The last legs

The last week of our holiday was spent in Venice and Dubai.  The former we had visited previously and were looking forward to revisiting, the latter chosen purely because it is a stopover on the long way home.   It was however a very pleasant surprise and an interesting place to visit.  There were four of us, all friends from Bendigo.

Venice did not disappoint.  La Serenissima is a wonderful holiday destination with history, art  (and water) everywhere one looks.  The most popular tourist activity seems to be getting lost!  Google maps copes only so well with the narrow street and alley ways. In the three days we went to the Venice Biennale, and among other things admired the new Australian pavilion and the wonderful photographs  by Tracey Moffatt.  Another favourite  pavilion was the Russian exhibition.  We visited the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, went on a food walking tour (that’s our excuse for drinking prosecco and Aperol Spritz before noon) and generally wandered around Venice.  We also met up with some fellow travellers from the Amber Road Croatia tour.

A six hour flight from Venice saw us arrive in Dubai.  We arrived at the Hyatt Regency just before midnight and were pleased to be upgraded to a suite.  The suite was larger than many houses and had a wonderful view of the city lights! We had a busy two days in Dubai, which is literally a city built from nothing in the desert after oil was discovered in the late  1960s. We had a boat ride along the coast  and into the Dubai Creek which gave us a good view of the towering city skyline.
We were told by a taxi driver that the favourite game in Dubai is  construction and he was sure right. There are new hotels and other buildings being constructed everywhere and cranes fill the skyline.  We were informed that 500 more hotels will be  built before Expo 2020 comes to the city.


The first night we went on the obligatory desert tour. We were all disappointed in this trip. Riding over the sand dunes was fun, the dates were delicious and probably authentic Emirati food, but after that it was merely a show for tourists.  There was however a fantastic male dancer in the style of the Whirling Dervishes.  Again not an traditional Emirati dance but very skillful and entertaining.
img_5726.jpg

 

The second day we hit pay dirt when we went on a four hour Wander with Nada.  Nada is a young Jordanian woman who has spent most of her life in Dubai  and knows the city and its cultures well. She took us to the Women’s Museum, the gold Souk, a spice shop and Little India.  The tour finished up at a restaurant in the older part of the city where we enjoyed a tasty meal with our fellow wanderers from New Zealand.  If you are thinking of stopping over in Dubai we cannot recommend Nada  highly enough.    www.wanderwithnada.com/public-tours

 

The last afternoon we visited one of the famous malls.  As far as shopping goes we could have been at Chadstone or most other large city malls, however what distinguished the Dubai Mall was the three storey high aquarium and the indoor waterfall.

Our last  night we had a delicious dinner at the revolving restaurant at our hotel. It was a wonderful way to finish a great holiday.  Flight QF10 took us all the way to Melbourne in the relative comfort on Premium Economy.

The same clothes kept on being on rotation. Pink, grey and denim are colours I will avoid for a while!  On the plus side I came home with several new scarves, a leather bag from Venice, some more jewellery and some clothes purchased in Belgium and Croatia.

IMG_5654
Not my most glamorous look but safety first!

Now we are home to our own comfortable bed, lots of weeds in the garden and the roses in full bloom.

Next holiday will be Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in January and February next year.

Advertisements

Plitvice Lakes and the Adriatic Coast

We travelled from Orebic to Split over the mountains of the Peljesac Peninsula and then down the Adriatic Coast to Split which is the second largest city in Croatia.  We had a lunch stop at the sunny coastal town of Makarska.

Split is a beautiful city, with the old town dominated by  Diocletian’s Palace built for the then Roman Emperor in 305AD.  It is also a major tourist  hub and a stop off port for large cruise ships.  Split, like most other cities in the former Yugoslavia, has been ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians, the Turks, the Austro Hungarians, Yugoslav Royalty, Tito’s Socialist regime and is now within the  independent republic of Croatia.

On arrival in Split we had a group dinner at a restaurant within the palace (with local Croatian wines of course!) We spent the first morning with a local guide who told us the history of the palace which is now full of shops and homes built in medieval times.

Day nine of the tour saw us in the bus again with Franco our driver.  We had a stop at Zadar which is is one of the Adriatic’s most interesting historical  towns, dating back some 3,000 years.
After a long drive, by European standards, we finally arrived at the Plitvice Lakes National Park.  We were up early the next morning to get ahead of the hundreds, if not thousands, of tourist who visit this park every day.  It’s easy to see why this is Croatia’s most visited tourist attractions.  The lakes and waterfalls are stunningly picturesque. We walked and climbed for about four hours and by lunch times visitor numbers had increased and it was getting quite crowded on the paths.  It must be bedlam at the height of the season.

Back over mountains to the Adriatic Coast we finally arrived at Porec on the Istrian Peninsula. Porec has a lovely waterfront setting, cobblestone streets and an attractive marina. Our home for three nights was the Hotel Mauro, notable for the best breakfasts on the trip and certainly the most friendly and helpful staff. That afternoon we visited a local winery run by two sisters which produces only sparkling wines.  After generous tastings we concluded that our taste runs more to Australian sparkling wines.

The next morning in Porec, to see more Roman ruins and the basilica, we had a walk through the old town with a local guide Nada who is a vet by training.  She makes much more money being a tour guide. We had lunch at the top of a medieval tower with a great view of the town.

The next day we went to Pula on the southern end of the Istrian peninsula where we toured a well-preserved and dominating Roman amphitheater right in the middle of the city.  Then off to the seaside town of Ravinj for a walk, lunch and the inevitable cathedral visit!

That evening we had a delicious farewell dinner and said goodbye to our new friends.   We were up early the next morning for our minivan/ water taxi transfer to our Venice accommodation.  More of that in the next posting.

As for clothes I am at that stage of a trip (four weeks in) where I am heartily sick of everything I brought. The weather has been warm  but much colder at the Lakes and down by the Istrian coast where there was often a heavy fog.

 

Amber Road touring

We finally arrived in Sarajevo after airline delays and met up with our friends to start on a 13 day organised tour of Bosnia and Croatia.  Our Amber Road tour is made up of 14 Australians and 4 Americans, an unusual statistic for an American based company.

The first two days were spent in Sarajevo in Bosnia,  a city which was besieged for 1425 days days by the Serbian Army between 1992 and 1996.  It was the longest siege in the history of modern warfare.  The city had no electricity or services, there were acute food shortages and over 5000 civilians died. We visited the Tunnel of Hope which was built to allow the passage of food and other supplies into the besieged city.  There are signs of the war damage throughout the city.
It was a very cold wet day for our tour so warm clothes and umbrellas were the order of the day.

IMG_5017
We also had dinner  one night at the home of a Bosnian family and they described their experiences during the war.
Sarajevo is also significant in world history because it was here that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip on the 28th June 1914 thus triggering World War One.
We also visited a brewery, had our laundry done and ate some of the chevapi which  Sarajevo is well known for.

There were 18 of us in the tour and we then travelled to Dubrovnik though some beautiful Bosnian country side.  Dubrovnik is in Croatia so after several border crossings we arrived at this beautiful medieval walled city on the sea.  It will be well known to all you Game of Thrones fans out there.
We had a morning walking tour with a very passionate guide and after lunch Mr L and I walked on the walls from where there are great views of the city and the bay.

Back in the bus again after two nights in Dubrovnik to the seaside village of Orebic on the Peljesac Peninsula in southern Croatia. Our home for two nights was the Hotel Indijan right on the waterfront.  En route to Orebic we visited a local oyster farm and climbed a part of the great Wall of Ston which was built initially to protect the precious salt pans.

In the 19th century Orebic was renowned for shipbuilding and boasted 90 large sailing ships of its own that plied the world’s oceans. We spent the morning in Korcula  one of the best preserved medieval towns of the Mediterranean on the island of Korcula.  It is also the birthplace of Marco Polo.  That night we enjoyed a visit to a local winery for some good food and a taste of local wines.

What have I been wearing? After a cold start in Sarajevo the weather has been wonderful.  Warm, clear and in the low 20sC so short sleeves and cropped pants have been the order of the day.  Just as well I bought a pair of cropped jeans in Belgium!

Next stop Split and then the Plitvice Lakes.

Bruges, Brussels and the beginning of the Balkans

After Ieper we had five more days in Belgium, two in the medieval city of Brugge and three in Brussels. Brugge is indeed a lovely city but Brussels did not inspire as much.
In Brugge we had a pleasant canal ride, a pleasant but pricey ride with a horse and cart and Mr L climbed to the top of the belltower (366 steps).


Brussels we did lots of walking partly due to the fact that our hotel was just over a kilometre from the centre of town.  On the plus side it was near the main railway station.  Mr L visited the Modigliani Museum, we went to a Sunday market and generally walked around the old part of town.

One day we went to Ghent using the excellent Belgium train system.  It’s another medieval cloth town with a famous altar piece in the cathedral –  The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Van Eyck.  I have to admit that most of my knowledge of this art work came from the the film The Monuments Men starring George Clooney! Ghent is another beautiful town, spoiled slightly by the fact it rained all the time we were there. We were amazed by the hundreds of bikes at the Ghent railway station.


A quick flight from Brussels and we were in Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia, known as the dragon city.  It is a city well worth visiting with its car free central city, wide streets and its beautiful architecture.  I was once told (by a Slovene) that Slovenia had more sunshine than anywhere else in Europe.  Whether this is true or not I don’t know but the day we arrived, after a week of dismal weather days in Belgium, the sky was blue and the sun shining.
In just over two days we’ve managed to fit in a walking tour of the old town, a trip to Bled and Bled Island, a ride on another funicular up to Ljubljana Castle, a boat ride and we’ve still got half a day to go.

Why is there a kangaroo water fountain in Slovenia? We have not been able to find the answer.  The cake is the famous Bled Creme Schnitte.  If you think it looks a bit like a vanilla slice you would be correct!

What have I been wearing?  The grey Uniqlo down jacket and Frankie 4 sneakers have both  been on high rotation with various jumpers and shirts topped off with scarves.

Next stop is Sarajevo and the beginning of the Amber Road guided tour and meeting up with friends from Australia. It’s also time for a much needed laundromat stop.

 

Lest we forget – remembering the great uncles

After Shrewsbury we returned the car to Birmingham Airport and then flew to Brussels.  The main reason for travelling to Belgium was to attend the 100th anniversary commemorations for the battle of Polygon Wood, the commencement of the World War One battle we generally know as the Battle of Passchendaele.  The attack began on the morning of September 26th 1917.  By the 3rd October almost 1800 Australian soldiers were killed and about 3000 wounded.  Amongst the soldiers killed in that battle were my great uncles Pike Whittaker and Tom Fidge, and Mr L’s great uncle Will Smith.

The Dawn  Service was organised by the Department of Veterans Affairs who did a fantastic job but appeared not to have liaised with some of the the local officials.  After a short sleep we boarded a bus at 2.30 am and our police escort led the way.  Unfortunately to the wrong location as he had been given incorrect orders!  We eventually arrived at the Buttes New British Cemetery after much security checking. There was a walk of remembrance from the car park to the cemetery which featured re-enactments and dioramas of scenes behind the Allied lines in 1917.

There are graves for just over 2000 Commonwealth servicemen in the cemetery.  On the Butte itself is the Battle Memorial of the 5th Australian Division, who captured it on 26th September 1917.

We were worried about having to stand up on a cold Flanders morning waiting for the service at 4.30, but we very impressed with the pre-service programme of interviews with historians, music from a choir and the army band, and  with the stories read by serving defence personnel about some of the men who were killed in the battles.  We also saw a great short film called the Telegram Man.  If you get a chance to see it somewhere we highly recommend it.  The weather also behaved itself probably only dropping to around 10 or 11C.  Plus there were enough seats for everyone and free hot drinks and croissants!

Th service commenced with a didgeridoo player.  To me that was the highlight.  It was quite spine tingling hearing the didgeridoo music moving between the graves in the dark.  Following the didgeridoo player were speeches by our Governor General, the  Minister for Veterans Affairs and Belgium’s Princess Astrid.  They all said what was right and proper but no one inspired.

It was bit dark for good photos.  If anyone is really interested there is a YouTube of the service. We were both rugged up and I appropriately wore my woolly red poppy scarf and a red hat.  Mr L wore the free beanie provided by DVA (there are no photos!).
IMG_7443

Lots of people, private and public, laid wreaths.  We saved our wreath laying until that night, when we laid a wreath at the Menin Gate Last Post Ceremony to honour the three great uncles. There were many Australians in Ieper and many laying wreaths that night.
Every evening since 1928 the Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper at 8pm.

IMG_7463 (1)

 

In Ieper we stayed at a lovely B and B called Ter Thuyne.  We stayed there 10 years ago and it was just as delightful this time.  Martine the hostess is most welcoming.  We were in the Poppy Room. There is a garden out the back for guests to enjoy.

Now we have more Belgium to explore for about five days.

Relaxing in Shrewsbury

After a two train ride from London we were in the Midlands where we picked up a hire car from the Birmingham Airport. Two hours later we were in the beautiful medieval town of Shrewsbury.  Our Airbnb apartment there was very tastefully decorated in shades of grey and an easy walking distance to the centre of town.
Shrewsbury is a very picturesque town on the River Severn and as a bonus it has some wonderful shops!  Even though summer has finished the flowers are still blooming in pots and gardens.  There were lovely begonias everywhere.

 

We took a day trip to Ironbridge where we stayed last year, and came back via Bridgnorth to ride on the local funicular.  As a bonus it was market day in Bridgnorth which is yet another very pretty town.

 

In the photo I am wearing a necklace from Mr L’s Ironbridge series.  More about that nearer Christmas.

The weather has been surprisingly mild with little rain so  jeans, a long sleeved shirt and jacket have been the order of the day.  As you can see my Uniqlo down jacket is getting lots of wear.

A week in London

After the long tiring journey across the world we finally arrived at our apartment in Clapham Junction. We had some dramas accessing it but finally we were in and unpacked.
The London weather has been generally fine and in the high teens Celsius.

We’ve managed to both visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, the British Museum and Hampton Court Palace.  At the V&A I saw the Balenciaga Fashion Exhibition, and also managed to insult a Canadian woman visiting there by suggesting she was from the USA. I’ve been to the Science Museum where I saw an interesting exhibition about how World War One changed many medical practices. Mr L true to form has visited various Art Galleries.

We’ve seen a couple of shows ( Kinky Boots and an American in Paris), and caught up with old and new friends.  We spent time with our daughter who just happens to be in London for work.  With her we’ve been to two great restaurants – Nopi and Dishoom

We’ve even fitted in some time for laundry! The benefit of having an apartment with a washing machine.

I’ve pretty much worn my travel uniform of jeans, a long sleeved tee and a Uniqlo down jacket every day. One night I dressed up in a skirt and my leather jacket and then forgot to take a photo!  My silver Frankie 4 sneakers have given sterling service thus far. So far the pink, blue and grey colour grouping is working well.

Tomorrow we catch the train to Birmingmam and will spend three days nearby in Shrewsbury.

 

Leaving on a jet plane.

Today we leave for almost six weeks in the UK and Europe with a quick stopover in Dubai on the way home.  I had no intention of restarting this blog (or our other travel blog either) but a request from a friend on the weekend has prompted me to do so.
I’m  not sure if I will be as assiduous a poster as I was  back in 2014 but I’ll do my best.  I also think I will use Instagram more.

Thinking about what to take has taken me weeks of time and clothes sorting and today I put it all in my case.  This time another smaller soft sided two wheeled case from Victorianox and carry on bag from the Russian market in Phnom Penh.

Clothes need to cover a cold dawn service in Belgium in three weeks time, to the the heat of Dubai.  In between is England, where anything could happen weather wise, and Bosnia/ Croatia where I expect the weather to be pleasant but not hot.

I’ve gone for a neutral palette with accents of pink and blue with the occasional animal print.  Too late for photos of what I am taking as it is all in the case, but in summary I have 3 jeans (wearing one on the plane), a black pencil skirt, a culotte (or is it a pair of culottes even though there is only one  garment!), and a pair of 3/4 pants.  All bottoms in blue and black.
Two short sleeved tees, and 2 longer sleeved tees (one for the plane) , as well as two long sleeved tops are all in grey, white, blue and black.  Two jumpers, one grey and one animal print, as well as a pink long lined Kookai cardigan ( that will be plane wear too).
One grey down filled jacket and one brown leather jacket (I’ll take that on the plane) as well as enough undies and socks.  Three scarves in beige, blue/ pink and pink, as well as jewellery in similar colours.  I am taking one smallish cross body bag in black with tan trimming.

I always have problems with sore feet when walking long  distances so the choice of shoes is critical. Hopefully I have it right this time. One lace up tan pair with animal print trim is from  Ziera, a silver lace up pair is from Frankie 4 and I have added a pair of black patent wedge sandals from The Flexx.

I’ve also packed a red and black poppy patterned woolly scarf and red  woolen hat to wear to a  Dawn Service in Belgium as I think it will be cold there and I bought the scarf especially for the event.

Are there enough clothes or have I packed too many? Only time will tell.  I have left enough space to fit in any clothes purchases.  I’m hoping at least to find a pair of stylish but comfortable sandals with a heel that  I do not need to mortgage the house to purchase.
fullsizerender-5.jpg

Tonight the long haul to London via Dubai will be tiring and boring, but the results of the long journey will no doubt be worth it.  Looking forward to seeing old friends, catching up with our daughter who will also be in the UK for work, and meeting a new Facebook friend in London.

Next post will be from London!

How much is enough? The packing dilemma again!

Did I take too many clothes or just enough?  I think there were possibly too many, although my case only weighed in at just over 16 kilograms on the way home.  All my tees and shirts would make the cut again.  Even though there were 10 shirts in  various sizes and colours I wore them all.  Some did need an iron after being washed but that wasn’t  too much of a problem and at a pinch could have been worn unironed.
Of the bottoms ( 4 capri pants in white, grey, black and denim) I would only take three pants and leave the white ones at home (and possibly put in another skirt especially if I knew if it was going to be very hot ). I basically wore a skirt or a dress for the last two weeks (except at night or when flying). The grey and denim capris were by Sportscraft and kept their shape well after multiple wears.  The black pants were from Ambre in Cambodia and they were fantastic. Never creased, always looked good and being black didn’t show any dirt. The black and white skirt was from Blue Illusion, and like the black pants, never creased and lasted five weeks of wear (and no laundry) and still looked good.

denim2 grey pants 2 black pants2

The one dress I did take (from Elsewhere in Phnom Penh) was possibly too light a colour.  It needed to be washed it twice whilst we were away.  But on the plus side it is light weight cotton and very cool.  I just need to more careful when eating ice creams!

dress

Most of my clothes (and shoes) were in blue, grey, black  and red colours with white backgrounds  so they all mixed and matched very easily.

skirt2tops 2

Shoes –  I’d take them all again.  I was so impressed how good my USD35 shoes from Phnom Penh were that I will be looking for another pair when I am in Cambodia next year. The red Frankie 4 sneakers did not get as much wear as I thought they would, mainly because it was just too hot.  They were worn more than the photos would indicate though, as I put them on for specific activities such as walking down into the cave or climbing over ruins.

Of the extras (underwear, scarves, jewellery etc) I had too much.  Anyone who knows me well probably never thought they would hear me say I had too much jewellery and too many scarves!  A scarf for the plane (and one more) would have been enough.  I also bought a scarf in Trani and another in Rome.  The latter was a forced purchase as I turned up for the Catacombs tour wearing a sleeveless dress and needed to cover my arms. I took a lot of jewellery, and although I did wear all of  it except for one pair of earrings and some bracelets. About half the amount I  took would have been enough. Bathers and the sarong I wore twice but they are something you need to take just in case.

IMG_0256 (2)

Underwear – I took 12 pairs of knickers and four bras.  I was glad of that many, although I could have taken less and washed and dried  them overnight. I  took two camisoles to wear under shirts if it was a bit cool (one black and one white). They  did not get much wear as we were in a heat wave some of the time.

The red leather hand bag was used most of the time and the  fabric green/grey bag I used on particularly hot or humid days.  I also took a small black leather cross body bag I thought would be good for evening – which it was – but it was not really necessary.

My wearing on the plane clothes were good although I did not wear those pants or cardigan at any other time.  That’s the problem with starting out in one climate and holidaying in another.

So in summary if I was going on a similar holiday in summer to southern Europe again I would take:
One pair of long loose pants for the plane
One long line cardigan for the plane
10 shirts of various styles including one to wear on the plane
3 pairs of capris or 7/8th pants
Either two skirts and one dress or two dresses and one skirt
One short sleeved cardigan
One long sleeved loose knit jumper
10 knickers
4 bras
2 camis
Bathers
Sarong
Foldable sunhat
3 pairs of socks
A good leather cross body bag and a fabric bag

I’ve  been asked for more info about my case.  It was a So Lite 4 wheeled  61cm case from the Australian Luggage Company and I paid about AUD90 for it.  On the plus side it was light and easy to wheel on smooth surfaces and the interior bottom is fairly flat making packing easy. On the negative side it was not easy to wheel on carpet, rough surfaces or cobblestones.  I would have preferred it to be smaller, (ideally about 55 cms) but they do not seem to make that size any more.  I also took an quite old carry-on bag (also from the Australian Luggage Company).

IMG_2338

In summary thanks for reading this and for your comments.  Actually documenting my packing list and travel wardrobe has made it easier for me to clarify  what worked and what didn’t and make planning for next time easier.  Next time will be Cambodia and Vietnam in January/ February 2016!  I hope to see you all again then

Home again!

We’ve been home for a few days now after too long in the air. Milan to Dubai is about 7 hours and then Dubai to Melbourne is another 14 hours,  That’s a long time to be enclosed in a large metal container with lots of other people.  At least I got to see four movies!
Jet lag has never really been a problem for me but this time it has really affected me so I have had plenty of sleepless nights to reflect on this holiday, what we did and what I wore.  I am going to spread this out over two blog posts because no-one wants to read an essay from me!

What we did is the easiest part to consider. Five and a half weeks is a long time to be travelling and although I am glad we only went to to Italy (instead of Italy and Croatia as we had originally thought) we still did quite a lot of travelling (especially internal air flights).  Next time I’d take the train.  Not only because Airitalia are very inefficient, but also because there’s a lot of time wasted getting to airports early, going through security and waiting.  A train in contrast usually leaves from somewhere in the central city area and does not require the passenger to be there much more than 30 minutes before.  It also arrives in the central part of the next city.

We stayed at airbnb apartments in Milan, Sardinia and Rome.  Whilst I like the philosophy (and prices) of this sort of accommodation we did feel a little isolated.  There’s no concierge to ask about where to shop or eat, or to advise regarding the best sites (and what to avoid). An up side of these apartments however was the washing machine.

Our first ever organised tour (by Amber Road) in Puglia and the Amalfi Coast was a big highlight of the holiday.  However I think it was partly luck that we were on a tour with so many like minded people all around the same age.  It was also a small group tour with quite a good balance of free time and organised and guided tours.  We also visited places slightly off the general tourist route (such as beautiful Trani and Ostuni) and stayed at smaller independent hotels.  There were no early morning starts either, and we always stayed at least two nights in every place.  Sicily with a car and driver was also a good move although we did try to see too many things in not enough time!
IMG_0526 IMG_0535

Trani in Puglia on the Adriatic Sea was such a lovely peaceful town.

IMG_0954

Ostuni – picture postcard perfection.

Two organized tours one straight after the other was a mistake too.  We would have liked some time for R&R in between.
These are however good problems to have!