Sep 29 2005

Chianti in Chianti

Jeffrey Larson

We have now arrived in Rome, our final city in Italy, before heading back to Canada with a stop in Denmark for a couple days.

The last couple nights were spent camping in Siena, south of Firenze in Tuscane. We had a really good time. Had one of the best Italian meals we’ve had in Siena’s old town. Also yesterday we did a 5 hour wine tour through the Chianti region. It was sweet. We went to a few small towns from Medieval times and also a winery that was in a 1000 year old castle. We tasted some pretty good wine and learned a bunch about the process. The bus full of people from all over the world was pretty fun too.

The Cinque Terre pics are all uploaded now, and the Venice ones are on their way. Look at them!

We decided we wanted 3 fulls days in Rome so we have all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday to check out the Vatican, the Roman Colosseum and Forum, and whatever else we can find. We’re pretty stoked to be in one of the most famous cities in the world.

Our last train trip was today was quite nostalgic… can’t believe this first trip of ours is coming to a close… this first GREAT trip! We’ve loved it, we’ve loved each other on another continent, and had so much fun!

Sep 26 2005

Dinner along a Rio

Jeffrey Larson

A Rio is a river street as they call them here in Venezia (Venice). We had some pasta and wine as the taxi boat motored and gondola’s paddled past last night.

Our camping ground is like a youth hostel, lots of young people, partying at the bar. We set up our tent too close to the pub last night and we’re quite surprised when the live music started. So we played some yahtzee instead of going to bed early. Sarah had a giggle at the Italian dude singing popular american songs like ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.

We’re going to have a day in Venice today, walking around and checking it out. Gondola rides are reeeeeally expensive so I don’t know if we’ll try that, maybe just a waterbus ride.

We had a really great time in Cinque Terre, and had lots of great walking time… to counter all that great Italian cuisine we’re been enjoying. We didn’t look at any museums or churches or anything there, which was a nice change, laying on the beach was great.

We finished uploading the Firenze photos, cinque terre’s are on their way up.

Sep 25 2005

Florence and Cinque Terre

Sarah Marttunen

My first weblog in Italy and we’ve already been here for a week. We started off in Pisa after spending the night in the Girona airport (1 hr from Barcelona). Needless to say we didn’t get too much sleep. But we quickly found a beautiful pensione in Pisa to rest. The tower is cool, actually quite comical. It actually leans… a lot! I was surprised to see it with my own eyes. I was also surprised to see everyone in the square posing as if they were holding the tower up. I mean everyone! Jeff and I sat and watched people for about and hour and laughed the whole time.

In Pisa we had our first Italian meal. It was so good Jeff wanted to go back and have more lasagna for breakfast! In short, Canadians do not know how to make pasta. It’s incredible, don’t be surprised if you don’t recognise me after all the weight I’ve gained (:

Next we headed Florence (Firenze) where we found a fabulous campground overlooking the city. We had yet another amazing meal and met a very cute older couple from the States (the most unamerican american’s I’ve met though). They “really enjoyed us as a couple” and invited us to stay with them in their Tuscan villa! We passed it up though.

The next morning we met my mom and dad for a touristy day in Florence. We spent much of the day exploring the streets and standing in line to see the duomo, a part of the major cathedral built and decorated by half a dozen different artists. We went to the art gallery to see “David” but didn’t feel standing in line for the remainder of the day was something we felt up to. We settled instead for a lovely replica in the square outside! We went to a different museum and saw some amazing art and pretty cool 14th century palace decor. We had a great pizza dinner with mom and dad and then shuffled them back to the train station (they’re in Rome) while we went back to the camp.

Next day we headed to Cinque Terre where we spent 2 glorious days. It’s a little peice of heaven on the north west coast of Italy. We camped just outside the national park in a village called Deiva Marina. Our first day we spent hiking the 14km (I think) walk between the 5 cities. It was spectacular! The tail end was harder and I feel like I climbed up and down nearly a thousand stairs, but for the veiws it was worth it. We swam in the turquoise water collecting quite an audience (I think because of Jeff’s gorgeously untanned torso!). The next day we rested on the pretty sands on Monterosso and had a delicious dinner in Manarola (both Cinque Terre cities). It was a great rest for our travel weary bodies. Except for the fact that this morning we got up early (5:30qam) to catch a bus that never came. So we had to “hitchhike” (is it still considered hitchhiking if you don’t actually get picked up?) the 3.5km walk to the train… with our enormous bags! Oh well, we’ll recoup here in Venice!

We arrived in Venice a few hours ago and are here until Tuesday. Then Sienna (wine country) then Rome then Kopenhagen then home! I can’t believe our trip is nearing it’s end. Still many wonders to see though.

Take a look at the few pics we’ve uploaded… this computer is slow sorry!!

Sep 19 2005

Adventures of Jeff Sarah and the Midnight Bandit

Jeffrey Larson

In the youth hostel in Barcelona we stayed one night. A weird night.

This youth hostel had magnetic key cards which I hadn’t seen before. Anyway, the keys sometimes didn’t work, and in the one night we stayed there, we had to get our cards re-magnetized a couple times, as some of the other people in our dorm did.

We didn’t meet all the people in the dorm as we dropped our stuff off in the morning and then went back for bed at a reasonable hour (before all the night-lifers would come back).

At about 2am there was a dude knocking at the door, after letting him in he was thankful, I guess his key didn’t work either, but he only spoke Spanish. Sarah and I tried to go back to sleep.

This dude was making so much noise, going through all his clothes, it was like he was reorganizing and packing his stuff up. Half awake I become half alert and kept my eye on him.

What made me question him was that he then went on to another bed to get some of his clothes… !

“What are you doing man?” says Jeffrey.

He says a bunch of Spanish, all of which I ‘no intiendo’.

“Who are you?”

He says more, I pick up the name Michael, and I think he saying that Michael crashed his motorbike and he was getting Michael’s stuff or something… mmm, I don’t buy it.

Sarah and the other girl (Italian) in the room wake up. They back me up with questioning support. The Italian girl demands he describe his friend as she thinks she knows who sleeps in this bed. It doesn’t add up. I think he’s robbing our room with us in it!

Sarah heads down to the reception for help while I stand in his way out the door to wait for more security. Italian girl sees her shoes in his bag of goodies, that’s it!

“That isn’t your stuff!”

I think he pretends like he accidentally took that and “oops, that wasn’t Michaels”.

This dude is wearing a girlish looking red hoodie under his jean jacket… “is that yours?”

He takes it off like he made another mistake, apologetic… weird.

He’s wanting to leave, but I’m in his way. It was probably only 30 seconds, but the reception dude comes after what seemed to be a long time. We tell him what we saw. A bunch of spanish… and they leave.

10 minutes later he comes back… asking what he took, none of us know because we were sleeping, I say I know he took the red sweatshirt but he put that back by now, and he had a bag of clothes. The reception dude takes the bag from our thief and puts the clothes back on the beds. He’s also got a little backpack on, Sarah and I wonder if its his or what. They leave again.

After a bit of baffled “what the?”‘s, we try to sleep again.

I think everything was put back, but I don’t know for sure what was in the bag. Crazy that this dude would take probably 20 minutes to rob a room with people in it. Didn’t make sense.

At about 4:45am, 2 French girls who were apparently staying in this room wake me up with what I’m pretty sure is swearing in french… “maird”? I tell about a bit of what happened, they’re freaking and then decide to sleep and do a thorough check for all their stuff in daylight later.

In the morning they questioned why we opened the door, how were we supposed to know… but they did say they still had all their stuff, since the precious stuff was locked in the lockers. Still, no one likes having their stuff gone through.

Weird night, gotta remember that one.

Sep 18 2005

A hot mug of pudding

Sarah Marttunen

It is our last day in Spain. This time tomorrow we will be exploring Pisa, Italy! Hard to believe that our journey in Spain is coming to an end.

Last night we met up with my mom and dad as they are in Spain as well. We went with them to see a water\light show at the Barcelona Expo. It was fun to see them. Afterward we went for a cafe con leche and enjoyed swapping stories. We may meet them next week in Florence. Kinda cool to see family half way around the world.

Today we spent the morning touring Southern Barcelona. We went to the Picasso Museum which was very cool. It told the story of his life, each room a different phase of his career. It was very interesting. I discovered how much I enjoy his paintings! Next we jumped on our bus and saw some more sights. We just got down Christopher Columbus’ monument “Barcelona Colom”. It’s a tall skinny tower and you can take an elevator to the top… only 6 people at a time in the elevator though and room for about 12 at the top of the tower (: So it was up and down pretty quick.

Tonight we have a few sites left to see and then we train to Girona where we fly to Pisa. We have to check in at 4:35am so we’re sleeping in the airport… ugh! We are excited to move on to a new adventure, but will miss Spain. It is a beautiful country!

We’re posting more pictures of Tarragona on the site so take a look!!

Sep 17 2005

Café con leche con mi papas…

Jeffrey Larson

Sarah and I are now in Barcelona after spending yesterday in San Sebastian and taking a night train back to the Mediteranean.

Cathedral we saw in BarcelonaSan Sebastian was pretty and was quite enjoyable, really glad we went… althought the weather wasn’t sunny, this the first time on our trip.

We took a railcar up to a peak overlooking the bay (there was a theme park on top, but it was closed) and then walked down to the beach where we napped… which was well needed after a nearly sleepless overnight train from Tarragona (we were in a coachette with 6 people and the 6 seats folded down into 3 beds… not so comfy). The train ride back here to Barcelona was much better, we both slept almost the whole way (9 hours) which was great.

Went and checked into the hostel downtown here from the metro. It was raining almost all day but we did manage to go see a couple things in the city. We’ll explore some more tomorrow before catching a train to Girona (where the airport is for our flight to Pisa, Italy).

The food in San Sebastian was cool and they speak yet another language there in Basque Country… “Basque” fittingly. Here in Barcelona (in the state of Catalunya) they speak Catalan not spanish, but most people understand spanish, so it works out.

I’m going to try and upload some more of our pictures tomorrow… time to sleep.

Sep 15 2005

Tarragona all the way to San Sebastian

Jeffrey Larson

We now have reservations on the over night train to San Sebastian which is in Basque Country (a Spanish state). I really looking forward to checking it out.

San Sebastian is right on the north coast of Spain just near the French border on your map. After that, we’re planning on going to Barcelona where we will finish our exploration of Spain… on to Italy!

There are more photos to look at.

Oh by the way, we’re currently in Tarragona, which is the oldest city we have ever been in. It was founded in the 2nd Century BC! There are roman amphitheatres and circus’ and such that are 2000 years old! It’s so cool. And the beach is quite nice, we had a nice little stroll there last night. Not enough time to get ALL the pics from here up yet, but you’ll see.


Sep 13 2005

The Spanish Travellers

Jeffrey Larson

We’re having so much fun here in Spain. We have seen 6 cities in the week that week that we have been here… the way it is looking, in the next week we will probably see 5 more.

Jeff's the king of the castle!We’re currently in Granada, which is home to the Alhambra. We went and had a look at that for a couple hours yesterday. The Palacio Nazaries (Nazrid Palace) is the main Muslim palace in Alhambra with absolutely gorgeous interiors. That’s what many of the photos in the Granada album are of. At the request of our brother in law Kris, there are TONNES of new pics for you to check out!

I think we are pretty much over the jet lag, yep, and getting used to the eating at different times. For that we have been buying snacks to carry, to tide us over until 8pm-ish for the late dinners.

I’ve learned that I absolutely love being inside castles on the top of hills. We’ve seen a number of them and I just love the feeling… imagining what it was like when the castles were actually used for their purpose rather than tourist monuments. That’s why you can see quite a few photos of Sarah and I in between the squared tops of the castles.

We think we’re going to head north to Basque Country before the end of our trip (ends in Barcelona). Look for San Sebastian on your map.

Inside Alhambra's Nasrid PalaceCamping was pretty fun, even though it was basically just a motel that we got a site to set up our tent at, instead of a room with a bed. There was laundry, tennis, swimming, a supermarket, a restaurant and bar and hot showers as well. It was much cheaper, so we were happy about that. The only thing that we didn’t like was that we didn’t really have any mats to sleep on. Foam mats or thermarests would have provided better sleep than the extra clothing we tried to use for padding!

I can’t believe how nice the weather has been, its been sunny and hot everyday so far! Hopefully it keeps up!

Keep the comments on the weblog and photos coming! We’re loving sharing this trip with you guys!

Sep 11 2005

Cordoba, Sevilla, Malaga… Oh My!

Sarah Marttunen

A bath under the palaceIf you didn’t notice, the site was down for a little bit but thanks to supersister things are back up and running. We have had some amazing adventures since our last update (which to us feels like months ago!). We went to Sevilla on Friday. It was beautiful. We saw the Cathedral & La Giralda (tower) and an ancient muslim palace called Alcázar. Both so different yet incredibly beautiful. The cathedral’s claim to fame is Christopher Columbus’ tomb. The structure is primarily gothic (check out the pics!). We climbed the bell tower which was cool and 34 ramps up. Very pretty view of the city.

Next we went to the palace. It was huge! There were some tapestries and tiles dating back to the 10th century, wow. There were some giant gardens attatched with a pretty little hedge maze.

Both these sites were incredible, but tough on the feet so afterward we sought solace at a cute patio cafe and had delicious prawns and salmoneja (our favourite dish in spain so far). We walked around the town a bit more and then head back to Cordoba.

Sarah in front of the Cathedral in SevillaThe next day we took the train from Cordoba to Málaga (Piccasso’s home town) for a beach day. Our first dip in the meditteranean Sea. In Málaga there was an ancient muslim city (Alcazaba), some parts nearly 2000 years old! We had a lot of fun exploring this old city. Unfortunately it isn’t kept as well as other sites we’ve seen. It was a hot day though, so in the afternoon we soaked up the sun at the beach and cooled off in the water. We wanted to try some of the seafood the city is known for, but by the time we got hungry it was 5pm and everything shuts down from 4-7… Spaniards eat at very different times than us we are discovering!

We are now in Granada our last stop in Andalucia. Tonight we are spending our first night in a tent! We’re staying at a campground just on the city limits that is really more of a hotel where you sleep in tents (: Swimming pool, tennis courts, laundry, restaurant, supermarket, a trillion showers and lots and lots of trees. Tomorrow we go and see Alhambra, a muslim fortress in the 11th century. Apparently one of the most magnificant buildings on the continent. It was the capital of the last muslim kingdom in Spain.

On Tuesday we take our first night train to Valencia here we will visit the Balearic islands. Very excited!

We’ve posted more pictures so check them out.

Sep 8 2005

Toledo and Trains

Sarah Marttunen

Jeff by the Palace in CordobaWe are now in Cordoba which is in the province Andalucia in the south of Spain. Yesterday we went and saw Toledo, an enchanting city. It dates back to the 12th century. It is full of winding stone streets and old old old buildings. The city is surrounded by an ancient wall and a river. It’s up on a hill, so looking for a hostel was a bit of a hike. We ended up staying in a pension (more like a guest house). We took a lot of great pictures, check it out! Our highlight was walking around the town getting lost in the streets and seeing all the medieval buildings. But we also saw a medieval cathedral that was breathtaking. I have never seen such intricate detail in a building before, all of the walls were carved, stainglass, chandeliers, etc. There were tombs of some of the cardinals and priests who were there, some almost 700 years old. Wow!

Tomorrow we head to Sevilla for a day trip followed by a day trip to Malaga. On Sunday we leave Cordoba for Granada, ending our first week in Spain!!

We are having fun figuring out the language… ordering food and buying train tickets has proven to be the most difficult so far. But we’re figuring things out. This morning on our way to Cordoba we took 25 min to go to the wrong train station, just to be turned around to the station where we had come from! We also just spent about an hour trying to tell the ticket seller that we wanted to do 2 day trips… hopefully we’re going where we want to go! (: