Thursday, July 30, 2009

Barcelona, France

July 30-Day 30

We are halfway into our trip and we still are having a great time. We still have energy and we still like each other. The best part about this week is that Erin arrived yesterday. We are so excited to be able to have someone new to hang out with. It definatly has brought a hop to our skip to walk around another city with someone like Erin. She is so fun.
We arrived into Barcelona yesterday evening by train. We had a long day (12 hours) and 5 trains till we arrived. We knew where Erin was thinking she would be staying for the night and so we booked our own hostel right near hers. Hers was booked up. We went to her hostel as soon as we checked into ours and they told us she had checked in but she had left. So we went on a mission to get something to eat, and to find her. We grabbed a donair from a vendor and walked around the area and finally we spotted her. I yelled Erin, she turned around and ran to us with big hugs. We felt very happy to have found her in a city this size. The crowds are massive and we definatly feel ready to leave for quieter pastures.
We spent our day today touring the works of Gaudi. We again did a lot of walking and think we almost pooped Erin out. But she was fine. Oh too be 22 again. We bought some salsa and guacamole makings and had an awesome supper in our hostel.
Tomorrow we will leave after breakfast to somewhere down the coast of Spain. We will stop when it looks quiet and we see some sand from the train.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cinque Terra, Italy

we dropped into the Cinque Terra area without a reservation or much info about where to stay. As we were on the train from Venice to this area we read that the town we were planning on staying in books up really quickly so we were prepared to have to go to another town if needed. That was the case, the first town we would have stayed in was called Monteroso, the town we ended up staying in was Riomaggiore. It ended up being the fifth and last of the towns in the Cinque Terra. The pictures are from the day we went on a hike through the mountains from the first town till the last. It is a fairly strenuous hike up and down hand made paths through absolutly georgeous picturistic mountains and valleys and the towns are all build on the sides of mountains.They almost seem to hang over the water at times. The mountains have been terraced in many places to make it possible to grow grapes, orchards and gardens. We stopped in each town for an icecream break and to fill up our water bottles. We had a back pack with 4 water bottles and we needed to fill up as often as we could. We were very proud of Miranda for being able to do the hike and not once did she complain about it being to hard. She is in amazing shape this year and has always been able to keep up and even run ahead.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


July 23-Day 23

We are in Venice, yes we are.We arrived by train yesterday, left our packs at the check baggage for the day and started exploring. We love it. Dean thought he wouldn’t be he loves it also. We walked around the canals and bridges yesterday till late afternoon and decided to head out and look for our hostel. We collected our bags and checked our directions that I had printed up before we left. Venice was one of the places that we were told to pre-book. So I found the only hostel a month or so ago that had room. So we read the instructions, jumped on a bus and off we went. It sounds easy when I say it like that. It was acually a huge pain in the butt. But how can I complain when we are in VENICE. O.K. so I won’t complain but, it was a really hard day. When we got to the town where the directions said to get off, we had to walk ½ a mile yet. When we finally got there, the host wasn’t there. There was a family from Sweden staying there and they borrowed us the phone to phone the lady. They then proceded to tell us that there was not kitchen access, nor was there a store or resteraunt within walking distance. We hadn’t prepared for that at all. We thought we would get to the hostel and either pick up some food or go for dinner. NOT. We were hungry, tired and grumpy. What to do? I think the Swedish couple could see it was going to get ugly, or something. They had just finished up their dinner and offered us some salami, bread, wine and fruit. Just then I remembered we had a package of microwave rice and chicken and there was a microwave so we were set. Whew, that was close. We decided that we would not be staying the 2 nights we had pre-booked and would take our bags and figure out some other place to stay for the next night.
Day 2 in Venice. We ate the included bread and jam for breakfast and walked the ½ mile back to the bus stop and now we are back in Venice. First things first we again dropped our bags at the bus station baggage check and thought we would wing it and see what rooms would run us right in Venice. We walked a little way and saw a little hotel called Dollerama, or something close. We though, it looked good and inquired about the price and surprise, surprise it is only $100. Well, Euro, but from what we had heard that is a steal. Also, we have no other plan for tonight, so the Dollerama it is. Now we can relax and start the tour.
We started by going to San Paulo square where we had a quick lunch of pizza and water. We had read in the |Rick Steves travel book that if you checked your backpack or bag you could get to the front of the line into the bacillica. It worked. We did the walk through and it is another very nice church. Then we toured the Doge’s palace and the bridge of sighs and the prison. That was our favorite tour. We haven’t seen an old prison yet and it also included a museum of the old armory. They had many pieces still in excellent shape. The collection included swords, cross bows, cannons, guns, pistols, suits of armor, shield, lances, spears and pikes. The palace was full of paintings and old furniture. It was amazing.
We were DONE around 5 o’clock and still had to walk back, collect our packs, shop for supper (roast chicken, salad, cucumbers, peppers, focaccia bread and fruit) and check into our hotel. We have doen that, finished our supper and are sitting on the terrace overlooking the cannal, drinking wine, sketching the old buildings, writing in our journals listening to the church bells ring and reading. Ahh… life is good right now. Oh, and the gondolas are floating by below us to give us some music and something to entertain us. It’s funny, as we are looking out over the gondolas floating by the tourists are taking pictures of us on the terrace and waving. Very fun.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Divaca, Slovenia

July 20- Day 20

We had a huge treat today, mostly for Miranda and I. We found out that the stables for the very famous Lipizzaner horses was right here in Slovenia. We told Miranda on the way that we would be seeing them and she was pumped. I was excited to be able to see them also. We had the lady from the tourist info desk reserve a pension (B&B) in the town od Divaca which is 5 minutes away from Lipca. Lipca is where the Lippizaners live. We arrived a bit late as we took the wrong train and had to wait an hour at the next stop to catch the right one and by 2:20 or so we finally dropped our packs in the room. The owner of our pension offered to drive us to Lipca and return 3 hours later to pick us up (for free!). So we of course said sure and off we went.
We took the $30 tour and our tour guide told us all about the history of the horses which have been here since 1580. The farm is home to 400 horses and all the official bredding papers. The Sud farm in one of the most attractive cultural and historical sites in the republis oc Slovenia. After WW ll, Lipca developed its own classical ridding school and show the horses all over the world. The farm is in a picturesque valley surrounded by century old Linden and oak trees.
We loved to stand and admire the different colors and sizes of all the horses we were shown. We were brought into the best stud barn where we got to pet the oldest of their studs who was 24 years old. He was a beautiful specimin even in his old age. He looked at us with eyes full of wisdom and patience as we took picture after picture trying to get the perfect shot.
As we were about to leave they brought back all the mothers and fouls from pasture. They passed by us and we longed to be able to get closer but were separated by a fence so we had to zoom in for a couple of good shots for the photo album.
We feel grateful to have been able to see such wonderful things in the last few weeks. I am so glad we got to do something that was so good for Miranda’s soul (and mine).

Postojnksa Jama cave, Slovenia

July 19-Day 19

We left today for a small town called Postojna, Slovenia. It is in the direction of where we want to go and it has a very huge cave that we want to go see. We take the 1:30 train and the ride is only an hour so we are there early enough in the afternoon to go and see the cave. We drop our bags at the HI hostel that we had book the night before at the last hostel and walked the mile or so to the caves. They are called Postojnksa Jama Cave. It is a UNESCO site.
It was amazing. It was a huge cave system that would be similar to Carlsbad caverns in the USA. It is the most visited caves in Europe. It was discouvered in 1818 and tourism started there the very next year. The constant temp. of the cave is a very cool 8 degrees. Of course we didn’t think of this when we left our hostel and luckly they rent coats for people like us. The tour was the perfect length. They first took us in about 2 miles in a small train, then our guide walked us through another mile or so and then the next 2 miles was again by train. By the time we left our toes were quite chilly.
We decided to leave for the next town tomorrow morning.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

eating in Slovenia

We woke up to rain this morning. The kids thought it was great. So did I. It meant we could have a morning of hanging out and relaxing. If you know anything about the way we travel, you will know exactly what I'm talking about. I won't name names but some of us can't just sit still for very long. After the rain stopped around 11am we headed out to check out the city. It is another old world city full of very beautiful buildings, castles and markets. It is Saturday today and that means markets are huge. We went from vegi stgand to vegi stand buying green and yellow beans, fresh baby carrots, potatoes, peppers, tomotoes, celantro, honey and also some fresh chicken breasts. Then back to our hostel to cook up the best lunch ever. We cut up the chicken, fryed it with fresh morel mushrooms. Boiled the potatoes, beans and carrots and Mmmm mmmm it was fabulous. I have been so hungry for fresh vegis, this was exactly what we all needed. After lunch we spent the afternoon walking around finding cool buildings and churches to explore. It was very relaxing. At 4 it started to rain again, just in time. So we headed back to the Alibi hostel and took showers and planned our next few days and started making supper. Of course we brought along our trusty bottle of epicure guacamoli mix. So we had nachos with fresh salsa and guacamoli.We tryed a Slovenian local wine called Quercus Modri Pinot (very nice). For desert we had a traditional cake from the market. It is called prekmurska gibanica. It is a layered cake with 8 layers of filling and filo dough. A layer of poppy seed filling is placed on a buttered cake dough followed by more filo dough on top of which cottage cheese, walnut and apple fillings are put, followed by another four layers of the same filling in the same order. The top layer is filo that gets iced with icing sugar after the cake has been baked. It tasted like a combination of baklava and apple pie. Not bad.
Tomorrow we leave for another part of Slovenia that is closer to the coast. We will spend a few days touring some caves and we have a huge surprise for Miranda. We had no idea that the Lipizaner stalions are bred, raised and trained in Slovenia. Well we decided to go to see them. We hope to do that in the next few days. So don't tell her.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ljubljana, Slovenia

After a long day on 2 trains. We made it to the capital of Slovenia. The train ride was very nice. We travelled through mountains and past rushing rivers, forests full of trees and many little villages. We met a couple from the U.S.A who told us getting a hostel might be tough and gave us a number of the place they were staying at. The hostel was booked but had people who had made a reservation not show up and we had to wait till after 10 pm to find out if the room would be availlable. At 10:15 I borrowed another travellers cell and called. By the grace of God we got that room and will have it for 2 nights. While we were checking in there were other travellers who were desperatly looking for a place to stay and might have to stay in the train station. God is good. Miranda is our prayer warrior. Whenever we have a worry, she is on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

random pictures

Here are a few random pictures of our trip so far. Tomorrow we leave for a town called Ljubljana in Slovenia. We almost hate to leave Croatia. We really love it here. But the train awaits. Will post as soon as we have internet access again.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bol, Croatia beach

July 15-Day 15
We spent the afternoon at a beach that is famous for it’s great beaches. They definatly are better in Manitoba. Grand beach still has the best sand beaches ever. We rented a car and drove across the Island to a town called Bol. On the way home we passed many little stone piles and some of them were old homes. We stopped to investigate and got to go into one. We had a great day but came home a tiny bit burnt.

Brac, Croatia

July 14- Day 14

The night was much better in a berth. We all had a great sleep in our little cabin. We were awoken by a tap on the door at 6am. The ferry docks at 7 so we had some time to get up. We are now in Split, Croatia. I can tell that we are in another country. The people are more friendly here and the cars are not trying to run everyone over. Ah, to be out of Italy ia so much more relaxing. We stopped in a small sidewalk area for our breakfast of freah bread and honey that we picked up at a backery in Ancona. It was a nice treat to have honey. Then we looked for the tourist info booth. In all the citys we have been in so far, the info booths are useless and this one we couldn’t even find. After asking 5 or 6 local people we gave up. As we were looking we were discussing what we were going to do. The kids voted for an island. We heard from some travellers on the ferry over that there was a really nice island just off the mainland called Brac and another called Hvar. We decided during our walk to go straight out to one of them. We couldn’t decide which one so we left it to the one that left soonest. Brac was the winner. After yet another 1 hr. ferry ride we are now going to be settled for a few days. As long as we can find a place to stay.
As we got off the ferry a woman was standing at the dock. She asked me as I was walking by if we needed a place to stay. I said yes we did and asked what she had. She told us about her house where she also lives and rent s out room. Her family was supposed to be here and were delayed and so she had these apartments for rent. We asked the price and if we could see it, so she took us 5 mins. Away. The place is great. It is a 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment with a kitchen and a dining room and a full couryard right out our door. She lives right next door and so Miranda had fun this evenning helping her water her flowers and lemon and other fruit trees in the courtyard. We spent the day exploring the small very quiet town and at the beach. I absolutluy love it here. We may stay longer than planned.

More ferries

July 13-Day 13

Well, we survived that night on the deck. The floor was a bit hard, but I got myself a few of our travel towels (hand towel size) and put them under my hips and that made a big difference. Colton and Miranda had a great sleep. They slept till almost 9am. We had a breakfast of Baklava that we picked up last night at the port bakery. We are back to drinking small, strong Italian coffee. We got to Ancona before noon, stayed at the ferry port to try to fiqure out where to go next. The people there were quite helpful as we went from company to company asking scedual times and prices. We initally planned on going to Zadar, Croatia but the ferry going there only left the next evening. So the next option was a toen further south called Split. So we hung around the town of Ancona till our overnight ferry departure for Split at 8 pm. This ferry trip we splurged on a berth. It was a bit more expensive but we figured we would have spent more by spending the night in a hotel and taking the ferry the next day so we did it. We also needed to sleep on a bed as last night was the ferry floor.


July 12-Day 12

Today we decided to not go out of town. We hung around the hostel working on getting more info on the next weeks travels. We decided to take a ferry to Ancona, Italy where we would be able to get another ferry to Croatia. We now had to figure out how to get back to Greece so we could get back to Italy so we could get to Coratia. We initially thought we could take a bus or train north from Albania through Bosnia and Montenegra to get to Ctroatia, and that would be possible, but with Miranda feeling car sick on our last trip in the mountains we didn’t want to risk 14 hours on a bus to get to Croatia. So we will do it the more relaxed way. The only problem now was getting back to main land Greece so we could catch the overnight ferry north. The only way to get to Croatia by ferry is from Italy. We decided to go as far north as we could on our first ferry so the next ferry across would be quicker. There is a ferry everyday from Igomanitsa ,Greece to Ancona, Italy so that is the one we will take. Annette (hairy lemon owner) will drive us to Greece for 100 Euro. Because our other option was ether the bus, which left Saranda, Albania at 7 pm and gets to the border at 10pm. Then there might be a bus to Igomanitsa. Well to be in the middle of nowhere at night was not an option. The other option was to take a short ferry ride back to Corfu and another to Igomanitsa. That would in the end cost about 100 euros so the car ride sounded like a good option. So that is how it turned out. Annette drove us to Greece and we are on the overnight ferry to Italy and hopefully we can catch another ferry from there to Croatia asap.
The ferry we are on this time is very nice. It is a 10 story ship with a swimming pool, disco, stores,3 restaurants, and much more. It is much nicer than the Ventouris ferry line we caught to Corfu. The ferry line is called Super Fast Ferries. We didn’t get the seats this time. Instead we bought 2 blankets from Saranda and we will sleep on deck. This was a much nicer ride. The deck is covered and completely lined with windows so are protected from the elements. We got on the ship at 8:30 and by 10:30 we are all hunkering down for the night. We have 2 long tables where we will sleep for the night. So we tuck our bags under near the back and crawl under the tables with our blankets to sleep for the night. A little hard but much better that the lousy seats on the last ferry and no snoring fat men.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The stone town and castle

July 10-Day 10
We have breakfast included at our hostel (the hairy lemon) so we stayed in for a breakfast of crepes and we made our own coffee from hone. Mmm it was so good. Then we walked over to the bus to Gjirokastra. It was a worthwhile trip. Gjirokastra is built on a hillside and the town is below it. It's a UNESCO world heritage site. Below the castle the gray stone houses with the dark gray slate roofs blend into the hillside. They think that the citadel may have been settled as early as the 3rd century BC. There is a huge collection of ww1 and ww2 military equipment that Colton and Miranda had a great time climbing on and exploring. At one point Colton was shaking with excitement at being able to actually climb into a real tank and sit on cannons and anti-aircraft guns. When we first walked into the castle we were amazed at the immensity of it. It was all made of stone and brick with arched ceilings 20 ft. high. The main hallway was approx. 200 feet long and about the same length in the other direction which they are still restoring. The main hallway had all the cannons and military stuff that Colton could climb on. We were some of the only people touring around the castle so we got it all to ourselves. When we left this first section of the building we walked to the next part of the castle which was dated earlier so was not as well preserved. But just as interesting to see. There were old stone walls outlining the rooms that once must have been immense and grand. We walked around for 2 to 3 hours and with every corner were even more excited to see what would come next. The kids both thought they were lucky to be able to see and experience it. Miranda said she wants to bring her kids here to see this. We had to tear ourselves away so we could catch the bus back. Miranda was not to pumped about that. On the way to Gjirokastra, Miranda started feeling car sick about half way. She didn't get sick but felt awful. We also thought this was about the most hair raising bus ride we have ever been on. The ride was a bit like a carnival ride. You basically held on with both hands to the seat in front of you using all the muscles in your body. We held on tightly while being thrown from side to side and front to back as the driver braked and accelerated his way up and down the mountain on the switchback roads. At one point I saw a sign that said 30 km an hour with an ! point above it. I guess they weren't kidding about the speed on that one. We once again made it home safely. We are constantly reminded about how God is protecting us during our travels. We have noticed that the people in Albania are very friendly and really try to help us get around without our speaking their language. They are really helpful and we find we feel very safe here. Saranda is a quiet town with a family type atmosphere. We want to spend one more day here on the beach and to eat the amazing food and have more amazing wine before we head north.