lots to see & all the many places Barcelona is famous for plus we explored many other sites around so lots & lots of walkabout everyday but lots of good cafe stops on route.

Dancing in the Streets Barcelona

Dancing in the Streets Barcelona

Inside Barcelona Church

Barcelona Old town

Traditional Catalonian folk dance at Barcelona Cathedral

A street player scares the tourists dressed as 'Predator'

Extended our stay there from 4nts to 6 as so much to do.This gave us time to visit Montserrat the famous monastery built into the side of a mountain, the train journey was amazing travelling up the mountain & the last part we were transferred to a funicular to reach the top.


We managed to arrive in time to hear the daily choir presentation in the monastery which was very special.


Then moved North to Girona, another small Spanish medieval town.


Once again great to explore & from there we took 30min train trip to Figueres to see the famous Salvador Dali Museum which was certainly worth a visit.



Salvadore Dali's  House in Port Lligat


Outside the Dali Museum, Figueres

The next day we took a bus to coastal town Cadaques, an idyllic picture postcard town famous for the home of Salvador Dali. His house is in Port Ligat which is a 30min walk around the bay up a steep headland but well worth the effort.


Then we caught the train to move into France stopping at Perpignan after 3h trip.


Stayed 2nt there exploring old town,castle & cathedral.


We next did a 7hr train journey over to Nice where we were being met by our friends from Sydney who were renting a cottage at a small village just along the coast from Nice.Spent 4nts with them & took picnics for long spectacular coastal walks.

Monaco harbour

Mountain walk near Nice

Riviera headland walk

Menton old town

We also took the local bus into Monaco just 10min ride away where we enjoyed visits to the famous Casino & Palace there.

Enjoyable evenings sat on the rooftop patio at the cottage overlooking the bay...lots of special time with them.


 We moved from there & did short 30min train ride to Menton, last station in France before moving on to Italy. Enjoyed Menton, more exploring around old city & lots of coastal walks.


Next stop after short 30 min train to San Remo, our 1st stop in Italy.


Once again lots of exploring, picnics etc plus of course the Italian delights of gelato, cappuchino & pizza. After 2nt stay we took the train again for 3hr journey to Genoa, the home of Christopher Columbus.


Lots of great city sites to see & watched an enjoyable afternoon outdoor music concert in one of the town squares

On one of our days there we took a 30min journey to a coastal town...Nervi.


There was a 4km suspended coastal walk there which we walked, at one point we watched the locals playing a game from their 1 man canoes.


Looked like soccer but using paddles instead of feet & each team vying to score goals in the nets they had suspended from poles in the water.


Very interesting to watch & a very energetic game.


Then 4hr train journey to Grosseto a medieval town we intended to use as a base to explore surrounding towns of Tuscany.

Grosseto, Tuscany

Castiglione della Pescaia

Siena Duormo Church

Siena old town

Siena old town

Siena City

Massa Maritima old town

Massa Maritima church

Hotel was great, amazing array of breakfast goodies & reading on the net before we booked all previous travellers were raving about it.


We spent 12nts there & after exploring Grosseto itself took day trips to Orbetello,Talamone,Castiglione della Pescaia,Massa Marittima. these were all very different , some inland, some coastal all with wonderful medieval parts to explore.


Of course we visited the famous Siena & loved it so much we went back for another day a few days later.


Thouroughly enjoyed our stint in Grosseto & finally move up to Pisa by train for our last stop before catching plane to UK to catch up with family & friends there.


Spent 4 nts in Pisa & found lots to see & explore finding Gallileo's houses along the way.

Pisa tower

Galileo's house Pisa

Pisa Duormo Church

Pisa old town

Very easy to explore with river winding through the centre & the area around the famous towers great to visit with amazing Duorma sitting right next to it.


Walked over there a few times to see on the grass & just enjoy the antics of the tourists taking photos of the Leaning Tower.


Said goodbye to the land of gelato, cappuchino & pizzas but sure we will be back again.

17th Sept 2013

We flew from Italy and arrived in sunny Scotland being met at the airport by Sylvia's brother & his wife who we were going to stay with.


They live in a lovely village only 30min from Glasgow where 2 of their 3 daughters live. We were only 2hr from Edinburgh where Eric's nephew lives, so we were in for a great family time in the next few weeks.


We really enjoyed catching up with everyone and as the weather was so good spent many days picnicing either at coastal spots or in the lovely stately gardens of castles around the area.


Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle grounds

Edinburgh Piper

Largs old town


As it didn't go dark until around 11pm we certainly had plenty of daylight hours to enjoy. We often went out on walks around the village during the evenings & really enjoying the lovely late sunsets.


Largs Viking Invader

Sunset over Largs

Sunset over Largs

Largs station


One memorable day was when Sylvia's brother took us on a mystery tour in the car. Started off with lovely cooked breakfast in Kilmarnock then a visit to couple of really interesting museums of early Scottish life. We then drove to amazing stately gardens with lovely woodland walks after which we had afternoon tea with amazing array of Scottish goodies.


Late afternoon we then drove to lovely Coastal spot very popular with tourists & locals, decided to do a long beach walk & then we all succumbed to fish & chips, Eric having battered haggis which he really likes.


 We all sat & enjoyed our delights on the seashore, the only way to really enjoy fish & chips.


 We then decided the sunset was about 3hr away but promised to be amazing as the sky was so clear & certainly was worth the wait!

 We then drove home after a very memorable day.


During our stay in Kilmarnock we had an addition to the family, one of our neice's had her 1st baby, as they live in Glasgow we were able to see him on his 2nd day which was very special to us both.


Our other neice had had her 1st baby last year but we only got to meet him on skype as we were in Australia then.


 It was so good to see so much of our great nephews Mikey & Ray as they were over very often & we frequently went to see them.


 We were priviliged to do a sleepover & babysit the 4 week old baby while Katy & Ryan went out for the evening, had a great time doing that.


During our visits to Glasgow we explored the amazing city with such an array of wonderful stuff to see.


Dr Who in Glasgow!

Glasgow Icon!


 We also went over to Edinburgh to visit our nephew there, wow we were blown away at how beautiful it is.


 Had a great day, again amazing weather so had a picnic in the park & then just did walkabout exploring the sites.


 Everything is within walking distance, so a very easy city to enjoy.


 We had been there before many years ago when we lived in UK but only had a short time there so spent most of it at the castle.


 Certainly plan to visit it again as it is very very special.


We then took a trip to visit friends & relatives around Manchester, leaving most of our stuff at Sylvia's brother's and just taking small backpack each. As from Manchester we were going to fly to Ireland from there and visit family there and then come back into Scotland.


 The weather forecast was great for this 4 week adventure so didn't need heavy stuff to carry around.


So good to catch up with family & friends around Manchester, based ourselves at Sylvia's cousins & visited people from there.

We had so much fun & lots to catch up on with everyone, and wonderful weather as the forcast said!


A day out at Morecambe

Nice Town Hall in Rochdale

Cavern at the Beatles Museum

Cavern at the Beatles Museum


We also spent time with Eric's sister who lives in the Lake District at Kendal, lovely spot & spent lots of days there walking & enjoying delicious afternoon teas at the many little historical places.


Lake District Kendal

Beatrix Potter House Kendal

Wordsworth's House Kendal


We had wonderful weekend in Chester, such a lovely place, with Ivan.


 He is normally resident in New York but his London based Company often borrow him from time to time to help out on a movie there.

 So this is what had happened, so as we were in Manchester Ivan planned a weekend escape & met us with in Chester.


 He caught a train Friday night after work direct to Chester & went back to start work on the Monday.

 He was only in from New York for 2 weeks so this was his only weekend, it was wonderful, had so much fun together.


Chester has amazing walks around its historical centre, one of which is a walk on the walls of the city, from there there are so many delightful cafes & icecreameries to choose from.


Once again amazing weather so a truly memorable weekend was had by all.


We were then flying over to Ireland from Liverpool, which is only 1hr by bus from Manchester.

 We decided to do a 2 night stay there as we had heard so much about all the improvements that had been done to Liverpool since we had seen it many years ago.

 Well we were certainly very impressed and really enjoyed our time there, visiting the amazing place where they had all the Beatles history, it took about 2 hr to go through but certainly is a must for visitors to see.


Flew to Cork, Ireland, where Eric's brother & wife live on the coast South of there, Youghal.

Spent 10 days with Dave & Pat, had a lovely time there with them both.


 We also visited The Blarney Castle for Eric to kiss the stone, lovely setting had a great time exploring the castle & its grounds.

 Also visited Waterford on the coast, another lovely place & had an overnight stay at relative's of Pat's at Kilkenny, another interesting place to visit.


Ireland Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney stone, I think!

Ireland Stag party, I think!

Ireland Youghal medieval day


We then caught the bus to travel over to the West coast to Galway, where we were meeting up with Sylvia's sister there who had flown in from Manchester.

 We had 2 nights there and enjoyed the delights of Galway plus the memorable bay there.


The 3 of us then moved north by bus to Donegal, about 3hr run with lovely scenery on route.

We were met by Sylvia's neice who we were going to stay with in a tiny village 30min away.


She & Jim live in an amazing cottage about 300 yr old!

They also caretake a similar one just 100 metres down the road from theirs.


The owner lives in UK & just goes over for fishing a couple of times a year. It is fully firnished with a large double bedroom.


If it is not booked out he has told Fiona to use it for her visitors in exchange for her & Jim to keep it in good order for him.


As our other neice Susie was over from Scotland with 16 month Mikey plus her Mum, we all knew we needed the 2nd cottage to sleep us all.

 It was great we had so much fun together, going to local deserted beaches for long walks there & playing in the sand with Mikey.

 All the girls {Heather, Fiona, Susie, Eunice & Sylvia}, had an afternoon out in Galway to browse the cute shops there & to enjoy a delightful afternoon tea together.


Ireland Youghal maedieval day

Ireland Youghal town harbour

Ireland Lismore castle famous film set

Ireland Lismore, knitted chair!


We had really late nights there together, lots of laughter playing scrabble etc & then walking down the lane by torchlight back to our cottage.


Had to see the sun go down on Galway bay!

Ireland Galway old town

Waterford red bales in the sunset!


We all left after our 4nt stay for the trip back to Scotland.


 We had preplanned it all and instead of flying we all decided to go by ferry instead.


 We had done that before & it certainly is a lovely trip.


 The ferry is like a small cruiseship, 3 stories high & great amenities on board, food, drink cinema, spa etc.


We all only wished it was a longer trip than our couple of hours.


 From leaving Fiona's cottage we had all gone by bus to the ferry terminal then once arriving in Scotland by bus to Glasgow. Then from there Sylvia's brother met us to take us back to his place.


Ireland- we stayed at the holiday cottage

Ireland Mikey on his Lord of the rings chair


We then enjoyed 2 more weeks of Scottish life, got to know lots of people around the village and as the amazing Summer weather was still happening we were able to enjoy lots of outdoor life.


We then had to get ready for the family holiday to Portugal, leaving on 17th September.


We had booked 2 large villas there as there were 11 adults & 16month & 3month babies, we were staying in an Island they had visited before as a family, Armona south of Faro.


Everyone was so excited, it was only 3hr flight from Glasgow to Faro so an easy place to get to.

 We were leaving with Pete & Heather & Sylvia's sister, who was flying from Manchester, was going to have landed 2hr before  so would be there waiting for us.


The rest of the family were flying from Glasgow the next day & Fiona & Jim from Ireland on that same day also. The plan was we would do a big basic shop before they all arrived to stock up the fridges ready.


Sad to say goodbye to UK but will be back!!