A Travellerspoint blog

One Night in Strasbourg, France

Un café dans la Petite France

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

On our way from Switzerland to Brussels we decided to have a brief pit stop in Strasbourg for one night as we had heard that is was meant to be beautiful so thought why not!

Luckily our train got us in relatively early so this gave us plenty of time to get checked into our Apart-Hotel (See lesson number 8) and head off into the afternoon sunshine.

The Old Town is indeed beautiful and definitely worthy of it’s UNESCO World Heritage status, especially around Le Petite France with it’s timber clad, almost fairytale buildings, bridges over the canals and cosmopolitan cafes over looking the water.

P7050905.jpg

P7050899.jpg

We spent all afternoon exploring and thanks to some helpful hints from a friend: Isabelle, who is originally from Strasbourg we managed to get a surprising amount done in the few hours we had and even headed back in for a local beer that evening in a really quaint square flanked with cafes and restaurants (another recommendation).

After a surprisingly good nights sleep it was up early to make the most of the morning before our train at 15.00, so set back off into the centre of Strasbourg to see some of the things we had missed the previous day before catching our train to Belgium.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in France Tagged strasbourg unesco_world_heritage le_petite_france Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 8

You get what you pay for

sunny 26 °C

When we had decided we wanted to spend one night in Strasbourg on our way from Switzerland to Belgium we were really struggling to find a hostel so started looking at hotels, thinking for one night we would be able to eat out and not break the budget. We looked on all the usual last minute sites and came across the Apart-Hotel Victoria Gardens which was close to the train station, about 15-20 minute walk into the centre (which we are completely used to), and was a bargain at only £30! We thought, well it is only for one night, it can’t be that bad and on first impressions things looked ok...

...however, as you looked deeper and actually started to use things we started to realise quiet why it was SO cheap!

The kitchen tap flew off while in use, flooding the kitchennette
The shower holder/rail was broken meaning if you had the shower on full pressure it flew off the wall.

After these two, we complained and got to change rooms, something we instantly regretted. Our new room was much smaller and unbelievably in even worse condition. The issue with the shower seemed to be throughout the building and once again fell of the wall when you tried to use it. There were no plugs in any of the sinks. The “fully equipped kitchenette” was nothing of the sort consisted of 2x forks, 2x spoons, 1x knife, 1x steak knife, 1x frying pan, 1x saucepan all of which looked like people had left by accident or that had been pinched from a local charity shop.

Neither of us had massively high hopes for a hotel costing £30 a night and we were under no illusion it would be basic - we are not naive enough to think we were getting some 5* bargain. But we did expect a clean, functioning hotel. We were wrong. The only saving grace is that the hotel was so awful it made us stay out doing things longer than we perhaps normally would have done meaning we had more time exploring Strasbourg.

From now on we will not always go for the cheapest option, even if it is only for one night!

Lesson learnt!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in France Comments (0)

Interlaken, Switzerland

A hikers dream

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

An hours train ride from Bern and we had reached Interlaken at the foot of the snow covered Alps. The hostel Alplodge http://www.alplodge.com was easy to find and was much better than we had expected. It was part hostel part hotel so we managed to get the best of both!

After checking in and sorting a few bits out it was off to explore what Interlaken had to offer. We sat in a park and had lunch with an incredible view of the Jungfrau in the background. Unfortunately as we had arrived on a Sunday afternoon all of the Tourist Information offices and supermarkets (luckly we had pasta and pesto leftover for the night before) were closed meaning we could not do our usual routine when first arriving somewhere - we were going to have to play it by ear!

We knew that the weather was promising to be perfect on the Monday and had been debating whether we should take the very expensive train ride (CHF197 each) up to the top of Jungfraujoch (the highest train station in Europe). We had been pre-warned that if there is even one cloud in the sky not to bother making the trip. As usual I picked up lots of fliers from the station and hostel of things to do and also as usual read every bit of them. In doing this I managed to discover an "earlybird" ticket. If you get the first train at 06.35 then you can save yourself about CHF50 per person.

So 05:00 Monday we were up ready to judge the sun, it was already shining and there was not a cloud anywhere on the horizon (which always lifts Nick's day) so we went for it! We made the train in plenty of time (very unlike us! well me) and we were off up the mountain. The train ride takes 2.5 hours in total with 2 changes along the way. Even on the slow train ride up the scenery is amazing! Emerging out of dark tunnels and being greeted with snow covered peaks! The final train stopped twice on the way up actually inside the mountain where they had carved "windows" in the side of the mountain so that you could get views out.

We finally reached the station (still inside at this point) and after a quick change into warmer clothing we were off to explore. Nick was feeling a little dizzy from the altitude, but was not about to let that stop him. We followed the marked tour and went through various exhibits before reaching the Sphinx Terraces - a 360 external viewing platform on the outside of the station overlooking the Alps. There are no words that can describe this view!

P7010677.jpg

P7010752.jpg

We spent a good 2 hours exploring, there was also an hour snow walk you could do on the glacier, however after walking a little of it and stopping because it was quite steep, it was my turn to feel lightheaded and queasy. We then realised it had been 6 hours since we last ate and so decided we had to catch our train back down. Our original plan had been to get a train to Grindelwald where we were hoping to do a walk, but as our train pulled into the first station, Kliene Schinegg ,I spotted a walking sign pointing in the direction of Grindlewald saying 2.5 hour hike. That didn't seem bad, so after getting food (two Bratwurst, two slices of bread and two drinks, CHF 26, good though) we decided to do the decent by foot and were rewarded with beautiful views of snow capped mountains turning into rolling meadows. Upon reaching Grindlewald and after another clothes change, stripping down to the bare minimum, we were really feeling the heat of the sun and decided to cool down by going to a small supermarket and treating our selves to an ice cream.

P7010768.jpg

P7010769.jpg

P7010798.jpg

P7010794.jpg

Tuesday saw the need for a rest day so we decided to walk to lake Thun, we had seen a sign the day before saying it was 10 mins by bike so thought that was not far to walk. We kept walking and came to a lovely nature reserve with tree covered paths, an hour and a half later we reached the lake, Doh! It was worth it though as we entered the town Neuhaus and were greeted with a beautiful lake that had a public park right on the lakeside and an area for swimming, (Nick was brave and went for a swim even after the people before him squealed with the cold). The day was supposed to be a bit of a write off as it was going to be thunder storm all afternoon till evening. However the weather was on our side and we managed to sit in the baking heat (well I kept finding shade) for most of the day. By the afternoon we decided we would go to the little cafe further round the lake and discovered a deal for strawberries and ice cream so yet again treated ourselves. We were just deciding to make the walk home when the staff at the cafe started to franticly move tables and umbrella inside. We looked up to see storm clouds coming our way, so we gathered our things paid our bills and headed back to the hostel. We managed to get most of the way there before the heavens opened, lucky all the buildings in Switzerland have little overhangs so we hugged the side of the street to keep some of the rain off. We made it back with barely wet clothes just as the rain became torrential and thunder started to roll.

P7020810.jpg

Wednesday and sadly the thunderstorm from the night before had not cleared the air completely and we awoke to a fairly cloudy day with the prospect of heavy rain in the afternoon. We caught the train to nearby Lauterbrunnen and then walked the 40 mins (in sunshine randomly?!) to the Trummelbach falls; 10 glacial waterfalls that are actually inside the mountain. The sound was deafening but it was fantastic to get so close to them - although it was freezing inside the mountain! We made our way back towards to train, stopping for lunch on the way, when our luck with the weather ran out and the heavens opened once more. We decided to cut our loses and catch a train back to our hostel earlier than we wanted to, but managed to get a few hours of internet searching in.

P7030844.jpg

Thursday and our final day in Switzerland and the hiking boots were back on! We again caught the train to Lauterbrunnen, and then began the 2.5 hour climb (and I mean climb) up to Murren. The path was steep and both Nick and I were struggling. I really don’t think Nick enjoyed it much - probably more to do with the fact that his view of the mountains was still obscured by low clouds! We eventually made it to the top and after about an hour the cloud began to clear and we were rewarded with some beautiful views over to Jungfrau and Monch. Murren is beautiful, a small pedestrianised town perched right on the edge of the cliff and that Lonely Planet describe as “Heidi Heaven” - the perfect stereotype of a Swiss mountain town! The hike back down was obviously much easier. Half way down we met a fellow walker who was from New Zealand who gave us some great tips on what to do and where to go when we reach NZ early next year, even giving us her email address so we could contact her when we are out there - perfect!

P7040858.jpg

P7040887.jpg

P7040880.jpg

Our final night was spent getting to know some of our fellow travellers in the hostel (it is typical that you always meet nice people on the final night!). We sat for hours chatting with two guys from Canada and a girl from the US and were very jealous the next morning when they all set off on a group hike and we were not able to join them - we were headed for Strasbourg.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lauterbrunnen hiking switzerland mürren interlaken jüngfraujoch alplodg_hostel thun the_top_of_europe trummelbach_falls Comments (0)

Bern, Switzerland

The home of the bears

semi-overcast 15 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

After managing the stairs and walk to train station we boarded our train to Milan central ready for the connecting train to Bern. Along the way we saw some amazing views of the Italian Alps which slowly turned into the Swiss Alps.

We arrived in Bern to a lot cooler weather and looked very out of place in shorts and T-shirts, lucky the hostel was easy to find especially as this time we had a Google map at the ready (see lesson 5). The glocke backpackers hostel http://www.bernbackpackers.ch was right in the centre just a stones throw away from the zytglogge, the famous clock that just before the hour (4 min to be exact) has characters that chime and move. We were pleasantly surprised with the facilities of the hostel, with a large communal area, good sized kitchen that had everything you needed, clean well kept rooms, showers and toilets plus it had free Wi-Fi (see lesson 6). This was great as we booked this hostel in a rush only a few days before. The first night was to be spent in a private dorm for two and then to save money we moved into a 6 bed shared dorm. Again were presently surprised, as we managed to get a room with a wall dividing two of the beds from the others meaning it felt like a room for two.

Once we were settled in to our room and Changed into more appropriate clothing we spent the rest of the day getting our bearings and taking in some of the sights in the capital, even accidentally coming across Baren-gruben the home of the bears for which the town was named.

The next day we yet again started at the tourist information getting a map and a list of things to do and started to explore. Whilst sight-seeing we came across outdoor gigantic chess we decided to set it up just to take a photo but ended up playing for real and Nick managed to wipe the floor with me, which is a first for him!

P6260490.jpg P6260494.jpg

After that we took a stroll down by the River Aare with the hope of visiting the Bernisches Historisches Museum, however could not believe the CHF28 ticket price (that's each!), so we made a swift exit and headed off in search of cheaper (if not free activities!) After some more mooching around the beautiful old town of Bern with it's covered walkways and cellar bars and shops, we reached the Munster - the huge gothic cathedral which towers over the rest of the city - and what do you know it was a bargain to climb up the tower at only CHF5 each! The views from the top were incredible. We even waited up there to hear the bells chime! Bern is a lovely quaint city and does not feel like a capital at all!

P6250449.jpg

By now we had boring stuff to do and hit the supermarket which is getting harder as we are not 100% sure what everything is! We're spending longer and longer in there trying to understand the labels and see what is the best price - although Nick's German vocabulary is much better than he thinks and we managed to find most of what we wanted. Luckily all of the supermarkets (here and Italy) do a version of "smartprice". In Italy it was "clever" and here it is "budget". The other night I made meatballs out of reduced burgers thinking they we're beef but they ended up being pork, still nice though!

By day 3 we had seen most of the main sights and decided against all the overly priced museums and coffee shops. So made a pack up as we have been doing everyday and headed out for a walk from one of the leaflets. The walk was supposed to be 2.5 hours, however we had to walk for an hour to reach the start (there was a bus but being us we walked), luckly this was along the river lined with trees, so very relaxing.

Walking here is so much easier then the UK, well the hills aren't, but the footpaths (wanderwags) are really well sign posted and even tell you how long a walk it is to your destination as you go. There are also yellow dimonnds marked on trees or posts at areas where the paths look a little confusing. The walk was varied with, fields, woods and hills although upon reaching the top we didn't quiet get the views we were hoping for, as it was a little clouded over. Nick was convinced it was brightening up so we sat ate our lunch and chilled for a bit, hoping for it to clear. An hour later it didn't seem to be happening, so we headed back down to lovely sunshine and less clouds, typical!

20130627_123318.jpg

That night the realisation that we had no plans after Switzerland started to dawn on us so we started researching, countries, towns and accommodation. We spent another three evenings of this before finally settling on a route.

The next day we took a day-trip to Freiburg/Fribourg which is a unqiue place where everyone speaks French and German sometimes within the same sentance. Using my GCSE French and Nick's GCSE German (which was already coming in handy as he remembered a lot if it) we muddled by. A stop at the TI to get a town and hiking map as is the usual now at any new stop. We headed on a self guided walk of Fribourg taking in the lovely old town with it's medieval buildings, winding streets, wooden covered bridge and pretty churches. We then started the Gorges du Gottéron hike which at first started off on a road with a random mini railway that had cows as large as the houses and the oddly placed restaurant. It soon went off road and followed a beautiful stream through a huge gorge meandering and climbing along the valley. Sadly we had a train booked for 3pm so had to cut the walk short to head back. Annoyingly the walk back was quicker than we realised and so we had time to have a coffee (after walking around a few cafes we managed to find the cheapest one!) and settled down for a coffee, it wasn't long before we noticed the icecream. We shared a two scoop cup I think we deserved it after all our activities so far. Yet again the language here confused us as we asked for our order in French and got a reply part in English and Italian.

P6280551.jpg P6280570.jpg

Our final day in Bern, and the sunshine had deserted us completely so we had to don full wet weather gear for our next day-trip to Lucerne / Luzern which promised a beautiful lakeside mediaeval town with wooden, covered bridges and the old city wall surrounded by snow covered peaks. We arrived to a cold, wet and grey busy bustling city. As the clouds were so low we could not see the mountains, and the lake was not the brilliant blue we had seen in postcards. Our plans of heading for a hike were scuppered so we got a Walking-Tour of the city from TI and set out to see what we could. There was a riverside festival taking place which gave the place a real buzz with all of the pedestrian streets crammed with food stalls and markets as well as random stages with bands playing. We climbed the city wall, sheltering from the rain in one of the towers to stop for our lunch (very British!). Whether it was because of the weather spoiling our plans or not I don't know, but neither of us were impressed with Lucerne and I do not think it would be somewhere I would rush back to which is a shame.

P6290628.jpgP6290592.jpg

Our final night in Bern was spent researching, booking trains, hostels and packing our bags ready for the train to Interlaken and the promise of seeing the Alps up close!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 10:09 Archived in Switzerland Tagged lucerne bern fribourg Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 7

Ear Plugs

overcast 19 °C

As most of you know I’m a night owl and go to bed quiet late and will wake up at the very last minute. With traveling and site seeing all day I’ve been getting up early to get the most out of the day so to get a good nights sleep has been important. In Bern the first few nights (weekday nights) I slept really well as the beds were comfortable and we didn’t get one snorer (I can usually tolerate a snore or two)...

...however at the weekend the city apparently comes alive about 23:00. The Hostel had a club underneath it, which during the week we didn’t hear once but this weekend all we could hear and feel was thump thump thump. This was probably due to it competing with Bern’s Number 1 radio station who were currently having a gig of local live acts in the street right outside our window! Even with the double glazed windows closed we could hear the music and all the words. As the night went on the music seemed to get louder slowing turning into a full on rave which ended about 4am. If it wasn’t for the fact that we had a very early train the next morning, we were tempted to go and join in. Instead it was time for the ear plugs to prove there worth and space in the backpacks, Nick has been wearing them the whole trip but I’m not a fan and always wake up to find them in the bed somewhere. I am now a convert, ear plugs work! or at least keep out some of the noise so you can get to sleep. From now on I have a pair by bed every night just in case.

Lesson Learnt!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Switzerland Comments (1)

LESSON NUMBER 6

No Wifi is not an option!

Rather than getting wrapped up in the charming hustle and bustle of the old town of Como on our first day we stayed disciplined and found the Tourist Information to firstly get a map, and secondly to see if anywhere had wifi we could use. Sadly the first cafe we were told did not have wifi which we did not discover until after we had ordered drinks! We then set off to the other points she had marked, but either they were closed, very expensive or we simply could not find them - then Nick suggested we try going to the public library to see if we were able to log on there. Luckily the woman took pity on us and said we could log on for an hour - even though she should not have done as we were not locals. Some frantic Googling and an hour later we had managed to figure out train connections, and get ourselves one nights accommodation before our hour was up - the hunt was still on!

More wandering around and I found a bar that had free wifi and was a good price - we settled in and got some large beers to treat ourselves and began Googling once more. Roughly 2 hours later and we had managed to get ourselves another 9 nights booked in Switzerland. By this point we were starving so ordered a delicious pizza and salad to share while continuing to use the free wifi!

The next day we went to the main train station (San Giovani) which is the other side of town and by chance both of our phones started going crazy - what was this - more free wifi, with no need to buy expensive food or drinks. Needless to say we paid a couple of trips to the train station during our stay in Como just to us the internet and figure out our plans.

Also handy tip for anyone else - stand outside McDonalds near the Duomo and you can sometime connect there too!

From now on though we will only be booking accommodation with free wifi/internet access as it is just too complicated trying to book transport and places to stay without it these days!

Lesson Learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged wifi_lake_como Comments (1)

Lake Como, Italy

12 years still going strong

sunny 28 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

13F92FBC2219AC68179906BCE450D76A.jpg

We made it to our apartment eventually (see Lesson 5) and were met by the owner Sylivia who showed us around. Nick was a little disappointed at first as he said it was not exactly what he was expecting and that it seemed quite far out of the centre of Como. After a quick freshen up we started to realise we really needed to get something booked as in 5 days time we had no where to stay and panic was starting to set in! So we grabbed the laptop and headed off to find some free wifi as our apartment did not have any (See Lesson Number 6). A 10 minute walk later we were faced with Como’s very impressive Duomo so Nick needn't have worried!.

Friday we headed to the local market and stocked up on groceries (spent €25 which was much more expensive that in Spain - although this was for 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches and 3 dinners, so really should not complain too much!) which really tested my Italian before starting to explore Como properly this time. We took a long stroll along the front of the lake all the way around to Villa Olsa, where we had a quick nap in the sunshine listening to the waves on the lake lapping the shore, before heading back into the old town to mooch around the cobbled streets and soak up the atmosphere (and sunshine for Nick!). We finally got to go inside the impressive and imposing Duomo and were not disappointed by it’s beautiful stained glass windows and painted ceilings.

On Saturday we accidentally slept in until midday (which I guess shows how tired we both were) but were up and about quickly. The previous day I had picked up a leaflet with some suggested hikes in the mountains of the National Park surrounding Como. We knew that back in the UK our friends were taking part in the Race for Life in support of the Breast Cancer Campaign, so thought this was the perfect way to spend the day and support them in our own way.

The climb up the path was incredibly steep and unrelenting for a good hour on overgrown paths and clouds of mosquitos! After much grunting, sweating and looking very red faced (that’s me by the way, not Nick!) we reached the top and were rewarded by a stunning view down over the lake and the town.

20130622_133244.jpg 90_20130622_133001.jpg

Sunday 23 June 2013 saw our one year wedding anniversary and twelve years of being together. We knew that we wanted to visit Bellagio as it is famous for being beautiful and very romantic, so what better day to go! We had been told about the various ferry but it was around €46 (return) which was too much for our budget, we then wondered if there as a bus which may be cheaper. We enquired at the tourist information and discovered you can, plus it takes the same amount of time and only cost €12 (return) - bargain!!

Bellagio lived up to it’s reputation (no sign of Mr. Clooney though!), and although it was very busy and full of tourists (mostly American) it was lovely to stroll around it’s winding streets and to enjoy views of Lake Como. We treated our selves to some Gelatto which was surprisingly cheaper than we had seen it in Como, and then walked the short distance to Villa Melzi (€6 each) which sits right on the lake and has gorgeous gardens, we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and enjoying the sun - and simply being together.

Me_Lake.jpgUs_on_chairs.jpg

Once back in Como and freshly showered and dressed up we treated ourselves again to meal out to celebrate in style. After looking at a few menus trying to decide what we wanted (we even sat down in one and then swiftly scarppered when we changed our minds in favour of the place next door!) we finally settled on really nice, atmospheric restaurant and had delicious food (tricolore gnocchi, salmon raviolli, tagliete di manzo plus drinks for a total of €77 which completely blew our budget, but hey you only get to celebrate your first wedding anniversary once!).

When we left the restaurant there was an amazing thunderstorm taking place with flashes of lightening brigtening up the sky and roaring thunder rolling and echoing of the mountains! Sadly we did not manage to make it all the way back to the apartment without getting a little wet, but once home we enjoyed watching it continue from our balcony and it went on late into the night.

We spent our final day in Italy (for a couple of weeks at least) in...Switzerland! We took the 30 minutes train ride over the border to Lugano for the very expensive price of €71 return, but we both agreed it was worth it! btw if you decide to do this journey remember to take your passports as you'll cross boarder control and they will ask you for your passport, it only occurred to us the night before that we should take it.

139C48DC2219AC6817CA2D92F1F92408.jpg

Lugano is stunning - nestled into the mountains curving around the shore of Lago di Lugano. We headed straight to the tourist information as we do everywhere we go and asked about what to do. There are two mountains either side of Lake Lugano that you can get funicular railway's up. So we walked to the first one at the edge of town to find it was 46 Francs (£32) to go up so we decided to walk to the other side of town and when we got to that one it was even more expensive. We therefore decided to enjoy the art museums, as this seemed to be a very arty town (which I did not expect). They had painted an subway with blackboard paint and left out chalk so the public to do arty messages. Unfortunately for me but maybe not for Nick, it was Monday so all the museums we're closed as is the customer with Italy and apparently Ticino. Instead we ate our lunch in the beautiful park, mooched around and even hired a piccolo pedalo which was the cheapest thing we could find to do 8 Francs. Finally we chilled in the sun (well Nick was in the sun, I was in the shade with a book) till our train was due.

Us_Pedilo.jpg

The next morning we said goodbye to Lake Como and walked the 2.2km to the train station with our 4 stone backpacks (which I swear are getting heavier) to catch our trains to Bern.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Tagged bellagio lugano wifi_lake_como Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 5

Always have directions to your accommodation

sunny 28 °C

The owner of our apartment in Lake Como had kindly provided instructions of the best way to get from Malpensa Airport (the Malpensa Express to Saronno, then change for a direct train to Como Nord Borghi) - simple enough...

...however her instructions then said “a simple 5 minute walk to the apartment” but it did not occur to us until after we got to the train station that we had no clue in which direction we needed to head and that we really should have Google Mapped it before.

With both of our mobile phone batteries dying and our GPS not working we were rapidly running out of options so had no choice but to start asking people. With the little Italian I have I asked a young couple for directions and fortunately their English was excellent, but unfortunately had never heard of the street we needed. We then went to the cafe inside the station who luckily were able to point us in the right direction.

What did indeed turn out to be a 5 minute walk later we arrived at the apartment very hot and sweaty, with my trademark red face, but from now on we will always keep our phones charged on days we travel and get maps/directions from the station to our accommodation!

Lesson learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 4

Always, always arrive 2 hours before you flight!!

sunny 29 °C

Our host at our hostel in Barcelona had told us that we only needed to be at the airport one hour before our flight as it is not like the UK. We therefore planned to catch the 06.50 train from Sant Andreu direct to the airport thinking he would know best.

We had been very organised the night before and were able to get all of our stuff out of the dorm without disturbing our fellow travellers, but spent a little too long faffing and before we knew it it was 06.45 and we were still 10 minutes from the station. FYI Power-walking with a 4 stone of backpacks in 26 degree heat (yes at that time of the morning) is not a good idea!! Thinking all was lost we arrived at the platform just as the train was pulling in and hoped on board - phew!!

Roughly 40 minutes later we arrived at the airport at roughly 07.30 thinking we were all good, but when we checked the board we saw the gate was due to closed at 08.15 causing Nick to start to panic. We then realised we needed Sector C of the Termina building (we were in Sector A), so trotted off following the signs...

...however, 20 minutes later (and still lugging 4 stone in backpacks) we finally made it to the check-in desk and surprise surprise there was a huge queue with only two members of staff working - surely the whole point of a Baggage Drop is just that! Just as we reached the front of the queue one of the staff members started asking for passengers on the Milan flight to come forward - this being Europe a sea of people tried to barge there way in front of us, however after a week of this we were having none of it and stood our ground!

Finally bags dropped, and heading up to security when we realise that they have brought the time of our gate closing to 08.00, not 08.15. More panic!! Luckily security is seconds away and deserted - although as usual I got frisked and ordered to take my walking boots off for now apparent reason causing more of a delay!

We made it through to gates and for once luck was on our side and our gate was right in front of us (rather that the usual trek to some far flung corner of the airport) - yey! We swiftly joined the already large queue and within minutes were on the plane, where I promptly fell asleep from all the stress.

In some ways, this may be the way to do it - no hanging around in busy, boring departure lounges, but for this amount of stress we’re sticking to getting there two hours before from now on!!

Lesson learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona_airport_terminal_1 sector_c Comments (0)

Barcelona, Spain

Such a beautiful horizon...

sunny 29 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

We finally arrived in Barcelona after a luxurious 5 hour train journey, the train had seats you could push back, plenty of leg room even for a normal sized person and a movie if you wanted to watch it (beats RyanAir any day!)

Once we arrived at Barcelona Sants (the main station) we purchased a T10 ticket €9.80 (It’s for the Metro, Bus and Trains and allows you to have ten trips which can be used by multiple people.) So for Nick and I we managed 5 Trips working out at €1 a trip - bargin! Once on the Metro we headed for Sant Andreu the neighbourhood our hostel was in.

On first impressions this seemed like a swanky area and upon discovering our hostel we realised we were correct. The hostel beat all expectations and was better than the photo’s! http://www.coroleuhouse-bcn.com

We were greeted by Jose Maria the owner of the hostel who was fantastic and had great English, he kept asking us if he was getting it correct so he could better it. He showed us the house, told us the cheapest places to get; fruit, breakfast, dinner, the best places to visit with the time we had, how best to get back to the airport (with all the info to hand) and gave us a Metro map.

By this time it had reached 21.30 so we made some food before getting to meet our roommates (although it turned out only for that night). We spent the rest of the evening chatting with 2 guys from Chile & Peru who were spending 3 months travelling round Europe and two girls who were studying in Valencia but were on a weekend away.

The next morning we were up fairly early and as it was a little overcast headed straight into central Barcelona were we spent most of the day exploring Barri Gotttic, Barcelona Cathedral, la sagrada familia and generally getting to know our way around the city. After our emergency cafe stop (see Lesson Number 3) we hit the supermarket on our way back to the hostel to stock up with provisions for the rest of our time, The evening was spent relaxing in he hostel, researching and sending emails.

Nick_Cathedral.jpg

110142002219AC68172E9A159B3B880B.jpg

On Wednesday morning the sun was shining again (much to Nick’s delight!) so after a healthy breakfast of fresh fruit, it was back onto the Metro and hike up the hill to Parc Guell , the Guadi designed public park. Not surprisingly the place was packed full of people, so we headed away from the crowds as best we could and found some hidden gems with not to many people around. The place is beautiful with something to look at around every corner and we spent a good couple of hours exploring before heading back to the main gates and actually managing to get a photo of Nick with the famous mosaic salamander without too much pushing and shoving!

Nick_Parc_Guell.jpg

As the weather was so good, we decided the next stop really had to Barceloneta beach where we ate our pack lunch and Nick got to sunbath (again!). The beach is actually really nice, and it is s strange to think that you are only minutes away from such a huge, bustling city - and something else free to do!

Earlier in the week Nick had been contacted by an old friend who he used to work with at Paul Smith called Ornella who he had totally forgotten now lives in Barcelona teaching her native French. She had seen Nick’s Facebook status saying he was in Barcelona and asked if we were free to meet (OK so him constantly checking us in does have some advantages!). Of course we jumped at the opportunity, so our final night in this amazing city was sat eating Tapas, reminiscing and chatting until it was far too late (we only just caught our last train back as they stop running at midnight!). Fantastic to meet up with her!

20130619_214749.jpg

Thursday 06.00 and time to leave Barcelona (and Spain for that matter!) and make our way to the airport to catch our flight to Milan - See Lesson Number 4 - Ooops!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged barcelona metro ticket t10 parc_guell coroleuhouse barcelona_transport barcelona_public_transport Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 3

Charlie needs Food and Nick needs Sunshine

overcast 24 °C

For those of you who know my husband he has a very annoying habit of, well, not eating regularly and moans a lot when the sun is not shining!

So on our first full day in Barcelona we woke up to an uncharacteristic overcast day which saw Nick slump into his usual mood when deprived from sunshine for too long, although to his credit he snapped out of it pretty quickly!

Anyway I tried to be sensible and organised as ever by suggesting we went to the supermarket to get some breakfast and maybe something to make sandwiches for later in the day, but Nick's response was "no, we can get something on the go" which I knew was a bad idea, but I went with it and succeeded in walking around Barcelona starving to death and rapidly becoming more annoyed with him. As no food makes Charlie a dull, moody, snappy girl!!

We stumbled across an ok looking cafe where I decided enough was enough and we were going in - after a small melt down and a decent sandwich, things seemed much better and we were both back on form to continue exploring Barcelona!

P6140053.jpg

Lesson learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Comments (2)

Alicante to Barcelona, Spain

with "minor" police presence

sunny 27 °C

We again had a leisurely start to the day, getting all our stuff together, that had managed to scatter it's self around Sarah and Paul's house. Once we had forced as much as we can into the backpack we headed to the bus stop to get a bus to Benidorm bus station €1.50 each. Once we arrive we quickly got tickets to Alicante bus station (€4.60 each) and run to the shop to get dinner for that night. We enjoyed a nice air conditioned 45 min bus ride into Alicante and were hit by the heat as we arrived ready to walk half a mile to the train station...

...Think I now know the limit I can walk with my backpack, without the backpacks it took us 13 mins at a steady pace, with the backpacks it took 20 mins, but it was 27 degrees so was very hot.

90_20130617_120643.jpg

90_20130617_120711.jpg

However, we soon forgot about the weight, as the train station was surrounded by police cars and there were police men and women wearing riot helmets at every entrance. There was also some sort of protest going on outside and the roads were blocked off. We had to show our tickets to the police to get into the station and then once we were in half of it was cornered off.

After 30 mins a train came in with lots of important looking people on it and what looked like high ranking military Army, Airforce and Navy (as I'm writing this I have looked up what was going on and Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe was on the a new train from madrid, which cost loads to build making people redundant in the process, so that explains the security and the 200 strong people outside protesting.

IMG_20130617_224304.jpg

We didn't get to Barcelona till 20:00 (not because of the stuff at the station just the long journey) and we left Sarah and Paul's at 11:00, but we did get 2 buses, a train and had to walk about a mile. We are now chillin in our new home for a few days, which is really nice, and the people here all seem nice too. Everyone is from all over the world but they all speak english better than us and Spanish.

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

A few days exploring

sunny 30 °C
View Honeymoon World Tour on Nick-n-Charlie's travel map.

Alicante

Having figured out the buses we successfully made it to Alicante!!

We thought we would be organised and headed straight to the train station to figure out our options for getting to Barcelona later in the week, before heading off to explore Castillo de Santa Barbara...

...however, half way up a very steep hill which we thought had the castle on top we turned around and realised our actual destination was on the opposite side of town!

A short bit of navigating our way through some winding side streets and we finally made it to the beautiful Castillo de Santa Barbara and it's stunning views out over the Mediterranean Sea

P6140050.jpg

P6140045.jpg

A weekend in La Nucia and around

Saturday morning we all had a little lay-in before heading to Albir to wander around Sarah & Paul's old neighbourhood and for a good old English breakfast just 2 Euro's. It was then off to Mercadona to buy supplies for the BBQ Sarah and Paul were throwing for some friends and neighbours, a massive shopping trolly full later we headed back to prepare.

The BBQ was great with everyone enjoying the food and getting on really well before we got treated to a spot of magic from one of their guests who was a retired Magician who used to perform in Benidorm!

Once everyone had gone home and we finished tiding up, we had a few drinks we headed out to see what La Nucia had to offer for the night, we ended up having more food in a lovely bar, with very "exotic" pictures on the walls!

P6140050.jpg

Sunday saw another lazy start to the day before we headed up to Fonts de l'Algar, a beautiful natural spring and waterfall where we relaxed and went for a (very brief) swim in the freezing waters. All of this fun made us al very sleepy so we ended up having a 3 hour siesta back home before Paul cooked a gorgeous home-made Paella!

P6160062.jpg

P6160064.jpg

P6160078.jpg

Before we knew it our week with Sarah and Paul was over and it was time to say our emotional goodbyes before heading off to Barcelona!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Tagged alicante_bus_station benidorm_bus_station Comments (0)

LESSON NUMBER 2

Make sure you know how to get back to where you are staying!!

sunny 32 °C

After exploring Benidorm for the day we headed for the bus stop and got ourselves tickets to La Nucia - the town we thought Sarah & Paul lived...

...however, 40 mins later after passing through the town centre of La Nucia with no sign of anything we recognised the bus terminated at Callosa and we realised something had gone very wrong!

Callosa has a very friendly Tourist Information centre (which was far easier to find than the one in Benidorm) and luckily we had taken a photo of the bus times from the bus stop closest to Sarah & Paul's which helped him figure out which bus we needed to get back....

2013-06-13_09_16_21.jpg

...however, it was an hours wait until the next bus and then a tense 30 mins of playing guess the bus stop as we were not 100% sure exactly where we were going, but fortunately we finally saw the local Mercadona so frantically jumped off the bus before heading home.

Lesson learnt!!

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

Benidorm

It's actually not that bad!!

sunny 32 °C

After our day of sunbathing and relaxing, we decided it would be a great idea to walk the 40mins down into Benidorm (despite the heat), with the intention of making our way back to the Bus Station to find a bus to Alicante...

...however, the road we walked down did not take us where we thought we would go and find the Tourist Information to get a map and directions...

...however, 1 hour and half later of essentially walking around in circles we finally discovered it by which time it was too late in the day to get a bus to Alicante. So we made the most of our time in Benidorm and explored the old town and beach.

P6130024

P6130024

Posted by Nick-n-Charlie 17:00 Archived in Spain Comments (0)

(Entries 76 - 90 of 97) « Page 1 2 3 4 5 [6] 7 »