Europe


Thursday, October 28, 2004

 

French Riviera

Well, blogs may become few and far between... internet in France is expensive (4-12 euro an hour) and about 1/3 of the keys are in a different location!

From Alessandria we crossed the mountains to the coast in Genova. It was not so hard to cross the mountains, as the highest pass was 479m. The hard part was climbing to the hostel in Genova! It was located on a cliff above the city, but the locals were encouraging. I do not think that they see many cyclists within the city. We took a day off and went hiking in the mountains with a Quebecer. The next day we set off down the coast and spent the night in the Italian Riviera town of Loano. Good deal on pricing, as most of the tourist trade in that area had died down. We were also entertained by the local "talent" show which featured lots of lip synching and some dancing teenagers.

The next day we cycled into the French border town of Menton and enjoyed a nice swim in the sea (but the hostel was again located on a hill!!!) The following day we leisurely cruised into Nice. On the way we explored the old town of Monte Carlo (Passpartout was pushed up the hill to see the royal palace). Then we enjoyed some more hill climbing and went to the medieval hill top town of Eze (very cute, but overly boutique-y). Nice was very cosmopolitan and reminded us of Vancouver.

Next we cycled down the coast to St. Raphael, and we are taking another day off to explore the Roman ruins.

Our pics from Italy have been updated too!

A bientot!
Emillie






Hike in Genova.








A winding street in Eze.







On the road to Hyeres.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

Italy II

Our day trip in Venice was very cool, aside from the fact that the main square was flooded (apparently, it happens 200 times a year! Go figure...). A very picturesque, and touristy, place... we're very glad we didn't try to cycle in!

From Padova, we went West to Verona (think Romeo and Juliet...), and cruised the very popular square in the centre of town. Very beautiful city, with a bunch of Roman ruins (amphitheatre, theatre, etc.). Then West again to Brescia, which was not so picturesque, but nice anyways. Bergamo was the next day. Unfortunately, we have been sogged in with fog since that day, but even the fog couldn't hide Bergamo... the city is half on a mountain and half on a plane, and the old town on the mountain is exactly as I imagine Italy. Full of very narrow, winding, STEEP roads! The main way to access the 'alte citta' is via a funicular tram, which is actually part of public transit!

Since then, we've started our way South towards the warmer Mediterranean... we stayed a night in Pavia (the university in Pavia was home to Alessandro Volta!!!) and Alessandria tonight, which has a VERY large and inaccessible military citadel.

Oh and thanks for the news of the snow Deen!!!! I'm getting stoked for my snow season at home (not here though... we want more sun!!).

Ciao!
Brad






Our trip through Slovenia and part of Italy.







Our journey to the Italian Riviera.







The old bridge to the castle in Verona.







One of the narrow streets of Bergamo.







We found this guy in Bergamo, and dubbed him the chicken-pigeon.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

 

Italy

Well...

internet here (in Italy) is touch and go. I have a 15min allotment at the Tourist info burau, for a longer time slot I can sign up on a waiting list and have a turn next Tuesday! So it will be a quick blog...

Our last few days in Slovenia were great, and the weather was much improved. After Ljubljana we went to Divacha and took a tour through the local cave system. It is the 2nd largest cave system in the world and is a UNESCO heritage site. It was very, very cool. The next day we cycled into Trieste, Italy. It was about a 400m drop to the meditarianian. Then we cycled up the coast to Aqueliea which is full of Roman ruins. Then headed towards Venice and ended up staying in the nearby city of Mestre. Then we took a quick cycle to Padova and saw St. Anthonys tongue in a jar (gross). Today we are taking a day trip to Venice by train as it was not possible to get there by bike. They have a no cycling by law...

Phew! In order to properly enjoy Italy you need money, and we are broke. Oh, and cycling in Italian cities is aweful! They have cyclists join major turnpikes and ramp systems. They have wide shoulders, but no one likes riding in such conditions. So, from here we have decided to head straight for France.

Ciao,
Emillie






The castle just out of Trieste.







This cathedral contains the tongue and larynx of Saint Anthony!







Venice.

Monday, October 11, 2004

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Ljubljana!

We are so impressed with the Slovenian people. Our trip through the middle of the country has been met with incredibly friendly and accomodating people. The border guard gave us a tourist map, the bar staff in Lendava gave us free internet, the guesthouse owners in Ptuj sat with us during breakfast and chatted about the best way to cycle to Ljubljana, and a priest in Vransko gave us a free bed for the night are just a few highlights. The cycling itself has been great too, although there is a lack of cross-country cycle paths. However, the side roads are well kept and relatively free of traffic. Our kilometres on the 'old highway' were decent since a new superhighway has kept most of the traffic off it.

We are glad however to be in Ljubljana simply because as soon as we arrived, it started pouring! And if you look at the forecast, it says RAIN for the next week! We think things we settle down quickly though, since it seems European forecasters edge towards worst case... our time in Czech was supposed to underwater, but we had a day and a half like that.

Ljulbljana (the capital of Slovenia) is a gorgeous city. It is small enough to enjoy the old town without all the tourists... although we might be seeing the influence of the rain.

Tomorrow, we start on our way to Italy. Maybe the Mediterranean will get rid of the rain for us!

Hvala,
Brad






The castle in Ptuj. Emillie LOVES the weather in Slovenia!







One of the climbs on the way to Ptuj.







The view of Ljubljana from the top of the castle.



Thursday, October 07, 2004

 

Summer and Slovenia

To begin, back in Budapest... The thermal baths we went to were called Szechenyi, and were fairly different from Ainsworth. They consist of three outdoor pools: one for playing chess in, one for doing laps and one with jets. Then indoors they had steam rooms, saunas and around 6 pools with medicinal waters (high in minerals). The decor was very ornate and gothic.

Leaving Budapest was another nightmare. The cycle route system is awful. Even with two (apparently inaccurate) maps it took us forever to get out! That night was spent in Szekesfehevar. Then we went up the northside of the Balaton lake (Europes largest lake) and spent the night in Zanka. The hostel in Zanka is larger than the village it is situated in, with 2800 beds! This lake is the local cottage hotspot. Then we went to Zalakaros, another sleepy spa town. Today we crossed the border into Slovenia and are in Lendava. Tonight we enjoyed another spa. This one is supposed to be good for the skin because it is high in parafin.

Summer... Well maybe not for the locals, but to me 23 degrees is beautiful. We may be the only ones in shorts, but people are just starting to plant their winter crops.

Hvala!
Emillie






Our trip through Hungary.







Lunch at the Balaton lake... with no one around to take a picture of us but our bike!







A view of the bicycle highway around the Balaton lake.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

 

Budapest

We rode into Budapest via the Donau on Friday afternoon. So, within the course of 5 days, we've visited 3 capital cities! Cool, eh? Budapest is HUGE. Cycling into the heart took us hours. But very scenic. The palaces and parliament are quite the sights along the big river. But before I get too far...

After leaving Bratislava, we cycled on the Donau along a huge canal. Apparently a joint project between Slovakia and Hungary, it spanned about 40km just outside of Bratislava. Hydro-electric is its purpose, but we didn't see the generators. Very appealing at first (we had a tail wind) but almost gave us vertigo at the end (travelling in a straight line for so long along water with concrete banks is not that exciting!). Then we took off South into Hungary for the night to a place called Gyor. Third largest city in Hungary, with a very cool old town (recommended!). Next day, we came back across the border to cycle up the Donau to the Slovak town of Szturovo. It had a MAGNIFICENT view of the Esztergom Dom (cathedral) across the river. Seems that a lot of towns on the Donau were split when the border was made, so there are literally sister cities across from each other. Why did we go back across the border you may ask? Well, Slovakia was about 1/2 the price of Hungary (some people have told us before how cheap Hungary is... well, things have changed.). The next day, we continued down the Donau, across the border, and into Budapest!

Cycling into Budapest sucked. There are cycling routes, but they are not well marked. The previous two capitals (Wien and Bratislava) were incredibly easy to cycle in, with gorgeous paths. Beware when entering Budapest though, because many arteries cannot be used by cyclists (the trams run right alongside the roads and therefore there are no shoulders). Otherwise, the disjointed cycle routes did get us into the city, we just needed to doubleback a few times and make extensive use of our many maps.

Oh, and when we finally made it to our hostel, they were full! Even though we booked online days before! Sooooo... they gave us rooms at a 3-star hotel a little bit South for the same price! You should see our breakie! Emillie is quite pleased. :>

The old town of Budapest is a joy to walk around. And tonight we're off to one of the many thermal baths.

Koszonom,
Brad






Emillie in the Fisherman's Bastion with the Parliament in the background.







Brad on the Donau with the old town in the background.

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