60 days in Europe: Day 19 / June 17

June 17, 2014 – Levanto – Cinque Terra: Vernazza.

From my journal:
A beautiful, sunny day for our last full one in Italy. 🙂 After coffees in our our room (still to ourselves), we had a second one at the corner.

Then walked up to the castle, down to the boat dock, back up via the San Andrea church to the ostello. Saw the ducklings. Packed for the beach and returned to the boat dock area of the beach. Had inquired about a boat-snorkeling tour, but had to wait. Sat, went in the water. Back to fococciarria for the rest of our lunch. Ate in the park. Called, tour a no-go.

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Levanto: Medieval walls and streets.

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Levanto.

Took a nap and caught 2:30 boat for Vernazza. Looked about, walked through the rock to the beach, gelato cone in hand.
Gelato Day 16: I had a cone with a new flavor: chocolate with dark chocolate chunks and hazelnuts. Pure awesomeness.

We sat, went in the water, and sat and dried off.

We went up to the Castello Doria. On the way up we saw a place that looked great for dinner, opening at 7:00. Down below we met John & Janie D. from Colorado taking some pictures and she and I talked about her camera.

 After the Castle we saw them again and met their kids. We walked back up for dinner with a terrific view. Shrimp with tomato sauce, lasagna al pesto, and salad. Then dessert. A large family that came while we were eating found maggots in their antipasto and left. We did not find any maggots in our food and were quite happy.

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Vernazza: the view from dinner.

We were going to stay until after dark to see the town lit up, but chose instead to take the 9:30 train back to Levanto.

Beautiful, perfect last day in Italy!

60 Days in Europe: Day 18 / June 16

June 16, 2014 – Levanto – Cinque Terra: Riomaggiore – Manarola – Monterosso

From my journal:
Coffees in our room. Caught train to Riomaggiore. Met NY couple on train. Walked Riomaggiore...

…took boat to Manarola. Walked up to church and took the vineyard stroll. Very nice. Bought tickets to Ventimiglia (for the next leg, to France). Took train to Monterosso; it was 35 minutes late.

 

At Monterosso we walked the Promenade, explored a WW2 German ‘pill box,’ a small gun bunker.

Gelato Day 15: I had a small cup, one-half Mandarino (orange), one-half chocolate, a favorite flavor combination of mine – a home run!

Train back to Levanto. Dinner at Bar Nadio on the beach. Pasta with pesto, pasta penne with pomodoro, a slice of spinach and ricotta torta and a big salad.

Walked on the beach. Explored back streets with two old churches. Back to ostello.

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60 days in Europe: Day 17 / June 15

June 15, 2014 – Levanto.

We missed out on Lakes Como & Maggiore when we missed two trains in Bolzano. This gave us a day to rest before we saw the Cinque Terra. We didn’t think of Levanto as a destination; it was a base from which to see the Five Towns, but we loved it there.

From my journal:
Rested in Levanto. Walked around, bought food, emailed Mom, called Elyse, and Dad & Jane (Father’s Day), planned the next leg of the trip (France). Very nice. Mostly recuperating. Weather cloudy but not too cold. No dorm-mates – room to ourselves. Dinner: gnocchi/”fish.”

Gelato Day 14: Laura had a late night cup (9:30) of Caramel, Kiwi & Ricotta (all 1 flavor). I tasted it but did not like.

60 Days in Europe: Day 15 / June 13

June 13, 2014 – Schern – Casteltotto – Bolzano.

For our descent we took the trail on the other side of Schlern from where we went up.

From my journal:
We ate breakfast and started for Monte Pez about 8:15. Enjoyed the view , took some pictures, and returned about 9:15.

I posted a couple of pictures of this on yesterday’s entry, the ones with the cross, and looking down on the hostel.

Left at 9:30 with Reiner & Barbara (biologist and immunologist @ U. of Bonn), and Karin, a freelance writer from Sweden. We pulled ahead and stopped for coffees at Sessel Schwaige, 10:50-11:25. When Reiner and Barbara arrived they told us Karin had turned back for another trail…

It was a long walk down the other side from where we had ascended, but easier and just as beautiful, and offering forest streams and lakes. We ate at a restaurant at the lake, Völser Weiher, 2:15-3:00.

We walked further toward Siusi and caught a bus arriving Castelrotto 4:00 to pick up Laura’s pack from Hotel Wolf. At 4:30 caught  bus to Bolzano, arr. 5:20.

Missed train to Como by ONE MINUTE. Next one gets us there at midnight, after the ferries have stopped running. So we decided (had) to get a hotel room in Bolzano. Directions from Google and the hotel both failed us so it took us some 2 hours to find it. Exhaustion from the hike and deficit of sleep raised our frustration. After checking in we split a pizza nearby. We had bought tickets for the 6:25 am to Verona. We hoped we would have an easier time getting to the station.

60 days in Europe: Day 14 / June 12

June 12, 2014 – Castelrotto to Schlern.

We left Castelrotto at 11 am. Trailhead 11:30. Saltner HĂĽtte 1:00. Left Saltner HĂĽtte 1:30. Schlernhus IMG_20694:15.

Bus to Suisi. Cable car to Compatsch. Started out at 11:30. Break for coffees, 1:00-1:30 at Saltner HĂĽtte.

This trail was described by the hostel as “the ‘tourist trail’ and should present no difficulties.” The first part, over rolling hills and an easy ravine was fine. But when we hit the switchback ascent to Schlern – which included crossing some patches of remaining (melting and slick) snow – it was arduous.

The time on the sign is 3 hrs 10 min. We arrived at Schlernhus at 4:15 after almost 5 hours. Thankfully we had no injuries and were not especially sore, but it was definitely beyond our level of conditioning – and air thinness left us winded every few minutes.

Video: Reaching the top of Schlern.

We laid down, before dinner – Laura slept but I did not.

We had great company at dinner, and we lingered long after we’d eaten, until we started turning in.

No showers, no hot water. Before turning in, Laura and I watched a thunder storm over the mountains behind us, from a hall window. Awesome.

60 days in Europe: Day 13 / June 11

June 11, 2014 – Venice to Castelrotto.

From my journal:
Travel day. Easy morning. Breakfast – not really; coffees and pastries. Nice visit with Mark & Carmel from Sydney, 60-ish couple on 13-month trip around the world.

Shopped for groceries. Picked up our packs and caught the train to Bolzano via Verona (3 hours).

Afternoon coffees, bus to Castelrotto (50 min), gorgeous little alpine town. So Austrian it’s like we got an extra country added to our trip for free.

Checked into Hotel Wolf. Walked the town, including an amazing little cemetery with World Wars dead memorial. Dinner at Hexenkeller (Witch’s Cellar. The town is known for it’s witch-burning past) – great Tyrolean food and down-to-earth alpine atmosphere. Local beer – Antonius. We both had pork cutlet with mushroom sauce and salad bar. Mmm!

We returned after – Gelato Day 11: S: Menta (mint chocolate chip), L: Dark Cherry mit Kirsh (cherry schnapps) – about 9:20.
The music was already underway, the room was packed with happy friendly Germans (actually, I should say, German-speakers, as they could be Italian, Swiss, Austrian or German) singing along to beloved folk songs. We got seats at the bar and ordered drinks. The couple next to us struck up a conversation between songs, and when the music resumed she locked arms with me and we joined in a line singers rocking form side to side as they sang. What a blast!

60 Days in Europe: Day 12 / June 10

June 10, 2014 – Venice!

From my journal:
We decided not to hurry into Venice, as we planned to avoid crowds by staying late. So we did our laundry in the morning. Bought two 12-hour bus passes around 10:30 and took the bus from the train station out to the city.

Laura wanted to visit the smaller islands, so went first to Murano (glass factories) and from there to Burano (brightly-painted buildings and houses), and landed in the city at Fondamenta Nuove.

Gelato day 10: Burano – wonderful place – S: banana/chocolate. L: pineapple!

Walked to the Grand Canal and crossed Ponte di Rialti. Then walked east to San Polo (neighborhood) in search of one of the cheap restaurants we were told we would find there – tortellini for me, salad for Laura. Walked toward Piazzale Roma (bus station) but got on vaporetto (water bus) before we got there. I don’t know which stop it was, but what was supposed to be a fast water bus had a lot of stops and they made change boats, too. Got off at San Marco. Unfortunately the Basilica and the Doge’s Palazzo were closed, so we just enjoyed the waterfront and the Square.

Belissimo. Took the boat to San Giorgio, but missed our stop and got off when it came back over the Giudecca (Canal) at Zattere.

Walked the Fondamenta a short while. Then we took the boat back to Ferrovia, and the bus back to the hostel. Venice in a day!

Video: Venice from the vaporetto.


60 Days in Europe: Day 5 / June 3

June 3, 2014. Rome – Vatican City.

When it comes to museums, sometimes photos were allowed, often they were not. When they were permitted, usually getting a decent photo of a painting or something in a case was not possible because of low lighting or reflections. I took them anyway, because I wanted to remember what I saw.

From my journal: Late start. Breakfast down the street. Metro to Vatican City. Got into the Museum w/o standing in line, and 2 1/2 hours early.

 

Sistine Chapel awed me. The hair was standing up on my arms. (No photos permitted.)

Then direct to St. Peter’s.

We started toward Castel Sant’Angelo, at a few blocks before. Nice walk along the Tiber under shade trees, to Campo de FioreBruno statue, Piazza Farnese.

Visited Forno bakery  to get biscotti for morning. Coffee and tiramisu at Cucina Romana.

7:30 Piazza Navona – my favorite (piazza) so far! Lively and festive. Musicians, singers, beautiful building overlooking – fantastic!  – See the video below.

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Piazza Navona

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Patheon – walked three quarters of the way around.

Fontana di Trevi – very crowded, stayed only briefly.

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Fontana di Trevi

On to Gelato Day 4. Wonderful spot off the Fontana. My choice: Amaretto. Sweet old lady topped it off with something else – probably sweet almond. Best yet!

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View from the Spanish Steps

Walked to the Spanish Steps. Caught the Metro back from there.
Video: Rome II

60 Days in Europe: Day 4/June 2

June 2, 2014 – Sorrento to Rome.

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Please bring me my wine.

 

From my journal: Big day!

Went to train station early, caught the slow & dirty to Napoli, and the clean & fast to Rome by 11:10. Just a few blocks to the hostel. Dropped our bags and walked to the Coliseum.

After that the Forum, then Palatine Hill.

Tried to nap on a patch of grass on the trail down the Hill to Via S. Grigoria. Too much traffic. Walked back to the hostel for siesta, and ate at Alfredo’s at 7 (spaghetti carbonara & ravioli).

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Then caught the Metro to Piazza di Popolo, and walked the length of the Via del Corso. Then back to the hostel by 10:30. Whooped!

PS Gelato Day 3: shared a small pistachio on del Corso. Different than what we know in the States; less sweet, nuttier. Delicioso!

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Video: Rome I

60 Days in Europe: Day 0 & 1/May 29 & 30

Italics are used for my original journal entries.

Thursday, May 29, 2014 – A travel day.

Laura  and I flew out of Portland to Dallas, then onto London.

Arrived at American desk by 10:50 am. Security, Starbucks, gate.
I said, “There’s no one in the whole world I’d rather go on this trip with than you.”
“Me neither.”

I believe she meant me and not herself.

The previous fall I turned 50, Laura would turn 50 while traveling, and in between our birthdays was our 30th wedding anniversary. To celebrate all three, we planned a five-country, two-month trip. We would just bring backpacks. We would stay almost exclusively in hostels.
We had never traveled like this. We tried to plan it as cheaply as possible, while also seeing and doing as much as we could without feeling rushed. We weren’t really sure that it would turn out that way; there was only one way to find out.

Dallas. Arr. 5:45 pm.
Dep. for London, 7:50 CT

May 30, 2014 – Our second air travel day.

11:25 am GMT landing at London-Heathrow.

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St. Albans

11:22 – First glimpse of England! Dreamt of since I was a lad.
Caught bus @ 1:15 to Stanstead (Airport). Bob Marley on the coach radio. Freeway driving on the M25 outside London – looks like the I-5 in Oregon: trees and power lines. Further along, the country opened to fields, farms and clusters of old brick houses.

The highlight was glimpsing St. Alban’s Cathedral rising above some trees.

Our flight for Rome left at 6:19. We ate and slept while waiting.

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Flying over the Alps

On our flight to Rome, we sat next to a woman, Amanda, from Rome, who made the following suggestions:

[Three pages of notes by Amanda, her favorite places, including bakeries.]

After landing, we took a bus to Ciampino Train Station and walked half a block to our hostel.

Ciampino

60 Days in Europe

Welcome to my daily, day-by day account in words, pictures and video of our five-country,

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60-day European tour we began two years ago today. Each post will be published on the day exactly two years from the corresponding date on our trip.

The text is mostly from the journal I made as we traveled. I usually wrote just before sleeping each night, sometimes adding a note in the morning. My entries are uneven, sometimes just recording mundane facts about where we went and what we saw, at other times trying to add a little flourish here and there about how wonderful the the sights and sounds and tastes were. When I didn’t do that, it was usually because I was tired, not because the day wasn’t amazing.

IMG_1451I hope you enjoy it.

Italy          May 30 – June 18
France      June 18 – 21
Spain        June 21 – July 5
Paris         July 5 – 7
England   July 8 – 20
Scotland  July 20 – 25
England   July 25 – 29