Sunday, 30 June 2013

Day 30 - 4 countries in one day

Today we both aged about twenty years. Reuben did all the driving as we navigated our way through Switzerland, Germany, Italy and into France. The van so wide, trucks, cars, tolls, mountains, tunnels (including a 17 km monster), hills, speed, all very terrifying for Anne-Marie and nerve wracking for Reuben. We did stop at a lovely, picturesque town in Switzerland for lunch, like something off a crazy postcard, not to mention the best cappuccino we have had on the trip so far. Once we hit Italy the freeways got wider, faster and more confusing, we made a wrong turn and ended up in the sea side city of Genoa. Doing as the Italian's do (when in Rome) we illegally parked the van on a quay and had strange seafood pasta for dinner. Trying to make our way back onto the freeway was an adventure; tiny, skinny, cobbled roads with bare millimeters to spare, trucks and motor bikes coming the other way and some of the busiest peak hour traffic we had ever seen. We made our way to the French/Italian border and slept at a truck stop for the night, 700 km under our belt and 50 euros spent on tollways.

Reuben at the helm of the "whale"

Picturesque Switzerland (excuse the bug on the lens)
The whale parked illegally by the waters edge

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Day 29 - Collecting the "whale"

We woke to a rainy morning, left our bags at the hotel and rode the 20 kms to collect the camper van in Germany. Anne-Marie was keen to follow the river Rhine along the German/Swiss border but soon we were soaked and covered in mud, so the romantic interlude Anne-Marie was hoping for turned into more of a cold mud bath. We arrived to collect the van surprised to see how big and daunting it looked. Once again the language barrier hindered us when we were shown how to use the car, lots of pointing and nodding. We crossed our fingers and hoped together we would understand enough to get us through. Anne-Marie was too terrified to drive the "whale" so Reuben jerkily crawled our way back to collect our bags. We managed to find an abandoned factory to hide the van behind for the night. Reuben slept like a baby but Anne-Marie's guilty conscious kept her awake, worried the French police were going to burst in at any time.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Day 28 - To Switzerland/France/Germany

Awoke to our first rainy day in two weeks, the alleys of Venice are damp and slick. We saddled our trusty steads and made for the mainland by the one perilous bridge. An awesome local lady from Mestre, Daniella with her two lovely children very kindly escorted us almost all the way to the airport on their bicycles as they where "going that way". Daniella is a bicycle advocate and activist in Mestre and proved a wonderful guide taking us via the picturesque rural back roads, avoiding the crazy Italian traffic.

After the regular bike deconstruction and reconstruction we arrived in the Euro airport that services all three countries, after few minutes on the French roads we realised how glad we where to be out of Italy, signposts, bike paths, and traffic lights (even baby ones for cyclists). Reuben's bike may be a little borked from the baggage chuckers :-( and Anne-Marie may have finally passed on her cold. We will find out tomorrow.

Discovered how much of a language barrier France is going to be when Reuben ordered a second pizza by accident when saying he enjoyed the first. Have to try and forget all those Italian greetings, numbers and pleasantries we picked up over the last three weeks.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Day 27 - Pluriball in Venice

At breakfast we heard a young English couple talking about an awesome Venetian food and wine tour they had done the night before so we got on line to make it happen.

Walked and walked for 19 hours looking for pluriball, saw most of the city and then some. Eventually after many wrong turns including crashing the filming of some amazing period drama with full mascaraed costumes, we found a little hardware store that sold our bubble wrap for protecting our bikes in the plane to Switzerland tomorrow.

In the evening we did our first organised tour of our holiday. Cecilia  took us around the back streets of Venice to tiny cicchetti bars to taste the local wines and cicchetti ("chicketty" basically tapas). It was pretty awesome, although it showed how thick with American tourists Venice actually is.

Anne-Marie is now in love with the place, It had a lovely feel and after the tour she wants to stay.

Enjoying a local Merlot.
Canals by night.

One of the friendlier locals.

Some of the local graffiti is awesome.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Day 26 - To Venice

Cycling through Roma's insane streets all morning again, confidence at an all time high, everyone may be insane but they look out for you.

An easy choice was presented, 3 hours on the high speed train with dismantled bikes, air conditioning, clean seats and nice passengers or 7 hours on 3 dodgy, smelly, hot slow trains with bikes intact. Twenty five minutes, bikes in bags. Not bad. The high speed train to Venice was eye opening 240kmh, lots of tunnels with air pressure changes and smooth as butter.

Arrived in Venice as instructed by some "good friends" no sooner off the train than informed bluntly, No Cycling, it's illegal. Talk about lead astray. We only had to carry our 40kg bikes over one bridge to get to our hotel.

Our high speed train after delivering us safely to Venice at 240kmh+

Reuben among the crazy Romans on the Train.

Hotel Alle Goooglie LOL.

Anne-Marie shows off Venice with a nice canal shot.

Cheers, Here's to delicious fresh seafood.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Day 25 - Cycle the City of Rome

Anne-Marie is hit with a good cold and spends the morning in bed before Reuben drags her out onto the cobblestone streets to dance with the insane Italian traffic.
Sighted today on the streets of Roma:

1. Scooter vs 4wd Accident.
2. Bump parking (reverse till you see the car behind you jump).
3. Wrong way up a one way street (300 streets, 150 sightings).
4. Cars parked across intersections everywhere.
5. Double parking, everywhere.
6. Indicating with the correct blinker, hmmm not even once.
7. Horribly slick cobbled streets with tram tracks, We are glad it's not wet.
8. Respect for us cycling, everywhere. Which was appreciated.

Enjoyed a delicious lunch at Cafe Romano while watching lots of very expensive cars drive up the pedestrian only side streets as if they owned the city. Somewhere around here a police department could make a motza.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Day 24 - To Roma

We had our last breakfast on the boat, waffles, bircher muesli and a pastries, appalling. We assembled the bikes and caught a train to Rome, crowded and our bikes were in the way, didn't help that we couldn't understand a word of what anyone could say. We weaved our way through the cobble stone streets, double parked cars everywhere, tourists everywhere! We found our hotel and dumped our heavy bags, full of the six bottles of wine bought during our winery visit in Sardinia. Reuben was keen to see some crypts so we headed to the Capuchin crypts, just around the corner under the church of Santa Maria. Skeletal remains of 4000 bodies nailed to the walls in intricate patterns, not Anne-Marie's cup of tea (heheheheheh). We ended the evening with an interesting tour of the Colosseum, mmmmm Gladiators.

Outside Vatican City. Observe high-vis helmet, Reuben stands out like crazy in a city where no one even wears a helmet and is too stylish apparently for safety gear at all.

Inside the Colosseum.

In front of the Alter of the Fatherland.

Bony Capuchin Crypts.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Day 20 - Ibiza

We arrived in Ibiza with stupid high expectations (thanks Simon ;-), the city was beautiful and prices seemed a lot more reasonable than we had been lead to expect. Our day consisted of walking through the markets and enjoying the Spanish cuisine. We headed back to the Serena for a wee sleep and to print our tickets for Space nightclub. A bottle of wine and Spanish Fusion for dinner with some lovely bacon before we headed off to the club. Pretty empty at 11pm but we had to be ready to leave by 4am as the last bus to the ship left at 4:45.

Over all Space was a little disappointing, It just seemed like a regular club with expensive drinks (8 euro for 330ml of water for example) and the music was just good but nothing amazing. Still feeling pretty good we ran into a cool English couple around 1:30 and they gave us free entry to another club, Privilege. We hopped a bus towards Privilege but through excellent happenstance ended up by 2am in another club Amnesia listening to an old favorite Eddie Halliwell. It went off in the best possible way.

Amnesia was absolutely amazing, the sound lights and atmosphere where incredible. We danced our arses off till 4:30 and tore ourselves away with much regret to make the last bus. Back on the ship and still very high from the whole experience we pulled deckchairs out on the deserted deck and shared a beautiful sunrise over the Ibiza harbor as the ship pulled out of port. An unforgettable night and definite highlight of the trip so far.

Although terribly short and terrible videography hopefully this captures a tiny ounce of Amnesia :-(

Reuben in Space looking all paisley

All smiles.

Back aboard the Ship at dawn

More smiles to make the sunrise prettier.

The view of Ibiza after we left port.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Day 19+ - All at sea

Wednesday was a sea day, we relaxed on the deck and found a bar hidden away at the front of the boat. It had any two cocktails for 10 euro and the Barman Eddie made them with 5 shots instead of the required 3, we drank a lot that day. Thursday we pulled into Ibiza and Friday spent the day recovering, we didn't even leave the boat to check out the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca. Saturday was spent in the lovely French city of Marseille, supposedly the culture capital of Europe and Sunday in the Italian city of Savona doing our laundry as it was hard to justify the 60 euro it would cost us on the boat. The food and entertainment was hit and miss on the boat although we did have a lovely waitress for dinner each night that served us free wine. She spoke fluent English but little Italian so was so excited to serve some English speaking cruisers. We shared a diner table with a lovely couple from Slovenia and spent the nights comparing cultures and countries.
The "Beautiful" Italian God themed ship's main atrium.

Although blurry hopefully you can make out the casino theme.

The Luna Lounge, sickening green glass and blue lighting.

Reuben enjoys a glass of champagne under the green tentacle ceiling,

Reuben Hair of the Dog's his way through Palma De Mallorca. Much sunburn was experience today.

As close as we got to Palma De Mallorca.

Marseilles tourist shot.

Italians dancing in the "gorgeous" decor.

The best night on board, helped along fabulously by Richie Abucay the best bar person on the cruise.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Day 18 - Olbia daytrip

Our first stop was the city of Olbia on the Italian island of Sardinia. We had organised to hire a car and as Anne-Marie had left her licence at home Reuben was forced to drive. A fiat panda, left hand drive, manual and of course driving on the other side of the road, he only tried to enter the freeway up the exit ramp once. Thankfully Italians don't know what an indicator is so his was not missed. We had organised a tour at a winery only 10 mins from the city, "Tenute Olbios". We were surprised to be the only ones for a two hour personalised tour with the wine maker herself. She walked us through her organic vineyard, the cellar, bottling and processing as we tasted four wines and ate local cheeses and olives. It was an incredible experience, by far the most intimate wine tasting we have ever experienced. On the winemakers advice we then enjoyed local fish for lunch at a quite restaurant on the wharf and visited some old castle ruins.
Our ship the Costa Serena from the laundromat across the bay. 

Yummy fresh shellfish for starters.

In another arch in another castle ruin.

Back aboard in clean clothes, look at those smiles. Nothing to do with the 120ml (12cl (centilitre) according to these crazy Italians) of spirits in the drinks promise.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Day 17 - Boarding the Ship

We said goodbye to Pisa and caught a train to the port of Rome in Civitaveccia to board the "Costa Serena". We partly dismantled the bikes and put them in the bike bags, adamant we were going to carry them on ourselves. We were loath to hand them over to the porters and let them take them on board, no protection in our flimsy bags. Obviously no one had ever done this before and it created much excitement for the Italian security, unable to fit our bikes through scanners etc. anyway, we made it through and boarded the ship, ghastly decor welcomed us. Our rule of no lifts, only stairs, was going to test us, our room on level 2 and the highest floor on level 12.

Being the Costa Concordia sister ship we took the Safety drills REALLY seriously.

Sunset on Anne-Marie at sea.

The first sunset we actually saw in 17 days.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day 16 - To Pisa

Getting better at ripping down and rebuilding our bikes. Our 500 gram Tardis bike bags finally proving their worth having dragged them all across Britain, stuffed hem with 15m of bubble-wrap for good measure. We landed in Pisa it's hot and confusing. Our hotel obviously in the dodgiest little section of the city, bidet, tower, tourists and pizza.  By complete fluke our one night in Pisa falls on the Night of the Luminara of San Ranieri festival, thousands of candles line the buildings along the river and the streets are full of families and street sellers. It all culminated in a one hour+ story set to fireworks and music all along the river. I swear if you plan for this stuff it is never quite so amazing.

Anne-Marie foregoes the normal holding up the tower tourist shot.

Our first Italian Pizza! In Pisa even.

The candles of the Lumiara of San Ranieri festival outline the buildings, you can just make out the crowds lining the river.
Reuben was disgustingly pleased with himself after taking this shot of the tower.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Day 15 - Download Festival

We first headed off to a French restaurant for lunch and enjoyed a bottle of bubbly. The festival was dramatically different to Rockness, we went from lush green grass, blue skies, colour and dancing, to rocks, mud, rain, lots of black and standing around nodding. We still had a ball, Anne-Marie's highlight was Enter Shikari, we enjoyed seeing Queens of the Stone Age, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, and lots we had never heard of. We can understand the English folk much more than the Scottish. *New Camera*

Reuben transporting our bike packing bubble wrap for tomorrows trip to Pisa.

Obligatory Download sign photo

Anne-Marie gets down with a more interesing couple of  ?Downloaders?

Friday, 14 June 2013

Day 14 - Edinburgh to Derby - Stress and Trains

British rail is crazy, disorganised and stressful. One trip 22 tickets, three train companies, 3 bicycle policies, 34 timetables, and one helpful Scotsman with 3/4 of an hour to get us sorted out. Made it to Derby. Scottish food is better than English. No Pictures today.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Day 13 - Rest Day 2

After organising new tyres for Reuben's steed we spent the day in Edinburgh being tourists. We visited Edinburgh castle, at the top of a huge hill smack bang in the center of the city, with about 100000 others. We then did the Scotch Whiskey Experience, a surprisingly well done drinking tour, Reuben benefited from Anne-Marie's limited appetite for the golden liquid having all 10 tastings largely to himself.  Edinburgh was a definite highlight of Scotland, somewhere worth visiting for a proper holiday.

Anne-Marie gets a big one.

Reuben gets lots of little ones.

Anne-Marie makes a Scottish soldier laugh.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Day 12 - Glasgow to Edinburgh (100km)

Changed plans, we decided to follow the canal paths to Edinburgh. Set off East with a stiff tailwind and bumped our way surprisingly quickly over the gravel tow paths, all the while fretting Reuben's worn rear tyre would give out at any moment.
We rode past the Falkirk Wheel and into a 500 odd meter canal tunnel that was dark, cold, wet and slippery where GoPro decided to try to commit suicide (see video below soon). Stopped to chat to two old fishermen, accents so thick we gave up and rode on. Approaching Edinburgh Anne-Marie cracked it because the paths where so crap so we found our way to the main road and an awesome Scottish cyclist took us under his wing leading us the final 20km right to our B&B's front door.
B&B was amazing, opulent rooms, complementary port, chocolates and fantastic service all round.

(Pictures to follow Italy is stingy with it's free wifi data limits)

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Day 11 - Crianlarich to Glasgow

Our first wet day started with a long downhill and then progressed along the Loch Lamond Cycle Way an example of a cycle path done right. The rain couldn't spoil the joy of cruising down the smooth bike path next to the lovely lock Lamond. We stopped for lunch at a little restaurant where apparently we where on the menu because during lunch the midges dined glutinously on our tender legs. We then followed the picturesque tow path into Glasgow.

Enjoy our first attempt at uploading one of our GoPro movies.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Day 10 - Fort Willam to Crianlarich (90km)

Before departing Fort William, without paying for our B&B, we checked out the ruins of Castle Lochy  which was quite beautiful. We traveled 90km on the A82, a pretty busy road with no shoulder populated by lots of articulated lorries and coachliners. Because of our first meaty headwind and long twisting climbs we held up a lot of traffic quite dramatically. At first we felt bad so pulled over to let them past but quickly realised that the traffic was hardly going faster than our slow arses. At lunch at the lonely Bridge of Orchy Hotel we met some hikers doing the West Highland Way, a famous walk from Glasgow to Fort William over the moorlands and high country. All in all a cold tough day of riding in mildly challenging conditions.

Anne-Marie amongst the ruins.

Reuben makes a friend.

A view between two of the three sisters, big arse mountains we climbed up past.

Reuben showing what a week of full Scottish breakfasts will do for you.
PS. Yes that is a bag, mirror and GoPro on my handlebars.