Thursday 3 October 2013

Italy- Venice, Pisa and lots of Pizza!

Yep, we are in Italy! Our first stop was Venice and we were really excited to go as neither of us had been there and its a bit of a mystery, even when you know what to expect. We found an ACSI campsite outside of Venice called Camping Venezia which had really good toilet facilities and was only a 2.60 euro return ticket to Venice on the bus, which only took about ten minutes and was really frequent- made our lives a lot easier!
Our first venture into Venice showed a very steep learning curve. This was mainly because we got lost, a lot. But once you figure out that there is no right or wrong way in Venice but more of a short or long way! It takes the pressure off and when you don't look at the map but merely meander, you find all the good bits and the secret restaurants and the dirt cheap bars that give you free tapas with every drink you buy, not only the first one! The bar was called Rossopomodoro and was awesome and we managed to find it every time without too much trouble. The H&M, however, was a different story as after practically walking into it on our first day but then wanting to find it on our second day left us circling the same area for about an hour with no luck!
Venice unveiled many secrets and surprises one of which was the happen-stance of being in the same Italian city as this lot
Our reunion with Matt and Bri!

Yes it is the Australian couple we met in Barcelona and stayed with for just under a fortnight! The ones with The Slug?
It wasn't a complete fluke; we have been in contact them since we met them in Barcelona, but we still had to find them in Venice which is pretty impressive!
We really enjoyed Venice and stayed there for almost a week with Matt and Bri in tow and we had a great time. But be warned- it is really really really expensive. For example, the four of us sat at a pretty basic cafe and ordered a few drinks, an ice cream and a plate of tapas and this came to SEVENTY-FIVE EUROS. Steven almost had a heart attack. Well, live and learn. Needless to say, we brought in sandwiches from Bert the Merc the next day. But not all places are ridiculous, the Rossopedro bar for one, and we did go out as a four for dinner on our last night in Venice and that wasn't extortionate and the food was really nice, as was the service.
N.B. There is no point me telling you where to eat or drink (except the Rossopomodoro place as its such a steal, and we managed to find it four times!) as you wont be able to find it anyway and finding the good places, and the not so good ones, is part of the fun!


We also had a gondala ride which was really fun, beware that the water does smell a bit, and saw at least four couples getting married! We dont know if it is because it wasnt baking hot when we were there but the infamous bad smell of Venice... wasn't!

After our few days in Venice we started talking about where to head off next as we were keen to stay with the Aussies for a bit longer and our only proper plans where to be in Rome for October to see my sister and brother-in-law when they get there for their holiday. The four of us decided to head an hour north of Venice and chill there for a bit while our wallets recovered from Venice!
The campsite we found is an ACSI site in Caorle called San Franscesco, it was dirt cheap at 12 euros a night with good facilities, a pool (in high season it has 5 but only one was open when we were there!) and was by the beach! And because it was the end of the summer season it was pretty empty too. We stayed here for about a week, just chilling by the pool or on the beach and getting over excited by the cool stuff they had in the shops- they had a normal food shop and then a camping shop too which had pretty much everything anyone could want!

After this relaxing week, Steve and I headed back down to Pisa and the Aussies made their way to Oktoberfest. The next campsite was a Viaregio campsite was a bit more basic and was more expensive but we both really wanted to go see the Leaning Tower of Pisa which was a half hour train ride away, so we set up Bert the Merc and biked down to the beach and promenade to see where Steven had stayed the last time he had been there, 10 years ago.
The next day we biked to the train station and, after seeing the state of the bike racks, we chained our bikes to a water pipe with Steves tyre off and prayed that they would still be there when we came back. There were two 'Pisa' stops, one was something obvious- Pisa Centrale and the other was a bit more aloof, so we got off the train at Pisa Centrale, finding out later that the other Pisa stop pretty much stopped you 100 metres from The Leaning Tower of Pisa, whereas the Pisa Centrale required a two mile walk to get to said tower. And we didn't have a map. And we were cocky. And a bit stupid, so didn't look at the map outside of the train station but just walked for a bit, and then we figured we must have gone wrong so we walked back to said station to look at said map which showed that we had to walk all the way back again to where we had just been but instead of turning around, to carry on walking. But we hadn't taken a picture of the map so after walking for what seemed like an eternity with our tummies rumbling and our eyes searching, we decided to stop and have some lunch and then carry on our quest. We found this lovely little restaurant which served pizzas so we sat down and ordered our drinks to look up see..... Yes you guessed it The Leaning Tower of Pisa!!!! At last and by mistake! So we had our pizzas (Stevens came with chips on top!?) while looking at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Pisa, and it was perfect.

Of course, we then went to take all the cringe worthy but totally necessary pictures when presented with a leaning tower. The tower is in a bit of an odd place, right next to a gorgeous cathedral and kind of slap bang in the middle of normal Italian life, but still an incredible and surreal thing to see!

We only stayed at the Viaregio campsite for two nights as once we had been into Pisa and Viaregio promenade we were ready to move on, and the fact that you had to buy little token for the shower (50 cents for 4 minutes) and that a four minute shower was enough so that i was clean but not enough to stay there longer than necessary!
We had less than two weeks before we needed to be in Rome to meet up with Beck and Phill so made our way toward Rome and stopped at a campsite near Follonica. This campsite is really nice and we have been here for a week now, it has a great pool and the weather has been mostly nice and hot too! the one downside is that there is a rather loud train that goes past the back of the site but after a couple of nights you dont even hear it.
It has been a nice and chilled two weeks as we have little to no plans until Rome which we are both very excited to go to for many reasons, and after that we are making a mad dash through Austria, West Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Beguim and then back to Calais for our ferry home! We have three weeks left and we are trying to conserve our pennies for as long as possible so we have as much money as we can to take to Australia in November, which is why the past two weeks have been as cheap as possible as we have a lot to see and do until we go home in all of the exciting countries we hope to visit.

Much love and Happy Camping!

P.S. Here are a few extra photos from Venice, enjoy!

Fire Brigade in Venice!

Local market in Venice

Friday 13 September 2013

Craotia- Watersports, Dubrovnik and the National Park!

So in our last blog we had crossed the border into Croatia and were due to meet up with my Dad, Caroline and Nick in a couple of days time, so found a small but beach side campsite ten minutes away from the airport that my family were arriving into. After the monumental rain in Montenegro we found sun in Croatia and spent the rest of the day climbing the rocks and paddling around before some rather bleak clouds started roaming in on us again.

It began to rain but not too heavily so we put the kettle on and watched some Breaking Bad and then went to bed. A few hours later we were woken up by Bert the Merc Swaying- yes, swaying, and a drip drip drip of rain leaking through our closed roof vents, followed by a mighty crash of thunder swifty followed by a flash of white as the sky lit up. We jumped out of bed and scrambled to put the awning away, which Steven had cleverly tied down and so was still attached to Bert, we then watched the sky for a bit. It was about 2am and the storm was all around us, the most impressive was the fork lightning which was dancing on the horizon, over the sea. We got back in Bert the Merc but due to the loud rain, wind and thunder we couldn’t sleep until it started to pass by 5am. We were then woken up again at 8 am by more storms. To say we were grumpy is an understatement. We were trapped in Bert for most of the day as the storms came and eventually went. We had another storm the following night but was nothing in comparison and so we slept throughout the night, which was fortunate as we were up early the next day to go meet the family at the airport!
After an emotional and excitable reunion with the family we headed to their apartment for the week which was in Cavtat.

Cavtat is a beautiful place and tourist friendly with loads of places to eat and drink and lots to do, without it being tacky. I would strongly recommend this holiday to anyone! We hired a pedalo for an hour twice in our week, hired a paddle board and a boat during our one week stay in Cavtat! It was brilliant! We also got the taxi boat over to Dubrovnik from Cavtat  which cost about 8 euros (400 Kuna for 5 of us) each for a return ticket and the taxi boat took about an 40 minutes each way! Dubrovnik is well worth a visit as it is so interesting and historical. We spent the whole day there and even saw someone get married! You can walk around the old city walls for 11 euros each and is well worth it! Its a long walk with loads of cool sights and photo opportunities- do it!!!

The beaches and water quality at Cavtat was very high and we would often see fish when swimming, there was no litter and everyone was really friendly. There were some cracking restaurants around the area too and a great dock which also hosted a many large and beautiful boat! How the other half live eh?
Croatia has over 1000 islands and we went to one with the family via our rented boat, and Steven and I got a ferry over to a larger island once we had moved on from Cavtat. We got the ferry from Drvenik to Hvar which was pretty cheap (25 euros for us and Bert) for a half an hour ferry ride. The only catch is that once you get to Hvar you have to drive to the other end to get to the beautiful beaches, from our AA map the road looks relatively straight and so shouldn’t take more than half an hour. Two hours later… yes, so the ‘straight’ road wasn’t so much straight but more a squiggly coastal road with some rather questionable road surfaces and driving techniques. It is safe to say all our pots and pans got a nice wake up call and rearrangement along the way!
Needless to say, there are some lovely views and campsites in cracking spots but beware that everything is a lot more expensive to the mainland. One night on a campsite is a minimum of 25 euros a night (leaving us with 5 euros to spare a day), there is a ferry from the north end of Hvar to Split but this was going to set us back 75 euros. We had a nice stay there but the weather wasn’t great and it was kinda out of our budget so we left after two nights, but if you have a larger budget than us then it is worth a visit as you can at least tick one of Croatians islands off your list!

Next we headed to Split, which was a great day out, we got the bus in which was really easy and the best thing to see was the Cathedral of St Domnius and Diocletian's Palace. Lonely Planet talks about Ghetto Club as a place to go for a drink but we couldn't find it and there are loads of places to go for food and drink in Split, and the layout is all quirky with loads of little secret alleyways and cool places to find! Our day visit to Split was enough for us but I can imagine that staying in that area would be lovely as its by the sea and has so many cool cafes and shops that could keep some people occupied for days!  



That evening we had a humongous lightning storm, it was completely silent and something that we have never seen before and continued for over an hour! It was so surreal and hypnotising.

We then headed up to Krka, one of Croatia's National Parks. We stayed on a campsite about 4 miles from the actual National Park but it only costs 12 euros a night, so a right bargain! We decided to cycle to the national park and it was great- all down hill along this cool mountain road and there were barely any cars so was loads of fun... but of course, in this case, what goes down must come up. It was two miles of complete down hill road and then another two miles of relatively flat forest paths until we got to the entrance of the national park where we dumped the bikes and carried on on foot. The cost is 10 euros each to get into the park and even though thats quite expensive, it includes a lot and the view is just something else! Totally worth it! It is only a one day trip though, which is nice for the old pennies, but it is a great day trip. The main attraction is the tiered waterfalls and you can go in the water which is cool but i would advise to do this last as it does kind of smell pondy... 
There is a designated footpath all up and around the waterfalls and you can see some amazing views, and there is little information spots about what lives in the national park and bits of little fun facts. If you do go make sure you walk all the way up the top as there is a lot more to see than you think! And you can see where the water level increases in the winter, and you can see the water would flow. 
Part of the first Hydroelectric
machine in Croatia

We have been driving along the coast of Croatia today and I have to say that it is gorgeous! There are loads of places to camp too and most of them are practically on the beach! We are just staying over night at a campsite near Rijeka as have a long haul drive tomorrow as we are going to Venice, to start our adventure in Italy!

Much love and Happy Camping!

Krka National Park
Krka National Park
Krka National Park
Krka National Park
Krka National Park

One of Croatia's Islands

One of Croatia's Islands

One of Croatia's Islands

One of Croatia's Islands

One of Croatia's Islands

Why wouldnt you do that?

Dare Devil!