Monday, November 30, 2009

L'Ampolla & Valencia

Dana getting creative. That's a bus going by
Steve in Valencia
In Plaza de la Virgin
Amazing sky at sunset in Valencia
Us, Andreas, Patrice, Lluisa having our bbq
tree after we worked on it
tree before
Dana on our bike ride in L'Ampolla
Lluisa was there to pick us up at the train station with a friendly smile! She is a very kind and friendly woman. When we got back to her place she showed us our room. It was beautiful! Very bright and clean with lots of space and our our bathroom! We aren't in the main house which is located a bit higher on the hill. We were in a guest casita attached to 3 others and a kitchen, and also a yoga room on the back side of the kitchen. They are in the process of setting up the place to host yoga retreats. In the kitchen they had lots of food and leftovers for us for dinner. Lluisa left us to have the evening to ourselves and said we would meet in the morning. We met Patrice, Lluisa's husband in the morning, he is French, and a funny guy. The wind was crazy on our first day, Dana spent the day doing small chores with Lluisa and Steve sanded an old wood table. The next day the wind was even stronger and they gave us the day off because it was very difficult to work outside. We did yoga in the morning with Lluisa. It was a little different than we were expecting, but it was relaxing. The place is beautiful! There are plenty of trees and green around us. From Patrice and Lluisa's house you have a view of the delta and can see all the way to the Mediterranean. The only problem is that there is not much to do here. All the roads around us lead to peoples houses and it is olive tree after olive tree. So a day off did not give us many options, especially since the nearest town was not very close to walk to. There is another helper working with us , his name is Andreas and he is from Hungary. Patrice drove the three of us into town so we could use the internet and have something to do. L'Ampolla is a small town with beautiful seaside. We spent the rest of the week working in the garden, cleaning things up, and doing general maintenance. We ate on our own for breakfast and dinner, but there was plenty of food and leftovers in the kitchen. We all eat together for lunch which is always amazing! It is like we eat at a fancy restaurant every day, we are very spoiled here. A few nights we went for a walk, a bike ride, or played ping-pong outside. Lluisa is the only Spaniard in the area, all the neighbours around are from Switzerland. One day a man named Peter drove by and invited us to go and see the olives being pressed. It was cool to see; it is quite a process. After the olives are cleaned they are put into a machine that purees them up. Next the mush is spread evenly into these round piles of baskets. The weight crushes the olives which makes some of the finest oil and then the baskets are pressed in a machine which extracts the rest of the oil. We were given a bottle from last year which was amazing.
On Sunday we went to Valencia; we stayed with a couch surfer named Carlos! He was a very nice guy studying economics at the University. Valencia is a very pretty city! We really enjoyed the buildings and the atmosphere, especially at night time with the fountain and everything lit up. We walked through different plazas, cathedrals, and basilicas. The next day we went to the central market, which was huge. We bought some fresh oranges which were delicious and some paella which was okay. (a little too fishy for our liking) We packed up our stuff at Carlos' and then headed back to L'Ampolla. We spent the next week doing similar chores of cleaning and gardening. We spent one day olive picking, which turned out to be not too bad, we picked 50 kilos of olives. Dana made a pumpkin pie with a pumpkin they had bought. She was very happy because she missed making one for Thanksgiving. The week went by very quickly and on our last day we had a huge barbeque. Lluisa bought chicken, rabbit, and sausage from the butcher. We also had barbecued veggies, guacamole, and potatoes! It was extremely tasty! We said our goodbyes and shortly after eating she drove us to the train station. It was sad to leave because we finally felt at home there. Now we are off to Lisbon!

Football and Thieves in Barcelona

Near the pier, about to leave Barcelona
Having a wonderfully cold time at the match
Dana is so excited, the game hasn't even started!
Scene of bambi entirely out of chocolate!
Sagrada Familia
Dana at Guell Park
Famous Lizard at the entrance of Guell Park
Entrance of Guell Park

It was a nice train ride to Barcelona, it was a good 40 minute walk to our hostel, but we made it there safely and a little sore from our backpacks. We have been hearing during our travels that Barcelona is a beautiful city, but you need to watch out for the people pick pocketing, and the scams to get your money! Whether it's families we have stayed with, or people we met in the hostel, they have all told us to be on guard. The first night we met a guy named Yan from Paris. Our room seemed kinda small, but behind the curtain was a small enclosed terrace overlooking the main street. We spent the first day at Guell Park. Everything there was in mosaic. The park was created by Gaudi, as are most of the sights in Barcelona. We walked around Barcelona for a bit and then headed back to the hostel to make supper. We ran into Kori (from Nice) at our hostel, she wasn't staying there but a friend of hers was. We met a guy named Neil from Australia in our room (he mentioned that someone tried stealing his backpack the other day). The next day we saw Sagrada Familia, also by Gaudi, it was very cool. This is Dana's favorite church so far, it is still not finished and is a different style on each side, e.g. roman, Gothic. Walking back we checked out Torre Agar and Casa Batllo. From there we went to the hostel to pick up our bags. We had to move to a new hostel. It seemed sketchy from what we heard, it was a little hard to find. After asking, we found it down some dark alleyway. The hostel is connected to a bar so we went in there to check in. The girl took us up numerous flights of stairs to get to our room, it seemed ok. The girl warned us about going out at night because it wasn't safe! The staff and some other people were up all night in the kitchen beside us being loud and blasting music. Finally at 4am Steve told them to be quiet; not a great sleep to say the least. The next morning we bought tickets to the soccer match; Barcelona vs. Mallorca, for that night, then we headed off to the chocolate museum! There were these amazing characters and miniature scenes all made entirely out of chocolate. We also went to St. Monica's Art Gallery, which used to be a convent, and saw some beautiful art exhibits. We got some supper and then took the metro to the soccer match. It was a good game, but ridiculously cold, Barcelona won 4-2. We had a great time watching our first professional soccer match. Again another bad night, it was the same as the last night but louder and for longer periods of time. We were exhausted in the morning, so Dana complained which got us some money back and free food and drink for the day. We did some shopping during the day and went and walked along the pier. There were many tables set up with antiques and jewelry. We had some drinks at our hostel before heading to the train station for our next help exchange. We made it through Barcelona with all of our money, God was watching over us! Next stop L'Ampolla!

Off to France!

sunset overlooking the city
Moon rising over the harbour
Again looking over the city
Kori, Guillaume, and Us

November first we started to make our way to Nice, France. We had to switch trains just outside France to a french train!(much nicer than the Italian trains) We arrived in Nice in the early evening and called our host Guillaume (gee-omme). He was at a family dinner and told us to go to old town to meet a girl named Kori who was also staying with him; he would come and meet us later. We couldn't find Kori, but met a bunch of people to talk to while we waited. Sometime later Kori showed up, and seconds later so did Guillaume. We went back to his nice apartment with an amazing view of the city, and spent the rest of the night talking and hanging out until the wee hours of the morning. We all slept in the next morning and then headed out in the afternoon. We tried these really good sandwiches called pan-banet; we ate them in a park that overlooked the city. It was beautiful! From the hill we watched the sunset over the hill on one side, and on the other the moon rise over the harbour. We left shortly after so we wouldn't get locked in the park. After a quick stop in the grocery store, Guillaume taught us how to make Ratatouille, it was amazing. We saw a little more of Nice the next day, and spent some more time with Guillaume. We checked out train times for Barcelona for the following day. We had a very unhelpful lady who said there was no way to get to Barcelona the next day; apparently none of the train times seemed to work. Dana asked if another train could get us there earlier to make a connecting train, but there was none, apparently. We went to information to see if there was a another way to get to Montpellier (the connecting train). There were two earlier trains the next morning. So back into the train staion we went, and spoke to a very helpful gentleman who arranged all of our connections to Barcelona and also refunded us some money as well. After all of that, we met up with Guillaume and went for a drink. Dana did the classic mistake of ordering a drink without asking how much it was; her long island iced-tea ended up costing 8 euros (13 Cdn). Guillaume went out that night so we had the night to oursleves. We made some dinner and watched a good movie called Into the Wild. We woke up at 6 am and Guillaume wasn't home yet! We were in a bit of a panic, but he showed up before we had to leave and got us to the train station on time! It was very sad to leave he made us feel at home and was a lot of fun to be around. He is actually in Canada right now visiting a friend in Montreal right now. We said our good-byes and caught our four trains to make it to Barcelona that night!

Monday, November 23, 2009

And now the fun begins...

Dana in Venice
Steve on the hike, Vernazza in the background
Dana along the path
Overlooking Manarola

Us in front of the leaning tower of Pisa
Florence, from Michelangelo's Plazza
The Duomo in Florence
Us in Florence
Everything was all set in the morning to leave for Florence. Just before leaving for the train station we checked our email. It was a good thing we checked, because as it turned out our couch surfer decided that he wasn't going to host us anymore (We were supposed to be at his place for four nights!) So... we did some quick emailing to find a hostel last minute and then rearranged our schedule for the next several days. We headed to Florence and spent the next 2 days there. We saw Michaelangelo's David, the Duomo,and walked around to see other sites. Florence was a very nice city. From Florence we took a day trip to Pisa, then had to come back to Florence to catch our night train to Venice at 1:48am. It was a long night with very little sleep. We had to share a compartment with three smelly men!
We arrived in Venice at 5am and waited for the city to wake up! We spent the whole day there walking around, getting lost, and then finding our way again. Venice is so beautiful. It would have been nice to stay longer. But, it might have been better that way because then we saved some money. Venice is a very expensive city(to use the internet for one hour would cost us $9.50 Cdn).
Since it was so expensive to use the internet, we decided we would look for a hostel in Milan when we arrived at 8pm. (We were leaving at 5pm because of the rescheduling we had to do). Well... there were no hostels available so, we were homeless in the train station for the night. We were allowed to sleep in the train station from 1-4 am. Thats when the police woke us up and said sleeping time was over! From Milan we took a morning train to Riomaggiore, Italy, where we stayed to walk Cinque Terre (five cities on a hill). So we did a 9km hike after not really sleeping for two nights in a row. Well it was an amazing hike, beautiful view where ever we looked. It was Halloween, so we were a little sad not to see decorations or costumes. But when we arrived in the last city, there was a small party going on with cheap food and music playing. There were even two little girls dressed up in costumes, it made Dana happy to see! We took the train back to our hostel and just crashed, the beds weren't that comfortable, but we were so happy to have a bed to sleep in again.

Monday, November 2, 2009


In Rome, in St. Peter's Basilica
Us on a bridge
The Trevi Fountain at Night! Less crowded then
Colosseum at Night
Us there during the day!

The 15 hour ferry ride went by quickly since we were sleeping for a good chunk of time. The shower on board was the best one we have come across so far! We spent way too much time in Ancona, waiting for our train, missing our train, and then having to wait for a later one. We finally arrived in Rome at 11pm after a 4 hour train ride. We found our hostel, did some email and then crashed! Next morning we walked and saw a few sights as we made our way to the Colosseum. We paid to have a guided tour which also included a guided tour of the Palatine hill right next to the Colosseum. We saw a few other sights before heading back to our hostel for supper. (which was free. Free breakfast & pasta & wine = AWESOME!) We went out and took some night shots of the colosseum and got some gelato. Next day we went to the Vatican museum which is free on the last sunday of the month! Standing in line we met a couple from Ottawa who used to work for the UN in Sudan, Kim and Alan. Chatting with them made the hour go by very quickly! There was soo much to see, it ended with the sisteen chapel, where Dana was abel to get 2 photos even though your not supposed too! We switched to another hostel that night because ours was booked. We met people from Australia, New Zealand, and the US and had another great free pasta supper & breakfast next morning! The hostel was nicer and also had a bathroom and shower in each room. We took some night pictures of the Trevi fountain, got Gelato, and saw a couple get engaged. The next day we went back to St. Peter's Basilica (largest church in the world). It is a very beautiful church. Almost all of the art were mosaics which was hard to see because it was perfect! We went to the spanish steps, trevi fountain, and then back for supper. We spent the night at the hostel hanging out and talking with everyone. Tommorrow we are heading to Florence for awhile and staying with a couchsurfer.


Us on our Scooter!
Olive trees with mesh ready to be rolled out to collect the harvest
At sunset beach!!
On top of Palamidi Fortress, over 999 steps later!

We arrived in Patra in the evening and hung around waiting for our ferry which departed at 11:30pm. While waiting we checked our email to see if our couch surfer host had emailed us. He hadn't, Dana was a little nervous but he said he would be able to host, so we shouldn't worry. At 9:30 pm we boarded, we had deck seats so we made our beds on the floor for the night. 7 and a half hours later we arrived in Corfu. Dana went hunting for internet when we arrived with little luck. At about 10, we found a spot but still not an email from our host. So there we were stuck in Corfu with no where to go. We found a camping village called camp Dionysis not too far away for pretty cheap, so we decided to go there. We had a small little cabin to our selves that was at the most 7x7. With not too much to do near by, we took a bus to Peroulades. Peroulades is known for it's beautiful sunsets. After much walking (because we both fell asleep and missed our stop) we arrived at sunset beach. It was beautiful! We then walked back 4 miles back to Sidari to catch our bus. It was a cold night, especially to camp!
The next day we rented a scooter and drove all along the coast of the top half of the island. We explored and even found a cool cave off the main road. The next morning we left on a ferry to Igumenitsa to take another ferry to Ancona Italy.