Sep 08

Melbourne Tops List of Best Cities http://t.co/HChETo4 via @WSJ Which I’m quite happy about as I think Melbourne is one of the best places I’ve been to. Squint Aussy, see how sweet you have it! London’s 53rd! Gah! ;-)

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Jan 30

In recently returning to New Zealand I had to take some photos of home. Enjoy.

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Jan 30

What is a Kiwi Bach? It’s an interesting architectural blend of “sheds”, old state housing stock, kit set houses up to custom designed architectural gems. In essence, and historically, a Bach is more small scale and more often than not a collection of recycled parts of buildings, or indeed a recycled building entirely. To this end it makes a superb, eclectic blend of architecture full of character that fantastically bear no resemblance to one another along the street. Often a refreshing change from the stamped sameness of some streets overseas.

Baches incorporate the quintessential Kiwi experience of getting away from it all, usually near to the beach and usually with a BBQ in tow. The basic quality of the architecture gives you a feeling of returning to the roots, and makes you appreciate the finer points in life. Overall it’s a great place to meet up with friends and family. For more visit Wiki… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bach_(New_Zealand)

So here is a collection of Kiwi Baches I snapped on my last trip to NZ in our neighbourhood at Waitarere Beach. Enjoy.

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Jul 01

Croatia- Split

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After a 4 hour crossing over the the Adriatic Sea (9 hours if you catch the slow ferry!) we arrived in Split, which is one of the major ports in Croatia. As the sea is quite calm you can take a number of fast catamarans (we took SNAV). It’s an extremely busy straight with everything from P class boats to multi-billion dollar private launches, container ships and ocean liners.

Split is great. First thing we noticed was the brightness of the sun, mainly because of lack of pollution but also the white tiles lining the foreshore and surrounding buildings as you can see in these photos.

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We weren’t looking forward to learning Croatian, as it has little similiarity to English, or Italian. After trying to talk Italian for the past 10 weeks we found ourselves saying grazie (thank you) all the time, stopping mid sentence and then trying to think Croatian. Luckily we didn’t have to do this for long as we discovered everyone speaks English very fluently. Respect to local languages and everything; but it was SO good to be able to talk in English again!

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The local attractions are the old palace, of which there are underground tunnels etc (nice and cool in the heat of the day) and tower, the foreshore which is always buzzing, and the general old town streets which have highly polished white tiles everywhere. There is also a statue with a very shiny toe that thousands have people have rubbed for good luck. All seen in the following 3 photos.

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The food has a change from Italia with an emphasis on ‘good solid meals’ like your mum and your gran used to make. Meat, 2 vege, stews, beautiful fish platters; all very nice. The locals are all really friendly, and instantly you felt welcome. It was way less touristy than Italy (or at least the places we went to), which could explain this as tourists really do suck the life out of places.

The place we stayed was great, and had a fantastic view of the town (first picture above). We definitely recommend going for B&B’s rather than hotels, they’re usually cheaper and nicer without that generic feel. And of course lonely planet was again the saviour on this little gem.

We spent 4 days doing mostly nothing in Split before we set off on our 7 day boat tour of the Croatian islands.

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Jun 30

We liked Bologna. It’s a more student orientated city, so had the associated buzz of more alternative cafes, bar and restaurants. We stayed in a cool hotel with an old iron lift that took us up 6 floors, and had a view of the two towers at the end of the high street.

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Of course these had to be climbed, which was now the tradition; to climb any tower, hill or associated vantage point to get bearings of the new place. So we trooped up to the top and took a few snaps, which when we got to UK we discovered were almost exactly the same as Lisa’s pictures… and probably 1000 other tourists!

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The weather was fantastic while we were there, so great for photography. We only had a couple of nights there, and then off to Remini were we met Fra, and saw some crazy beach umbrellas (below) lining the beach as far as you could see.

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You had to pay to use them, and to go down to the beach; which any good Kiwi would refuse to do on principle. When onto the hole they call Ancona were we caught the ferry to Croatia… and so ended our Italy adventure.

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Jun 27

Venice was hot; if you go there invest in aircon or a fan, neither of which our place could supply us! It’s quite weird being in a place where everything is on water. We found it pretty clean, with lots of alleyways and piazzas you could get lost in (or I did anyway). That was kind of nice though, just walking, getting lost and discovering new things.

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It is definitely worth getting a water ferry pass for the day, as we discovered it takes forever to walk across the various bridges hopping from shore to shore. They are expensive in NZ dollars but get one! Also take your sea legs as a combination of ferry, ferry dock and ‘land’, that felt as if it was moving, got a little disorientating at times.

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It was the first city we went to that had some good, diverse artwork, and is famous for it’s blown glass and lace. As long as you ventured away from the tourist areas (of which there are many) you can find some good shops.

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We were of course tempted to hire a gondola, but alas money was drying up by this stage, so we flagged this time; but we will be back!

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We had heard rumours of a train strike a couple of days before we left, but thought nothing of it as it was the day we arrived, not the day we were leaving. So our helpful hotel person that forgot our fan also forgot to tell us there was a major strike as we left on the longer than we estimated walk to the station; with of course our stupid, now very heavy, packs and sensibly in the midday sun.

So we eventually got to the station, vowing we would get packs with wheels and leave in the early morning next time, and rushed in to get a ticket and discovered some rather large lines for the information booths. Doh! Train strike today!!

So we popped our packs in storage and headed for the bus and car hire places. However, the Americans had taken all the cars and there was not a single bus that went to Bolognia. So there was nothing for it but wait, and after 6 hours there was a train. Yah, and off we went to Bolognia.

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Jun 23

We took a train from Milan(o) to Como, and then the lake fast ferry to Bellagio.

We can see why people come here from all around Europe and buy their expensive villas here! Very picturesque, and enormous mountains, some about 3km high according to the maps.

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So above is mostly Bellagio, where we stayed 4 nights in an apartment… so we got to cook our own meals! This was fantastic, and we’ve provided a picture above. Tomato, fresh mozerrella on a pesto spread bruschetta (lightly toasted)… why didn’t we try this in NZ!!

Bellagio is one of the best little towns around this region, from our ferry exploration. Nice feel and great little shops, bars and restaurants. Cool people. We found a wine bar that did internet (random) who made their own red wine from wild grapes, which is some of the best we’ve had… served with a free antipasta platter of local produce. Mmmm.

Having to find some mission to do we spotted a church waayyyyy up the opposite mountainside. So we decided it had to be climbed to, from which we could get some cool photos.

After a ferry ride across we started walking through the town assuming we could buy some food and water. We wouldn’t recommend doing this as there’s nowhere… apart from a bar that we passed thinking there must be a better place! So we started anyway and meet an Italian couple that seemed to be doing the same thing, except unlike us in our ‘tramping gears’ the woman was wearing full black with 4 inch stilleto heels, handbag and talking on the phone.

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The path was full rock and pebble paved with Madonna pictures at each corner. It was pretty awesome, with some impressive rock faces and when we were at last at the top, some great vistas. It was a 40min steep climb in the midday sun!

So after taking our pictures and lounging at the top for about 30mins we stared back down, and who should be coming through the gate but 4 inch heel woman!! Wow! Michelle was silently stunned, as we had made bets to the contrary. No excuses now Michelle (James). We don’t know how the going down was though (MIchelle).

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Jun 23

Milan

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We only had a night in Milan, so can’t coment too much. It was also poor weather. We visited the Duomo and the galleria next door, both fantastic. The pictures of the interior do not do it justice… aspects like the stainglass windows were stunning. We also wandered down to the castle, which was a little average.

A little LA like with lollypops and waifs dressed to the nines in black everywhere. VERY expensive to eat. Here’s some photos;

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Jun 23

Ah, back to the sea! We didn’t realise how much we missed it until we were back. So needless to say we were much more relaxed here, but ready for some extreme walking, or that’s what we were told, to the other towns along the coast.

The Cinque Terre is actually a cluster of sea front and hill top towns along the coast of the Mediteranian Sea. The one we stayed in was called Vernazza and has an especially good waterfront for swimming, eating and just hanging out.

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So as mentioned the walking from town to town is through some amazing terraced hills (for grapes and subsequently extremely nice wine), or you can be incredibly lazy and catch the train. Train is 2min walking 2hr approx.

So we set off walking to Corniglia, which took us 1.5hr and up to around 500m in height we reckon. We didn’t know quite what to expect as people exiting wearing anything from full alpine gear with walking poles to jandals with handbags. In the end it’s pretty easy for your average Kiwi we reckon. Corniglia is a hill top village at about 300m, so don’t stay there, or you’ll have to lug your bags up several hundred flights of stairs.

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So as we had huge amounts of energy we also walked onto Manarola, which is a further 1hr walk which is a sea front town as seen in the pictures above (hover over them for names), and onto Riomaggiore, which is a tiny little super highway called “La Via dell’Amore” or the Lovers pathway, as there’s many blind corners were you can get it on (not that anyone was because it was rather busy).

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The next day we went to Monterosso al Mare, which was a full ‘step reebok’ workout for 2hrs up many off-camber big steps. We did this again with storm clouds looming, which actually proved quite nice as it would have been saturatingly hot otherwise. The beach at Monterosso had a ‘pay’ section where you had to pay for a section of beach with umbrella (about 10Eur per person!), as you can see in the neat lines of chairs below. Yeah right.

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Jun 17

Lucca is of course a great stepping stone to the famous Pisa. Pisa was possibly the most dead town we’ve been in on the long walk from the station but upon arriving in the piazza… hundreds of people!

The Piazza Dei Miracoli itself is awesome; beautiful grass sections with the famous leaning tower on one side, the Duomo in the centre and baptistry and old palace on the other.

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It had to be climbed! At 15Euro each (about $30) it almost used our entire daily budget; but it had to be done, and we weren’t disappointed.

The steps are super worn with the countless thousands of people that have climbed the stairs. The stairway leans one way and then the other, spiralling up to the top until you pop out and walk around the slightly corrected top section (corrected in the 1800’s sometime I think). When you look over the top you are 4m out from the foundations below!

Michelle took all the pictures downwards while James felt uneasy. That’s not natural for a building!

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They had some great animations and information on how they have corrected the lean somewhat, and the various attempts over time, some better than others to do so. Seems technology has caught up to finally settle this building.

For those visiting here in the future, head past all the restaurants and tourist outlets and pop into a local deli down the main street. Cheap, big and yum as always off the beaten track. We spent the morning here, and that was plenty before heading back to Lucca.

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