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Just Back from 6 weeks in England, Paris and Italy

Just Back from 6 weeks in England, Paris and Italy

Old Aug 6th, 2003, 08:15 PM
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Hi Hagan

Here in Australia we normally get 4 weeks annual leave. Paul had actually accumulated enough leave for our entire holiday, but luckily I have a very understanding employer who approved leave without pay for me.

Maybe we are a very leisure oriented people - I know I have a one-track mind (holidays) - and its a LONG way for us to get to Europe so I think we feel like we need to make the most of it.

But - with or without pay, we certainly plan on going back as soon as we can organise it.

Helen
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Old Aug 6th, 2003, 09:07 PM
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No pressure, Helen, but I hope you make it to Positano before my wife and I head off to Europe ex Gold Coast on 21st August. We're also spending five nights in Positano - at the Pensione Maria Luisa - and looking forward to your thoughts.

Doug
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Old Aug 7th, 2003, 04:34 AM
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Still enjoying your report, Helen. I forgot to mention that your time in Paris sounds eerily the same as our first time there. I'm talking nearly every detail! I enjoyed reliving it. Thanks.
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Old Aug 7th, 2003, 04:42 AM
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Wonderful report and I was sooo delighted when you mentioned your visit to Crackington Haven.

For the last several years a large group of friends (most of us met at university in the early 90s) take a week's holiday together in the UK. We spent the first two years in Crackington Haven staying in a large house just near the main pub by the beach.

After that the owners sold it to a commune group and we found alternatives but I stayed in touch with the owners of our first place and we visited and joined them for dinner on subsequent visits.

In recent years we've been to other parts of the UK such as Anglesey in Wales, but I have fond memories of Bude and Boscastle and many other places round about and am still in touch with the Crackington Haven friends.

Thanks for bringing back the memories and for a wonderful report.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:19 PM
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Thanks for the feedback! If anyone would would like any info - please ask - we have prices, timetables, etc at hand.

Dougw: now I'm back on line I hope to post the rest of my report in the next day or so - so POSITANO is coming!!!!

Helen
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:22 PM
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VENEZIA
We were greeted at Venice railway station with a very helpful and friendly information officer who quickly corrected my pronunciation of our hotel (Alcyone) and told us which vaporetto to catch and where to get off ? we bought our Eurostar tickets for our next leg to Florence at the travel agents office at the station before we walked outside and got our first glimpse of this magic city. We bought a 3-day Vaporetto pass and headed to the Rialto Bridge. From here it was just a short walk to our hotel ? again a basic but pleasant hotel with a tiny, tiny bathroom ? but no fans, no A/C ? but, I really felt like we were in the real Venice ? I know the hotel is right on the tourist path between the Rialto and San Marco but the shutters on our windows looked like they had looked like that for centuries, we looked out onto a small disused courtyard with wooden gates at the end and if you put your head out the window and looked down we could just catch a glimpse of a canal and we could hear the gondoliers singing coming from the canal as well. Hows that for a canal view? Dinner tonight at Ristorante Grande Canal - a ?touristo? restaurant right by the Grand Canal on the opposite side of the Rialto Bridge - food was average, but for our first night in Venice the location was great. After dinner a stroll to Piazza San Marco.

DAY 2
We caught a vaporetto to Lido, walked across to the beach and paddled in the Adriatic Sea. On the way back we got off at S. Elena, and walked through the lush green gardens and then made our way back to San Marco Piazza, stopping for lunch along the way at a little restaurant near the Naval headquarters. We also stopped at Palazzo Querini Stampalia to check out the building and courtyard built by architect Carlo Scarpa. Dinner is pizza and birra by the Grand Canal.

DAY 3
Vaporetto to San Toma - we find our way to Hotel Iris (a hotel we were considering) and then wander through the San Polo area, stopping to have a couple of beers and write postcards at a bar in a piazza by the ?Universitario di Archittura?. We continue our wandering and come across a tiny deli -we buy salami, mortadella, cheese, bread rolls, pastries and aranciatas - the lady serving us was VERY patient as we fumbled and bumbled our way with ?bad? Italian, hand gestures and facial expressions to ask for what we wanted. BUT it cost us almost nothing and was our most delicious picnic (on the steps of the church at Stae vaporetto stop). The tiny piazzas in the back streets could be almost deserted or be filled with small children playing and the parents and grandparents socialising ? depending on the time of day you passed. The narrow alleys with washing flapping from lines high up on the walls, people coming and going and the beautiful old doors leading from the street into their homes made me wish I had a key to glimpse the life these Venetians lead. I absolutely loved the doors (and door knockers) we saw wherever we went ? I could have easily brought home a shipping container full of doors!!

Later this afternoon we headed to the Dorsoduro area and walk some more - our wanderings along little alleys, beside canals, through tiny piazzas, watching the canal traffic and restorations going on, the Venetians coming and going to and from work, to and from the shops, picking up their children from school was our favorite way to spend our time in Venice. We had dinner at Bar Accademia - right by the Accademia Bridge - lots of locals were eating here - it looked like they were ordering delicious little snacks that weren?t on the menu!! The advantage of being a local I guess.

DAY 4
We caught a vaporetto to Murano, past the island of the dead ? enjoyed the glassmaking exhibition, then wandered through the shops by the main canal.

We walked some more through San Marco, looking at watercolour paintings. I actually think we covered most lanes and canals in Venice ? we walked till we could walk no more!! Then we sat and ate and drank some more!! We did eventually find and buy a watercolour painting from Nicola Tenderini at his little shop just on the other side of the Rialto Bridge. Dinner tonight was at an Osteria just past the fruit and vegetable markets. We loved San Marco piazza. Most nights we would buy gelato and just enjoy the fun and showmanship of the bands ? one night a lady with a magnificent voice who was in the crowd of people watching would sing along with the band. Her voice would erupt from different parts of the piazza from time to time ? she was having a ball! The sky in Italy at night is such a beautiful ?midnight? blue ? like nothing I had ever seen - and to have such brilliant buildings silhouetted against the sky took my breath away night after night.

The vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal was pretty amazing ? all those magnificent old buildings and their incredible high ceilinged rooms that you can see from the canal ? you can almost imagine the excesses of life along the canal in past times. The sound of the gondaliers calling to each other across the canals - as I think about it, I just want to be there!!!!!!

We loved the daily early morning activity of all the delivery boats bringing supplies in to the bars and cafes - crates being unloaded from the boats and then carried on trolleys to its final destination - all before the day tourists arrive. The delivery of a load of clothes driers to a warehouse was also an amazing feat of balance - the deck of the boat was piled high with the driers and they were unloaded through huge doors that opened directly onto the canal. When all the driers on top had been unloaded, they then removed, one by one, huge planks that formed the deck - they then had another layer of driers underneath!!!

I have just fininshed reading ?A Thousand Days in Venice? by Marlena de Blasi - if you have ever been to Venice, you must read it - you will love it!!

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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:35 PM
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Sorry about the questions Marks - I have copy and pasted from a word document and then gone in to edit my reply but my edits are not registering!?!?!?!?!
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:42 PM
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Helen, enjoyed your trip report so very much. We were in Paris last fall for 14 days and plan to go to London in the spring. Your "other than London" report on England makes me want to do some time outside the city this time. Did you and Paul have problems adjusting to the driving pattern in England?

Mike
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:46 PM
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BARBERINO VAL D?ELSA, TUSCANY
We were now old hands at catching trains. We decided Eurostar was the way to go from now on. From Venice we arrived in Florence and had directions to get to the bus depot which was right by the train station.

We were to catch a bus to Tarvanelle, where we were to be met by Giovanni who owns the apartment we were staying in for the next 7 nights, Luna di Miele in Barberino Val D?Elsa (see website HYPERLINK "http://www.bardotti.com" www.bardotti.com ). Well the apartment was perfect . Even better than the web site and the view from our bedroom window was just breathtaking! The village was just like a postcard, but with just enough shops, restaurants and lovely locals to make this a really special week. We did not have a car as driving on the ?wrong? side of the road just seemed too scary. With a car you would see a lot of the surrounding countryside and villages and wineries, but we were happy to stay in the village and check out the local bars, restaurants, gelato shops, walk the surrounding areas, have picnics in the local parks, Paul did some pencil drawings and by the end of the week we almost felt like locals, people were recognising and greeting us and our Italian was slowly, slowly getting better.

We did spend one day at San Gimignano and one day in Siena but did not get to Florence as planned. The bus service is very good although we did spend a lot of time in the piazza in Poggibonsi as we always seemed to just miss the connecting bus. This was OK though, as this park was obviously the centre of the daily passegiatta. We would watch the procession of Vespas drive into the carpark across the road, the arrival of people young and old, the greeting of friends. And here we were sitting in the midst of it partaking of our daily gelato!!

We had originally booked an apartment in San Gimignano but were to pick up the keys in Colle Val D?Elsa . While searching for bus timetables I came across above site and changed my mind. Lucky!! While San Gimignano is amazing and I loved it lots, Barberino was a lot smaller and a lot more personal.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:56 PM
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Hi Mikex:

I take it you mean driving on the left hand side of the road? This was no problem for us as its the same in Australia. There were lots of quite big roundabouts - so we did find ourselves going around in circles a few times until we could manoeuvre ourselves into the correct lane to exit!!!!

In Tuscany it would have been a BIG advantage to hire a car - but it just seemed to be too stressful to suddenly start driving on the "wrong" side of the road - luckily the bus and train system was so good.

However, if you were to hire a car from a town out of London and get your bearings on the smaller, quieter roads it may not be such a problem.

Helen
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 09:13 PM
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Thanks Helen, Forgot you guys drive on the other side too. My wife is concerned about my ability to adjust since her brother had trouble when he was there and he was 20 years younger than I will be. Oh well, we will make it one way or the other.

Mike
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 10:18 PM
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Helen, I am really enjoying your report. We also went to London, Paris and Italy this summer but I could never write a report that "glows" like yours. I'm so glad you enjoyed yourselves so much - even the pickpocketing experience didn't seem to deter you from having a wonderfu experience. I am looking forward to any further details.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 02:58 AM
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This is such a wonderful report. As a first time traveler to Europe you experienced so much and project a total sense of enjoyment and appreciation in telling us about it. wonderful. Thanks.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 06:18 AM
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Thanks for the response on my report, Helen. I'm still very much enjoying your report, as well. I can agree with so many of your insights of Venice.

I, too, read 1,000 Days in Venice when I returned. It brought back a lot of memories.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 07:23 AM
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I'm enjoying following you around Europe, if only in my mind's eye, as I read your wonderful report. I went to the website you posted, www.bardotti.com, to check out your apartment in Tuscany, but couldn't find Luna di Miele on the site.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 08:34 AM
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HELENJ
This is a labor of love.....THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!
Oh, the memories that you have brought back to me.....
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 03:34 PM
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Hi Betsy

I have just looked at www.bardotti.com and it looks like they have combined 2 apartments. Luna di Miele only had one bedroom and catered for 2 people only and it now looks like the Attico apartment (which was across the hallway from us) is for 2-6 people. The first lot of photos under Attico were the apartment we stayed in.

It was so good booking directly with, and meeting the owner of the apartment - we e-mailed him many times between booking the apartment and actually arriving. Giovanni was very helpful and it was a "real" Italian contact.

Helen
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 03:41 PM
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ROMA
Next stop Roma!! How hot can it get. Rome was like a sauna. Thank goodness for the little fountains of spring water that are all over the place. Filling up water bottles and splashing cool water over our faces was a life saver.

We caught a taxi from the railway station to our hotel, Residenza San Pantaleo, which is just around the corner from Piazza Navona in a beautiful old building with a magnificent old open, wrought iron lift to take us to the 4th floor. A wide spiral staircase circled the lift and we also had a key to the massive front door to the building which was locked at weekends and after 7pm at night. Again we almost felt like we really lived there, having our own front door key. Our room was quite basic but very pleasant, we did have a tiny balcony overlooking a courtyard. There was a problem with the air-conditioning while we were there which was uncomfortable in the heat. Waking to the sound of Florian?s (Owner/Manager) voice in the hallway as he discussed the problem with the air-conditioner repair man for the second day in a row was like being saturated to the very core with day-to-day Italy. I?m sure he didn?t draw breath for a full 5 minutes!!

Our first afternoon was the Panthenon (with a mass and beautiful singing by a choir in progress), the Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona with pasta for dinner at Antonio?s Trattoria (between Pantheon and Piazza Navona). Rome was definitely the most crowded place we had encountered in our entire trip. What a vibrant city!

DAY 2
We started out towards the Colosseum, but not far from our hotel we came to some ruins that had been excavated . We were astounded! We read all the signs, took photos, walked around the whole area. We were soon to find out that if we did this whenever we came across similar sites that we would never venture very far at all. The whole city is like one giant archaeological dig!! At the Colosseum we did a guided tour (for 7 Euros) which was excellent. All this history is just mindboggling. We had lunch at a café on the way to St Clemente Church. We took one of my favourite photos here, Paul just casually having lunch and a beer with the Colosseum in the background!!! We saw the excavated lower levels of St Clemente. This whole city must have been so much closer to sea level than what it is today, they just kept on building on top of old building sites! Dinner in Piazza Navona tonight.

DAY 3
The Forum is our first stop. We followed the Lonely Planet tour for this site, but when we had finished (at the end away from Piazza Venezia) we heard a FREE tour that was just about to start. If it had not been so hot we would have done it again. Excavation is still taking place at the Forum site, very painstaking, scraping and brushing the soil away bit by bit. This afternoon, we head to the Spanish Steps. They were beautiful and very crowded, but there was no colour, no flowers at all lining the steps like all the photographs show! Walked back towards the Trevi Fountain and had dinner at a tiny restaurant , the waiter was very friendly and brought us complimentary Limoncellos at the end of our meal.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 04:14 PM
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Roma (Continued)

DAY 4
Shopping and browsing in Campo di Fiori. The fruits, vegetables, all the stalls just look so wonderful. Paul found a barbershop here and got a haircut from Mario!! From here we headed to Trastevere, very different, very quiet, not many tourists at all. We wandered and found Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and Basilica di St Cecilia. While these two churches looked quite small and not-too-special from the outside, walking inside is like a magical transformation with centuries of history contained within the walls, not to mention the ornate decoration, paintings and statues to rival that you see in the well-known, huge churches. We would quite often just wander into small churches as we passed. Sometimes a service would be in progress, but always we were amazed how beautiful they were, even the very simple, less ornate churches. We had lunch at a tiny bar and were entertained by a couple playing the piano accordion. Loved the fruit stalls selling containers of cool fruit salad ? and also went into a department store to buy a few cooler, sleeveless tops to wear ? definitely did not pack for this heat.

DAY 5
Piazza Barberini. By the time we find the church with the bones of the Cappuchin Monks it is closed, to re-open at 3.00pm. So lunch it is and then a walk to the Borghese Gardens and gelato before going back to the Cappuchin Monks ? how creepy are the displays ? even the light fittings you walk under are fashioned from human bones!! We pass Chiesa di San Luigi dei Francesi on the way back to the hotel and decide to go in.Restoration is under way with workers up scaffolding behind sheets draped along the walls. At the back of this church is a huge painting by Michelangelo. And this is a church we had walked past many times and had not previously noticed. How blase we become!

From the back of Piazza Del Campidoglio you get and amazing view of the Roman Forum (just one more incredible photo opportunity). The three beautiful palaces in the Piazza were designed by Michelangelo and the afternoon we were there they were setting up for a huge outdoor concert, with stages, lighting, sound equipment, grand pianos and seating taking up the centre of the piazza. A rock band was rehearsing , while being videoed. A complete mix of the old and new. I did see a lot of posters around the city advertising concerts at the Colosseum and St Peters and the like. What incredible settings!!

Next morning and we take only our second taxi ride of our trip ? back to Termini Station to catch a train to Naples on our way to Positano, our last destination. At Naples station we were bombarded with drivers wanting to take us to Positano (80 Euros was the going rate) and warning (or trying to scare us) about pickpockets on the trains ? but I had it all worked out that we would catch the train to Sorrento and then the bus to Positano (for about 10 Euros for the two of us). The bus trip from Sorrento was unreal ? the narrow winding road, hairpin bends and the sheer drop down the cliff to the water below, the sound of the bus horn warning oncoming traffic of our approach. I loved the roadside stalls along the way with their strings of red chilliesand lemons hanging all over them.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 10:25 PM
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Dougw

I have just checked out the website for Pensione Maria Luisa - it's beautiful!! We bags staying there next time we get to Positano!!

As you have most probably researched, it is above Fornillo Beach which is the next beach along from Positano, an easy 15 minute walk along a pathway built dramatically on the side of the rocks which drop steeply to the water. At Fornillo there is a hotel right on the beach and three or four cafes/ restaurants and sunlounges and umbrellas for hire as well. Just out from the beach there is a big rock that sticks out of the water. The afternoon that we were there it was the popular thing to swim out to the rock and then perch on it before swimming back to shore. We did not venture up the steep path behind the beach - it was a very hot day and the path was very, very steep.

You will have a wonderful time - the whole area is stunningly beautiful.

Helen
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