Almost a month since I last posted, so I better get with it as we have seen a lot of country since I last blogged. Romania...is like stepping back in time. The countryside is beautiful and you see the Romanian farmers still using horse and wagon, stoking hay by hand. At the same time you see the kids walking down the streets, head down, texting. So it is a real mix of the modern and the old. People are warm and friendly and most speak a passable amount of english. There are many highlights..Glen drove down the Transalpina highway and I drove up it...what an experience....crazy twisty, high alpine road with beautiful views and countryside. Then we proceeded to do the Transfargarasen highway as well...very similar experience. We visited Brasov, Cluj, Sibiu..Peles Castle which was beautiful and well worth the entrance fee. We visited Bran Castle as well (Dracula's Castle) and it was interesting but I enjoyed Peles more. We toured the wooden churches in the Maramures area and on Sunday the local Romanians in this area dress up in native Romanian dress to attend church...very neat to see...ladies in their white blouses, colorful skirts with crinolines and matching head scarves...both young and old dress for church. All in all, Romanian was a pleasant surprise and strongly recommend people visit if they can.
Next we were off to Hungary, which as soon as you cross the border, you can see that Hungary is more prosperous than Romania. Lots of quaint towns and small cities...Debrecen was the first city we visited and it had a very nice town square and central area. Off to Budapest...what can I say..it is a gorgeous city and we did a free walking tour with a young Hungarian guide which was great. We stayed right up near the Citadel and walked there in the evening. Could see all the lights of Budapest, in addition to the Citadel being lit up at night as well. Other places we visited that were great and I recommend visiting are Pecs, Veszprem, Szentendre and Tihany. Again we met great people
Next came Slovakia...we met some great people
Well it has been a month..hard to believe it was Trieste the last time I wrote. From Trieste we traveled south to Pula, Croatia, our first stop in Croatia. The main attraction in Pula is the fully intact Roman amphitheatre. It is smaller than the theatre in Rome but still impressive. You don't actually have to pay to go inside as you can walk around the whole outside and get pictures of every angle of the theatre. We spent some time on the beaches in Pula and I have to admit I was surprised to find that they are all rocky. Prior to coming to Croatia, I had fairly high expectations for the beaches and the pictures I had seen of white beaches, I had assumed were sand...NOT...they are rock. We learned from the locals and purchased these very comfortable sunning mats that fold up quite small for easy carrying. You need a pair of sandals or water shoes to go in the water as the bottom of the ocean is very rocky as well. The water is amazing...crystal clear, clean and reasonably warm...really enjoyed the water. We continued south in Croatia and stayed in the little village of Bibinje on the ocean south of Zadar. Our studio apartment was right on the ocean and so we spent a day or two hanging out on the beach as it was HOT and then one day touring the old town of Zadar. Zadar has a very nice promenade along the ocean which we really enjoyed. We headed south to Trogir/Split area and spent a couple of days touring the old town of Trogir and Split. We definitely enjoyed Trogir more than Split as it is smaller and more quaint. Some amazing, huge yachts in the harbor in Trigor...now that's the way to travel. Our last stop in Croatia was in Dubrovnik....we had a great studio apartment there with a great Croatian family. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine with them and they shared their story of escaping the war in 1992 and being sponsored to come to St. Catherines,Canada. Gave us some great insight into how the country and the people suffered. Enjoyed the beaches in Dubrovnik and touring the old town. The most "American English" I have heard spoken in a couple of months was in the old town as busy with the cruise ships in the harbor. In that same region we visited the small towns of Cavtat..lovely harbour, more big yachts and the village of Ston, which has one of the longest stone walls in existence outside of the great wall of China. We packed the bathing suits and sun mats away as we headed east into Bosnia. First stop was in Mostar, which has a famous bridge called Stari Most, where if the tourists come up with the right amount of money a Croatian will jump from the bridge into the water. Quite the show..quite the jump. Bosnia is 80% Muslim, so there are mosques of every shape & size everywhere. At night the mosques play this "chant" and it is actually really beautiful to hear. There is a real "Turkish" influence there as well..you see it in all the "souvenirs" that the locals are selling. 99% of the Muslim women in Bosnia do not wear what we think of as typical Muslim dress and most only put on a head scarf if they are going into a mosque. Next stop was Sarajevo...interesting...so glad we went there. We stayed in an apartment that was on Airbnb, hosted by a young man named Edin. Edin and his girlfriend Anna made our trip there memorable. They showed us around the old town of Sarajevo, helped Glen with a computer problem, took us to a great restaurant, showed us how to smoke a "hookah" pipe ....very popular past time for Bosnians and there are lots of Hookah bars in the old town. And last but not least, Edin insisted on washing our car...he couldn't stand how dirty it was!!! Glen kept insisting that he not bother as it would be dirty within 15 minutes of us leaving town. Well, we lied...it took 45 minutes before we hit the first rain storm!! Bosnia's unemployment rate is close to 40%, so this was the first place that we encountered beggars in the street. You can see remnants of the war in a lot of the buildings...bullet holes and buildings that have been partially destroyed and abandoned....as there is no money to rebuild. But the people are friendly and continue to enjoy life. From Sarajevo we headed to Zlatibor, Serbia, which is a ski village on the west side of Serbia. Very nice area with lots of hiking, biking, horseback riding etc. We were really impressed with how clean the area was, in comparison to other places that we had been. We then headed to Nis, Serbia. We were there for one very long night.....the apartment we rented was right downtown and the pictures of the inside looked gorgeous. Well....the outside was like we had landed in the slums..the whole building was completely tagged. The building looked like it was going to fall down...had to lock our car into a secured parking stall and Glen didn't sleep well as he was concerned that the car would still be there in the morning. We toured the Nis Fortress, which is the main tourist attraction there. The fortress was not much to see and the park inside is large, but very shabby. Believe me...you can take a miss on Nis. Next came Romania.... and to be continued....too much to tell, so I will blog about Romanian soon.
Glen is the blogger in the family...me not so much, but it has been almost a month since we landed in Paris and it is time for my take on the trip so far. First stop was Versailles...which Glen LOVED??? The palace and the gardens are amazing, however, I was disappointed in the amount that you get to see inside the palace. And it is a tourist trap...the line ups to get in can be 2-3 hrs long...hard to see everything once you are inside as there are so many people. You need to have patience if you are going to visit this site. Next we drove down to the Bordeaux region, stopping in the old town of St. Emilion. It was a gorgeous old town with narrow streets and lots to see. From there we drove on to the Arcachon Basin. Lovely area...the Dune of Plya is incredible...not much "history" to see, however, did a drive to Cap Ferret along the ocean and it was very picturesque. We then headed east to the Sarlat de Caneda region which has many medieval towns and castles. Highlights were Sarlat, Domme and La Roque Gageac...great old villages well worth the visit. Continued to drive east and next visited the Annecy Lake Region. We stayed at Le Bourget Lake, which is south of Annecy and enjoyed a walk around the lake which is very pretty. We then drove for the day into Genève, which almost didn't happen as there is no where to park in the area...without mortgaging your house, that is. Thought Glen was going to have a heart attack...he is so calm!!!! We finally stopped at a hotel and there were 3 young men outside waiting for the bus and they told us to head out of the city a bit and take the park & ride tram. Worked like a charm...parking was free and it only took about 10 minutes to get into the heart of the city. The highlight of this excursion was an American family we met at the Cathedral St. Pierre. Originally from Kentucky, they have been living for many years in Dubai...very interesting to talk to. Genève is a big city...the lakeshore is nice...main highlight was standing at the Plaza of Nations...United Nations headquarters. From this region we headed a little further east to Lake Como, Italy. Really enjoyed our stay here...the lake is gorgeous and we had one chill day (which was great) and then we took the ferry boat across the lake to Bellagio and Veranna. Great little spots to visit, although Bellagio is quite touristy with shops, cafes etc. Varenna was more quaint. Also drove up the road to Menaggio as well. The little village we were staying in was Griante and it was nice to stroll along the lake on the promenade. Next, headed to Lake Konstanz, Germany and stopped on the way at Interlaken, Switzerland. It was a quaint "canal" town which we strolled around. Then we arrived in Lake Konstanz to spend three days with our German friends, Walter & Sybille and Walter & Karina. Had a wonderful time with them, catching up on everyone's news and spending time at the lake. We visited the Otto Dix museum (no English audio guides..so not as interesting for us as our German friends), the Swiss village of Stein am Rhein...which is worth the visit...the gelato is worth going for!!! We also toured the flower island, Mainau Isle, which is a beautiful garden in the region. They have a butterfly house that we thoroughly enjoyed. Was a wonderful time with good friends!!! Next on the agenda, we started making our way south to Croatia. We stopped in Bled, Slovenia for 2 days where we toured Lake Bled..small lake but very picturesque with an island in the center with a church on it. We visited Slap Savica, a well known waterfall in the region as well. Slovenia is a small country, only 2 million inhabitants, but very clean. Will see more of Slovenia later as we make our way back from Croatia towards Hungary. Now we are in Trieste, Italy, just north of the Croatian border, on the Adriatic Sea. Toured the city today....Miramere Castle would definitely be the highlight...very nice and not expensive to tour. Tomorrow we move on to Pula, Croatia which is on the sea, with some Roman sites to tour and some beaches to lie on....yes!!! Hard to believe that we have been gone almost a month!!! So far...soooooooooo good!! Glen has only lost his cool a couple of times and screamed at the Navi b*itch (I am sure that was who he was screaming at)!!! Give him credit...I would not want to be driving...the roads are crazy narrow, the drivers are just plain CRAZY!!! Especially in Italy!! Driving here is not for the faint of heart and he is doing a great job. I am sure more great stuff to come!!
I haven't posted a lot of blogs on our site but Glen, never short on words, seems to have a lot more to say about things than I. While in Australia, I bought the most amazing sandals I have ever owned. I had heard a lot of good things about FitFlops but have never owned a pair. I can walk for miles in these shoes and my feet feel great. Unfortunately shortly after we returned to North America and only months after buying my first pair, the stitching came apart on one of the straps. I emailed the company and voiced my disappointment but did not get an initial response for quite some time. Finally (7 days ago) I was contacted and the customer service representative asked me to send a photo of the product and my size. Today I received a brand new pair of FitFlops courier delivered right to my door...no charge! What GREAT SERVICE, something of which I have not witnessed in quite some time. There are very few companies that go beyond the call of duty but FitFlops is obviously one. Thank you!
Today would rank as one of the most special days of my life! I have three wonderful sons, two amazing grandsons and as of 2 hours ago, a beautiful baby grand daughter. There is a lot of testosterone in this family and we were desperately in need of some oestrogen. I am the happiest grandmother on the planet right now!!
I have been in trouble with Glen because I have not "blogged" in awhile, so here I am, finally, getting caught up. From the Gold Coast we travelled north thru Brisbane, just stopped for the day and walked along the river walk, to the Sunshine Coast. This is our favorite area in Australia...the beaches are great and it is quieter than than the Gold Coast. We stayed in Mooloolaba for 2 weeks, first in a condo on the river and then in a condo across from the ocean. The first week we were here, this area experienced the worst rain storm they have ever experienced with massive flooding. I have never seen it rain like that. The road in front of our condo was completely underwater and we had to move our car out from the underground parking. The water receeded as fast it came and in a couple of days you would not know that it had happened. We visited the Australian Zoo, Steve Irwin's legacy, hence the pictures above of me petting the koala & kangaroo. Spent our time doing long walks, time at the beach or pool and just generally being lazy. From here we travelled north through Noosa Head, which is a very quaint community, toured Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach. Spent time in Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, which are absolutely gorgeous. Took a rafting tour out to Whitehaven Beach and then did some snorkelling. Blue, blue waters and white sandy beaches. Loved it. Then we travelled north to Cairns where we spent 4 nights. We did a snorkelling tour on the Great Barrier Reef, which was awesome. A 6 ft white tipped reef shark swam right below me as I was snorkelling, that was a bit creepy. Saw stingrays, sea turtles, nemo fish and beautiful coral. We also took the skyrail up to the little town of Kurunda and then took a heritage train ride back into Cairns. It was very nice. In Cairns we met lots of other Canadians travelling, which we have not encountered anywhere else in OZ. One of the downsides of the Cairns area and north is that you can't swim in the ocean because of crocodiles and stingers. From Cairns we travelled north through Palm Cove which is a gorgeous little ocean town just north of Cairns. We headed to Port Douglas where we stayed for 4 nights in the Rydges resort which was awesome. However, we were thinking of extending our stay there to up to a week, but on the 4th day it started to rain and the forecast was it was going to continue for awhile. So we packed up and headed back to the Sunshine Coast, where we are presently. We are here till Saturday, then we will head to Port Macquarie and stay over night in our favorite B & B there and then head to Sydney on Sunday, to fly back to Phoenix on Monday. Can not believe we are in our last week, it has gone by so fast. Have really enjoyed the trip and would definitely consider coming back again. Only downside is it is along way from home and the family.
We arrived in Coffs Harbour and stayed in a very nice 2 bedroom condo. The resort was about a 10 minute walk to the beach, and had a great pool. The first couple we met was a couple from Summerland who were staying in the resort for a month. We also met several couples from OZ who we hung out with at the pool. We learned some more Ozie lingo and got some opinions as to where to go and what to see. We spent a lazy week there, going for walks, sitting at the pool and going to the beach. Weather was very nice and we really enjoyed it.
Then we moved north to the Gold Coast and are staying in the Radisson Resort in a timeshare. We actually booked in for another week, as we really like the resort and the area. The resort has a great pool, tennis courts, and a full size gym, which we are making good use of. Weather the first couple of days we were here was rainy, but the last couple of days have been hot and humid. Looks like sun and heat for the foreseeable future. Yahoo!!! We went to the Spirit of the Horse presentation, which is like a dinner theatre, western theme with live horses, cows etc. Our resort is not on the beach, but the beaches along the Gold Coast are beautiful. You can walk for miles on them. Our OZ experience has really improved since we hit the east coast and now we understand why 75% of the popoulation of OZ lives on the east coast.
Murray River...well, it was fine for about 1 day, but then it got to be like driving through Saskatchewan for 4 days...boring!!! Arrived in Canberra, capital of OZ, and toured around the parliament buildings, war memorial (beautiful) and gardens. We had great accomadations here and warm weather. From here we travelled east to the ocean and Jervis Bay. Spent 2 nights here at a small hotel, where the owner Garry gave us lots of ideas for things to see. We enjoyed our stay here as it was less driving around and more relaxing. From here we drove north on the coast through Kiama which is a beautiful port town...beautiful harbour and a "blowhole", which was fairly active when we went through. Then we headed in land to the Blue Mountains and stayed our first night at a guesthouse that we had booked on line and it was badddddddddd!!! We checked out and found a great motel that we stayed in for 2 nights. This area is beautiful...the gorge is like the Grand Canyon except it is fully treed. We did some hiking in this area and it was great. Then we headed into Sydney for 2 nights, which most people will tell you is not long enough, but we got a good feel for the city. The harbour is gorgeous, we took a ferry to Manly Bay which was amazing....gorgeous beach, surfing contest on the day we were there and it was loaded with people, but still enjoyed it. We spent 2 days, 6-7 hours each day, touring around, so needless to say we got our exercise and with the weather being around 28 and humid, we were like dishrags at the end of the day. Now we are heading north on the coast and will probably stop in Port Macquarie today and plant ourselves for a couple of days. We have a timeshare booked in Coffs Harbour starting Feb 24th for a week and then another timeshare in Surfers Paradise for another week after that. We are really looking forward to that...spending some beach time.
So far so good...I am loving OZ. The people are very friendly and the weather is warmer, which makes it more pleasant for touring around. We stayed right downtown Melbourne, right in the middle of the action, which was great. Merlbourne is a city with lots of character in their old buildings, chinatown, markets and parks. Had some great Thai food there as well. Then we travelled down the Great Ocean Road which was beautiful, with a rugged coastline and lots of quaint towns along the way. We spent sometime in Adelaide...really enjoyed the Glenelg suburb, where the beaches were beautiful and some gorgeous hotels along the coastline. We are now travelling down the Murray River, which reminds me of the Mississippi River in New Orleans, slow moving and brown. We have seen lots of koala's (adorable), emus and kangaroos....I have more kangaroo pictures than you will want to see!!!
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