Second time to Europe! Starting in England.

My sister and here fiance moved over to live in London for two years. I really wish I had the balls to up and move, but I don’t so lots of trips will do! I was meant to be going to help my sister find a wedding dress but that had been postponed. In the mean time my parents decided they were going over and wanted me to come for a family trip. They had never traveled further than Australia, it was a big deal so I agreed to come. My Mum isn’t the best flyer so I was clever and went the other way around the world to get there! It was hard for me as I had left my partner and dog behind so it was a long lonely trip over, but better than traveling with Mum haha.

20180615_181909.jpgLeft – Tim (Dad), Marie (Mum), Emma (Sister) and Jonty (Sister’s fiance).

As any of you that have read my previous blogs would know I really love the planning part of holidays! So I was set the task of planning the trip. I started by asking everyone for a list of things they would like to see and do (bare in mind there was 5 people on this trip). The list from my Dad – small towns, see lots, beaches and our family history in England. Mum’s list – Eiffel tower, Colosseum, Buckingham Palace and the Leaning Tower of Pisa and our family history in Ireland. Emma and Jonty were happy to go wherever as they could go back places easier and they like history and museums. I like fast travel, see as many places that I can and little towns away from other tourists as much as possible. As you can see I had a challenge on my hands trying to meet everyone’s requests. I also had a very limited time frame of three weeks before I headed home and everyone continued for another two weeks.

I arrived first into London and ventured onto the tube hoping I would remember from last time how to use it. I made it to the meeting point and found my sister (Emma) so the hardest part was complete. We walked to her house and I settled in waiting till our parents arrived. It was my first time inside a London style house, I was surprised how narrow, dark and tall they really are. Emma left to head to the airport to help our parents with the tube. Once they arrived to Emma’s it was dinner time so we headed to the local pub. I love how social the English are and how they allow dogs inside the pubs, made me miss Loui and wished I could do that at home!

The next day was a busy day trying to see all the highlights of London. I had previously done a hop on hop of bus tour, so I knew this was the quickest and easiest way to see a lot in a short time. Our first stop was the War memorials for many different countries, animals and people. Then we made our way to the centre of town to meet up with a relative, Nita. We enjoyed a lovely Japanese lunch together. It was time to jump back on the bus. At the National Art Gallery we hoped of the bus to walk a little bit. Down past the side entrance to Buckingham Palace we saw the horse guards. I feel sorry for the horses having to stand still so long! Continuing down towards Westminster passing Big Ben on our walk (unfortunately it was covered for repairs) we reached the London Eye. I was excited for this stop even though I had done this before – it was more to laugh at Mum (she doesn’t do heights)! After a beautiful ride on the eye we headed to Buckingham Palace. I was underwhelmed to be honest. I expected more than just a big grey concrete building, but hey it is London – everything is grey! However making Dad visit Queenie made my day. Our day ended at the theatre to see Wicked.

Today we started to follow the family history on the Davison side. Dad’s research back in NZ took us on a two hour train ride north of London with the first stop being Norton in Durham. We wandered around a church that was built in 1089! This church was mentioned in our family book but didn’t have much detail so we started looking around the grave stones for our family name as the church itself was locked. After awhile we decided to give up and just at this stage a man came out of the church. He was new to the area and didn’t know much until we mentioned our name. He laughed and told us to come inside and pointed at a plaque on the ground below the alter of the church. One of our relatives was buried in the church from the mid 1600’s. And he showed us all these plaques on the wall. We recognised one from our family book that had been photocopied for many years it was almost unreadable, nice to get a new photo to replace in the book. As we headed out of the church he had one more thing to show us, in the garden right next to the wall of the church. He brushed away debris to reveal two grave stones flat in the ground belonging to more family members/wives. There was no way we would have ever found these on our own so was very special and lucky timing that we got to see all of this.

After having lunch we got in a taxi and headed for our next town, Thorpe Thewles. This stop was going to be a little harder to follow the history as we had a hand drawn map from our book laid over a map of the town that dad had done. So after a start in the wrong direction we headed to the land that once belonged to our family. Time for a much needed stop at the pub we started talking to the barman and some locals. Such a small town they were so lovely one even offered us their car to look around. We declined but continued talking and found out a Davison still lives in the village. Once we finished our drinks we decided to walk through some of the land. Part of it was a Woodland which our family had put a covenant on to protect it to this day. After a long day we returned to London in preparation for our flight to Italy in the morning.

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Hands down my favourite place…CROATIA!

Sit down and grab a cuppa this is a long one haha I just loved this place!

We landed in Dubrovnik all excited to be here again and for the next part to the trip…sailing! We stayed in an apartment run by some locals that didn’t speak much English. It had a lovely balcony over looking Lapad bay (the opposite side of where we stayed a week ago). It was late in the day so we decided to head down the street for dinner. We noticed all these big screens began to be set up and more and more people gathered in the area wearing blue and white jerseys. .the football world cup. It was an incredible atmosphere as the game started. I remember people chanting, singing, waving flags and dancing. This went well into the evening….I’m guessing they won ha! The passion and love for the game really showed that night. After another gelato is was time to call it a night.

The next day we headed in for another day in the old town. I love to wander through the little alleys just getting lost. We decided to walk around the wall of the old city. The views were amazing! Well worth the walk. Along the way I found I lovely lady selling traditional handmade lace her mother had made. She was explaining how this is becoming a dying art and her mother is one of the few teachers left. So this piece was definitely a special one to be taking home. Croatians have a little blue label on the window or on the product if it is made in Croatia so nice to know your money is going back to the locals! One thing I would say when walking the walls is remember water! Not many places have shade and about half way along there was an ice cream shop.

The next morning started with a taxi to the Gruz port to start our sailing adventure! This tour was through Topdeck called Adriatic Sunsets, which was quite fitting after the tour we had just finished was Adriatic Adventure also with Topdeck. (I have just been on their website and have noticed the Adriatic Sunsets sailing trip has slightly changed locations bearing in mind my trip was in 2015). After meeting the crew, our guide Em, the other passengers and finding our room on the boat we set sail with a cocktail in hand – this is the life! One word to describe the cabins….small! We were lucky being a couple we got a slightly bigger room with a double bed, everyone else had bunk beds. all rooms had an ensuite. If you are organised the tiny space is definitely manageable just hot! We paid the bit extra to be on the top deck….definitely recommend!

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On the way to our first stop Mljet we got used to what was going to be our life for the next 8days. Set up on the top of the boat for tanning and to get to know everyone traveling. Most were Auzzies (no surprises there) two lovely ladies from America, a couple from South Africa and along with the tour guide we represented the Kiwis! We arrived in Mljet just in time for our first beautiful sunset of the trip. We had drinks and sat down for a lovely dinner on board from the amazing chefs on the boat!

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Waking up this morning was a bit of a contrast unfortunately it was raining. This didn’t stop us from mornings activities, we put a rain jacket on and headed into the national park.  On bikes we headed around the lakeside through all the trees and had a swim before heading back to the boat. After setting sail we sat down to another amazing meal! Then time for the compulsory swim stop. It was incredible the captain found a sheltered bay and just dropped anchor. Everyone was jumping off the sides of the boat – some even off the top!! It was very surreal looking around how beautiful and peaceful it was. I have never seen water so blue and clear, just stunning. One guy dropped his sunnies off the side of the boat, we could all see them on the sea floor but no one could dive deep enough to get them!

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We arrived at Korcula, a busier stop then the last. One thing that I will never forget was how they stacked the boat’s side by side and you walked through everyone’s boat to get back to your own. Trust me this got confusing after return from a few drinks – count how many boats out you are as they all start to look the same ha! We had a guided tour of the old town before heading to the best part – a cocktails bar (Massimo’s)! This was no ordinary bar however, it sits at the top of an old tower with an old school pulley delivering the drinks to the top. You however have to climb up a very steep ladder through a small hole – watch your head! Walking through the markets I noticed a jewelry stall with beautiful white stone all handmade. The lady explained that it is the same stone that was used to build the White House in America and it comes from an island near by. Pirate party time – we were on a ship so had to be done right…Later that evening jeeps took us to a club in the jungle (I think it was called Boogie Jungle or something like that?)! It was in the middle of nowhere and only had a marque roof covering some of the dance floor looking out at the jungle. Fun way to spend the evening!

 

Next day had more of this great new lifestyle swim, eat, tan repeat! This evening had us docked at Vela Luka, a very relaxed vibe to this town made for a nice evening! We went for a little walk up a hill – bit hot but worth it for the view. We all had dinner at a lovely local restaurant sea side with another stunning peaceful view! On the walk back to the boat for a night of cocktails we saw a lovely old couple with a fruit stall. We all stopped and purchased some fruit, the flavor was incredible I can still remember now! Another great night aboard the boat drinking, singing and talking.

Heading to Vis today we stopped at the blue caves. This is a must do trust me! We got off our boat into little tin boats and headed around the bay. The guide started to head towards this cliff face and we all started getting very confused. He stopped the boat and explained to us when we go with the next wave we must all duck. Then we realised we were headed for a tiny tiny opening in the cliff, not much higher than the tin boat. Once inside with no one losing their heads and our eyes adjusted it was all worth it. We were inside a cave and the water glowed a radiant crystal blue – has to be seen as photos don’t do it justice. The guide turned off the motor and we drifted around the cave in awe, this was just so naturally beautiful and hard to believe it was real.

Vis was one of my favorite stops on this trip, it had a bit of everything. We started  the afternoon on the beach but this didn’t last long as boy it’s hot on a stoney beach! Our guide told us about this really cool outdoor bar but she warned us it was a hike.  We all hired bikes for the village and headed up the hill to this bar….it was worth it! The view was of the surrounding peninsula and water as far as you could see!  The decor was extremely cool with many couches it was a nice place to relax for the afternoon.  Dinner this night was one of the most memorable from the whole two months! Two days before we had to pre order our meals. When we asked why Em said its because the lady gets everything fresh from her back yard.  Wow words can not describe how good this meal was, I had beef gnocchi. I would go back to Vis just to see this lady to have that meal again!! After dinner and a walk around the town we headed back to the boat to get some amazing news, a couple from our group had just got engaged! So we decided we had to celebrate and headed back to the outdoor bar on the peninsula (in the back of jeeps this time). It was just as stunning at night with all the trees and bar lit up by fairy lights and lanterns.

The engines started early this morning with everyone still in bed. When we woke up we were well on our way to Hvar. This is one of the most famous islands in Croatia with many stars having villas here. The wharf was full of luxury yachts with security guarding the on ramps. Em took us for another hike up a hill and I can vividly remember this was the hottest day on the whole trip. But again without fail the view was totally worth it! We had cocktails at the famous Hula Hula bar right on the waters edge, a beautiful walk around the bay from the towns center. This evening was planned to be a big one so we all got dressed up and headed out. We stopped at this one place that was famous for a particular shot – I wish I could remember the name! A few guys from our group tried it, I have no idea why haha! First the give you a military like metal helmet to wear. Straight after you finish the shot you tip your head forward and they whack you with a rolling pin over your head – crazy right!

Short sail this time and like every other day many swim stops on the way! We arrived at Stari Grad, another cute little town with an older appearance. Now when Em said another hill walk we knew it would be another amazing view. Off we went up Glavica hill to see an outdoor church. This church sure had a beautiful view over the town and sea. The stone cross was erected on 1900 in celebration of the anniversary of Christianity, but it was destroyed in WWII. The current stone cross was erected in 1990 as a symbol of hope and the altar is now made from the remains of the old one. Around the seats and alter people have stacked stones up in little towers. After the steep walk down we walked around the markets, headed to the beach for a swim and stopped at a little outdoor bar for a much needed refreshing cider! That evening was the Captains dinner on board.

Our last day sailing took us to Split the last stop on the list. Following Em for a guided tour of the old town with a stop to the dry cleaners (soooo cheap leave your bag there it gets washed folded and repacked!). That night we met in the square to enjoy our last dinner and drinks together. We continued onto an outdoor club with a paddling pool in the middle. We headed back to the boat to enjoy our last evening aboard.

After saying our goodbyes we found a place to leave our suitcases so we could enjoy walking around the day. I would recommend this option just make sure you select somewhere that has a person watching the bags all day, there are heaps around. I spend my last few hours wandering around getting lost in alleyways and taking way to many photos! This place is very beautiful and has a lot of interesting history, well worth a visit. We then boarded the bus heading for the airport to start the long journey home…. boo!

My last thoughts on Croatia and sailing….I will be back!! This was one of my favorite places in my entire 2 months of travelling and if you have read my other blog you would know I have covered a lot of places in this time!! My only regret…not getting to the Krka and Plitvice Lakes National Parks!! But hey that’s my reason to return hopefully one day soon!

 

Santorini relaxation time!

 

The worst morning of my life! Still drunk with a hangover beginning I looked around the room…our stuff was EVERYWHERE! Not long till the taxi arrived we threw everything in the bags not thinking about the international flight to follow. (Yes we were those people at customs) they were extremely polite and suggested we took it back and they would arrange our checked in baggage so we could put it in there. This seemed like way too much effort so we just told them to take what they had to ha! We boarded our flight at Venice a little under the weather. We had a good send off I’ll put it the way. After 22 days with the group it felt very weird to be apart, it was like something was missing! We landed in Athens and awaited our flight bound for Santorini! My plane geek side got a wee bit excited when the bus pulled up along side the aircraft…a Q400! I fly Q300s back in NZ so felt right at home. A lovely Greek man welcomed us to Santorini and drove us to our accommodation.

Santorini…its taken me awhile to work out how to describe my first thoughts. But here’s what I have come up with…NOT WHAT I EXPECTED! And unfortunately not in a good way. It was soooo barren I didn’t anticipate this. When someone says Greek islands and Santorini what’s your first thoughts? White houses, blue roofs, pathways winding down the cliffs and stunning beaches right? Perhaps I was a bit naive and hadn’t looked into this enough but all I saw was brown grass and dirt. But then we turned a corner and I looked along the cliff edge…Fira! The white house and blue roofs on top of the huge cliffs appeared. But this was such a tiny section of this rather large barren island.

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We pulled up to the most idyllic accommodation..it was even better than imagined and pictured on the internet. We were recommend to stay out of the capital unfortunately not the right advice for us but you live and learn. If I was to return again I would stay in Oia or Fira in a heartbeat! Not to worry we had a stunning view looking back towards these places and the caldera. The island is like a half moon with the caldera in the middle. We had been traveling for most of the day and the hangovers were wearing off so were ready to face food. The place we were staying only had a snack menu so with our little energy we had we agreed this would do for the night. 1 word…WOW…I had the most amazing dish I can still remember today. It was extremely simple, tomato, feta, bread, herbs, olive oil and bread. All homemade and/or from their garden! Words cannot describe the taste, tomatoes back home will forever be a let down. The sunset was the perfect way to end the day! After a quick Facebook stalk of the group we called it a night. (Very jealous a missing everyone like crazy) It was a very quiet night and first sober one in a very long time (since the start of this trip haha sorry mum).

Time to explore! First challenge the local bus…we were dropped at the local bus stop feeling confident on what to do. After a long wait we could see the bus coming. We waved the bus down as instructed. It pulled over…sweet…someone got off as we went to ask for a ticket the doors closed and the bus left with us standing there confused. We guessed it was a local thing ha? No worries next bus arrived and welcomed us on. Headed for the capital I was excited to see the part I dreamed of. We started wandering around the cobbled paths up and down the cliff side, looking at all of the shops. Stunning only begins to explain the views. We decided it was cocktail time! So we went to the highest point and found a bar looking down the cliff face at all the white buildings with there blue roof protruding out of the cliff. The perfect location with the perfect view like in the movies! A mojito was on the menu…couldn’t go wrong with a classic! However I was sad to learn there was no mint!! The waiter must on seen the puzzled look on my face and responded with ‘we are out of mint in our garden and the new crop isn’t ready yet’. This was one of the coolest things I found about this island…everything possible was home grown or homemade! Hence the reason not one feta I tried tasted the same…mum’s secret recipe! After finding some artwork to add to the growing collection we headed back to the hotel for a swim. (I don’t know if I have to you guys yet but artwork is what I collect as a souvenir. I have a few rules…I must be able to roll it up, it must be hand painted and sold by a local. I add the work I collect to my lounge wall on return from every trip).

We decided to venture out for dinner this evening. The hotel suggest a place not far away so they dropped us there. They said get the restaurant to call them if we wanted a ride home. They are so sweet! More delicious food was had…I don’t know why but we seem to over complicate and add to many ingredients to Greek food back home. Fresh and simple seems to be their way and it works! We were able to watch the sunset from our table before we wandered back to the hotel.

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This day was a pool and cocktail day with the only itinerary being do nothing… great day, enough said!

It’s funny when we booked this trip we thought we would be exhausted and need to chill after the top deck trip. However we starting missing the group and actually got bored…ironic really. We had been on the go for a month we didn’t know how to sit still. So the next morning we decided we wanted to go exploring and it seemed there was one obvious option…a quad bike!! They are the way to get around we learnt!

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As most of you know Santorini is known for three different beaches, red, black and white. After getting the hang of their road rules / lack of road rules we headed for the red beach. It is a bit of a hike but we made it. It’s quite a contrasting view with the beautiful blue waters and the red sand, nothing like you have seen before. We headed down to walk along the beach. I was disappointed at what tourist had done to this beautiful location…the rubbish! I couldn’t see past it and it was starting to really heat up so we headed for the black beach. As far as you could see down the beach were beach chairs, umbrellas and wooden paths connecting everything. The wooden paths made sense when we took our first step onto the sand…black sand and sun =hot, who would of thought haha. We quite liked this beach…swim to cool down, lay in the sun and order cocktails from your chair ha what else do you need?!

That evening we decided to head in a different direction from the previous night and we came across a little seafood restaurant down on the waters edge. You could tell by one bite of the seafood it had come from the ocean that day! It’s truly hard to beat!

The next day we were a little more adventurous and decided we wanted to see the last beach on the list it was on the other side of the island. We were enjoying the quad bike so seemed like a good excuse to go further. Again this beach had the umbrella set up but seemed a bit more relaxed. After swimming and enjoying the sun we decided to head for lunch. The bar we picked just happened to have the wallabies vs all black game playing…hmm convenient or what ha can’t even get away from it on holiday.

Santorini is said to have the best sunsets in the world. We headed to the farthest point and walked to the lighthouse, sat on the cliff with an uninterrupted view that evening! Many other tourists joined us all dotted along the cliff. I’d have to agree just beautiful…photos just don’t do the colours justice. It was funny thinking back everyone just sat in silence, just taking in the view. You will have to go see it for yourself!

This morning started with the ruins just around the corner. It was very airy! The ruins were dotted between houses like they were part of the land. Back home this would have been knocked down to make room for the new houses but this didn’t seem to be the way here, they just worked around them! We headed back to Fira to finish looking around and grabbed a late lunch. I never found the spot everyone gets the cliche Santorini pic onto of a roof with a church and the blue roofs around. Don’t know how one could miss this but of course I did.

We had been told by some locals Oia was the place to view the sunset so later that day we headed on the quad bike all the way to the point. I wish we went earlier to have a look around because from what I saw it was adorable! We parked up on the side of the cliff to enjoy another uninterrupted view. They were right Oia was the perfect place to view the incredible sunset!

Next day we took another chill day as the next day was going to be another big travel day with A big week to come! Sail Croatia!!!

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I have been asked a lot of my thoughts on Santorini and if I would return…the answer is yes I would but 3 to 4 days would be plenty. One upsetting parts of the island was the poor donkeys! These animals are skinny and work in the extreme heat all day carrying people and their bags up the cliff from the cruise ships. Please take the other option! I have my heart set on Mykonos next but hope to return to Santorini one day!!

Venice! Talk about getting lost! But some of the best memories…

We arrived in Venice after a long days travel! Time for a much needed laundry party, dinner in Topdeck site tent and meeting the other groups staying with us. We were staying on the mainland so didn’t get a chance to see Venice until the next day.

We caught the train to the centre to begin our walking tour. We stopped to see women creating traditional tapestry. They were a learning school so this tradition was being taught to the younger generations, so it is never forgotten. They were so sweet and made each of us a lovely wee gift.

The next stop was to see crystals being HAND made!! Absolutely beautiful to experience this in person. The man made a beautiful horse right in front of us in seconds. To then throw it back into the pot to melt again – we were horrified to see such a beautiful creation melting. We then got to look through the store and make any purchases we wanted. This lead to the owner wanting to marry me so I could live there while he looked after me and covered me in these beautiful crystals haha! It was tempting I tell you.

We walked to Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s square) to see Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s Basilica), Campanile (the bell tower) and Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace). It was getting hot so we sat in the shade watching all the people and pigeons when we had an old Italian man approached us. He started singing (If that’s what you call it) and adding actions so we could work out the story line. It was a ‘had to be there moment’ but it was absolutely hilarious! Our favorite being the horse and owners life before the horse tragically died. Well at least that’s what we think it was about, he couldn’t speak any English. It really is the small random things you remember from travelling that bring back the laughter! I am absolutely gutted since this trip me phone SD card wiped everything including videos of this man! So this will forever last in my memories. And yes I have learnt to back things up now ha. Our next stop was a must do…you guessed it a gondola ride! It truly is a breath taking way to see Venice! It is expensive but very much worth every sent! This city truly is a living fairy tale.

Ready to face the heat again we were set free for the afternoon with 1 single rule. You must be back at the bus by 5pm or it would leave for the mainland without us. We wandered around found a market where I purchased the most beautiful hand painted water colour! We saw the bridge of sighs and got told a really sad story (unsure if it’s true but a cool story anyway)… this is the only fully enclosed bridge in Venice with a tiny window (so people didn’t jump). It connects the court to the jail cells. People sentenced to life were sent across this bridge and they would look out of this tiny window and sigh as this would be there last ever view of Venice!

We were then on a mission to find masks for the masquerade party later that evening. We were told to look for a little hand printed tag which meant this were real and hand made not just a cheap rip off. We had lots of giggles trying on all of the different masks and finding there meaning. All I can say is don’t wear the cat one haha!

I played netball with a girl called Amber back home and she was now living close by so we arranged to catch up. This was lovely as her and her partner took us to an amazing traditional restaurant. Amazing food, drinks and company! It was time to make our way back to the bus. Remembering our 5pm deadline we thought we had plenty of time. Ha boy were we wrong and boy did we get lost! We arrived at the bus with seconds to spare… however it wasn’t there we thought we had missed it!! But no our sneaky tour guide knew we were bound to get lost so told us an earlier time. It’s Venice it’s all part of the experience you can’t stress as it’s so beautiful you just have to keep wandering you will find your way eventually!

We arrived back at the camp site ready for a big night! Our last night on tour this was one to remember. We spent 22days with these people and boy had we got close! We all disappeared into our cabins to gt ready and put our masks on before meeting for drinks outside. I won’t go into detail but all I will say is our group is sorry about the picnic table haha.

We then all headed to the bar to meet the other Topdeck groups joining the party. Once again we discovered bucket cocktails! I also discovered Italian men took a liking towards me…I lost count of the amount of free shots haha sorry Mum and Dad I wish there wasn’t cameras that night! But boy was it one to remember! We said our goodbyes that no one would forget! And that’s where I will stop the stories the rest will stay in Venice…

The next morning wasn’t as fun! Woke up super early to the horrid alarm and the entire contents of our bags all over the room! Things just got thrown in the bag as the taxi was arriving. Not thinking we were about to get on an international flight haha. (Yes we were those people in customs). Hugs goodbye and a few tears later we would leave this amazing group that we had created life long memories with! Didn’t expect it to be so hard. We boarded the flight headed for Santorini! Time for sleep and a detox.

To the Topdeck squad, the amazing Jen and Brian the Irish bus driver…we have created life long memories and bonds! Don’t forget there’s always a bed in Christchurch and a box of somersby cider – provided you drink with your left hand (buffalo) and always remember to DOMINATE! And we can’t forget RIP Phyllis!!

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CROATIA – cannot wait for the day I return!

We unloaded at our accommodation in Dubrovnik. We weren’t staying in the old town we stayed at a backpackers in Lapard a lovely bay area (wouldn’t recommend this accom but the bay itself was lovely about a 5min bus ride to the old town).

We headed to the old town (featured in game of thrones!) to met out tour guide for the night. Instantly I feel in love with this place! You can’t explain with enough justice just how incredible this place is…just go ok trust me!

Our walking tour ended and our pub crawl began! First stop was to pick up takeaway mojitos. Bit of a novelty walking around drinking..very strict laws back home. We visited a few bars but one stood out. It was up an alleyway with lots of stairs and the bar itself was tiny. However you got your cocktail bucket (yes literally a bucket with glow sticks and all) you then sit out on the steps with all the locals and tourists. We ended up in a nightclub to finish the night. You know it’s a good night when you wake up to helium balloons floating in the room with your outfit tied to them haha!

Took a bit to drag ourselves out of bed but we had a big day ahead. We were off kayaking for half the day. We set off in our tandem kayaks very excited. Our first stop was for cliff jumping it a beautiful wee bay. I couldn’t get over how clear the water was! A guy dropped his sunnies and we could see them but no one could dive down deep enough to get them…crazy huh. We then kayaked around the island.. well I’ll be honest I didn’t do much work haha thank goodness they were tandem! It was a pretty cool view as we headed back towards the old town.

After a huge morning we were ready for lunch! We had heard good things about the seafood here so we wandered the alleyways till we found one that we liked the look off. I ordered calamari as I had this a few times in Europe and loved it. This time however was different…my huge plate arrived and it literally had a full squid lying on the plate chopped into pieces but was arranged back to look like the squid. I would of loved to seem the look on my face. Give me my squid rings back any day ha! Owell it’s the funny things you remember from your trip. After an afternoons exploring we headed back to have dinner on the waterfront of the bay. It was a stunning view watching the sunset.

You maybe thinking my gosh she hasn’t talked about walking the walls which Dubrovnik is famous for..what was she doing! I was super lucky this trip I got to come here twice! Later on we returned to have a few days relaxing here before starting sail week Croatia! And yes we did the walls then so stay tuned for that post!

Albania – Quickest Weirdest Stopover!

After we finished packing up everything from sailing it was time for a big day on the bus headed for Albania.

As soon as we arrived we picked up a local to give us a guided tour on the bus. This ended up being pretty funny. As you can imagine there’s not too much to see and the trip was over very quick. But one thing the guide wouldn’t stop talking about was the fact they had a Vodafone store. He probably talk for about 10mins on this subject. It was very interesting to see the city and what parts he was excited about as Albania hasn’t been open for anyone to come and go. They are definitely behind the time on a lot of things. Except 1 thing…their hotels!

We drove down this dirt road through industrial areas towards our accommodation. It really was like the start of a horror movie ha! But were we wrong! The hotel was the most beautiful place we stayed in the whole trip! Marble everywhere and stunning rooms and pool areas! Such a contrast to what we had just seen 5mins before.

That night we headed down to the dinning room to find there were two other topdeck tour groups staying as well. This made for a fun night and new friendships formed (ae Maddy ha)!

I didn’t know what to expect from Albania and I’ll end by saying it was a unexpectedly funny part of trip!

Sorry this one is short but it really was just a stop to break up our trip to CROATIA!

Below is the only picture I took in Albania  – Opps! this was at a petrol station just after we crossed the boarder. There was heaps of puppies running around – we wanted to take them with us haha sorry Jen!

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Sailing Corfu!

Very very excited for this part of the trip! We arrived in a little town with lots of smiling locals. We had lunch at a little family owned restaurant. We talked to them about our trip and they kindly offered us hot showers on our return! as well as bringing us free shots! It was time to board our boats. There was 4 rooms with small bathrooms in each plus kitchen and seating areas inside and out. It was 8 people per boat plus the skipper.

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It was time to set sail! Our skipper sat us down and explained the no drinking on board..we were gutted we got the grumpy old man. . .Until he laughed and cracked open a beer! Turns out we had the best skipper so we quickly became the party boat. After a swim stop on the way and lots of tanning time, we docked up at a little island for the night. We had another swim before getting ready for dinner. We walked into town to a beautiful little family restaurant. They had one long table set up outside next to the restaurant for us all. Locals passed by and talked to us as we enjoyed our first Greek meal along with ouzo of course! Unfortunately next I found out the unappealing side of Greece. . .the toilets! So you are in a fairy tale with all the old buildings with plants growing up the side you forget about the plumbing. It hasn’t been changed since the buildings were built! I don’t want to go into to much detail but you can’t flush toilet paper, there’s a bin provided…ewww!

We woke the next morning ready to do it all over again…swim, tan, drink and eat our way to the next island. Imagine sailing in the middle of the ocean then deciding to stop for a swim. Absolutely incredible! Iv never seen such blue water, it seemed like a dream. This next island was a lot smaller than the last. We were the only ones docked for the night. We walked a few mins to a family owned restaurant. It was a lovely open aired area right on the waters edge. We met a lot of the local cats and dogs as we waited for dinner. Seafood! So fresh and lots of it. They invited us into a hall to show us traditional dancing. It got crazier as the lady picked a table up with her teeth and started dancing around with this table in the air. They then helped a few from our group to do the same. I’m happy with my teeth as they are so I just watched haha.

The next morning we woke up to you guessed it, repeat all over again! This time we had a stop at an island for every kind of water sport you could imagine, including parasailing! My gosh it was hot laying here tanning. .it was hard to beat! We then sailed our way back to where we started. My first priority was that shower the lovely family had offered us. I was a salty goddess by this stage.

We had dinner at a wee restaurant before returning to the lovely families bar for one of the best nights on the trip! They couldn’t of been anymore accommodating and fun! They sure know how to party and joined in with us…language barrier and all it was a great night! As we started to die down we became hungry so went inside and ordered gyros and gelato. There were fries on the table which I took quite a liking to and the grandma must of noticed and bought me and other bowl and wouldn’t accept payment!! (I left some money on the table on the way out.) Back to our boats to continue the party and boy what an eventful night that was!! But those stories are for our group and Greece to remember haha.

Rome – well sort of…

We arrived at the accommodation and weaved our way through so many cabins – this place was huge!! Luckily we were right beside the pool and restaurant so couldn’t get lost. We didn’t have time to settle in however, we were straight out for a walking tour! We were catching public transport into town. This was the first and only time I felt unsafe in Europe. We were all standing (squished) around a poll and you could see three men surrounding us were upto something. I looked down and a little kids hand was heading for my bag. I moved and instantly at the next stop the three men and the child got off. This is what everyone warned me about before traveling and it had happened. However I feel because I was aware it could happen I was quickly onto these men. It just didn’t feel right – so always trust your gut!

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We started the tour at the Spanish Steps. There is very beautiful buildings and interesting history in this town, you could easily wander for hours. Next stop the Trevi Fountain! It truly is impressive and photos just don’t do it justice. We were very lucky it had only been opened again for a week after maintenance, so be sure to check it’s open when you go. Of course we did the coin toss, how could you not. The legend says that one who throws a coin in the fountain shall one day return to Rome. Our next stop was the  Pantheon – One of the best preserved Roman buildings was built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods. This dome has a hole in the top to allow light in, very spectacular! We were then in for a treat – Gelato, when in Rome haha! There was over 100 flavors to pick from – talk about a hard decision! I was in heaven.


We weaved through the crowds seeing little bits of remains everywhere. We stopped at the impressive Victor Emmanuel II Monument before making our way towards the thing Rome is most famous for! You guessed it the Colosseum. I must say it truly is impressive to see. I however didn’t go in – I’m really not a fan of that part of history and don’t deal well with gruesome stuff. With my fat swollen ankles after two walking tours in one day it was time to head back for dinner and drinks.


The next morning I was very unfortunate – I had picked up the tour cold that was going around our group and I was in bed most of the day. I missed out on going to the Vatican City!!! The part I was really gutted to miss was the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling! Someone do me a favor – we you are there look up and spin your way through the building. This is the only way to see the paintings from the angle they are intended to be viewed.
The sleep and a swim in the cold pool did it’s trick and by the time everyone was back I was good to go! We had to head to the supermarket to get supplies for are next leg of the journey. It’s crazy how they sell spirits at a supermarket! Well stocked up we headed back to get ready for the evenings events – a tight and bright party with UV lights! But first dinner in true Italian style on one long table with food pilled in the middle for everyone to share. After dinner we all gathered at a picnic table to play games before the bar opened up. Bucket cocktails were the highlight of the night! And that’s where I’ll leave the nights stories ha!


We woke up to get ready for the much anticipated part of the trip – sailing in the Greek Island Corfu!

Florence via Pisa (mmm PIZZA)

Starting to really enjoy the heat we were in for some more as we headed for Florence with a stop at Pisa of course.

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Our first stop however was to a 16th century French scent making factory that was still in production. The tour ended in the factory shop where your senses get very overwhelmed!! But they have some beautiful perfumes and other products for purchase, or you can just enjoy the view from the hillside factory.

As we pulled up to the carpark at Pisa we could see people already gathering around the bus trying to sell hats, sunnies and everything related to the leaning tower. They all had the same stuff really must be really hard for them to sell. We then turned the corner to the markets as you head for the entrance, even more overwhelming! But also you could work this to your advantage when buying – the stall next to you will have the same item and offer it to you for much less. It was our first experience of bartering so first few didn’t go to well but doesn’t take long to get the hang of it. My best purchase was a hat, it wasn’t like any hat though you could fold/screw the hat up and it would pop back into shape (amazing for travelling!!).

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It was now time to enter the grounds of the tower. One thing I didn’t expect was other buildings related to the tower on the same grounds (I hadn’t researched this part of the trip – don’t know if that is obvious to others but for me it was a surprise). The grounds are called “Piazza dei Miracoli” (Square of Miracles) made up of the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Bell or Leaning Tower and the Monumental Churchyard. For some reason while we were there you weren’t allowed on the grass – unsure if this is all the time? We still managed to get the typical tourist shot though!!

We made our way to Florence arriving just before dinner, time for a swim, cocktails and a freshen up. We had a big night ahead at a famous Karaoke bar – Red Garter!! I was convinced I wasn’t getting up but its amazing what a little bit of alcohol does haha – all good fun! They had some pretty cool drinks at this bar, one that stood out was a beer tower with sparklers – real display as this one comes out! On the way back to the hostel an old man was just closing his kebab store but invited us in turned everything back on, cooked us an awesome feed and shared laughs with us. It’s amazing how language barriers don’t stop people having a laugh together!

The next morning was a struggle and i’ll have to admit I don’t remember much of what the tour guide for the morning said, we were just trying to find an escape from the heat with our hangovers! We saw all the major sites on this walking tour – the Duomo – the cathedral, the Baptistery, Giotto’s Campanile. These buildings are a must – they are just stunning! We couldn’t get over the guards with huge guns though – very very different to little old New Zealand that’s for sure! Next was the medieval arched river bridge still lined with jewelry & souvenir shops (most original buildings). We then headed to the Palace which passed many famous sculptures. We ended the morning with a tour of a leather workshop. I still cannot get over the history in this beautiful town. You definitely need more time than a morning tour to truly get the most out of this place.

Now was time to jump back on the bus to head for more of this incredible history in Rome.

 

 

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